For a few months of the year, a flock of several thousand Common terns congregate on Noordhoek beach. They have travelled from Northern Europe and Asia to escape the Northern winter and will return there to breed once it is over.
Through the tearing south-east winds of Summer that whip the white sand into torrential currents like a river in flood, the flock can be heard, the husky din of travel-weary wings and sharp bird voices carrying far over the beach.
More terns arrive. Beating over the tall backs of hollow breakers bounding to the shore, dipping and flicking between gusts and spray flung from the crests of waves in streaming comet’s tails. The terns continue to the beach, just another step in their endless journey.
Common terns are small, light, thin, they appear delicate. They seem too slight for the stretching distances they cover, too fragile for the massive seas and ripping winds they face far from shore.
I believe the harshest of all weather, and incomprehensible enormity of their flights has stripped all extraneous feather and bone and flesh from them. Only the barest of essentials remain.
A bird honed for the boundless blue of the sea.