Redwing by Sarah Robin
We gather at dusk, all twenty-six of us. There’s a buzz of excitement and anticipation in the air for the elaborate event we’ve waited all year for – and now it’s finally time. “This year’s migration to Scotland will commence in twenty minutes!” Old Roger yells, pacing the coastline with his scrawny old legs. He’s the eldest of the flock and rather bossy if you ask me.
This is my first trip abroad and I’m so excited! I thought our Scandinavian coast was stunning, but they say the Scottish Highlands is something else; more raw, more rugged, more green. Not the fresh, light, picturesque green we have here in Norway; they have dark green grass, bold in colour and it moves violently in the wind as if it has its own rough Scottish accent. Huge highland cows roam the vast landscape with their impressive pair of horns upon their heads. Bagpipes are played every now and again, their distinctive sound carrying for miles.
The wild berries there are said to be the sweetest and juiciest you can find in northern Europe, perfect for an early winter feast after our long journey. I must admit - I am a little nervous about the journey itself. Some of the older flock have tried to scare me with stories of birds hitting the deep waves of the North Sea and drowning in the perilous ice-cold water during rough weather. 500 miles is a mighty distance for a young redwing like me, but this is what we redwings do and I’m going to give it all I’ve got.
“Fifteen minutes to go!” Old Roger paces over to me, dodging a crisp packet tumbling towards him in the breeze. “You’ll do mighty fine, boy” he barks authoritatively, seeing the fear in my eyes. “The first one’s the hardest but by far the most rewarding” he reassures me before stomping over to a group of females fighting over an object they’ve found on the ground. “It’s just another piece of rubbish the humans have left behind, just leave it - it’s not good for us.” I hear him yell as a milk bottle top rolls out from the frenzied mass of curious, pecking beaks.
I pace towards the cliff edge to check out the wind speed and quietly take in the views of my home before I leave for the winter, not to return until early April when spring has well and truly started to blossom. A plastic bag clumsily summersaults past me, interrupting my sentimental daydream. It eventually gets caught in a tree half a mile away. Damn humans.
“Ten minutes!” The flock starts to rush around now, the noise of them talking getting louder; like they’re all individual parts of a great big engine getting fired up and ready to go. The excitable atmosphere makes my heart pound hard and I feel increasingly energised for the task that lies ahead. I take one last look around, the array of colours of various plastics shine almost fluorescently against the grey of the cliff rock; I wonder if there are scenes such as this where we’re going.
“Five minutes!” My stomach overturns and adrenaline kicks in. This is it. I go to make my way over to the others when I feel something pull on my leg. I look down to see an elastic band wrapped around the top of my foot, grounding me to the hard, rocky surface of the cliff edge. I try and free myself by pecking the band, flapping my wings furiously to keep me from falling over.
“Into your positions!” No! Wait for me! I scrape my foot against the other in a frantic, frustrated effort to join the others before it’s too late. I fall awkwardly onto my wing, accidentally bending it backwards and breaking it. I shout for help but as I lie wounded, I see twenty-five pairs of wings soar above me into the night sky, their shadows pass over me from the bright white light of the moon.
Sarah Robin is a new writer from England, only starting to write during the coronavirus pandemic. She enjoys nature and wildlife, frequently exploring the Lake District and the Scottish Highlands. Robin has had several short stories published in anthologies and is a poetry competition winner. She takes her inspiration from the people she meets and places she visits, as well as her own life experiences.