‘Knives in the air’

Between the soft white sky and the navy ripples of the Bosporus, black birds swarmed, and on that overcast afternoon we watched them for hours. They were not searching for food; not fleeing from predators. They were flying purely for the thrill of it. Because that was what they were. That was why.

High up, cormorants perched until they fell suddenly from the sky, dead weights into the depths. They’d emerge and bob like ducks, wielding their spear-like beaks, before diving back down into the bright blue waters. At the time we did not imagine how deep they went, or what they found down there.

In truth, we forgot about them, because the jellyfish were waltzing on the surface, the fishing rods were whipping back and forth, and all kinds of other birds kept cutting up the sky, from left to right, right to left, in their ever-changing constellations.

Shiny shearwaters the colour of wet seals cruised low in packs through the bouncy midwater air where ferry slipstreams and evening winds collided. When their flight path curved they flashed us a glint of white, like the fleeting wink of a sunbeam on a razor blade.

Closer to the banks, angel-white seagulls circled nonchalantly. They spoke in guttural croaks made long, and it never sounded like anything nice. Despite their plumage, they appeared entirely black from underneath, with their bent wings as sharp as daggers.

It was almost a relief to hear the swifts squeal in their innocent, excited way. They moved with meaning; tiny darts thrown almost too fast too see. By the time you moved your head, they were gone, and another one was in its place, dragging your gaze upwards, sideways, into loop-the-loops, and we couldn’t help but smile with them.