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The Roseate Terns

In May they nest along this spit of shore, their indentations in the fragile sand

protected by wire. The green and white signs

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explain the terns' nesting habits, ban

the passerby from kicking sand or flying kites.

(Kites look like hawks.) These favored pairs

have beat their tiny wings around the world,

flying by instinct, living on air,

and now they feed a little ways out to sea.

Frantic, incessant, sharp-beaked, they plunge and dive

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while the prosaic gulls hover, swoop,

strut calmly along. The terns survive

in a dwindling fashion, preening at high tide,

standing close together in pecking groups.

They pay us no mind. They are not pretty,

nor are they, in their migrations, particularly free.