DIANE ACKERMAN 211 searching for the Antarctic prion, a grey-white bird that sieves for krill and nests deep within overlapping rocks. Crouching, we could see downy fluff and one eye, lit like polished ebony, sparkling from a dim, slanted hole. Bob and Peter stretched their long arms into her den; clean up to the shoulders, they swivelled, yearned, hung upside down like chickadees, grasping blind. "Pry out, it should be called," Bob said, gave up at last, and the men climbed on. Stripping down, I tilted my arm into her den, plunged full, twisted, touched her sudden beak, seized it fast and towed her gently out, settled her trembling in my hand. I had never held a bird before in the loose cage of my fingers, and there she was: desolata, pale and pristine, whose tiny beak, when it bit, focussed the whole of her feathered dream onto one sharp point. The men laughed, as men sometimes do at such moments. Peter measured his long arms against mine, shoulder to shoulder. His hands, steady as a sextant, have collared the delicate windpipe of a petrel chick, stopped flight with paintbrushes light as a hair, held the squirming world in their poised grip, while mine still tremble when lit by wonder. The other birders teased: How could I reach the prion that eluded both men? Peter said: "Women are more tenacious." And 1: "Women are better at insinuation." 0
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