RICHARD WILLIAMSON Nature Trails...Bravest of battles with the elements

Weathercock and peregrine keep company atop the cathedral spire in Chichester. The bold gold bird balanced on his pivot point swings to each new change of wind.

He must envy the peregrine who, when bored with buffeting, can slip his leash and circle far into the sky, exploring the reasons for those raging blows of air that twist and tangle, tying knots and flicking stinging shots of rain drops into his face.

Both know how wind will kick sideways or give punchy gusts to crack their cheeks and blow all reason out and tumble senseless anything in its way. Both love these battles that swing their perch and show their strength. This is why each was made.

Each bird is honed, perhaps to hurricane force for the clinging cock, certainly to such speeds beyond normal needs for the peregrine.

The live bird is glad his companion cannot fly. He is watching not just for wind change and force but for others who want his perch as well. There are many who do.

They drift past from the cliffs of Cornwall where the sea waves white flags of mock surrender, or from the steeples of France, or the mountains of Mourne, all dangerous places that have now made them fearless.

These are young birds that have known no tether, and no restraint. They will fight and kill with the violence of the tiger for that hook on the edge of the sky that is the only thing which will hold them to the ground when that is what they need, the need to make new images of themselves.

So our tiercel holds on meanwhile side-by-side with his champion, his flag, fane, vane of certainty, reminding symbol throughout 2,000 years of need for constancy.

In moonlight the cock shines faintest gold and now too the peregrine will fly, chasing the rolling white ball through fields of fleece where other birds are flying on migration.

Then in pitch black of clouds and rain the vane holds his place while the peregrine sleeps tucked into which ever cathedral cliff is driest and in shelter from the storms. The cock of the summit throws himself from side to side in gusts, or stands as sentry in frosts or is mantled in snow like a ghost waiting for the sun to rise.

Then the tiercel will stretch and adjust each wing and shape each flight feather with nipping beak and fly up to see his mentor. And so too will many people across the world look to their weather vanes and greet them and wonder what will be brought to their world today.

Will the world deny thrice its promises to itself? Will its tangles of thought swivel to real needs or to vanity? These are our eyes in the skies, watching us as much as we watch them.