HENRY the heron came strolling down our street and there was rejoicing in the neighbourhood. He hadn't been seen all year but we knew he would be back. He always arrived with the first hot weather of spring to patrol the streets of our Hobart suburb, looking for a tasty meal of skinks. Zoologists say we should not anthropomorphise birds and animals, however some creatures of the wild, like penguins and herons, cry out to be given human characteristics. They appear to mirror … [Read more...] about Written in the stars
New Nature Writing
I strayed from the path of traditional, or pastoral, nature writing years ago when I discovered not only urban landscapes rich in wildlife, but anthropomorphism, irony, and bottles of red wine and bourbon with birds on their labels. As a young reporter, I had been impressed by the New Journalism of the 1960s which took reporting into the realm of the novel and short-story and a few decades on I found what were termed New Nature Writers breaking with tradition and exploring similar territory.
Although I still treasure the book that was my introduction to words about nature, Gilbert White’s The Natural History of Selbourne published in 1788, I now find inspiration in one of the new journalists, Hunter S Thompson. Thompson might not have written of nature as such but his words “I write with rage and ink” have an irresistible resonance that carries far beyond the suburbs to the wooded hills of the horizon.
WILDLIFE documentary-maker David Attenborough was once asked what was his favourite bird out of all the thousands of species he had seen on his travels worldwide. He did not have to cup his hand to his chin in classic pose to think about it. He had an instant answer, all the while looking wistfully out of the window of his suburbanLondon home, to the garden beyond. The bird wasn’t the wandering albatross that circumnavigates the globe on wings with a span 3.5 metres, the … [Read more...] about My hero Gilbert White
BEFORE I retired from the Mercury newspaper, my colleagues used to joke that they always knew when I’d been on duty by the number of bird stories that appeared in the newspaper. Writing and looking for bird news, especially when compiling and editing the world pages, was a welcome distraction from all the man-made turmoil and mayhem in the world. One night on my usual journalistic bird hunt, or bird trawl through the new agency reports coming across the wires, I was … [Read more...] about Beatles, Brahms and Blackbirds
THE ODOUR was unmistakable. The smell of damp earth, of moss, of rotting logs. As a log truck passed, the scent of the forest was spread across the tarmacadam of Macquarie Street in the heart of Hobart. It was carried on sawdust and dried leaves, on pieces of bark and twig, mixing with the dry city dust, in gutters, in doorways and window sills. Walking to work one morning I was reminded I had not been able to get to the forest at the start of spring, when the swift parrots … [Read more...] about Macquarie Street
WE were somewhere around Halls Saddle on the edge of the mountain when the alcohol began to take hold. I remember saying something like, “I feel a bit lightheaded … ” and suddenly there was a terrible roar around us and the sky was full of what looked like huge birds, all swooping and screeching and diving around. “Good heavens, what are those birds?’’ said Lindsay, and I replied matter-of-factly, calmly even, “Black jays”, and then I corrected myself and said, “Tasmanian … [Read more...] about Fear and loathing on the mountain