STANDING in a park in London earlier this year – the wood pigeons cooing softly in the branches of an oak above my head – I had a flashback to the first time I became aware of birds and their songs. People often ask me how my interest in birds started and I had always ascribed it to the day a flock of bluetits flew into my classroom shortly after I had started primary school in the early 1950s. I now know it wasn’t that day, because there was no sound beyond the gentle … [Read more...] about Tuned to memory lane
On The Wing
A column for all seasons
Everyone has a story about birds. They are all about us and are our contact point with nature. The birds I see are usually in an urban environment and so I concentrate on these in my writing. I don’t pretend to be an expert but birds of the city and suburb are also the ones that most people identify with, the species you do not need a compass and binoculars to seek out. A scarlet robin singing in a garden is just as exciting as a swift parrot in an ancient forest and is worth just as many words in my On the Wing writings.
We all have our harbingers of spring. To the farmers it’s the welcome swallow that tells them when to sow, and then when to reap at the end of summer. To the orchardists it is the arrival of the black-faced cuckoo-shrike that signals not only blossom on apple and pear trees in spring, but picking time when the summer birds – as they are known in country districts – retreat to the mainland during the autumn. To me it’s not the actual arrival of spring that is heralded by the … [Read more...] about A song for every season
The ocean teems with life, above and below the surface. Under the waves in Tasmanian waters at this time of the year are some of the biggest creatures known to nature – southern right and humpback whales – and sailing the winds above them, the biggest of birds, the wandering and royal albatrosses. The Mercury has reported in recent weeks big numbers of whales on the move from sub-Antarctic seas to calving grounds along the eastern Australian coastline. At the same time … [Read more...] about Free-for-all in the oceans
Every cloud has a silver lining, and so it was with a shock report earlier this year that revealed birds were vanishing faster in Australia than anywhere else in the world. The international survey might have drawn attention to the growing number of species slipping towards extinction but it also revealed one place on the planet – MacquarieIsland – where the situation had been dramatically turned around. The island has been the subject of a $24.7 million program … [Read more...] about Tide turns for Macquarie Island
A SENSE of doom and gloom takes flight each winter as bird-watchers in Tasmania contemplate the fate of the shorebirds they waved off on migration at the end of the Tasmanian summer. Fewer and fewer of the shorebirds that travel all the way from Tasmania’s wetlands to breed within the Arctic Circle are returning each year to spend the summer here, as they have done for millennia. A staggering decrease in some numbers of shorebirds has been known to members of BirdLife … [Read more...] about Curlews lost to the wind