The worlds of literature, art and wildlife collided on Bruny Island recently when the local community launched a bird book to promote the natural wonders of the twin islands.
Writers and artists are at the forefront of the battle to save endangered wildlife and habitats but their role often goes unacknowledged.
The Bruny Island Environmental Network (BIEN) set out to put the world of art and literature in the spotlight when two years ago it launched a book project, Birdsong: A Celebration of Bruny Island Birds.
That project reached fruition at the Bruny Island Bird Festival last month when the book was launched by best-selling Tasmanian writer, Rachael Treasure, who spoke of birds and birdsong uplifting the human spirit.
Some of Australia’s finest poets, ornithologists, environmental writers, visual artists and photographers were recruited to create Birdsong, a collection of artworks, poems and essays.
Bruny Island was listed by Australian Birdlife magazine earlier this year among the top 10 birdwatching sites in the country and the contributors to Birdsong explain why the twin islands are regarded as a birding hotspot.
Of the islands’ prolific avifauna, Bruny resident John Cameron writes in an introduction to the book: “These birds animate the land; they enliven the airy realms and grace the waters of the Channel. They deserve our attention, our respect for their wildness, and our gratitude for their existence. At the very least, we must do no further harm to them and do whatever we can to ensure their flourishing on this splendid isle.”
Bruny Island embraces myriad habitats for birds, and these are largely in a pristine state. Tasmania as a whole is noted for its high number of endemic species and all 12 of these birds found nowhere else on earth can be seen on Bruny.
The island is also home to the largest breeding population of swift parrots.
The swift parrot features heavily in the book in both poetry and visual art, not surprisingly because BIEN in recent years had launched a campaign called “the sprit of Bruny” to protect not just the migratory swift parrots which arrive in spring, but their habitat.
Poet Peter Hay writes in an afterword to the book of sharing his life with the birds of Bruny.
“I would not want to live without birds,” he says. “They colour the texture of my life. They infuse it with wonder. They enjoin celebration of the éclat of life itself. Epiphany, their presence insists, is possible – perhaps even imminent. This is their gift to me, and, though they may value it at less than nought, this is my offering of thanks.”
In order to get this collection into print and out to the public, BIEN invited interested individuals, organisations and businesses to sponsor it. This partnership, and pre-sales, made the ambitious project possible.
“Poetry is like a bird, it ignores all frontiers,” a line from Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko proclaims at the start of the book, and Birdsong is certainly reaching beyond the borders of Bruny.
Birdsong: A Celebration of Bruny Island Birds can be ordered from the BIEN website at firstname.lastname@example.org or from local bookshops, priced $30.