Macroflight by Microlight

Flight to the Tundra:

Follow one woman’s flightpath along the route of the Red-necked stint…

‘Since April 2016, I have been learning to pilot a microlight aircraft with the intention to fly the migratory route of the Red-necked stint from Australia to Siberia to promote urgent action for shorebird conservation…’


More about Amellia Formby and her extraordinary project at

800px-calidris_ruficollis_-_marion_bayRed-necked stint in non-breeding plumage

Image courtesy JJ Harrison- Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,


calidris_ruficollis_summer_plumageRed-necked stint in breeding plumage

Image courtesy Alpsdake – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,


Flying for Life

Flying for their lives:

‘Every year, millions of shorebirds fly between Australasia and the Arctic. But for many, this will be their last flight…’

Take an extraordinary journey along the East Asian-Australasian Flyway with Ann Jones.

Article and images at

The strangeness of flight:

…You stand there
by the strangeness…
…you stare like an animal into
the blinding clouds
with the snapped chain of your life,
the life you know:
the deeply affectionate earth,
the familiar landscapes
slowly turning
thousands of feet below.

from Flying by Mary Oliver


Caught at the airport

bird understand

Image at


Of many reasons I love you here is one

the way you write me from the gate at the airport

so I can tell you everything will be alright

so you can tell me there is a bird

trapped in the terminal      all the people

ignoring it       because they do not know

what to do with it       except to leave it alone

until it scares itself to death


it makes you terribly terribly sad


You wish you could take the bird outside

and set it free or       (failing that)

call a bird-understander

to come help the bird


All you can do is notice the bird

and feel for the bird       and write

to tell me how language feels

impossibly useless


but you are wrong


You are a bird-understander

better than I could ever be

who make so many noises

and call them song


These are your own words

your way of noticing

and saying plainly

of not turning away

from hurt


you have offered them

to me       I am only

giving them back


if only I could show you

how very useless

they are not

by Craig Arnold

Terminal birds

mural sf airport



Flightpaths interrupted

Sometimes only poetry will do


In memoriam

In memoriam MH17 and MH 370



‘I reason, Earth is short…’

I reason, Earth is short—
And Anguish—absolute—
And many hurt,
But, what of that?

I reason, we could die—
The best Vitality
Cannot excel Decay,
But, what of that?

I reason, that in Heaven—
Somehow, it will be even—
Some new Equation, given—
But, what of that?

 by Emily Dickinson


Earth from sky



To the Days

From you I want more than I’ve ever asked
all of it—the newscasts’ terrible stories
of life in my time, the knowing it’s worse than that,
much worse—the knowing what it means to be lied to.

Fog in the mornings, hunger for clarity,
coffee and bread with sour plum jam.
Numbness of soul in placid neighborhoods.
Lives ticking on as if.

A typewriter’s torrent, suddenly still
Blue soaking through fog, two dragonflies wheeling.
Acceptable levels of cruelty, steadily rising.
Whatever you bring in your hands, I need to see it.

Suddenly I understand the verb without tenses.
To smell another woman’s hair, to taste her skin.
To know the bodies drifting underwater.
To be human, said Rosa—I can’t teach you that.

A cat drinks from a bowl of marigolds—his moment.
Surely the love of life is never-ending,
the failure of nerve, a charred fuse?
I want more from you than I ever knew to ask.

Wild pink lilies erupting, tasseled stalks of corn
in the Mexican gardens, corn and roses.
Shortening days, strawberry fields in ferment
with tossed-aside, bruised fruit.

 by Adrienne Rich



What Happens

It has happened
and it goes on happening
and will happen again
if nothing happens to stop it

The innocent know nothing
because they are too innocent
and the guilty know nothing
because they are too guilty

The poor do not notice
because they are too poor
and the rich do not notice
because they are too rich

The stupid shrug their shoulders
because they are too stupid
and the clever shrug their shoulders
because they are too clever

The young do not care
because they are too young
and the old do not care
because they are too old

That is why nothing happens

to stop it

and that is why it has happened

and goes on happening and will happen again

 by Erich Fried, translated from the German by Stuart Hood

These poems selected from Being Alive: the sequel to Staying Alive, edited by Neil Astley, published by Bloodaxe 2004




Flights of fantasy

Shan•gri-la (ˌʃæŋ grɪˈlɑ, ˈʃæŋ grɪˌlɑ)

n. an imaginary paradise on earth, esp. a remote and exotic utopia [after the fictional Tibetan land of eternal youth in the novel The Lost Horizon (1933) by James Hilton]

definition at

 Peach-blossom Shangri-la

peach blossom shangri-la web

 Image at

‘During the Taiyuan era of the Jin Dynasty there was a man of Wuling who made his living as a fisherman. Once while following a stream he forgot how far he had gone. He suddenly came to a grove of blossoming peach trees…

…The peach trees stopped at the stream’s source, where the fisherman came to a mountain with a small opening through which it seemed he could see light. Leaving his boat, he entered the opening. At first it was so narrow that he could barely pass, but after advancing a short distance it suddenly opened up to reveal a broad, flat area with imposing houses, good fields, beautiful ponds, mulberry trees, bamboo, and the like. The fisherman saw paths extending among the fields in all directions, and could hear the sounds of chickens and dogs. Men and women working in the fields all wore clothing that looked like that of foreign lands. The elderly and children all seemed to be happy and enjoying themselves…

…After several days there, the fisherman bid farewell, at which time some villagers told him, “It’s not worth telling people on the outside about us.”

The fisherman exited through the opening, found his boat, and retraced his route while leaving markers to find this place again. Upon his arrival at the prefecture town he went to the prefect and told him what had happened. The prefect immediately sent a person to follow the fisherman and look for the trail markers, but they got lost and never found the way…After that no one else ever looked for the place.’

From Peach Blossom Shangri-la by Tao Yuan Ming, naturalist, poet and government official, c365-427

Read the full text at Project Gutenberg:

Lost Horizons: other versions of Shangri-la

 The novel:


 First edition 1933, MacMillan

 The film:



Directed by Frank Capra, 1937

The musical movie:


Directed by Charles Jarrott, 1973



Onwards and upwards

Putting planes on paper in Singapore, c 1925:

Khoo Seok Wan, poet and reformist, 1874-1941

Khoo Seok Wan, 1874-1941

Seeing an airplane pass

weighing hundreds of stones

this flying car lifts off

the weighty metal body

nimble as a bird before the moon

its sounds, trailing behind

shatters the silent dawn

a pair of wings

stretched wide

their flight unhindered

by mist and rain

over rivers and mountains

it cuts its own paths

floating with the clouds

looking forward and upward

moving of its own volition

needing no winds to bear its weight

– by Khoo Seok Wan, translated from classical Chinese

koo seok wan 1 web


Paper planes in Singapore, 2009:

I fly like paper

Flying like paper

I fly like paper, an installation  by Singaporean artist Dawn Ng, 2009

Paying a flying visit to Singapore, 2014:

Band-bellied crake

Band-bellied crake


‘…just back from ogling the first Band-bellied Crake on Singapore (if record is accepted by the records committee)!’

– text to Flightpathproject from birder Lim Kim Keang, 1 March 2014

See Martin Kennewell’s video of the Band-bellied crake in Singapore 2 March 2014 at

Birds of passage in Penang

Flightpathproject is in Penang 4 and 5 March 2014

 Bird of passage:

n. pl. birds of passage: 1. A migratory bird; 2. A person who moves from place to place frequently.


Birds on the beach:

‘To date, about 165 bird species (80% of the total for Penang Island) have been recorded in Penang National Park. The best times to visit the park is during autumn from October to November and spring from end of February to March. During these months, it is possible to observe a variety of migratory species ranging from waders to raptors and thrushes…Shorebirds such as Broad-billed Sandpiper and coastal species such as Little Tern have been seen on the mudflats…’

Broad-billed sandpiper

Broad-billed sandpiper

Photo: Ian & Jill Brown at

When the tourists fly in:

‘Tourism Malaysia Penang is aiming to attract some 5.5 million tourists to visit the state next year…’

Article ‘Preparing for 5.5 million tourists’, New Straits Times, 28 December 2013 See

Pulau Payar, Penang

Pulau Payar, Penang

Photo:  Shahnoor Habib Munmun at Flickr

When the tourists flew in:

…When the tourists flew in
our men put aside
their fishing nets
to become waiters…

…When the tourists flew in
what culture we had
flew out of the window…

…When the tourists flew in
we could no longer
go down to our beaches
the hotel manager said
“Natives defile the sea-shore”…

from When the tourists flew in by Cecil Rajendra (Penang, 1978)

Different birds of passage:

RAF Butterworth/Penang 1941-1957

RAF Butterworth/Penang 1941-1957

RAAF Butterworth/Penang 1957-1988

RAAF Butterworth/Penang 1957-1988

RMAF Butterworth/Penang 1988 to present

RMAF Butterworth/Penang 1988 to present