Flightless flightpath

Happy feat

Rockhopper and Snares crested penguins cover 15,000km during a six-month stint at sea


s rockhopperSouthern Rockhopper Penguin

Mapping the marathon

A map showing where the rockhopper and Snares penguins travelled

More at http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11692473 and http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-news-from-elsewhere-37058422

Magellanic Penguin

Neither clown nor child nor black
nor white but verticle
and a questioning innocence
dressed in night and snow:
The mother smiles at the sailor,
the fisherman at the astronaunt,
but the child child does not smile
when he looks at the bird child,
and from the disorderly ocean
the immaculate passenger
emerges in snowy mourning.

I was without doubt the child bird
there in the cold archipelagoes
when it looked at me with its eyes,
with its ancient ocean eyes:
it had neither arms nor wings
but hard little oars
on its sides:
it was as old as the salt;
the age of moving water,
and it looked at me from its age:
since then I know I do not exist;
I am a worm in the sand.

the reasons for my respect
remained in the sand:
the religious bird
did not need to fly,
did not need to sing,
and through its form was visible
its wild soul bled salt:
as if a vein from the bitter sea
had been broken.

Penguin, static traveler,
deliberate priest of the cold,
I salute your vertical salt
and envy your plumed pride.

by Pablo Neruda

Another southern marathon



Moonflights of fancy

Magpies by Moonlight

Australian magpies (and wonderful Willy wagtails) sing through the night, by rural moonlight or urban streetlight.

See http://museumvictoria.com.au/discoverycentre/discovery-centre-news/2009-archive/nocturnal-magpies/

 More about Maggies at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_magpie

 Staircase to the moon


A marvellous monthly phenomenon in Broome, Western Australia

See http://www.visitbroome.com.au/discover/facts-figures/staircase-to-the-moon

 Swoony Moon

Andy Williams sings Moon River – a classic song of the sixties by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer, made famous by Audrey Hepburn in the classic film Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961).




Caught in flight

 (Flightpathproject visits Tasmania, August 2014)

‘Stone walls do not a prison make/Nor iron bars a cage…’ (from To Althea, from Prison, by Richard Lovelace, 1642)


In Tasmania, in the 1830s, dogs were the most effective way of ensuring the convicts’  incarceration at Port Arthur, blocking the flightpath from the peninsula.

Eagle-eyed dogs guard the Neck

tas dogs 1

Eaglehawk Neck is a narrow isthmus connecting the Tasman Peninsula to mainland Tasmania…Locally known as the Neck, the isthmus itself is around 400 metres long and under 30 metres wide at its narrowest point. It forms a natural gateway to the peninsula that was utilised by the British in 1830s, when a line of dogs was chained to posts across the neck to warn of any convicts attempting to escape the prison at Port Arthur…




tas dogs 2

images courtesy Robyn Walton http://www.robynwalton.com.au

Chained dogs, chained men

Different place, same story: Sam Cooke sings Chain Gang

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 http://www.thefreedictionary.com

 Peach-blossom Shangri-la

peach blossom shangri-la web

 Image at http://www.chinancient.com/peach-blossom-spring-chinese-shangri-la

‘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: www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/2090/pg2090.html

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






Thai-Burma railway

Railway section showing Hellfire Pass

Railway section showing Hellfire Pass

Map by Jocelyn Freeman in Railway of Death by ER Hall and reproduced in The War Diaries of Weary Dunlop

 ‘In 1943 Japan’s high command decided to build a railway linking Thailand and Burma, to supply its campaign against the Allies in Burma.

The railway was to run 420 kilometres through rugged jungle. It was to be built by a captive labour force of about 60,000 Allied prisoners of war and 200,000 romusha, or Asian labourers. They built the track with hand tools and muscle power, working through the monsoon of 1943.  All were urged on by the cry “speedo!”

Relentless labour on inadequate rations in a deadly tropical environment caused huge losses. By the time the railway was completed in October 1943, at least 2,815 Australians, over 11,000 other Allied prisoners, and perhaps 75,000 romusha were dead….’

description by Australian War Memorial http://www.awm.gov.au

 Weary Dunlop on seeing romusha working party, 22 April 1943:

‘just another of those dreary , homeless mass migrations of war along a road of sickness and death’

 Weary Dunlop on birds, 24 November 1944:

golden oriole wikipedia‘Birds cause considerable amusement around here. Very showy in the mornings, the rather silent little drongos with slender bodies like a willy wagtail, forked tails, and astonishing manoeuvrability, pouncing on flies and turning in their own length. Multitudinous cheeky little mynah birds…occasionally raided by another type of almost black mynah with a little tuft above the beak, all shrilling at each other in a hostile way. The magpie robin is still evident, also smug little doves, naturally usually in pairs, and our show-piece, the golden oriel. There are scarlet-crested woodpeckers and innumerable vultures and crows. Lastly multitudinous extremely small birds, not forgetting the rather pretty egregious sparrows, which gave the entrance to our hut the name coined by Billy ‘The Gate of Happy Sparrows.’

Image uncredited/Wikimedia

 Excerpts from The War Diaries of Weary Dunlop, EE Dunlop, Nelson Publishers 1986


narrow road

The Narrow Road to the Deep North, a novel framed by experiences of the Thai-Burma railway, by Richard Flanagan (Vintage, 2013). The title mirrors a work by late 17th century Japanese poet and traveller Basho.

 War birds:

German pigeon-photographer

German pigeon-photographer

British Royal Engineer with war-pigeon

British Royal Engineer with war-pigeon

Images Bundesarchiv_Bild_183_1996 and http://www.rpra.org

‘Messenger pigeons have been used in wartime for centuries, even in the face of increasingly sophisticated telecommunications equipment. From the outbreak of World War II until VE-Day the RAF were parachuting ‘intelligence’ pigeons onto the Continent with notes asking pro-Allied finders to return the birds with information about the enemy. Of 17,080 pigeons dropped, only 1,708 returned…many really were wounded by gun-fire or attacked by falcons, which were used by the enemy as interceptors. No bird carried out more than three successful operations…’

The Dickin Medal, the highest possible decoration for valour given to non-human animals, was awarded to 32 pigeons.


Valiant, 2005The 2005 computer-animated story of Valiant, a wood pigeon who joins the Royal Homing Pigeon Service


odyssey /od-i-si/ n. (pl. -eys): a series of wanderings; a long and eventful journey [from Greek Odusseia, title of an epic poem attributed to Homer describing the adventures of Odysseus]

definition: Oxford Compact English Dictionary

The beginning of the Odyssey

odyssey text Bibi Saint-Pol

 Image Bibi Saint-Pol/Wikimedia Commons

The beginning of a different odyssey

‘As you set out for Ithaka

hope your road is a long one,

full of adventure, full of discovery…’

from Ithaka by CP Cavafy

The journeys of birds

 travelling birds film 1 web

Travelling Birds (also known as Winged Migration): a 2001 documentary film that follows northern hemisphere birds on their spring migration to the Arctic Circle.

Birds on the itinerary

Destination Flyways is an initiative of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation.

‘In 2012, a record one billion tourists crossed international borders…By providing an adequate framework for sustainable tourism management and diversifying the tourism offer along the flyways, Destination Flyways will generate revenue for improved management of biodiversity and spread the benefits of tourism to local communities, while creating attractive experiences for tourists.’


birdwatchers broome 1 kimberley birdwatching

Birdwatching at Roebuck Bay near Broome, Western Australia

Morley Beach birdwatchers 1

Birdwatching at Morley Beach, Denmark, Western Australia

Images: top, kimberleybirdwatching.com.au; bottom, Basil Schur

Stopping along the way

‘shhh I can make myself invisible

with binoculars in moist places…

…whisper I wear soft colours/

whisper, this is the naturalist

she’s been out since dawn

dripping in her waterproof notebook’

 from Dart by Alice Oswald