Still waters

In October 2015, Flightpathproject revisited India.

Migrants in Madhya Pradesh

Flightpathproject spent a morning birding at the 600-acre Sirpur Lake, near Indore in Madhya Pradesh. Winter migrants are late this year, waiting for the weather to cool down, but some early birds, including cotton teal, have just arrived.

cotton pygmy

Cotton teal (Nettapus coromandelianus, aka Cotton pygmy-geese) among lily pads.

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Still waters at Sirpur

Reed beds line the lakeshore: a filter system for water and feeding ground for birds.









More of these extraordinary images of Sirpur’s reed beds at

More information about conserving Sirpur at

Words about wetlands

Flightpathproject was again tracking the movements of poet Laurence Hope. The 1895-1900 diaries of Scottish writer and painter Violet Jacob, who was in central India at the same time as and spent time with Laurence Hope, brought Flightpathproject to the lake. The lilies of Sirpur – then known as Sherepore – had the same effect now as then.

20 July 1896: I heard the other day that the great pink lotus was to be seen in flower at a place called Sherepore tank a few miles from Indore…the creek was full of lovely rose-coloured flowers standing with their heads raised above the thick masses of leaves…it was most wonderful to me who have only seen it in pictures.’

Violet Jacob Diaries and Letters from India 1895- 1900, Canongate Publishing, 1990

violet jacob



Flight by water

Afloat, adrift or drowned

Death in the Mediterranean: the least bad option for so many migrants

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For background information see


The current brought a stranger yesterday,

And laid him in the sand beneath a palm,

His worn young face was partly torn away,

His eyes that saw the world no more, were calm.

We could not close his eyelids, stiff with blood –

But, oh, my brother…

from Feroke, by Laurence Hope

For those in peril on the sea:

Words for those at sea the world over, by William Whiting, written in 1860.

Listen at

Migration, place and memory

‘I cast the net of memory…’

from The Net of Memory in Last Poems, by Laurence Hope,

In October Flightpathproject will wing its way to India, staying until December.

It will trace the trajectory of poet Laurence Hope — aka Adela Florence Cory, aka Violet Nicolson – who died in what was then Madras, in 1904.  Her exotic, erotic poems set hearts fluttering in drawing rooms across Victorian England.

At the same time it will follow the footsteps of John Jealous, who died in England in 2006. His letters and notes from trips to India reveal a growing obsession with her.

LH photo from Lilac-bleeding Star

Image in Under a Lilac-Bleeding Star by Lesley Blanch, Atheneum 1964 (note LH’s name, misspelled)

Writing places

Mirroring the movements of LH and JJ, Flightpathproject will arrive in north India as high-altitude birds migrate to the foothills of the Himalayas. Writing on the way, Flightpathproject will move to south India at the same time that migratory birds escaping the European winter flock to sanctuaries like Vedanthangal.


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News from 2013


Was it worth while to forego our wings

To gain these dextrous hands?

Truly they fashion us wonderful things

As the fancy of man demands.

But – to fly! to sail through the lucid air

From crest to violet crest

Of these great grey mountains, quartz-veined and bare,

Where the white clouds gather and rest.

Even to flutter from flower to flower, –

To skim the tops of the trees, –

In the roseate light of a sun-setting hour

To drift on a sea-going breeze.

Ay, the hands have marvellous skill

To create us curious things, –

Baubles, playthings, weapons to kill, –

But – I would we had chosen wings!

from Last Poems by Laurence Hope

Still waiting

Waders that stay

white egret nla

White Egret (Egreta alba) 1938

Ebenezer Edward Gostelow, Australian naturalist and artist (1867-1944)

From the collection of the National Library of Australia:



Once as I travelled through a quiet evening,
I saw a pool, jet-black and mirror-still.
Beyond, the slender paperbarks stood crowding;
each on its own white image looked its fill,
and nothing moved but thirty egrets wading –
thirty egrets in a quiet evening.

Once in a lifetime, lovely past believing,
your lucky eyes may light on such a pool.
As though for many years I had been waiting,
I watched in silence, till my heart was full
of clear dark water, and white trees unmoving,
and, whiter yet, those thirty egrets wading.

 From Birds: Poems by Judith Wright, National Library of Australia, 2003


Egrets in another country, in another century

Egrets are one of several species commonly called ‘rice birds’: these are cattle egrets (Bubulcus ibis). The title of the poem below refers to Feroke, a small city surrounded by rivers and wetlands in Kerala, India.

 egret in paddy webImage at

The rice-birds fly so white, so silver white,
The velvet rice-flats lie so emerald green,
My heart inhales, with sorrowful delight,
The sweet and poignant sadness of the scene.

The swollen tawny river seeks the sea,
Its hungry waters, never satisfied,
Beflecked with fallen log and torn-up tree,
Engulph the fisher-huts on either side.

The current brought a stranger yesterday,
And laid him on the sand beneath a palm,
His worn young face was partly torn away,
His eyes, that saw the world no more, were calm

We could not close his eyelids, stiff with blood,–
But, oh, my brother, I had changed with thee
For I am still tormented in the flood,
Whilst thou hast done thy work, and reached the sea.

From Last Poems by Laurence Hope, William Heinemann, 1905; also in Selected Poems from The Indian Love Lyrics of Laurence Hope, William Heinemann, 1922