Winging it through the world

World Shorebirds Day 2016

The global count of shorebirds will be from 2 to 2 September. More information at

In 2014, participants were invited to sketch the birds they saw; see some of the results at

image2 stiltsBlack-winged stilts in Japan by Narisa Togo


Shore Birds

While I think of them they are growing rare
after the distances they have followed
all the way to the end for the first time
tracing a memory they did not have
until they set out to remember it
at an hour when all at once it was late
and newly silent and the white had turned
white around them then they rose in their choir
on a single note each of them alone
between the pull of the moon and the hummed
undertone of the earth below them
the glass curtains kept falling around them
as they flew in search of their place before
they were anywhere and storms winnowed them
they flew among the places with towers
and passed the tower lights where some vanished
with their long legs for wading in shadow
others were caught and stayed in the countries
of the nets and in the lands of lime twigs
some fastened and after the countries of
guns at first light fewer of them than I
remember would be here to recognize
the light of late summer when they found it
playing with darkness along the wet sand

by WS Merwin

Writing Life

Listen to WS Merwin speak about words in the world:

To be a bird

The endless possibilities of heron:

Brooklyn_Museum_-_Green_Heron_-_John_J._Audubon‘Green Heron’ by John Audubon, from the collection of the Brooklyn Museum

Image at

On the First Day She Made Birds

He asked me       if I had a choice

what kind of bird

would I choose to be.

I know what he thought I’d say

since he tried to        end

my sentences half the time

anyway. Something exotic

he thought. He thought

maybe macaw.

That would fit

all loudmouthed

and primary colored

he would think.

(He thinks too much

I always thought.)

But really       at heart

I’m more

don’t laugh now

an L B J

little brown job

except               except

I’m not the

flit        from


to        branch        type

such a waste

of energy all that

wing flap

and scritch scritch scratch.

Really now

can you see me

seed pod clamped

between my beak

like some landowner,

Havana cigar


between his teeth?

No         I think         not

I think

green heron.

You ask why?



That hunched look

wings tucked to neck

waiting        waiting

in the sun

on a wide slab of rock

alongside a slow river

like some old man

up from a bad night’s dream

where he’s seen his coffin

and you say to him

Have a nice day

and he says        Make me.

Oh          you want looks

I’ll give you


long olive green feathers

a trace of


I could stand

going out       iridescent

chestnut sides and head

a black crown

yes        a crown

something regal

to flash when you get

too close

dark bill         bright

yellow legs

and that creamy streak

down my throat and pecs


not great

but good         pecs

just enough for a quick

hop to the next.

The best part

no sexual dimorphism

male         female

both alike

endless possibilities.

by Diana Garcia


Green Heron WikiGreen Heron, Butorides virescens

Image at

Words for bird calls:

‘The green heron’s call is a loud and sudden kyow; it also makes a series of more subdued kuk calls. During courtship, the male gives a raah-rahh call with wide-open bill, makes noisy wingbeats and whoom-whoom-whoom calls in flight, and sometimes calls roo-roo to the female before landing again. While sitting, an aaroo-aaroo courtship call is also given…’

Description at



In transit

Do not disturb:

Birds breeding, feeding & sleeping at Wilson Inlet in Denmark, Western Australia, March 2016







For every bird a nest:

For every Bird a Nest—
Wherefore in timid quest
Some little Wren goes seeking round—

Wherefore when boughs are free—
Households in every tree—
Pilgrim be found?

Perhaps a home too high—
Ah Aristocracy!
The little Wren desires—

Perhaps of twig so fine—
Of twine e’en superfine,
Her pride aspires—

The Lark is not ashamed
To build upon the ground
Her modest house—

Yet who of all the throng
Dancing around the sun
Does so rejoice?


Emily Dickinson

bright wings

Bright Wings

an illustrated anthology of poems about birds – edited by Billy Collins, illustrated by David Allen Sibley – Columbia University Press 2009

Leap Year Love Birds

29 February 2016

Love nest:

On an Edwardian postcard

Love Birds

‘In Leap Year, longing for a cosy nest/I ask you, will you be my very best’

Image at

Love net:

By tradition, in 19th century Britain and Ireland, women could propose marriage to men on leap year’s day…

PostcardLeapYearBeCarefulClara1908Image at

Leap Year Poem:

Thirty days hath September,

April, June and November.

All the rest have thirty-one,

Excepting February alone,

And that has twenty-eight days clear

And twenty-nine in each leap year.

by Mother Goose


Image at


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.

Image at

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



Words for birds

Bird blessings:

The Feast Day of St Francis of Assisi is on Sunday 4 October

st-francis-preaching-to-the-birds-1299.jpg!BlogSt Francis Preaching to the Birds (San Francesco predica agli uccelli), by Giotto, 1299

st-francis-preaching-to-the-birds.jpg!BlogSurrealist version/vision by MC Escher, 1922.

Images at

Saint Francis and the Birds

When Francis preached love to the birds
They listened, fluttered, throttled up
Into the blue like a flock of words

Released for fun from his holy lips.
Then wheeled back, whirred about his head,
Pirouetted on brothers’ capes.

Danced on the wing, for sheer joy played
And sang, like images took flight.
Which was the best poem Francis made,

His argument true, his tone light.

by Seamus Heaney

All creatures great and small:

The inimitable Dawn French as the Vicar of Dibley, blessing more than birds

dawn french

‘Animals’, Episode 1:6, 1994. Image at


Bird notes

Birds, words and music:

A piece about about Molloy, Messiaen and the music of birds by Australian composer and broadcaster Andrew Ford at

Front-cover Molloy

Georgiana Molloy – the mind that shines.

Biography by Bernice Barry, Redgate, 2015


Catalogue of birds:

Listen to the Black-eared wheatear by Messiaen from his Catalogue d’oiseaux at