In for the long-haul

One good Tern:


Arctic tern flies a record-breaking 96,000km return migration, from Northumberland’s Farne Islands to Antarctica’s Weddell Sea, in ten months.

More at

and at

Inner Farne, Northumberland

image at

The Way to Keep Going in Antarctica

Be strong Bernadette

Nobody will ever know

I came here for a reason

Perhaps there is a life here

Of not being afraid of your own heart beating

Do not be afraid of your own heart beating

Look at very small things with your eyes

& stay warm

Nothing outside can cure you but everything’s outside

There is great shame for the world in knowing

You may have gone this far

Perhaps this is why you love the presence of other people so much

Perhaps this is why you wait so impatiently

You have nothing more to teach

Until there is no more panic at the knowledge of your own real existence

& then only special childish laughter to be shown

& no more lies no more

Not to find you no

More coming back & more returning

Southern journey

Small things & not my own debris

Something to fight against

& we are all very fluent about ourselves

Our own ideas of food, a Wild sauce

There’s not much point in its being over: but we do not speak them:

I had written: “the man who sewed his soles back on his feet”

And then I panicked most at the sound of what the wind could do

to me

if I crawled back to the house, two feet give no position, if

the branches cracked over my head & their threatening me, if I

covered my face with beer & sweated till you returned

If I suffered what else could I do

by Bernadette Mayer.

More at

Ice in the Weddell Sea, Antarctica

image at

Love on wings

Flying Ant Day:

The first of the early (antipodean) summer swarms emerged recently in Denmark, Western Australia.


ants wikimediaImage at

More about this annual international phenomenon at

Antic action:

Watch flying swarms at

Summer love in Australia:

Flying Ants

Pouring straight up in their excited millions

Like smoke from the hot earth in narrow rings

The flying termites, blind in their own bright shower,

Whirl in a crystal tower not there at all:

For while the glimmering column holds them safe

To dance their delirious dance of summer and love

How frail and small it floats in the evening’s brilliance:

And, striking in shafts of light that burn their wings,

Infinite space pierces the crystal wall

Where thought itself floats glinting in that tower.

by Douglas Stewart, 1913-1985


Image by David de Groot at




Leaving on a jet stream

In the departure lounge

It’s autumn (in the southern hemisphere) and Australia is again farewelling its shorebirds. Check out the YouTube link at


Image and more info at

Who’s taking to the skies & who’s waiting in the wings

Read what’s happening around Australia at

Images at




image at

Journey of the Magi

“A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The was deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.”
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires gong out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty, and charging high prices.:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we lead all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I have seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

 by TS Eliot, publisher Faber and Gwyer, 1927

TS Eliot reads Journey of the Magi

Departures and arrivals

Waving the waders goodbye from downunder:

‘Saturday, 10 May 2014 marks World Migratory Bird Day for 2014…About 5 million shorebirds make a round trip up to the arctic to breed every year. That’s a 30,000 kilometre journey for some.

If you consider that some species of shorebirds weigh less than a chocolate bar, then you are starting to understand just how incredible these birds are…’

waving waders adrian boyle bbo web

Image Broome Bird Observatory/Adrian Boyle

Link and listen to a 30-minute panel conversation from Australia on ABC Radio National:

See also

Meanwhile in the northern hemisphere:


Spring comes little, a little. All April it rains.
The new leaves stick in their fists; new ferns still fiddleheads.
But one day the swifts are back. Face to the sun like a child
You shout, ‘The swifts are back!’
Sure enough, bolt nocks bow to carry one sky-scyther
Two hundred miles an hour across fullblown windfields.
Swereee swereee. Another. And another.
It’s the cut air falling in shrieks on our chimneys and roofs.
The next day, a fleet of high crosses cruises in ether.
These are the air pilgrims, pilots of air rivers.
But a shift of wing, and they’re earth-skimmers, daggers
Skilful in guiding the throw of themselves away from themselves.
Quick flutter, a scimitar upsweep, out of danger of touch, for
Earth is forbidden to them, water’s forbidden to them,
All air and fire, little owlish ascetics, they outfly storms,
They rush to the pillars of altitude, the thermal fountains.
Here is a legend of swifts, a parable —
When the Great Raven bent over earth to create the birds,
The swifts were ungrateful. They were small muddy things
Like shoes, with long legs and short wings,
So they took themselves off to the mountains to sulk.
And they stayed there. ‘Well,’ said the Raven, after years of this,
‘I will give you the sky. You can have the whole sky
On condition that you give up rest.’
‘Yes, yes,’ screamed the swifts, ‘We abhor rest.
We detest the filth of growth, the sweat of sleep,
Soft nests in the wet fields, slimehold of worms.
Let us be free, be air!’
So the Raven took their legs and bound them into their bodies.
He bent their wings like boomerangs, honed them like knives.
He streamlined their feathers and stripped them of velvet.
Then he released them, Never to Return

Inscribed on their feet and wings. And so
We have swifts, though in reality, not parables but
Bolts in the world’s need: swift
Swifts, not in punishment, not in ecstasy, simply
Sleepers over oceans in the mill of the world’s breathing.
The grace to say they live in another firmament.
A way to say the miracle will not occur,
And watch the miracle.

by Anne Stevenson

(Apologies, there’s a glitch in formatting – there should be a line-break every fourth line.)
To read this and other Anne Stevenson poems see

Common-Swift alamy

 Image: Alamy

For another swift story see

Swifts over the Valley

Swifts over the Valley

Image of Andy Jarrett’s sculpture by Mark Cocker for The Guardian


Defining Zugunruhe

From the German ‘zug’, meaning movement or migration and ‘unruhe’, meaning anxiety, unrest; used by German and English speakers to describe ‘migratory restlessness’, especially in birds.

Gathering before the flight from Roebuck Bay, Western Australia

Gathering before the flight from Roebuck Bay, Western Australia

Gathering before the flight from Heathrow

Gathering before the flight from London Heathrow

Photos Ricki Coughlan/Broome Bird Observatory; David Levene/

Describing Zugunruhe

‘…the evening, the night and the morning, [it is] as if they feel in themselves then something I do not know what which obliges them to leave the place where they are…And it is this instinct and inner guide that makes them fly by a favourable wind directly to the place where they want to go.’

from Traité du Rossignol (A Treatise on the Nightingale), Anon, 1707. Quoted in The Wisdom of Birds: An Illustrated History of Ornithology, Tim Birkhead, Bloomsbury (2008)

Observing Zugunruhe

Annual migration of red crabs, Christmas Island, Indian Ocean

Annual migration of red crabs, Christmas Island, Indian Ocean, Australia

Asylum seekers on board SS Tampa, heading from Christmas Island, Indian Ocean, Austraiia

Asylum seekers on board MV Tampa, heading for Christmas Island, Indian Ocean, Australia 2001

Migrants arriving in Australia 1954

Migrants arriving in Australia 1954

Photos: Allison K Shaw/National Geographic; uncredited/; uncredited/Australian National Archives

Articulating Zugunruhe

‘…is this how this country is going to answer you

and your immodest demands for a different world,

and a better life, and complete comprehension

of both at last, and immediately..?’

 from Arrival at Santos by Elizabeth Bishop