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Confessions of a Lantana Braker

LSSwallowAnticipating the first rain in ten days and thanks to protracted daily power cuts, Dismas and I have attacked the Lantana brakes with a vengeance, in the week just passed. This rioting alien once known as the American Bramble has, since the plentiful Long Rains of March-to-May, completely choked the finest glades in my garden. It has surged in all directions to consume all the best spots for Palearctic bird migrants – primarily birds of ancient wood pasture – glades painstakingly developed between 2009 and 2012. Especially significant is the glade that lies right outside the twin windows of our east-facing bedroom and Elsie’s consulting room of peace.

So we attack the Lantana. More or less immediately upon arrival at the site, tools in our hands, Pi (our trusty Breton spaniel) discovers one of our neighbour’s three patchy grey and white cats, hiding, spitting in the shade. We see that the feline is suckling four still blind kits, in a rough den, on the eastern edge of one dense sprawler of a lantana thicket. No wonder my beloved buffy Eastern Nightingales (golzii), now arriving at Mount Meru, and the more sombre grey-brown Sprossers, move-on the first night after their arrival. No wonder that our formerly resident Ruppell’s Robin-chats are no more, and no wonder the melancholy cooing Blue-spotted Wood-doves, a breeding rarity locally, have declined from three pairs in 2012 to one!

At least the Cape Robin-chat, who serenades us for the entire work party visit, is able to find enough arthropod food within the taller Lantana thickets of the garden, where a woefully sparse ground flora nevertheless permits unhindered visibility of the oncoming moggy of feral-suburbia.

We begin to tackle the Lantana in order to create an east-west ride between our northern hedge and a central grove of ornamental trees. As always (so it seems) it was alien saplings that the upwardly mobile owners planted long ago. Trees that nevertheless now provide the central arboreal feature of this “garden”. As we start a Eurasian Tree Pipit (the first of the return here) sweeps down, in bounding flight, to the centre of this wilding wedge, from the direction of the mountain. “Skeezeskeeze” the pipit calls. It lands in a gnarled Grevillea of the northern boundary hedge, peering as if to survey the bending backs and benign handiwork. Unfortunately we have not been at the clearing long enough to create enough of a disturbed area to provide sufficient foraging opportunities and so after a minute of surveillance it flies on southward. “Skeeze”!

Tree Pipit

Five minutes later two White-necked Ravens shot overhead, their falsetto caws attracting my attention as much as the whoosh-whoosh beating of their wings, as they rushed, as only Ravens can, for the Marabou Stork hang-out of a knacker’s yard at Sakina hill, a kilometre deeper into town.

At the same time a male Lesser Striped Swallow, sensing the hike in atmospheric moisture, circles the garden calling with that rusty gate hinge call that signifies a nesting site is near. It’s just over the hedge in our neighbour’s water tower. And their last year’s nest has been eyed, on some recent evenings, by a displaying pair of African White-rumped Swifts.

During the ensuing three-hour conservation workout twenty three bird species are recorded. Yet only two of these in my suburban avian oasis were Eurasian migrants: the pipit and a small flock of (Common) House Martins

who pass each day, in both morning and evening, between foraging areas over my local patch in the Ngaramtoni korongo fields (= wadi of the birds) and an unknown roost site which I suspect is in the cliffs of Mount Meru in Arusha National Park.

After completing my work, and as Dismas cleared away the cut Lantana rods, to be burnt as fuel to cook the food for our carbon-neutral flea ridden shenzi guard dogs, I wsatched acitrus Swallowtail laying eggs on an unknown spindly shrub outside the bedroom window. Suddenly a male African Paradise Monarch (flycatcher), the first full adult male – sporting ribbon tail and long white wing sash – to grace our garden, danced into view with those linen-ripping calls so characteristic of the genus Terpsiphone. Then a female flew past and with an audible click of the bill snapped, somewhat optimistically I thought, at the large, slowly fluttering swallowtail. It missed and landed on a bar of the open window only a foot in front of my belly! This was the second time in three hours that I could have touched a forest insectivore. At about 8.30 a Grey-backed Camaroptera, with squeaky “Bleating Bush-Warbler” calls and noisy wing-snaps had flown into the Lantana I was cutting to feed around my feet.

We must be doing something right. As we simulate Giant Ground Sloths, from the jungles of Guyana, trundling about their range, to browse and break the spiky Lantana for a commonwealth of species. Reuniting Gondwana in spite of man unkind!

Epi

Just after breakfast on Friday, at a kitchen window rewilded, greetings from an Epauletted Fruit Bat a-grooming.

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birding, speciation, zoogeography

Which White-eye was that? Endemic birding in Tanzania!

The White-eyes remain highly successful birds. Morphologically very similar to one another, they are a group of primarily ‘Austral Old World’ passerines that have adapted, by virtue of a filamentous tongue, to exploit a wide variety of nectar sources in forest, woodland, scrub and garden. However unraveling the evolutionary relationships within the Zosterops is a complex business. They have to all intents and purposes defied rational analysis until the advent of mitochondrial DNA studies in the last fifteen years. Now at last we appear to be making some progress, but inevitably the field guides and apps that bird-watchers are using, especially here in Africa, lag way behind “the current state of our knowledge”.

In East Africa: “Species limits vary, often confusingly with different authors. The distinctive, non-intergrading montane forms .. are variously merged with Z. senegalensis by some or maintained as several separate species by others ..”

So wrote Don Turner, David Pearson, Dale Zimmerman et al. in the unabridged (i.e. the hard back edition) and, as yet, I would say indispensable “Birds of Kenya and Northern Tanzania”. This volume remains the original and best bird guide for anyone visiting northern Tanzania. The only field guide that has detailed these all important ‘subspecies’ and described their distributions. Full awareness of, and deliberate attention to so-called subspecies was first made clear to me long ago by Chris Heard, as we were watching vagrant redpolls on the Isles of Scilly, and its importance was reinforced by Phoebe Snetsinger, in Ethiopia in 1994, who with handwritten subspecies card index in hand, fully appreciated their importance to the dizzy ambitions of world bird listers.

Today, drawing largely on the work of a recently acknowledged expert on White-eye genetics, Siobhan Cox in the UK, we can say with certainty that that “the taxonomy of East African White-eye in the published literature is an absolute mess.” 

Now I am posting here eight photographs, by my good friend Martin Goodey, that portray four African White-eye taxa. One taxon (or – if you prefer – you may call it a subspecies, or even a race) was photographed in the Gambia in West Africa, whilst the remaining three taxa were captured here in Tanzania in East Africa.

It seems that “originally”, in the lumping mind-set that was fashionable in the days of the previous Cold War, all the mountain White-eyes of East Africa were treated as conspecific within the widespread lowland Yellow White-eye known as Z. senegalensis. Later, an alternative treatment was adopted where many of the various non-intergrading mountain populations were treated as subspecies of a distinct montane species referred to under the oldest name Zosteropspoliogaster”.

Even today quite similar looking populations of white-eyes, resident in montane forest areas in parts of Kenya and in southern and eastern Tanzania, are still subsumed within Yellow White-eye – and referred to as Z. s. stierlingi here in Tanzania, and in Kenya as Z. s. jacksoni. Unlike taxa within the poliogaster group, these birds are not confined to a single mountain, or to clusters of northern volcanic mountains but have a wider range across several, primarily ancient, highland blocks. We’re not 100% sure but we think that it was for this reason they were kept in Z. senegalensis rather than being transferred into the Montane White-eye assemblage – Z. poliogaster.

Either way my current genetic work shows that subspecies within both Z. poliogaster and Z. senegalensis are polyphyletic. This suggested that they should probably be considered as individual taxonomic units rather than as subspecies of a wider species complex.” – Siobhan Cox, 2013

So if you’re coming to Tanzania, or to southern Kenya, and are unable to travel with “Birdman”, here are some things to bear in mind when you see one of our white-eyes.

Simply put it seems that we have at least “nine good taxa” occurring here in Tanzania. NB: Any unfamiliar modifier name written below is one of mine!

Maasai White-eye Z. [abyssinicus] flavilateralis – savanna woodland and gardens of the Central Steppe of Tanzania northwards, and occurring seasonally (from early June to late November) around the volcanos of Meru and Kilimanjaro, and on into southern and eastern Kenya.

South Pare White-eye Z. winifredae – an extremely localised endemic, found only in the forest reserves on the top of the South Pare Mountains.

Volcano Mountain White-eye Z. [poliogaster] eurycricotus – montane evergreen forests of Mount Meru (today these forests are largely confined to the security of Arusha NP), of Kilimanjaro, and of the nearby volcanos of Essimongor, Lossogonoi and Lolkisale.

Rift Mountain White-eye Z. p. mbuluensis – montane evergreen forest of the Ngorongoro Crater Highlands, the volcano of Kitumbeine to the east of the Rift Valley and the crystalline mountain of Longido which is immediately east of the Nairobi-Arusha highway south of Namanga.

Pemba White-eye Z. vaughani – widespread endemic in relict forest patches and gardens of Pemba Island.

Arc Mountains White-eye Z. [senegalensis] stierlingi – forested uplands of Southern and Eastern Tanzania, mostly above about 1,000 metres, the Iringa highlands, Udzungwa, Uluguru and Usambara mountains (both West & East). Also found in the highlands in Malawi, Eastern Zambia, northwest and west Mozambique. Rich green upperparts, not as dark as in jacksoni, less yellow on the forehead, supra-loral stripe narrower, yellower below, with slightly less green on breast sides and flanks.

Unfortunately, on the routes that I usually guide I have only limited field experience of the final three taxa which in the books are retained within “Yellow White-eye”.

Yellow White-eye Z. senegalensis stuhlmanni – North-west Tanzania.

Yellow White-eye Z. s. jacksoni – Kenya highlands, Loliondo highlands, possibly southwards into Ngorongoro Crater highlands. Green breast sides and flanks contrast with bright yellow chin, throat, centre of breast and belly.

Yellow White-eye Z. s. anderssoni – low and medium altitudes of Southern & Eastern Tanzania. Generally paler than the montane stierlingi with which it apparently “intergrades widely.”

Photos:

Maasai White-eye Z. [abyssinicus] flavilateralis

Lippia_White-eye

Image 1

Maasai White-eyes (as I now prefer to call them – in the books “Abyssinian” , but not when I’ve seen ’em first … ) at Magongo Hill. An early Anabel Harries photo of course – superb.

Image 2

Another of Anabel’s Maasai White-eye photos from Magongo Hill. This was her “local patch”, it’s on the western outskirts of Arusha, and is where Pete Davidson and I go birding, whenever we can get away from these silver screens.

Zosterops poliogaster eurycricotus – the Volcano Mountain White-eye see within Broad-ringed White-eye, which is frequently called Montane White-eye in some of the books

Meru-Volcano_White-eye2

This photo shows the form eurycricotus that is easily found on the tourism and safari circuit in Northern Tanzania (for a price) at Mount Kilimanjaro, or better yet on the upper forested slopes of Mount Meru in Arusha National Park or above my house, on the western slopes at Ngaramtoni.

Volcano_White-eye

Zimmerman et al. 1996 “Note yellow on forehead, little on underparts“. See plate 124; Northern Tanzanian Birds on page 300 in Don Turner, Dale Zimmerman and David Pearson’s indispensable hardback edition of The Birds of Kenya and Northern Tanzania. When you come on safari to Tanzania, and if you not traveling with me, don’t make that all too frequent and perfectly understandable mistake of trying to make do with the one book, the deceptively simple Helm-style: map-text-plate  layout of  The Birds of East Africa by Terry Stevenson and John Fanshawe. The maps are terrible and many of the passerine plates in particular have been printed so dark that they are woefully misleading. Remember this: in Africa things are seldom how they appear at the surface and, one might say, you have to dig to get to the hidden truth.

Arc Mountains (Yellow) White-eye Zosterops [senegalensis] stierlingi described as “common in eastern Tanzania” yet we see this taxon only in the Usambara mountains, above 1,000 metres .. “darker on the flanks, deeper yellow on the belly” – Zimmerman et al. 1996.

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Two more individuals of the Arc Mountains (Yellow) White-eye Zosterops (senegalensis) stierlingi from the West Usambaras in the mountains of the Eastern Arc.

Maweni--White-eye-2

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Finally a nominate African Yellow White-eye Zosterops senegalensis senegalensis ‘captured’ by Martin Goodey in Casamance (itself currently lumped with Senegal !) in the far, far West of Africa – over ten hours of flight in a jet liner from my abode on Mount Meru.

Gambian-Yellow-White-eye

Many thanks, as always, to Martin Goodey and Anabel Harries for providing me with so many excellent photos.

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Spotted!

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If there is one species of being for whom I break my skin in the garden, apart from for my own sanity, then it is Cichladusa guttata. In the English language, variously across time and Africa’s space, they have been called the Spotted Morning-Warbler, the Spotted Morning-Thrush and latterly the Spotted Palm-Thrush. This then is THE bird here amongst the unkempt ecological renaissance of my “Wilding Wedge”. This morning (19-Nov.14) the pair at my kitchen door step (as pictured below) were singing together loudly at 0525 well before a sluggish grey dawn slid along the southeastern horizon. So today I decided to share with you their modest, yet highly endearing, appearance. This garden is the only place where I keep a bucket list – although in keeping with our civilization’s attitudes it’s actually more of a dust-or-garbage bin list !

Jiko_Doorstep

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They must have outstanding hearing, and certainly they have a splendid syrinx for they can imitate other beings almost as effectively as does any Robin-chat. It gets confusing, as in our garden the current residents seemingly inherited imitated song patterns from their parents, who had first copied the sibilant squealing of one of our puppies some six years ago, and now the new generation has adapted and reworked those squeals to suit the changing times. Similarly they have copied the anxiety call of the Rueppell’s Robin-chats, now sadly extirpated by the recent rapid increase in house cats as our neighbourhood becomes somehow suburbanised.

Chicladusatwerka

Endemic to north-eastern Africa the Spotted Morning Thrush is definitely one of my favourites. Should I ever leave tropical Africa this is an avian companion who will for sure be sorely missed. Morning Thrushes touch all compartments of a birder’s heart. To start with they are ‘Range Restricted’ by regional endemicity, then they are retiring birds, hiding behind a typically skulking nature, mind that’s no longer true here at the eco-oasis. Most of all they seem to offer us their platinum voice. A song that incorporates superb antiphonal duetting, employs a ventriloquial voice of such pure liquidity that even the seasoned listener may be rendered speechless! They mould a fabled oven-bird-style cylindrical nest, solely of brick red mud, cemented to a branch, remarkably like those old fashioned disposable earthenware tea cups fondly remembered from the railways of India. Into this cup they lay two usually unmarked sky blue eggs. Added to all of this the Morning-Thrushes exhibit a certain ‘politeness’, a demeanour that is all too seldom achieved in the rough and tumble birder’s world of these precarious days.

Chicladusa_rearview

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Copy Cow Garden Birding for an Ark-i-type of Naturalist

colobus_trek_ANP

A wildlife tour group, as here, is escorted by an armed ranger to protect them from wild cattle (i.e. African Buffalo) into the deep and shady evergreen forest of Arusha National Park in northern Tanzania. Here we may observe not only leaf-chewing Colobus Monkeys and Gentle Monkeys, up close and highly personable too, but also a great variety of afrotropical forest birds and some magnificent butterflies.

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We can’t go birding in the National Parks and protected areas as often as we would wish. So we must bring Nature to our doorstep. To garden effectively for wildlife I have found, since 1983 when I started “Conservation Gardening” back in England, that one has to throw out a lot of ecological preconceptions. The first and most important lesson is understanding that most ecosystems need some serious cyclical disturbance in order to be more fully productive. Here you can see some recent, pre-rains, disturbance outside our front steps. It’s not everybody’s ‘cup of tea’ but certainly hooches with wildlife.  In many ecoregions ideally you’ll need some kind of cattle. But in the absence of unmedicated cows one has to improvise. Obviously we’re not having anything to do with biocides such as avermectin or diclofenac et al. which may render cattle dung extremely toxic to most fly and beetle species. Cows are the single most important mammalian bridge to healthy diversity. For thousands of years they have been a link between our “ersatz ecosystems” of organic farming, gardening and the former “wild wood”. Without room for cattle we import their “waste products” from a nearby farm and attempt to replicate their trampling, wallowing and browsing just as if they were here – walking daily through “our garden”. It’s not an easy task, but it is much better to be a Copy Cow than there be no cattle action whatsoever in the garden.

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Alien plants are tolerated to a degree if they support a significant number of animal species. However in the case of Lantana camara such tolerance requires extreme vigilance, and daily intervention, as this species can grow at nearly a centimetre a day in the warm wet season of November-February.

seed_patch_landrover

Indigenous cereal seed is scattered at certain times of the year to attract granivorous birds, such as doves and weavers,  who in return gently fertilise the woodland floor, after their morning feeding period, particularly below their favoured perches in the canopy.

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biodiversity, Mount Meru, wildlife gardening, wildlife safari

The Joy of Nature – in Ark and Garden

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African Wood Owl on its way to roost at “Farm 510” below Mount Meru, November 14, 2014. All three leaf species visible are from ‘exotics’, including that dreaded invasive Lantana camara.

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Zooming-out: African Wood Owl on its way to roost at “Farm 510” today. All four plant species are ‘exotic’: a Javan Weeping Fig – Ficus benjamina, the American Curse of India – Lantana camara, the Brazilian Paper Flower – Bougainvillea glabra and some dead leaves from an Australian Silky Oak – Grevillea robusta.

AfWoodOwl_ersatz-jungle

Today’s Wood Owl is still visible – look – can you see it? I wouldn’t have, had it not been for the scolding calls of the Arrow-marked Babblers and the tack-tack-tacking of a Tropical Boubou who has a nest with young in the hedge, and the fluttering of Red-eyed Doves who have a nest just a few centimetres back from where this owl is perched.

Trop_Boub

The Tropical Boubou who is nesting near the owl’s secluded roosting spot. Like all the soft-plumed Malaconotidae (the ‘silver-syrinxed’ bush-shrikes, boubous and gonoleks) this boubou is a fearsome predator. Almost daily I find them dismembering mantids, crickets, even geckos that they’ve skilfully wedged in a forked branch or between twigs.

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Another bush-shrike, this Brown-crowned Tchagra was searching for grasshoppers just outside the bedroom window yesterday morning. At present it is parachute song-flighting at the top end of the garden.

NT(ZB)watching_colobusANP

On Saturday we were in the local park – Arusha National Park. Well worth the fifteen quid. Here a Nature Tek group is observing Guereza Colobus Monkeys, the “flagship mammal” of this small protected area.

Mikindu_Colobua_watch

The same tour group last Saturday watching another troupe of Colobus Monkeys this time from a vehicle track which skirts the rim of Ngurdoto Crater, a sanctuary within a sanctuary, yet on the eastern edge of the park above Usa River, a satellite of the fast-growing city of Arusha.

Ron_at_Meru_crater

On another tour last week, a visiting ornithologist from Canada watches an African Crowned Eagle, that preys upon primates such as Colobus monkeys, as it displays high over the heath zone and evergreen forest which still clothes Mount Meru’s protected shoulders, those ‘lucky enough’ to be within Arusha National Park.

ANP_aerialFeb13,13

Mount Meru with Arusha National Park’s Ngurdoto Crater clearly visible in the foreground as seen from a flight to Nairobi on February 16, 2013. One can see that the forest of Arusha National Park still connects the crater with the wilder mountain. But all around the forest and woodlands have been felled, burned and cleared away to make room for more and more tiny-farm folk who just scrape a meagre living for their families from admittedly rich volcanic soils.

Magongo_ViewNov.1

Mount Meru from Magongo hill, which is “on the other side”, photographed on November 1, 2014. Annual rainfall here is less than half of that which keeps the forests of Ngurdoto Crater lush and green. The great variety of habitats, within the “diverse rain shed” that surrounds Mount Meru, still present the naturalist with a highly rewarding landscape, even within the hard-pressed “sell-everything” culture of today. Note the flowers of the indigenous Erythrina (coral red) and the exotic Jacaranda for which blue-Arusha was once famous.

Erythrina_Magongo

The same site on November 22. For the few who may be interested this small, currently rewilding, site support five species of what I call the “social grass warblers” with the crazy names – aka Cisticolas – they are Winding, Rattling, Singing, Red-faced and Siffling!

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africa, bird migration, local-patch

The Nightingale Gardener

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Mount Meru viewed from the edge of the Aga Khan University estate. Our Wilding Wedge of a garden is in the shamba-suburban foothills under that lowest wisp of cloud.

For over a month I’ve been getting the garden ready.  Our wilding wedge beneath the steel grey pyramid of Meru. A rented hectare outside Arusha in East Africa, at a kilometre and a half above the sea. It’s an ever-changing tangled patchwork of exotic, alien hard-browsed Lantana camara in glade-thicket-and-brake. An experiment in non-racist eco-gardening, style ZooBotany-C21. An experiment by the Woolly Rhinoceros himself. A garden of vines, creepers and rank meadow flowers sheltering soft shaded fungi and an impressive annual increment of often noisy mini-beasts.

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Thrush Nightingale photographed in the garden of Geoff and Anabel Harries, in Arusha.

Below all it’s a life amongst and under trees. Exotics, aliens and, for the past seven years since we moved-in, the “Indigenous Pioneers” protected by guerrilla units of the IVF – the Indigenous Vegetation Front. There’s Croton of two species, the stately large-leaved Cordia africana, many little babies of the toweringly exquisite, formerly revered Newtonia. A tree of spirits revered around WaArusha and WaMeru farmsteads prior to the conquest of East Africa by the Middle Eastern God, and those godless Mammonites who followed Him. And more recently there’s been lots of hazel-like Sandpaper Bush springing up around the plot. Yes I’ve been getting it ready.  Readying a garden fit for Nightingales.

Garden_4:11:14

The garden as seen from the balcony near the front door on a recent grey morning. Today’s Eastern Nightingale was under a bough in the top right corner of the photo.

So we’re now officially ready to help those sweet thrush-voiced grey-breasted nightingales, here for the duration, from the Baltic states and Russia Luscinia luscinia, and the cleaner looking, fawn-topped Mongolian nightingales L. – megarhynchos – golzii. As they help me. And to help those passing eye-browed blue Irania, out of some desert ‘stan, as they help me. Or gentle grey striata flycatchers, who’ve flown here from the as yet relatively healthy eastern edges of EU-trophia. I imagine the places. Places not unlike those I recall from a mixed-farming youth, where milk cows amble up and down the lanes, browsing the hedges as they go, where cattle generally are still allowed to host the occasional gut parasite, such that their dung is no longer toxic to all those fly and beetle species who were (formerly) tasked with recycling it. Semi-organic land, of farms where BIGPharma has yet to squeeze the living countryside. Land not yet hollowed-out, or enclosed and then constricted, in the hallowed name of Growth for Profit. Yes, here’s some blasphemy, as we prepare Farmageddon.

I’m here to help skulking lbj warblers, migrants who still eek out a living amongst Eurasia’s mercantilist confusion. And to help vociferous glittering gems, Afrotropical cuckoos, that fly here to parasitise our breeding birds, after a dry season spent bashing caterpillars against twigs in the leafy heart of the great Congo forest. Just as they help me! All of them. Let’s not forget the flitting swallows, the scything swifts and ethereal floating nightjars, all of them, these migrant birds. Feathered lives from far away, hatched in nests they’ve hidden where only the geotrackers go!

Irania

A male Irania ‘performing well’ on a juniper in Uzbekistan. Photo: Steve Rooke.

Just as they help me. Yep! It’s been a Birden of Love.

Since November started, most days it rains. And my avian rewards they are dropping in. The original Manna from Heaven. Just today, on November 6 in the morning, not half an hour ago, when the dark rains eased, as I was snapping spindly Lantana shoots beside the puddled green cement of the basketball court, there was a sharp flutter of wings – right against my ear. And there on the bough just ahead of me, at eye level, was the perfect eyebrowed fawn-and-tan form of a “chucking” Eastern Nightingale. I watched entranced as that out-of-the-sky golzii bounded along the grey lichened bough.

Eastern Nightingale by Anabel Harries

Eastern Nightingale in Arusha in 2007 photographed by Anabel Harries

A gorgeous bundle of energy. A small bird, relieved, a bird who might have been singing late last May along a briar bedecked stream next to a Mongol yurt.

samarkand hills2

Birders on a Sunbird/Wings nature holiday scan a valley near Samarkand for Central Asian specialities which mostly winter in Eastern Africa. The mountains of Tajikistan are just visible in the background. Photo: Steve Rooke.

That’s why I so love these long distance migrant birds. In an instant they can fix us in the living, utterly interconnected, planet. So I can’t help but think. Where was that Nightingale skulking at Halloween, or on Midsummer’s afternoon, where was this lovely nightingale on passage last May Day? Yes, what was the world like, where this little brown bird was then? The same but a different world  – somewhere – out there. Out there far beyond this garden hedge. Way beyond my ken, but still sheltering in my heart. If I can help birds like these I will. I’ve got no further cash to fund yet more research. No more money for endless meetings between the good and the bad. I’m in no way content, not any longer, to entrust their future to a salaried caste of bureaucrats. Woefully corrupt or otherwise fallen. That’s why I do my biggest bit in the garden. Wherever that garden might be. Staggering, sweating, kneeling before the Mother of God. Until the last breath I take. Until that day when I can no longer raise my Faroffskis, nor hold these Mammoth secateurs.

For Wonder, like Biodiversity, begins at home.

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Linnaeus was briefly here in June, and doubtless listening to Thrush Nightingales, nearly three hundred years ago. A swampy area in the forest at Ottenby, Sweden.

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