Thursday, March 24, 2011


A couple of months ago I posted a poem by Marian Waller. Marian had uploaded to the ABC radio Pool site where they where collecting material and for part of the of a radio documentary "Birdland". Marian poem was included- Hurrah!

What birds mean to Australians... and how we'd feel if they were gone. A unique collaboration between ABC Radio National and its listeners, brings you Birdland.
Birds are everywhere. Even in the center of the cities, the white cockatoos call as they form silhouettes against blue sky; the rosellas squabble for fruit.
But Australia's bird populations are under threat, as even such iconic and common birds as the Kookaburra are diminishing in numbers.
The Birdland project asked Radio National listeners to tell us what birds really mean to them. Responses ranged from audio to text, and images. The best contributions are a part of and have informed the direction of the radio documentary.
The result is a profound exploration of what birds mean to Australians... and how we'd feel if they were gone.
As well as the radio broadcast, Birdland also became a slideshow, at Federation Square, Melbourne, which you can see below.
Music on the show by Gretchen Miller, Russell Stapleton, Boyd, Stephen Adams, Bree Van Reyk, Alex Anderson, Rose Lang, Sean Scott, Al Kash, Terry Plunkett and Ashley Holmes.
Poems and writing by Anne M Carson, Catherine Evans, Judy Fander, Maya Ward, Willow, Marian Waller, Carolyn Leach Paholski, Rebecca Newman, Belinda Hansen and Barbara Henery.

Produced by Gretchen Miller you can download the radio documentary here.

One thing that stands out to me immediately is part of the introduction states that (me paraphrasing) "birds have gone from Tokyo and instead you get their sounds broadcast from speakers". The "truth", as Tim Low would say is much more complex- we humans create winners and loosers. While there is probably less diversity (in Tokyo and Australian cities) some birds are doing extremely well in the environment that we are creating. For me the sound of Tokyo in winter is the mocking laugh of the two species of Crows and the squealing of the Brown-eared Bulbul. Both rise above the white noise of the millions of people going about their business. I saw some rare birds over- wintering in Tokyo, that we much much harder to see in the Summer when we where high in the national parks. And the memories of birdwatching in reclaimed wastelands, planted forests and shrines strengthened my conviction that we Australians, have generally become lazy about our immediate surroundings.

Take a look at this article on the Sulfur Crested Cockatoos of Sydney from today's Sydney Morning Herald to get a sense of complications.

However the State of Australian Birds- which is put together by Birds Australia and is based on observations by their thousands of members, as well as scientists, does indicate a decline in overall bird numbers, including the Kookaburra. And habitat loss, that's us and our sprawling cities, retirement and holiday home developments, are the number one cause of declining numbers.

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