Monday, 17 August 2009

Migrating Birds at Edinburgh Book Festival

This morning I went along to a Book Festival talk given by Horatio Clare and Michael McCarthy on migrating birds. Michael McCarthy read from his book Say Goodbye to the Cuckoo which looks at the declining numbers of this species in the UK, and Horatio Clare talked about his book A Single Swallow, which recounts the story of his attempt to follow the swallows as they migrate from their wintering grounds in South Africa to the UK. There was then a wide-ranging discussion. The place that migratory birds hold in our culture as heralds of Spring was contrasted with the role that swallows have in South Africa as bringers of rain. As migratory birds start to decline dramatically as they are across the UK (though less so in Scotland it seems) we risk losing vital connections that we have to the changing seasons. There was also discussion contrasting the freedom that migratory birds have to travel, compared to the artificial borders that restrict human travel, though it was also pointed out that migratory birds face huge risks of being shot as they pass over the Mediterranean. It was a fascinating and sobering event.

These books are reviewed together in this article in the Independent newspaper here.
Read Michael McCarthy's article The Great Migration Crisis in the Independent here.

11 comments:

Coastcard said...

This sounds wonderful, CGP. Have just read your website, too. Are you the tutor on the ghazal workshop? (If so, wish I was nearer!).

Have just had my first (tercet) ghazal published. I would like to experiment more with this lovely form...

Mistlethrush said...

Ohhh wish I'd been there. I've recently read A Single Swallow - great book. Quite a few questions I would have asked him....

Michelle Johnson said...

Sounds like the readings were a success. I'm sure the birds are weary travelers with these climate changes. Hope all is well. Have a great night.

Rabbits' Guy said...

We live on the Pacific flyway and lots of birds migrate along it. It's good that many organizations regularly monitor and count and report issues ... especially international ones.

Rachel Fox said...

Sounds great. We're festival bound (to rather different events) at the weekend. Maybe see you around?
x

Catherine said...

In Christchurch they ring the Cathedral bells to welcome the arrival of the godwits from Siberia in spring. There is also an annual event to farewell the godwits. There is concern over their future - here the main problem is people who let their dogs run free at the beach, disturbing the birds and preventing them from building up sufficient fat stores. In Asia it is development, as the wetlands are torn up to build airports, factories, and so on.

Your EG Tour Guide said...

We have declining songbird populations here in North America. Isn't it amazing that the smarter we humans become the stupider we get?

Annette F. Tait said...

The world's feathered migrators are getting a raw deal lately - further to travel for less food and with less ideal spots for them to recharge on their journey.
(I won't even mention the carnage in the Med! - unthinkable - a sparrow for a meal?!)

I was thinking that this year the swallows have been less in the East Lothian area.

It is a worldwide problem primarily caused by humans.
Will it be fixed by humans aswell?

Must go and have a look at the book festival! thanks!

Crafty Green Poet said...

HI Rachel - I'll keep an eye out for you, you never know we might meet....

Catherine - that's a wonderful tradition, sad that that's another bird with an uncertain future...

Annette - apparently swallows aren't doing too badly in Scotland, though I've heard that changing patterns of agriculture in East Lothian mean they are declining there. We saw fewer than we would expect in Dalmeny Estate recently, but I've seen more than I would expect in Edinburgh itself...

Crafty Green Poet said...

Coastguard - yes I'm the tutor on the ghazal workshop, I'm really looking forward to it!

Cathy said...

My friend used to always be in Edinburgh for the festival and used to come back with such tales. She cannot go anymore because her husband is ill. Sensible having a week off though.

Say Goodbye To The Cuckoo - a wonderfully written and thought provoking and quite scary book. I haven't heard a cuckoo for over four years now and I live in the countryside. We do have a healthy population of sparrows and starlings on our bird tables in our garden but where are the thrushes? We need to pay more attention to what is happening around us.