Published in 2003

A celebration of avian life in culture and conservation

Available at Brambleby Books

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Bird Words


This selection of poetry conveys the author's passion for birds, co-inhabitants of our world, whose appearance, voice and behaviour, especially flight, continue to inspire. This book will appeal to all who delight in seeing wild birds in a natural setting, whether in the garden or park or as an integral part of the landscape. The poems concern birds from a wide variety of places around the world, - from the woods of England and the mountains of Arizona to the forests of a Caribbean island and the wild southern oceans, home of the Wandering Albatross.


At the Water’s Edge, Birds of Marsh and Lake, Blackbird’s Son, Blackcap, The Bullfinch, Caribbean Swallows, Reluctant Spring, Dawn Chorus, Dippers, Don’t Shoot the Coot, Fat Wood Pigeons, For the Birds, Frigate Birds, Green Mood Bird and the Herald of Spring, Hummingbirds, Land of Song, Little Tern, Magpies, May, Music of the Finches, The Peacock, Pearly-Eyed Thrasher, Peregrine, Seagulls, Skylark 1, Skylark 2, Song Thrush Song, Starlings, Stars in the Western Sky, Swallows, Swifts, The Cuckoo, The Dunnock, The Gathering, The Known Bird (Lament for a black songster), The Wren, The Rain and the Wrens, The Swan, At the Threshold of Spring, Unknown Heroes, Wandering Albatross, Weather for Ducks, Ode to a Great Crested Grebe, Bird Words?, Winter Visitors, Birds and Trees, Evening, The Black Redstart, The Song Thrush and the Sycamore, Six White Swans

What People Say

“A paperback of poems by a poet and professional biologist, reminding us that wild birds continue to inspire and delight in a host of different ways.” Robert (Rob) Hume, RSPB, ornithologist, author and journalist   

“This delightful book highlights the importance of birds to the British psyche. We are pleased that sales will benefit the work of the BTO, and hence Britain's birds.” Dr. Nick Carter, PhD, scientist and Former Development Director, British Trust for Ornithology      

“The poems are a delight to read; a good change from some modern poetry which has hard inanimate topics.” J. Hutchinson, Woodbridge, Suffolk     

“It is delightful!” A. Bingham, Brockenhurst, Hants., UK    

  About Swifts: “…a really superb poem.”  Dr. Charles A. Foster, PhD, English writer, traveller, veterinarian, taxidermist, barrister and philosopher,  Senior Research Associate at the Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics and Fellow of Green Templeton College, University of Oxford, 9 December, 2015

Selected Poems

Skylark 1

Glad bird of the wide blue yonder, 

Often have I stopped to ponder,

And look toward that speck up high, 

Lost link between earth and sky.

No bough or branch does he require,

Only the lofty stars does he aspire, 

To cling and sing at the edge of space, 

And claim his throne and jibe his race.


The aerial spectacle, 

Begun in May, 

Continues throughout June, July 

And on into August In the clear pastel skies 

Above town and English countryside;

Slick, curved black shapes, 

Perfect designs 

To cut and scythe 

The sunlit air, 

They swoop down ‒ 

Single, in formation or in line ‒ 

With effortless speed and grace, 

Rolling, twisting, occasionally shrill screaming 

As they come to distribute death 

Amongst the tiny, winged multitudes below.  

But these are not the Spitfires, Hurricanes

Or Messerschmitts of old, 

And the destruction they cause 

Not the vengeance of a cruel war. 

Rather, a perennial struggle

To feed, reproduce

And fly free again. 

One that, maybe, will never end ‒ 

Assuming the spring and they return ‒ 

Year after year, 

Long into the unimagined future,

Beyond human strife and bombs,

So that this most joyous scene shall remain, 

The Swifts in full chase or play, 

A certainty, a must 

Each May ...

And on into August.

Wandering Albatross

Slender companion of the arching winds, 

How stiff you ride the truculent gale

On long wings;

How you glide 

Just above the water’s grasp, 

The deep turquoise, 

Split by milk-white spume, 

Torn to shreds by the frigid, rampant air…  

You pace on relentlessly, 

Coasting, veering, steering 

Your rapid course home.

Never a glance backwards 

Across the empty vastness 

Of the southern seas.  

Lonely, so lonely, you ply 

This strange odyssey.

What do you consider all 

These empty hours, 

When even sleep is snatched 

Between the troughs of huge swells?

What inspires you when you awake, 

To focus on the shifting, unruly 

Clouds above, the weak sun obscured, 

Fog, the crescent moon,

Or the awesome, incomprehensible 

Field of stars?…  

On you wing your way, 

Traverse the near endless miles, 

Round the globe… 

To test its endurance,

And its rotundity…  

And then, one day, 

Perhaps brilliant April green, - 

The strong pastel light formed In the east 

As the sun awakes, 

Land is seen.  

At first, faintly, shadowy, obscure. 

Later, as the minutes slip by, 

With the wind rustling past 

Your crisp feathers of wing and tail,

Less distant, more solid.  

An island, an amorphous rock

Protruding unique above

The flatness of the horizon. 

Land of your birth,

Half a century before, 

And land too of your mate,

Many days since last seen.

Guardian of that large cream pearl 

In its strange raised nest; 

Investment for your kind… 

And all our futures… 

Our legacy, yet a paradox;

As hopeless in its geometry 

As a spent bullet, 

Soon it will hatch, 

Ultimately to yield 

A being that even the gods

Must surely envy… 

Except for its prolonged, 

Solitary wanderings.