An Amateur’s Look at Ornithology Around the World

  • 2010
[I moved from Goulburn to Fitzroy, Melbourne. On the corner of George and Moor Street there is a small park of sorts where there is often a kit (or is it loft?) of pigeons resting in the grass – I think someone may be feeding them regularly.  I decided to draw a couple onto a woodblock. Later I met a girl. From her balcony I watched more pigeons. Together we moved to Toronto, then New York. In both cities I drew pigeons (before moving to North America I went to Goulburn and drew some pigeons in Belmore Park). While in North America I went to London and drew another pigeon onto a woodblock.]

[folded pages from An Amateur’s Look at Ornithology Around the World.]

Mornings were quiet on the Corner of St David & Brunswick St, Melbourne. For the month I was there I was woken each day by a male pigeon cooing for a lover. He perched himself on the roof across the road. Early, everyday, he’d puff himself up and strut about hoping to impress a girl-pigeon; when a girl-pigeon stopped by to take notice he’d edge closer to her, repeatedly bob his head, sometimes facing her, sometimes facing away. It looked to me as though these girl-pigeons couldn’t be less interested – I wondered if they’d come because of his calling at all; searching the roof for food, eating what they found, they then left. This male pigeon would sometimes keep dancing for a little while, and then he’d relax, his body would deflate, losing all his pumped up appearance. This episode happened every day.

Soon I was getting out of bed to watch him. I bought a small telescope. Through it I could see his neck all ballooned up – in many ways it looked a lot like a lion’s mane, more spectacular though because his feathers would catch the sun throwing iridescent greens. He was marvellous. I wanted him to find a girl-pigeon of his own. I wanted him to be happy. And with each rejection I found myself hating those girl-pigeons more and more. I never blamed him though; I wouldn’t allow myself to see any fault in him. So I rationalised what I saw in his favour. I began to think he (I never gave him a name) had chosen a bad spot for his display. Maybe there was too much breeze, or not enough morning sun.  But my favouring him ignored reason; some mornings were still and with no clouds – girl-pigeons still stopped to have a look. I soon believed that it wasn’t where he’d decided to perform that was the problem, and in doing so I also had come to believe that I could help him. I had watched him long enough. I felt I knew what these finicky girl-pigeons wanted. Through some sort of mental telepathy I tried to coach him. Tried to get him to slow down, take his time with each girl-pigeon. It didn’t work. Every pigeon that came soon left. And my understanding of what was going on had gotten was only worse. I had read that pigeons pair for life. I watched him once more.

Still the same: up these girls would go: criss-crossing city greys, edge to edge blue, and clean white steam. Dilly-dally then disappear. Beneath, back at home, the green on his neck, the grass in the parks, and my envy – through him for others – went on to grow.

[text from An Amateur’s Look at Ornithology Around the World.]

[endpaper from An Amateur’s Look at Ornithology Around the World.]

[cover paper cast from An Amateur’s Look at Ornithology Around the World.]

[above: two video clips  taken by me.]

State Library of Victoria
State Library of Queensland