Monday, May 16, 2011

The Birds

I had an offblog email conversation with Red Nomad. She seems to be quite a nice person. She knows about birds and her dearest Pilchard knows even more. The bird in this post is not a coot, but a purple swamp hen. It has other colour descriptive names but essentially it is of the variety an eastern swamp hen.

Some years ago I spied a book in my mother's book shelves, Neville Cayley's What Bird is That? 'Oi! That's my book. I want it.' And so I took it.

It is a good book, I think that now because it helped me confirm what Red said, although of course I knew she was right, but it is also a good book because on the inside cover in childish writing I wrote, THIS IS A GOOD BOOK. I think every bird to be seen in Australia is in the book with the birds details, their locations and with hand painted illustrations of the birds reproduced on glossy paper.

The index is excellent but as a child I found a flaw, Roman numerals for chapter and plate numbers. The book has an odd mix of Roman and English numerals. I must have found it hard to understand these Roman numerals as with a red Biro pen, on every page I wrote the chapter number using an English numeral.

The book was first published in 1931 and has been reprinted many times. My edition was a 1969 reprint. Had I not defaced it and lost the dust cover, it might actually be worth more than the price I paid for it new, $5.95. It is available for around $30 new (paperback), last reprinted in 1991. I guess a hardback like mine could be $50.

If you see it around second hand, it is not a bad book to have for reference.


  1. Gosh! I must have misrepresented myself - I'm actually not a nice person at all ...!!

    Maybe you could add 'for now' to your correction that the bird is a purple swamphen - the alacrity with which the OZ bird world changes its mind about what a bird is to be called is astounding!

    And to further complicate matters, genetic testing means some species can be split into two.

    Yeah, I might not be nice, but I've probably cemented a tragic bird nerd reputation now ...

  2. As a kid I had this massive hard cover book that had illustrations of birds. I don't know the name of it or where it has ended up, but I often spent hours flipping through the pages. Aaah.

  3. Ah well Red, I am always getting the wrong impressions about people. Best to stick with what I know then, that is a brown bird, that is a white bird.

    As I did Fen. Pity none of what I looked at was retained in my brain.