Here is the second guest blog by author, naturalist and Nature's Home contributor, Mark Cocker as the countdown to Christmas begins. You can read Mark's first blog here
Like fallen angels, they scuttle round your feet at the railway station or the park bench in most cities. They’re pigeons. No two individuals ever seem the same and all keep a weather eye for handouts or scraps. Worldwide this most metropolitan of birds must be the most overlooked and under-valued of all wild species. Yet that isn’t the whole story. About 6500 years ago this remarkable creature began a global journey alongside us, when it opted to nest in the mud-built structures of the first cities on Earth. Perhaps it was those soft throaty emollient calls of doves? Or was it that chest-out posturing courtship display of the cooing males, but among the pigeon’s first roles was its place as a symbol of love and fertility. It became a bird sacred to the Sumerian goddess Inanna or to the Babylonian Ishtar. Europeans have a tendency to think that the dove’s entry into the human story began with the Flood and that bird sent out by Noah to see how the land was faring. When she returned with a live-affirming sprig of olive, Noah knew that peace had been restored between the Earth and its people. Yet the dove’s place in the Book of Genesis was not an innovation. It drew on thousands of years of history.
Feral pigeons take to the air by David Tipling: www.davidtipling.com It was a natural step for the dove to be enfolded into Christian symbolism, serving as an emblem for the Holy Spirit - that will o’ the wisp force which inspires prophesy and all human creativity. What better metaphor for the indefinable essence that binds all people and makes us all aspire to a higher life than a bird on the wing? That is the central place of birds in our imaginative worlds. They express our highest ideals. It is the reason why this coming holiday the creature featured on more of your Christmas cards than any other will be the dove. Usually a white dove. But sometimes, when you’re in a real city and you look up and you see those real, tawdry chip-eating grovellers, with their feathers made grimy by fumes or dirt, flying off on those light-rinsed angels’ wings; they remind you of a wider world that is beyond and above all buildings and everything that we have achieved. And In those moments of reflection even a grey street-living pigeon will do.
Save £10 on Birds and People if you buy from the RSPB shop
Birds and People by Mark Cocker and David Tipling (Random House £40) is a hugely acclaimed and encyclopaedic exploration of the cultural place of birds in human lives.
You can save £10 on this superb book by purchasing the book from the RSPB shop website
The perfect Christmas Present!
Hello! I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, and that you are all looking forward to the New Year. Welcome to my new blog series for the RSPB, over the course of which I will be discussing all things to do with our British wildlife. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Edward (Ed) Marshall, and I am a 22 year old wildlife photographer based in the Midlands. After spending a long, but thoroughly enjoyable, three years studying a B.Sc (Hons) in zoology I then studied a full years M.Sc in Biological Photography and Imaging. This of course has lead me to where I am today.
I've always had a huge passion for the natural world, and I spent a great deal of my time out and about as a kid simply watching wildlife. It was only natural for me to make the transition to picking up a camera and trying to capture the things that I witnessed, and as you will see, I’ll be using my images to illustrate these blog posts as time goes on. I’ll try not to get too in depth with the photography side of things, but I think it’s always nice to hear the story behind an image, which I hope you’ll enjoy as well.
This Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) was very obliging of my presence whilst it was hunting last christmas (2012). It was a real privilege to experience as, typically, I've found these birds are very difficult to approach close enough to in order to get these sort of images. As always with my photography I try to enjoy the moment I'm photographing without my camera, so you can imagine my dismay as a dog came bounding up to me to have a sniff whilst I was simply watching the bird, causing the heron to take flight across the lake.
Since early November I've been a member of the volunteer team of editorial assistants who work on the Natures Home magazine, answering your emails and looking through the various submissions that are sent in to us in their masses. I'm always inspired to try and get out and about when I read our members emails, and I can only hope that I will inspire some of you to do the same in the future!
For those of you who would like to see more of my wildlife images, have a look through my website www.edmarshallwildimages.co.uk, like my Facebook page Ed Marshall Wild Images for more updates on what I get up to, or follow me on Twitter @edmarshallphoto.