Tuesday, 6 October 2009

The Coffee Thrush

The latest book that I've illustrated is fresh back from the printers. It's The Coffee Thrush, by Geraldine Taylor, and it's a sort of adventures-in-birdwatching book, which is a really bad description. More 'stories of what life is like when birds play a big part in your life'. Here's a flavour:

One of these mornings

You’re going to rise up singing

November 2008

Sunrise. Three dog walkers and I stand round this ivy covered ash, listening to the commanding phrases of a song thrush, in the way that people once gathered around bushes containing nightingales.

Early one morning in February, I was passing a bush just as the song thrush in it started to sing. The bird warmed up with a loud medley sung from the roots; then it rose up through the branches, singing with thrilling sharpness.

I talk to the birds, ask how they are doing, encourage them along. Sometimes they react with clucky exasperation or by jumping in the air, but often they continue singing while I listen and watch. They are not singing for me, of course, though my heart finds this impossible to accept. Also, as a therapist, I find myself trying to make a relationship with everything I see.

The Bird of Perfect Summers

May 2009

Meadow now, in Ashton Court Estate where the bird song is as thrilling as the morning: skylarks on scramble, rising up singing; goldfinches ringing like bells on blossomy hawthorns; willow warblers in small corners, tiptoeing into song.

The willow warbler is the bird of perfect summers, now and long ago. Their dainty song melts our hearts. Nature writers write lyrically about these little green birds, and birdwatchers speak of them with great affection. I wish I could know willow warblers as individuals like the Coffee Thrush or the Observatory Robins.

I wonder, for example, if the length of their song varies between individuals: although I have reservations about turning up in the meadow with a stopwatch to time them. What is it like to hear willow warblers in the dawn chorus? Can they hover like sparrows and blue tits?

Sparrows and other small birds can hover like hummingbirds for short periods. I’ve seen a sparrow hover for over a minute to catch flies under a garage roof: once, I saw a robin attempt this, less successfully. Sometimes blackbirds hover for a second or two and this is usually the product of indecision. Blue tits include a hover in their fussy flying pattern – land on one branch, take off and hover; land on another, take off and hover, and so on. It’s pretty to watch, especially around hazel bushes in the sunshine.

Here's a link to the other pictures in the book, and if you'd like the book, then it's
£5 including postage from EYE ON BOOKS, 28 Berkeley Road, Westbury Park, Bristol BS6 7PJ. Cheques made payable to Geraldine Taylor.


  1. I think I would like to come back as a coffee thrush, or maybe even a coffee with carrot cake thrush.

    That's a very nice photo of you two!

  2. ah lovely. I must get some of those books for the Diva....


  3. A lovely taste of the book. It's worth just standing and watching and listening to the birds.

    I opened the front door yesterday to a pheasant. He wasn't at all afraid and walked off round the side of the house. Beautiful colours

  4. Thanks, folks! Pheasants looking as they do, Anji, I'd half-expect one to walk straight in with its beak in the air.