Promoting observation, free range exploration, sense of place and citizen science, through the field notes of a naturalist.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

The Urban Birder

Its refreshing to find an example of public art that actually depicts some of our natural heritage for a change. All too much of the creative effort that adorns the town centres and public parks of Gwent's valleys is based on a variation of cloth capped, ragged trousered miners, a railway carriage named after a local pit or a rugby folk hero. Lest we forget the exploitation of working class communities, the origins of the trade union movement and socialism but how about something a little more contemporary that looks to the future not back with misty eyed nostalgia?

In amongst another extensive homage to the industrial revolution that is the mosaic mural covering the walls of the Riverside underpass (p**spass) in Newport, you can find, if you look hard enough, a couple of great black backed gulls chucked in for good measure. This shock discovery gave me good reason to pull out and flick through the quality glossy pages of Simon Holloway's Poyser book 'The Historical Atlas of Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland 1875-1900 ' just to see if the GBBG was in fact the gull most likely to be encountered on the dockside in Victorian Newport.

Its always difficult to retro-fit breeding bird populations especially to a time when the only reliable records were determined via the barrel of a gun or through the egg collections of Jardine Society members, but the atlas makes for interesting reading.

It seems GBBG's bred mainly on the coasts and islands around Scotland. Holloways assessment of GBBG's further south is as follows:

'It is likely that human persecution was responsible for the almost total lack of non-coastal breeding records for this species during the last quarter of the 19th century and their withdrawal from many coastal cliffs in S England and Wales'.

I'm sure the designer of the Newport mural will have just used the GBBG for illustrative purposes only without determining if this species was in fact the one most likely to be encountered along the lower reaches of the River Usk during the 19th century. Nonetheless I applaude any public realm artwork that contributes to reversing our 'nature deficit disorder'.

Next time- the Fourteen Locks dragonfly artwork should it really be a lesser emperor?


  1. That's a GBBG with yellow legs then?

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