The Witchery of Mallacoota

Evelyn Juers at The Sydney Review of Books:

Natural history is deeply rooted in, and benefits from, connections between the personal and the scientific. There is a blog called ‘Cassin’s Sparrow – Why Blog About Cassin’s Sparrow?’ which explains that there is plenty of information on birds but less on ‘the story of how we know’ about them, ‘the historic, cultural, political, and scientific processes behind their discovery…[and] this blog tries to fill that gap’, as well as ascertaining ‘what Cassin’s Sparrow can teach us about life on Earth’ and ‘why it matters to know these things’. The author is John Schnase, an American biologist and computer scientist who calls Cassin’s Sparrow his ‘sherpa bird’. ‘Its plaintive song and spectacular skylarks have been a constant source of solace and joy in my life’. Similarly, Alec Chisholm’s observations, vivid descriptions, and emotional attachments to birds and locations are part of a larger ornithological and cultural history.

Chisholm’s favourites included the extremely elusive, also called ‘cryptic’, ground-dwelling Rufous Scrub-birds, that he first saw in Queensland’s Lamington National Park and described as ‘quiet in plumage’ with ‘resonant voices’.

more here.