I have been invited to exhibit and give a talk to students at Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Halifax, Canada in February 2010.
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The title of my research is ‘Tell me something: our ambiguous relationship with common noisy wild urban birds’


Returning to Melbourne via a snowy but Spring-like New York. Just a couple of days, and will see the Whitney Biennial tomorrow. Some interesting shows today — the Guggenheim (Anish Kapoor, Tino Sehgal), Marian Goodman (Steve McQueen) and others. And particularly interestingly Printed Matter in Chelsea, perhaps the largest not-for-profit organisation devoted to artists’ books.


I am now in Halifax, I gave the talk, which was a very rewarding experience, and the installation at the Anna Leonowens Gallery is up and I am pleased with it. Even better, it has extended my creative process, as exhibiting should but does not always manage. So, food for creative thought.

I have stayed in three different settings here including the NSCAD artist’s apartment in downtown Halifax near the harbour, Barbara (Lounder) and Bob (Bean)’s place in Dartmouth across the harbour, and finally with Cathy (Busby) and Garry (Kennedy) here in the North End. I have felt so welcomed, people have been most generous and supportive.

And the main birds observed – as expected crows, seagulls and pigeons. The pigeons are of course Columba livia, the seagulls are Atlantic gulls – Larus argentatus – plus others I am not so sure of – and the crows are the American crow – Corvus brachyrhynchos – a new species for me. The crows are numerous and noisy. They have a rolling ‘r’ to their call, similar to Corvus corone in the UK, and the call is a higher pitch. Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) are numerous here too and sing outside Cathy and Garry’s – a huge variety of tuneful trills and whistles, a real chorus.

After my talk last Monday, a student, Carolann (Broome), told me about a crow phenomenon up near Mount Saint Mary’s University here in Halifax, where thousands (literally) of crows gather between October and April. Professor Fred Harrington met Cathy and I up there for a tour the other evening, and what an extraordinary phenomenon. I have never seen so many crows in one place – certainly safety in numbers. We are returning tonight to get an extended audio recording.


Bird Diary

Coburg Front Room 7.45am Sun 24th

‘Weh, weh; woh woh woh’

Then again

‘Weh, weh; woh woh woh’

A crow (Corvus mellori) calls loudly. Ambient doves; odd wattlebird; odd car.

Then, faint carolling of magpies down along the Merri. Doves calling to each other, a wattlebird again. All faint, no main players (or singers rather) since the crow.

More than 25 mins later:

Butcherbird whistles it’s lovely tune nearby-

1 2 3 4
1 2 3 4

123 rise in pitch sequentially and 4 drops.

Plus a dove with it’s slightly gurgling ‘coo’ (‘cuckoo-crroooo-cuck’ in Simpson and Day). It seems like a great effort to make this sound, not the relaxed purr of the common pigeons’ ‘oom’-ing (Columba livia). Almost breathy.

‘Our – ourrr’
‘Our – our – ourrr’
‘Our – our – ourr’

Repeated two or three notes. Higher in pitch than common pigeon. One or two short notes followed by a longer note that drops slightly in pitch.

The sounds of the butcherbird and magpie carolling whistles combine in the street somewhere – not an exchange but an unintentional duet (I think).


Little Raven (Corvus mellori)

Spotted Turtle Dove (Streptopelia chinensis)

Red Wattlebird (Anthochaera carunculata)

Australian Magpie (Gymnorhina tibicen)

Grey Butcherbird (Cracticus torquatus)

A useful link for some examples of these birds is: