I was born in northern Greece in the mid 50s.
As a child, I watched the migration of flocks of bird darken the sky and herald the arrival and departure of seasons.
My move to Australia in 1970 kept certain memories of my place of birth alive and exaggerated.
My first visit to Greece was 1980, and not much had changed.
However, by 1998 (my last visit) everything changed. The wild northern fields, hills, and mountains were tamed by EU sponsored commercial crops. Mountains of plastic, chemical and pesticides drums littered the country side, and broken glass and other domestic discarded products coloured the shores.
On a walk through the crops in summer, I noticed the lack of birds. In the past, crops attracted large groups of all type of birds. I was amazed to see the untouched figs, peaches and grapes hanging from trees, without a beak mark on them. If a phantom bird appeared, it quickly dis-appeared again, a past experience obviously influencing it’s reaction to the human encounter.
Humans are expanding, our numbers have increased phenomenally in the 21st century (7 billion). and will continue to do so. Our post industrial world demands consumption and it demands it picture perfect. Chemicals used to kill insects and other bacteria have consequences, and disrupt the cycle of the natural food chain. I believe that the lack of birds in my place of birth can be directly attributed to contemporary farming methods. The use of pesticides, hormones, and the use of underground water to bring the best possible harvest to European dinning tables has had a devastating effect on the bird population.
Scientists have been sounding the alarm bells for some time, about the possible consequences of climate change. Politicians are starting to take note, however real change is very slow and the politics of climate change will be debated across the globe for some time.
I am using this distant memory as a starting point for a new body of work. The bird is used as a metaphor for extinction, the first “human caused” great extinction of life on this planet.
For a period of time this blog will be a place to investigate and document the disappearance of bird species across the globe. It is a way of becoming more familiar with what I experienced during my short time on this fragile planet.
1898 Photograph of a Passenger Pigeon.
The last wild Passenger Pigeon was shot by a 14-year-old boy in Ohio in 1900, while the last known individual of the passenger pigeon species, named “Martha” after Martha Washington, died at 1 p.m. on the 1st of September 1914 in the Cincinnati Zoological Garden. She was 29.
passenger pigeon story
Extinction story (America)
In 1854 in Wayne County, New York, a local resident wrote
`There would be days and days when the air was alive with them, hardly a break occurring in the flocks for half a day at a time. Flocks stretched as far as a person could see, one tier above another.’
Other reports describe flocks a mile wide flying overhead for four or five hours at a time during their migration in the early spring from the south to their breeding areas in New England, New York, Ohio and the southern Great Lakes area. The flocks were so thickly packed that a single shot could bring down thirty or forty birds and many were killed simply by hitting them with pieces of wood as they flew over hilltops.
These birds were hunted commercially until the middle of the nineteenth century.
The last known specimens were seen in most states of the eastern United States, in the 1890s, and the passenger pigeon died out in the wild in Ohio about 1900. The last survivor of a species that had once numbered 5 billion died in captivity in 1914.