Species: A tawny owl (Strix aluco) and magpie (Pica pica) have a battle of wits and it gets UGLY. An ambiguous grey bird is the judge.
Source: ‘Dàn mu Chonaltradh’ (English title: The Colloquy of the Birds).
Date: Modern! First published 1798, and written a few years before.
Highlights: Once upon a time, long ago, birds could speak Gaelic. Here’s the most famous example.
Magpies from Addition MS 26968 fol.282v. Owl from Harley 2887, fol.29. Both images are in the public domain because of their age.
Posted in Birds, Gaelic
Tagged 'nuair a bha Gaidhlig aig na h-eoin, comedy, eco-sensitive, Eoghan MacLachlainn, Ewen MacLachlan, flyting, folkloric, gaelic, heroic age, hierarchy of birds, idyllic, literary, Maclachlainn, magpie, meadow pipit, mimesis, mimetic poetry, modern, nature is a hero, nature speaks, owl, satire, scottish gaelic, tawny owl, woodland
Species: The 35 most popular types of bird.
Source: ‘The Parliament of Fowls’ by Geoffrey Chaucer.
Highlights: Considering Chaucer had no idea what he was talking about, his categorisation of birds into four categories was perhaps the best we could hope for.
Public domain woodcut from another text (‘The Woody Choristers’).
Here are three things you should know about starlings: (i) They have cool little stars all over their feathers. (ii) Boring people get very excited watching them gather together in clouds. (iii) They can learn to speak medieval Welsh, unlike most undergrads.
Species: The common but surprisingly cool starling (Sturnus vulgaris).
Source: ‘Branwen’, second of the ‘Mabinogi’ stories.
Date: 1000-1250 A.D.
Highlights: If you are ever a victim of domestic abuse, our text suggests that your best option is to train a starling to talk, and send it to your brother with orders to summon his army and invade.
Posted in Birds, Welsh
Tagged ecosensitive approach, epic, exploitation, feminist approach, heroic age, hierarchy of birds, historical approach, home, mabinogion, marxist approach, nature is a hero
Tawny owl in hollow tree photographed by echoe69 and licensed under CC-BY-ND-2.0.
What defines the British countryside for you? Perhaps its the green hills, the golden fields or the endless brown roads. For Dafydd ap Gwilym it was the sound of the tawny owls which just wouldn’t leave him alone.
Species: ‘Y Dylluan’ (the owl), most probably a tawny owl (Strix aluco).
Source: One of Dafydd ap Gwilym’s poem called ‘Y Dylluan’.
Highlights: By the time he writes this poem, Dafydd is so crazy from being kept up all night that he threatens to take a torch to the woodland to make the owls shut up. He’s a great inspiration to us all.
Brown bear photographed by Makeen Osman, licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0. Great spotted woodpecker photographed by Maarten Visser and licensed under CC-BY-SA-2.0. Compilation created by Lee Raye, and hereby released under CC-BY-SA 3.0.
Species Mentioned: Possibly one bee-wolf (?Ursus Arctos? Dendrocopus Major?)
Source: ‘Beowulf’ the most famous Old English story.
Date: Uh-oh, best not to ask. The version we have probably somewhere c.700-1050.
Highlights: Beowulf is the all-star hero of his story, so his name must mean something, right? It quite nicely breaks down to beo-wulf (=bee-wolf). But what could a bee-wolf be?
Posted in Birds, English, Mammals
Tagged bee-keeping, eco-sensitive reading, extinction, figurative, folkloric approach, heroes as animals, heroic age, heroic cycle, hierarchy of birds, honey, imported stories, linguistic approach, linguistic drift, native status, persecution
Sea Eagle photographed by GerardM, licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0. Sea eagles (=white-tailed eagles; fish-eagles) often nest in lowland trees.
Species Mentioned: Most importantly the sea eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla).
Source: ‘Anogaeth i Rys ap Rhydderch o’r Tywyn’ a praise poem justifying why Rhys should take the lordship of his father.
Highlights: This text contains what is almost certainly a reference to a sea eagle, and may be therefore one of the last references to a sea eagle in Wales for centuries. However the sea eagle is identified in an old phrase and the continued use of this phrase might post-date the extinction of the eagle.
Posted in Birds, Welsh
Tagged coastland, eco-sensitive reading, extinction, figurative, fossilised phrase, harmony with nature, heroes as animals, hierarchy of birds, linguistic approach, nature is a texture, praise poem, woodland