Drawing the essence of a bird: the art of Milly Formby

blackswanprint1I’m always going down to the Swan River here, and I love just walking along the sand and feeling the sand between my toes and walking in the water and looking at the reflection of the light on the water, and the shells and the colours, and wishing that I could capture every tiny little bit of it on paper. Continue reading

Climate change and natural areas: 90 things we don’t want to lose


It’s a simple philosophy. The things we share are the things we save. The topics we discuss are the topics we deal with. The ideals we neglect? They fade away.

What would you miss the most, if climate change made it disappear from your favourite natural area? Continue reading

The natural secrets of urban well being

Butterfly street art

But I don’t feel afraid. As long as I gaze on Waterloo sunset, I am in Paradise.

Exactly 30 years ago, in April 1984, the journal Science published a seminal paper in environmental psychology. The study compared the recovery of patients in two sets of hospital rooms, identical in every respect except one. Patients in half of the rooms looked through a window to trees in a park. Patients in the other rooms faced a brick wall. The author, Roger Ulrich, wondered whether exposure to nature improves human well-being, and his experiment tested whether the patients who viewed the park recovered more quickly after surgery. Continue reading

Field guide to the future


My first field guide. A 35 cent bargain.

I could ask “what was your first field guide?” but my first field guides belonged to my parents, not me. So instead I’ll ask “what was the first field guide you remember using?”

I remember two: Trees of Victoria by Leon Costermans – a permanent resident of the car glove box – and Birds of the Ranges by the Gould League. I am indebted to the authors and illustrators of both. Without them, I may have led a different life.

Our Costermans bore the hallmark of a truly great field guide; after years of abuse, we stripped it of every skerrick of re-sale value. One summer, someone put a block of copha in the car glove box to protect it from the sun. When discovered weeks later, everything floated in a pool of coconut fat. It was awesome. Costermans was indestructible. Like the trees inside it, we created the world’s first rip-proof, water-proof, scented, and highly combustible, field guide to eucalypts.

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What makes a field guide truly great? Continue reading