「ST」は紙名を新たに「Alpha」として2018年6月29日より新創刊しました。 Alpha以降の英文記事はこちら
「ST」は紙名を新たに「Alpha」として2018年6月29日より新創刊しました。 Alpha以降の英文記事はこちら


An unexpected visitor

By Mike Dwane


A friend of mine, a farmer, recently told me about a strange-looking bird he had come across while out walking his land. It had black-and-white flanks like a zebra, a rust-coloured head and neck, and was crowned with an extravagant crest.

James spends most of his life in the great outdoors but he had never seen anything like this before. The unexpected guest was a hoopoe, a bird native to Africa and the Mediterranean which gets its name from its call, like the cuckoo and other onomatopoeic bird species.

I had once seen a hoopoe on Lanzarote, one of the Canary Islands. You don't easily forget a hoopoe. Its flamboyant crest makes it look like a dancer at the Carnival in Rio. So when James told me about a rare sighting so close to home, I was a little envious.

All the more so because I was something of an ornithologist in my youth. That was in the 1980s, long before Nintendo, cellphones and the Internet. There was in fact so little to do in rural Ireland when I was a boy that I would make scrupulous notes of the most common birds I came across as I rambled the fields for hours on end. "Corvus frugilegus," I would note in Latin alongside a crude sketch like a true professional. "The crow. Colour: black. Sex: unknown. Unusual behaviours: none," I would add when my sarcasm and boredom got the better of me.

But what I would not give today for a glimpse of some of the birds that featured in my notebook. The greenfinch, the kestrel and the snipe are now amber-listed conservation concerns.

And while some native birds seem to have all but disappeared from the countryside where I grew up, we are getting more unexpected visitors from the south like the hoopoe.

Julius Caesar and the Romans called Ireland Hibernia — the land of winter — and considered the place too cold to bother invading. But the hoopoe evidently finds it warm enough — and I find that a worry.

Nature adapts where it can and scientists are reporting cases where animals are moving northwards or uphill as they try to cope with climate change. The wolf was hunted to extinction in Ireland and Japan long ago, but global warming has taken man's destruction of biodiversity to such new levels that many scientists are calling our era the Sixth Extinction, the fifth having been the end of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

Beautiful as he is, maybe it's best I don't see a hoopoe in Ireland. The fear is he might just be passing through on his way to oblivion, just like the dinosaurs. Only this time the disaster will be man-made.



The Japan Times ST: July 10, 2015

The Japan Times ST 読者アンケート




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