What the Bird Said

Using art as research to explore and express bird flight through drawing and poetry.

Weekend of April 25-26.

Chris Reed

What the Bird Said

The bird said
What is the ground?
I only know the tree

The whale said
What is the sky?
I only know the sea

The bird said
The ground in where the cat lives
The cat it hunts for me.

So up I fly
way up high
it is the sky and the tree for me.

The whale said
The sea is where the two legs sail
The two legs come hunt me

So I hold my breath
and swim way down deep
I am safe at the bottom of the sea

The bird said
The tree and the sky
Is where I live
I know nothing of the sea.

The whale said
The deep dark ocean
is where I live
The sky means nothing to me.

The bird said
The sea, the sky, the ground, the tree.
The things that hunt for you and me.
We are so different, and yet the same.
Show yourself to me.

So whale showed herself

The whale said
You have wings
Wings like me
That I might fly in the sea.

The bird said
I have wings like you
that I might fly
through sky from tree to tree.

We are alike
They cried
Hunted flying things
One flies high
The other deep
One has the sky
One has the sea

We are sisters you and me.

Art as Research


I found this…


So decided to do art as research to turn bird flight into visual art and my reflection into poetry.


A cup of coffee.

A pad, a pen and a blue pencil.

An hour timer.

A back garden with a comfy seat.


I sat and watched the birds in my back garden. I used the blue pencil to do a light outline of the tree and hedge in my garden as a guide. The blue pencil is an idea from illustration. Blue does not photocopy well, so you can sketch in pencil, then ink in, and when photocopied, the blue does not show but the ink does. This does not always work but I thought I would give it a try. I then recorded all bird flight in ink over this blue pencil image of my garden.

As I sat there I reflected on how chilled this was. Birds came in little bursts, like they moved about in bunches or family groups. Different birds moved in different ways. Sparrows were fast and direct. Starlings did a fast wobbling amble. Corvids were slow but assertive. Two seagulls rode a thermal.

It was clear that though we get used to seeing birds on the ground, their world was all air and trees. I was struck oddly by the idea that a bird knows the ground like a whale knows the sky. The bird and the whale must know about the sky and the ground, but for each, the sky and the ground don’t figure much in their lives.

The experience made me realise that the birds in my garden, which I found very familiar, actually lived a life that was very alien to me, in the way that a whale would not know anything about the sky or land beyond their aquatic life in the ocean. All in all it made me realise that diversity occurs very close to home as well as in the depths of the oceans on the other side of the world.


I wanted to share the image, just as I drew it. I also wanted to make the insight into birds and whales as a poem, not as a dry description.

Published by

Chris Reed

Group Worker Art Maker

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