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Birbs

May 3, 2017

Quentin Blake curates an exhibition of his own illustrations of birds at House of Illustration, running May to October 2017.

The Whispered Song

July 2, 2016

Ruled by Queen Aeleth, Ardenia is famous for its bardic college: the College of the Whispered Song (aka The Whisper) led by Master Troubadour Cristoph. Ardenia’s bards travel the kingdoms from the high city of [I dunno what] all the way to Titan’s Gate, collecting and spreading news!

Suspected by the other nations, but never proven, Queen Aeleth uses her bardic college as a spy network keeping the larger, more prosperous kingdoms of Haldrim and Cardus at bay.

whispered-song

A starling seems a good fit.

  • A flock of starlings is a murmuration and the collected bards are knows as The Whisper; murmur/whisper works for me.
  • Even the most commonplace are decked out in a shining coat of stars (which seems to befit a bard), and some can be pretty stunning.
  • They’re effective mimics, and the Bards of The Whisper will repeat many a carefully crafted lie or overheard secret
  • Starling means little star and as a Kingdom of the Northern Sanction Ardenia is represented by a star; while it may not be as strong a kingdom as the others netwrok of its little stars keep the larger star aloft

I also took inspiration from a personal favourite heraldic bird: the martlet. A martlet is a swift or swallow depicted without feet, often (but not always) used to represent to represent fourth sons. There’s a poetic explanation that as the fourth son they won’t inherit land or title nor will they join the priesthood so instead are sent out as landless wanderers to make their own fortunes. Whether or not that’s true I don’t know but I like the idea that it symbolises the Bards of the Whispered Song as ever-moving.

In slightly sad related news, while I was working on this my cats found a baby bird that had fallen out of its nest :( He didn’t seem hurt, but no idea where the nest is so I’m hoping ma and pa pigeon manage to find baby bird in my garden.

Audubon’s fake species

April 27, 2016

John James Audubon is best known for his Birds of America; if you think you don’t know it, you do:

Flamingo
Tricoloured Heron

But it turns out that in his younger days he made up almost 30 species to prank a fellow naturalist.

During their visit, though, Audubon fed Rafinesque descriptions of American creatures, including 11 species of fish that never really existed. Rafinesque duly jotted them down in his notebook and later proffered those descriptions as evidence of new species. For 50 or so years, those 11 fish remained in the scientific record as real species, despite their very unusual features, including bulletproof (!) scales.

When he figured out that Rafinesque had also been naming mammals based on his time with Audubon, he started worrying.

In the descriptions he gave to Rafinesque, some of these animals had very odd features. The “three-striped mole rat” was attributed to a genus that had no business being in North America. The “white-stripe lemming” carried its young on its back, despite have teats on its chest. The brindled stamiter had its cheek pouches, usually an interior feature, on the outside.

What japes!

brindledstamiter

The “Brindled Stamiter”