Monday, July 29, 2019

A Lost Turaco

Thanks for all your comments and commiserations regarding me being locked out of the house (as related in my previous post). Some of you asked what happened to Olga, who I left tied to the porch railing in my narrative and never mentioned again. Don't worry -- the minute I got into the house, and while I was fuming at Dave, I went to the front door and let her inside. She wasn't on the porch for more than a few minutes.

Yesterday she and I went back to the cemetery, and this time I was careful to bring my keys!

Again, we saw lots of butterflies, including gatekeepers like the one above, and three Jersey tiger moths. The moths are mostly black when resting (as I showed in a photo a few days ago) but in flight they're bright orange, because of their colorful underwings. Amazing!

I've walked around Hampstead Cemetery dozens and dozens of times, but every time I go I see something new. I recently came across this headstone, which made me wonder about the reference to the HMS Eurydice. Turns out the sinking of the Eurydice was one of Britain's worst peacetime naval disasters -- it went down in a storm off the Isle of Wight in 1878, killing 317 people. I wonder if this particular sailor is actually in this grave, or if it's simply a memorial to his loss. (It's part of a larger headstone for many of his family members.)

Then I heard a very peculiar noise coming from a stand of trees. At first I thought it was a frog -- it sounded rather croaky -- but it seemed louder and more like a bird call. So I walked over with Olga and saw a flash of red and blue among the branches:


I've seen a lot of birds in the UK, but never one like this. Coincidentally I'd just finished T. C. Boyle's excellent novel about LSD experimentation, and the thought occurred to me that I was having an acid-trip-by-association! I thought maybe it was some sort of exotic pheasant or grouse, and once I got home I began Googling.

Turns out it's a Fischer's turaco, a bird native to East Africa. What it's doing running wild in West Hampstead is anyone's guess. It had a leg band, so it's definitely an escapee -- either a pet or a zoo specimen. I looked online for any recent references to a missing or lost turaco and found nothing. I sent a message to the International Turaco Society, and tried to call someone they'd identified online as a contact for news about lost turacos -- but it turns out that person had recently died and I guess no one else has picked up the reins. I called the London Zoo in Regent's Park and was told they're not missing any turacos. I put a public message on Facebook, and I renewed my Twitter account just to send an alert.

Of course, I didn't capture the turaco, so who knows if it's even still hanging around the cemetery. It must be very confused. Or maybe it's having the time of its life. Who knows?

Having spent the afternoon grappling with the turaco mystery, I had to quickly get dressed in order to meet my friend Colin for a concert in Hammersmith. We went to see k. d. lang, whose singing is magical -- I bought the tickets months ago and was so happy to see her again live. I last saw her in New York in June 2004, and I wrote in my journal afterwards, "She has a tremendous voice and yet she's one of those effortless singers -- she makes it seem so incredibly easy to hold strong, penetrating notes." I'm happy to report that's still true. She makes singing seem as easy as breathing. Which I'm sure it's not.

She sang many of my favorites, including Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" and her entire "Ingenue" album, perhaps her best-known record. (Her tour is based on the 25th anniversary of its release.) She also covered Joni Mitchell's song "Help Me," and talked about how hard it is to break down and individualize a Joni song -- the words and music being so tightly intertwined. It was a great show!


Yorkshire Pudding said...

The turaco is probably having a jolly old time making out with wood pigeons and magpies. There's a job opportunity for you there Mr Reed - taking up the reins of The Turaco Society. You may not be able to save the planet but you could help to save the turaco.

crafty cat corner said...

This took me back to when I lived at home. We backed on to a cemetery and often had escaped budgies in the trees.
You mentioned Leonard Cohen, I have all of his albums. Not everyone's cup of tea but I love him.

lulumarie said...

How wonderful that you saw k.d. again! I’ve also seen her twice, both times at the beautiful Florida Theatre in Jacksonville. Yes, her singing seems effortless and I also love her personality.

ellen abbott said...

I'm so jealous you got to see k. d. lang. I have her Absolute Torch and Twang CD. and how cool to spot an interloper. years ago I saw a bulbul in my yard, not native to this continent. it hung around for a couple of days and was gone.

Red said...

I wonder if there are other turacos in the area. Is there a small population of escapees. Some people have the birds and let them loose. Now as for K.D. Lang. She was born and raised in Alberta. She took a theater program at Red Deer College. You know ? Red Deer my home town! She had many tough times. I am very proud of K.D. Lang.

Vivian Swift said...

OUTSTANDING photography of that elusive bird!! What a way to start a Life List! I like Mr. Pudding's idea of your heading up the Save The Turaco Society. I think you would be good at it. You have a knack for spotting rarities, both animate and inanimate.

Sharon said...

You did a good job photographing that strange bird and an even better job tracking down what it was and trying to report it. The concert sounds wonderful, I would have loved seeing her perform. The name "Sayers" on that grave stone made me think of Tom Sayers' grave at Highgate Cemetery. The tour guides always point out that grave.

Catalyst said...

k.d. lang is one of my favorites, too. I'm glad you got to see her.

Jennifer said...

I love k.d. lang...and that turaco is amazing! Good for you for trying to locate the owner.

jenny_o said...

I'm so impressed by the lengths to which you went to track down the owners/caretakers of the turaco. And you had a keen eye to spot it.

I really love k .d. lang's version of Hallelujah - my favourite of any I've ever heard. Red's tidbit of info above was interesting!

Sue said...

The first photo is just beautiful. And what a wonderful opportunity to see that turaco. So spectacular! I hope it is safe and happy! A few years ago we had a pigeon walk in the garage when Pete was working with the door open. He was tagged and using the internet we tracked his owner down - he was a homing pigeon (not the owner.) The guy had released him down near Manhattan and he was supposed to return to his home in Vermont. He said quite a few get picked off by hawks so he wasn't surprised when he didn't return and he never came to get him. We named him "Sarge" and he stayed for a week or so (and ate like a king) and then took off and we never saw him again.

Beth Reed said...

Hi Steve,
I do hope the bird is rescued by someone and that he or she survives. What gorgeous photos and what a gorgeous turaco. Just beautiful.

k d lang is one of my favorite and wow to be able to see her in person twice is just fantastic. I am very happy you got to go.

I was interested in the photo of the headstone. I am going to come back and read the link that you posted after dinner. What a sad tragedy. I too wonder if he is in the grave or perhaps just a memorial. Thank you for the link. Beth

Big Cat said...

Sorry to drag up this old post, but I have been narrowing down the bird I just saw last weekend at Hampstead cemetery, and landed on a likely turaco which lead me to your post! I saw the bird during the golden hour so the colors were difficult to discern, but I did note the crest, eye stripe, and bright red wings when it flew from a branch after eating berries. Just thought you'd like to know it's still living there some 2.5 years later! -Jason

Steve Reed said...

Hi Jason -- thanks for your comment! It was living there for at least a year before I first saw it, too. It's a pretty durable bird! I'm surprised you saw it at this time of year. I don't ever see it in the winter. In fact I always wondered if it flew away to warmer climes!