First I would like to thank you for your beautiful and sad book about the passenger pigeon. I came across it by chance as I looked into a bookshop´s window in Amsterdam. There it was, a small, red book with the word passenger pigeon written across it. I went in and bought it.
I am an artist and has been interested in wild things since childhood. I was fortunate to grow up in a family who went to the lakes east from Malmö or to the beech forest, always with the wellingtons on and with a pair of binoculars. This was in the sixties and seventies and we never saw a raven or an eagle. My parents spoke about the mercury in the fish, the otters were gone and so was the peregrine falcon. There were no wolfs and no boars. The red deer was a rare sight. Once we saw a red kite from the car, my father stopped immediately and we all went out to see it. A red kite!!! I still remember the place where we saw it. Now it’s possible to see 20-30 kites picking worms when the farmer ploughs his field in Fyledalen in Skåne. Ravens often fly over my house in Gothenburg. The birds of Oden – Hugin and Munin – is here to stay.
We have perhaps 200 000 wild boars in Sweden and they are increasing. About 250 wolfs and perhaps 3000 bears. Many moose, a large number are shot every year in the autumn hunt. The otter is back and so are the golden eagle and the sea eagle. Many peregrine falcon and eagle-owls have been released from a breeding program that has taken place during a couple of decades. Sadly, the predators (mostly wolverine and wolfs, but also lynx and bear and eagle) are killed illegally, both by hunters and the same people, who have their reindeer herds. Once, the wolf was exterminated and many people in the countryside are used to a life without predators and don´t want them back. An eternal conflict.
I heard about the passenger pigeon already as a child. I still have a book about zoos around the world and in that book Audobon´s famous picture of the two passenger pigeons caught my imagination already as a young girl. The picture you wrote about in the book. I agree with you that the pigeon was an extremely beautiful bird and the loss of it is still incomprehensible. When I tell my friends about it they can´t believe it. How can so many birds have been killed? The number is staggering, the photos of the piles of dead birds reminds me of photos after the bombing of Dresden or from the concentration camps. From billions of birds to the last wild one sitting in a tree and then being shot. You are struck with a deep sense of guilt, of an immense loss, a sadness you can´t get rid of. The passenger pigeon should have been the symbol bird of the United States, not the bald eagle. And the deep forests of beech and oak and chestnut, also gone.
As an artist I can travel in my imagination. It has helped me many times. When I had read your book I sat down and made a drawing of Martha, not in her cage, but in an old chestnut forest where she belonged. I put her there as a remedy, a cure, to comfort myself. When she died, she should have died in the forest and disappeared amongst the dead leaves and branches on the ground.
Now I would like to send the drawing to you, as a gift in return for your book. Please let me now your address, and I will post it for you.
Thank you once again for your important book.
Mark writes: this was how I replied;