Guest blog – The Invisible Ubiquitous Bird by Vanessa Wright

Vanessa divides her time between Hertfordshire and the Hebrides and loves to write about birds, butterflies and beachcombing. She gave up corporate life during the pandemic, taking the plunge to follow her passion for wildlife. Recently finishing a Masters in Nature and Travel Writing, she has been announced as a Runner-Up in the BBC Countryfile New Nature Writer of the Year competition. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @elgeeko1506.

The Invisible Ubiquitous Bird


“It’s got a fish!”

Collectively they raise their eyes on straps to the sky, emitting their signature calls of “Ooh!” and “Wow!”

“I’ve never seen one before!”

“Must be stopping off before it heads to Africa!”

The silver-capped great black-backed human at the front of the flock strides ahead, leading the way.

“Marsh harrier!” he shouts to the rest of his gaggle, as the raptor swoops and swirls. They marvel at its three shades of brown.

Hangers-on perch at the periphery. They raise their bazookas, and a machine-gun clicking sound whirrs for a few seconds. The humans compare their marsh harrier miniatures with each other. They chirrup their “ooh” and “ahh” calls once more.

No one raises their bazookas or points their eyes on straps towards me. There is no admiration of the rainbow painted on my neck, no observation of my puce pink chest puffed up with pride, or how my storm-cloud grey feathers matches the autumnal skies. And I am always dressed up, wearing a smart white collar. I clap my wings together to try and get their attention. Nothing. I start calling my name to remind them of my presence,

“Wood pigeon, pigeon! Wood pigeon, pigeon!”

No one looks in my direction. They are now too busy looking at a bright white pterodactyl lifting up from the long grass, and they follow his flight as he flaps slowly along the water channel.

“Great white egret!” they sing in chorus together.

I ponder the curious ways of humans. They don’t celebrate success. My kind has done so well in recent years; our numbers are flourishing, and yet, they only revere those birds that are rare or in decline. I’m here all year, cooing my lullaby from the treetops.

Look what happened to the sparrow. It wasn’t long ago when they were everywhere too. I barely see them now. What if a similar fate awaits me?

I hear the pop-pop-pop of the farmer’s guns. What do they expect when they plant acres and acres of my favourite food at the all you can eat buffet? The grain is just so tempting.

Will you only treasure me when I am almost gone?



25 Replies to “Guest blog – The Invisible Ubiquitous Bird by Vanessa Wright”

  1. Yes! People should value woodpigeons much more. And I love the way you’ve written it from woodie’s point of view.
    They are one of my favourite birds, if only because I see them every day. Means you get to know their beautiful smooth grey plumage, the suspicious staring eye, the wing-flick jump that says ‘shove off, I’m the boss here’, the leaning right over with an extended wing in the rain to wash their ‘wing-pits’. And the leaning over so far, with wings extended, to reach that last ivy berry, almost standing on their nose, until they have to let go and fly in a little loop to regain the perch. Who wouldn’t love a woodie?

    1. I love your description! I think I need to use ‘wing-pits’ in my writing :-). You’ve captured them so beautifully. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

      1. your ‘will you only value me when I’m gone?’ makes me think of the passenger pigeons – the wp’s are nearly as numerous it sometimes seems.

        As you’re a nature writer you might like this, describing the spring arriving: “the green hawthorn buds prophesy on the hedge”. Can you guess who wrote that? I’d put it here but you wouldn’t have to guess.

  2. Great piece of writing Vanessa! As the ‘silver-capped human’ I am honoured!

  3. Love this piece! Beautifully conceived sideways look at things to make the point that in so-called ordinariness there is wonder. Thank you, Vanessa!

    1. Thank you, Paul. There is always wonder and beauty in the ordinary that so often gets overlooked. We need to value it all.

    1. Thanks, Jen. I find the human condition intriguing. What we value, what we don’t. It seems that there is the most focus on the flashy or rare in most aspects of life that I can think of.

  4. An entertaining read, well done.
    I am fond of pigeons both in the fields and on a plate. Does this make me a bad person?

    1. Thank you – for taking the time to read and comment. I am glad you enjoyed it. And I am certain that you are not a bad person.

  5. Great to see the much maligned woodie getting some love. They really are beautiful birds.

    1. I like to think so David. They’re usually first to my garden most mornings. We often overlook the beauty in the familiar and common so wanted to put a spotlight on that for a change. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  6. Thanks for your left field and enlightening take on this important bird. Doesn’t it come first by having the greatest biomass out of all the UK’s truly wild birds?

    1. Thanks for commenting and reading – I’m glad you enjoyed it. That’s a great point – I haven’t seen a biomass report but I bet you are right.

  7. Enjoyed this immensely, thanks Vanessa!

    I agree. They’re fab. BUT…I’m going to take issue with your mnemonic.

    It’s “WOOD, wood… pigeon. Wood, WOOD, wood… pigeon”


    1. Glad you enjoyed it and thanks for commenting. Feel free to take issue! That’s what I think I hear when I listen to their call, but of course you may hear it differently. Maybe they have accents and dialects like we do?! Either way, both would still say their name :-). And if it gets people listening more closely and paying more attention then I’m happy either way!

  8. One of my most treasured memories is of a warm spring evening before we picked up the keys to our ‘now’ house, and I visited the garden alone and just listened to the wood pigeons in the beech trees. House sparrows were the backing track to my childhood, and wood pigeons the ‘lullaby’ of my middle age. The phrase ‘you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone’ has never been more relevant. Great to see your writing here on Mark’s blog.

    1. Thank you Jane. I am joining your good company! I love that woodies are your lullaby – that’s a lovely story – thank you for sharing this.

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