“Tiny Jalopy”
Short Cuts, BBC Radio 4

Produced by Michelle Macklem.
Edited by Eleanor McDowall.
Original music composed by Michelle Macklem.

There are approximately 10,400 species of birds in the world. About 1000 of those species live in Canada and the US, and on the edge of the world – in the tiny coastal town of Bolinas, California – there’s an art studio that’s recorded sightings of 228 – or 22.8% – of all North American birds. 

Of those 228, there are 4 species that local birder Keith Hansen is particularly interested in: the Rufous, the Anna’s, the Allen’s and most recently, the rare Broad-billed – all hummingbirds whose migratory patterns hit an important crossroads right here at Keith’s art studio. Keith speculates that the Broad-billed hummingbird is here because global warming has been pushing tropical species of birds off track, hundreds of miles north from their usual migrations.

In fall, we hear how the sounds of hummingbirds’ wings describe their age. A young virile hummingbird sounds like a bright constant motor, buzzing with presence, their feathers fresh and new. An older hummingbird with molten wings sounds more like an old jalopy, a bit dilapidated – but it’ll do the trick.

Keith’s art studio is full to the brim with his own drawings of birds in books, postcards and prints. The studio is a hub for the community; people pop in and out all day long. There are locals wandering by to hear what Keith has seen that day, curious tourists, and keen-eyed birders in to talk shop.

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© Michelle Macklem 2024