Tucked away in Angel Place, this is one of my favourite pieces of artwork in Sydney.
Like any big city, you are unlikely to hear many bird calls as you walk around the city though opportunistic white ibis and sulphur crested cockatoos, as well as introduced species like pigeons and mynahs, can be seen here and there. Go to Angel Place and you are in for a pleasant surprise.
Prior to its transformation into a city and a resultant loss in habitat it is thought that around 130 birds lived in what is now the central city area. Not only are some of these birds no longer heard in the city centre, they are extinct. This 2009 artwork by Michael Thomas Hill, entitled ‘Forgotten Songs’ remembers Sydney’s former birds.
In Angel Place, look up and you will see dozens of birdcages suspended high above the street – floating in the sky. Listen and you will hear the call of birds. Look more closely and you will notice that all the cages are empty.
The empty birdcages point to the fact that the vast majority of birds formerly found in city centre area are no longer here – they have flown the coop, as it were. Now look down to the ground and you will notice little brass plaques, each commemorating a bird that once lived in the city area.
While the cages and plaques reminded me of death, the calls of birds filtering down from above through the cages made me think of life.
This is a lovely piece of art which I urge you to see and hear.
I am no birdie and actually did not identify any of the calls I heard on my short visit. In all there are around 50 different calls which change as day shifts to night.
For the record and for the ornithologists among my readers:
“During the day in Forgotten Songs, you may hear the calls of the Eastern Whipbird, Rockwarbler, Regent Honeyeater, Grey Shrike-thrush, Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Spotted Pardalote, Brown Gerygone, Jacky Winter, Scarlet Robin, Golden Whistler, Leaden Flycatcher, Dollarbird, White-eared Honeyeater, Superb Lyrebird, Brown Thornbill, Varied Sittella, Brush Cuckoo, Dusky Woodswallow, Eastern Spinebill, White-throated Treecreeper, Little Lorikeet, Mistletoebird, Pallid Cuckoo, Red-browed Finch, Rufous Whistler, Brown-headed Honeyeater, Scarlet Honeyeater, Eastern Yellow Robin, Shining Bronze-Cuckoo, Southern Emu-wren, Spotted Quail-thrush, Striated Thornbill, Superb Fairy-wren, Tawny-crowned Honeyeater, Grey Fantail, Variegated Fairy-wren, Whistling Kite, White-browed Scrubwren, White-browed Woodswallow, White-naped Honeyeater, White- throated Gerygone, Wonga Pigeon, Yellow-faced Honeyeater and Yellow- tufted Honeyeater.
At night, you may hear the Australian Owlet-nightjar, Powerful Owl, Southern Boobook, Barn Owl, Tawny Frogmouth and White-throated Nightjar”.
I passed through Angel Place and a number of other little cobbled laneways between George and Pitt Streets around 4.30pm and accordingly numerous cafes and restaurants I found for the first time were closed. While they all looked relatively up market this is certainly an area I will return to again, either for lunch or dinner.
Having admired ‘Forgotten Songs’ look up the laneway towards George Street and then up a bit higher and you will see Sydney’s Eiffel Tower. I did use a zoom lens on my final picture but the tower is clearly visible without photographic enlargement.
Address: Angel Place
Directions: Between George and Pitt Streets