Gavin and Tess Patterson at the launch of the book, A Bird Memoir – Sketches and Stories of birds around Wide Bay. An exhibition of the watercolour sketches in the book is in the upstairs gallery of Gatakers Artspace. Also on display are two other exhibits, Heart of K'Gari and works by Sue McLean.
Gavin and Tess Patterson at the launch of the book, A Bird Memoir – Sketches and Stories of birds around Wide Bay. An exhibition of the watercolour sketches in the book is in the upstairs gallery of Gatakers Artspace. Also on display are two other exhibits, Heart of K'Gari and works by Sue McLean.

Architect's avian artwork comes home to roost in new book

GAVIN PATTERSON has called his second book A Bird Memoir, a loose title that attempts to describe an engaging ramble around his watercolour sketches of birds in the Wide Bay region.

Like its lanky architect author, the book is an eclectic mix of whimsy, acerbic wit and social barbs threaded as a commentary around 130 sketches of common and rare feathered species that inhabit, or are reputed to inhabit, our region.

Love and nostalgia were potent forces inspiring A Bird Memoir – Sketches and Stories of birds around Wide Bay; the slowdown for the COVID-19 pandemic provided the downtime for its incubation and birth.

Mr Patterson’s interest in birds was sparked by his first wife, the late Rosamund Gibbs Patterson, who was fascinated by pretty rainbow bee-eaters she found in 1979 on their Royal Oaks property near Tiaro.

She set out to identify all the species she could find on their 100 acres beside the Mary River, encouraging her husband to also find feathered friends. Bird spotting continued when they moved to Point Vernon.

A Bird Memoir is dedicated to Mr Patterson’s granddaughter, Sophia Valdor, and her late grandmother, Rosamund.

A passion for spotting and photographing birds also infected Mr Patterson’s second wife Tess, “who has kindly abided with me over the last two decades”.

Mr Patterson said he shot the bulk of the photographs that formed the basis for his skilful watercolour sketches of 106 different species “but Tess managed to get some really good ones”.

Dry humour, snippets of poetry and prose from the classics, and occasional pungent outrage lace reminiscences of encounters with birds. Casually informative without being authoritative, A Bird Memoir is an irresistible invitation to look more closely at, and listen to, birds that flit around us every day and those that make rare visits.

Readers experience heightened awareness of the need to preserve their habitat – such as the tangled understorey near Gatakers Bay where dwelt a colony of pretty red-backed fair wrens.

“One day on our morning walk we were horrified to see council workers with brush cutters … making a fearful noise cutting down what they regarded as scrappy scrub. But we knew it was home for these small creatures. Tess burst into tears at the desecration … we haven’t seen any red-backed wrens in the area since.”

A Bird Memoir has appeared in time to make a charming Christmas gift, entertaining and educational. It is on sale for $30 at Gatakers Artspace in Maryborough, where the original watercolours are on display.

The exhibition was one of three launched on Friday night. Also on show is “Heart of K’Gari”, by nine local artists, and works by Sue McLean.