How Mrs Moreau’s warbler got its name with Stephen Moss
A guided journey through our history and relationship with the bird kingdom
Monday 6 November 2023
Springwatch producer, prolific nature writer and broadcaster and local naturalist hero,
Stephen Moss reaches back in time to take us on a magical journey through the fascinating stories of how our most beloved birds acquired their names. What were the origins of Winifred’s Warbler and why did we forget the Sea Swallow, Flop Wing and Furze Wren?
The words we have given our birds are some of the most lyrical and evocative in the English language, telling incredible stories of epic expeditions, fierce battles between rival ornithologists, momentous historical events and enduring romantic gestures. On this voyage of discovery Stephen explores ancient, historical threads between people, birds and the natural world. How our own language has shape-shifted and changed with the tides of history and how some birds’ names have come and gone while others have remained unchanged to this day.
Combining detective work, natural history, folklore and first-hand observations, Stephen explores fateful, human encounters with the bird kingdom and the rich cast of intriguing characters who came up with such names as Mrs Moreau’s Warbler. From thousands of years ago when humans and birds first shared the earth, to our own present-day co-existence with an increasingly fragile ecosystem, Stephen shows just how profoundly these names reveal as much about ourselves as the creatures they describe.
Stephen Moss is a naturalist, television producer and one of our most ardently engaged nature writers and broadcasters. In a distinguished career at the BBC’s Natural History Unit in Bristol his credits include Springwatch, Birds Britannia and The Nature of Britain. He has written over thirty books including The Robin: A Biography, A Bird in the Bush, The Bumper Book of Nature, Wild Hares and Hummingbirds and Wild Kingdom. His latest book in the bird biography series, The Owl, was published last month to great acclaim and is currently topping the bestseller charts. Stephen read English at Cambridge before joining the BBC and The Guardian. He is now also a Senior Lecturer on Bath Spa University’s Travel and Nature Writing MA course. His special areas of interest include British wildlife; birds and climate change; the social history of wildlife-watching; urban bird-watching and getting children back in touch with nature. Originally from London Stephen now lives with his family on the Somerset levels and is President of the Somerset Wildlife Trust.
Stephen’s book, Mrs Moreau’s Warbler, is published by Faber.
Join us in person at BRLSI Queen Square or live stream online on Monday 6 November 2023 from
7.30 pm to 9.00 pm Tickets available at £3 and £6 here.