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Sophie and the Babbler Birds of the Desert by

Matthew Creasey

Illustrations by

Heather Walker

Text Š 2017 Matthew Creasey Illustrations Š 2017 Heather Walker All rights reserved. This book and the illustrations are licensed for your personal enjoyment only and may not be reproduced without prior permission from the author. This book has been typeset in Times New Roman and Garamond. ISBN 978-0-9563466-7-4

Sophie and the Babbler Birds of the Desert A Professor Penny Story written by

Matthew Creasey illustrated by

Heather Walker

Thank you to all those I have worked alongside out at Fowlers Gap, especially Andy Russell and Dre Liebl, and to the wonderful inhabitants, both human and non-human, of that amazing place, all of whom made my time there so rewarding. Thank you also to Caitlin Kight and Jenni Sanderson for all their hard work, without which this project would not have been possible. Matthew

This book was originally produced as a part of a Researcher-Led Initiative, organised by Jenni Sanderson and funded by the University of Exeter Researcher Development Team.

Professor Penny Stories are a series of children’s books written by staff and students of the University of Exeter, College of Life and Earth Sciences, based in Penryn, Cornwall. Each with a unique style and appropriate for a range of ages, these stories bring scientific research and natural history to life, from conservation and animal behaviour to microbiology. Look out for our favourite scientist, Professor Penny, in every story. With her faithful four-legged companion Wilson, she’ll help you understand the science behind the characters’ adventures. Other stories in the Professor Penny series: The Psyllid Who Wanted to Go Home The Tale of the Turtle and the Plastic Jellyfish Woolly’s Wonderful Wings The Adventures of Flo, the Special Bacterium

Sophie yawned a big lion’s yawn. “YAAWRRUGH!” Well it had been a busy day. She'd met Woolly the moth, Flo the bacterium, Nerin the turtle and even the family of psyllid nymphs. “Time for bed” said her aunt Penny. “OK” Sophie replied, “but not without a bed-time story?” “Well of course not”.

“Did I ever tell you the one about your great Uncle Bruce, and the babbler birds of Australia? No? Well Uncle Bruce was a great bush ranger. He roamed the Australian outback having all kinds of adventures, and meeting all sorts of wonderful creatures along the way.�

“He met the hopping kangaroo, the giant emu and even the spiny echidna. But this is the tale of one of the strangest creatures he met. This is the tale of the babblers�. So as Sophie snuggled deeper into her aunt’s gentle arms, Professor Penny began.

Five o'clock in the morning, The desert at night, The wind holds its breath, Awaiting the light. Then from deep in the creek, A noise can be heard, The chatter, the natter, The waking of birds.

These birds are called babblers, A name that's quite apt, And this is the story, Of how they adapt, To their lives in the outback, The bush and the plain, And why they are known, By that unusual name.

Now father and mother, And uncle and brother, And sister and cousin, Fly out of the nest.

In the gathering warmth, They head off to breakfast, Creepers, hoppers and crawlies, Is what they like best.

Spiders, crickets and beetles, Small lizards and weevils, All these can be found, When you know how to look.

By pecking and flipping, Turning and tipping And poking your beak Into cranny and nook.

Meanwhile high on the hill, Casts a sharp searching eye, As Falco the Kestrel, Soars through the sky.

His family’s hungry, His chicks are not fed, “A young babbler for lunch, That's perfect” he said. Alert to the danger, The grown babblers cry To the young ones to flee, From the threat in the sky.

“Our wings are too short, To fly from his grasp”, “How shall we escape?”, The young babblers ask.

“Hide deep in the bushes, And stir not a feather, And ‘til he has gone, We’ll defend you together”.

So babbling, chattering, Swooping and scattering, The adults distract him, As Falco comes on. And harrying, worrying, Hopping and scurrying, All cluster round, ‘Til the danger is gone.

Then slowly and steadily, One after another, The young babblers start To emerge from their cover. “That's enough excitement For one outback day, Let's go home to the roost nest�, The old babblers say.

So led by their mother, The group turn to follow, And start to head back, To the family’s nest.

The sisters and brothers, And uncles and cousins, All settle into their Snug hole to rest.

Six o'clock in the evening, The last of the light, Together to fend off The cold of the night.

The creeks all fall silent, But just for the present, Tomorrow the babblers, Will reclaim the desert.

The End

Sophie and the Babbler Birds of the Desert, Matthew Creasey  
Sophie and the Babbler Birds of the Desert, Matthew Creasey  

Sophie certainly did have an extraordinary family—much like the birds in this story. In addition to her nature loving Aunt Penny, there was...