lizbrownlee – poet

Poems, animal info and Lola the labradoodle!

NPD Message Poem of the Day

This poem, sent in by poet Sue-Hardy-Dawson to lizpoet @ for the start of the run-up to National Poetry Day, rules given here, is a ‘Poem of the Day’ posted on:


Dear Tiger,


though you are long gone to your Tiger god

I remember your eyes melting forest

your hot ghost of branch and flame walking soft

leaving no trace, no echoes when you left


And Elephant


how could we forget your grey gentleness

and you, the last, could not bury your dead

so many tears how were you not blessed

with no hearts? Better for you we’d not met


To all lost things big and small


that we walk on without knowing and those

we take as our right; each night I lay still

hoping I will never need to write this

just as a small child prays

– don’t let it be true

………. — don’t let it be true

……….— don’t let it be true


© Sue-Hardy-Dawson


National Poetry Day 2016


Say it with a Poem!

National Poetry Day this year is on October 6th. The theme is messages.

In my role as National Poetry Day Ambassador, but also wildlife poet, I am asking people to send me message poems to an animal, or to the world. I am imagining poems to a declining habitat, pleas from animals going extinct, apologies written from the point of view of a man or maybe an ivory hunter to the elephant, a love letter to a Llama, a note to the world, a lament about desertification, or rainforest clearance.


The only definite criterion is that it must be addressed to an animal or part of the natural world. As long as it is a message in content it can take any poetic form.

Send your poems to lizpoet @ on a WORD document, clearly marked with your name, age (if under 18) and contact details including email address, and if they are suitable they will be posted on my National Poetry Day website:

They may even appear here. There is a prize for the best poem.

Last year there were 500 MILLION tweets for National Poetry Day – tweet your poem with one of the hashtags:



If you include my Twitter name, @lizpoet, I’ll retweet as many poems as possible.

If you would like to know more about who runs and supports National Poetry Day, please go and have a look at the Forward Arts Foundation website:

Forward Arts Foundation

Here you will find posters, stamps for your message poems and other resources to download. You can also see the films I made last year for the theme of ‘light’.

poetry postmarkcol-blue-red postmark col2 red postmark col2green

This year we will be filming people reading their message poems – you never know, you may be chosen!


This is a short video animation of me reading my poem, Skylark. The poem is in ‘Inking Bitterns’, an anthology edited and fully and beautifully illustrated by Dru Marland, only available from Gert Macky.


As yet untitled

This is a departure from my usual subject, but it’s a poem I’ve been wanting to write for a while.


A young syrian boy in The Jungle.

A young Syrian boy in The Jungle, photo by Sean Hawkey.



After the bombing
all are dead
all is gone

and I walk

I can carry only
my father’s pride
my mother’s longing
my brother’s blood
my sister’s hope

but my father’s pride
cannot be carried
as a refugee
so I lay it down

and I walk

when I sleep
my mother’s longing
is too painful to hold
so I lay it down

and I walk

until my shoes
fall off my feet
and I leave
my brother’s blood
and my own
on the road
as if it is worthless

and I walk

carry only
my sister’s hope
which is light

but this, too,
at the end,
cannot be carried

so I lay it down.



© Liz Brownlee 2016




Photo by Sean Hawkey/WCC, shown by creative commons licence.

A-Z Reflections 2016

Thank you very much to my readers!

A-z complile

Some of the photos from the animals featured this year. And me, with Lola.

I thoroughly enjoyed my April A-Z 2016 challenge, which was number 5 for me.

I really hope everyone enjoyed the fun (but real!) animal facts and poems – plus the fabulous images.

The photos above are a xantu murrelet from Wiki, a yellow tit taken by John and Fish, a kea parrot, taken by Sid Mosdell, a marine iguana taken by Vince Smith, a pom pom crab taken by Hechtonicus, and a numbat taken by S J Bennet! Thank you to all animal photographers who so generously give their work on creative commons and those scientists that allowed me to show private pictures.

I found lots of interesting blogs and commented on more this year than I have in any year – mainly due to having written all my posts in the first week of the challenge and scheduling them. I did at least three a day, which was a challenge, when I had to research, write the facts about each animal, find an excellent photo of it and ask permission for its use, and write a poem! Just a couple..actually maybe just one poem was prewritten this year.

So with all that visiting, my A-Z Blog linky page was a sea of blue!

I found so many broken links – I presume these were because people had dropped out or not kept up, or were businesses. It was quite a waste of time clicking and finding just a broken link message – I wonder if the links could just be removed entirely next year?

Maybe a rule that any website or blog for a business can’t join the challenge at all?

You learn a lot from different blogging styles. it’s wonderful seeing how very different they all are.

One thing I would really love – the badges are wonderful (thank you Jeremy @Hollywood Nuts) but I would like an A-Z Challenge survivor badge the same dimensions as the first years I did it – the new ones are too long. If you did it for 10 years your whole sidebar would be taken up with A-Z badges. I like to keep mine neat, and I like them all to be the same. So last year and this year I have made my own.

Apart from that, great fun – I can’t imagine how much work it must be if you have more than one blog, or are helping run the whole shebang!

Goodbye A-Z until next year!

I’m off on a poetry retreat for a few days now, so will reply to replies when I get back!






Z is for Zetek’s Treefrog


This brilliant photo of this little treefrog was taken by Dr Robert Puschendorf, Lecturer in Conservation Biology at Plymouth University, and is used by permission.

Here it is again, peeking out from a bromeliad, so you can see where it lives – this gorgeous photo was taken by Andreas Hertz and is also used by permission:


These are the only images I could find of this little frog, so I’m very grateful to both these scientists for allowing me to use their photos.

It is a small (less than 3cm) Zetek’s treefrog that lives in Costa Rica and western Panama, at 1,200-1,800m above sea level, in cloud forests.

To be more specific, they live in bromeliads, in the water the cup-like leaves hold, and bromeliads grow high on trees – bromeliads are not a parasite on the tree, they gain all their nutrients and water from the atmosphere.

Zetek’s frogs lay their eggs above the waterline of the bromeliad’s interior, and when ready the tadpoles fall into the water – uniquely, the tadpoles are flattened and shaped like a guitar when seen from above.

Their tadpoles, that have been dissected, had eggs in their stomach – so it is possible that in common with other frogs that live in bromeliads (where unlike in a stream, there is nothing for the tadpoles to live upon), the mother revisits the pools and lays unfertilised eggs in the water for the tadpoles to eat.

Because they live so high in the trees, they were only discovered by tracing the male’s unique mating call – 5 pulsed notes that last about 4 seconds.

In Costa Rica their population appears to be stable, but it is thought they are suffering from habitat loss in Panama.

All treefrogs are at risk from the chytrid (Chytridiomycosis) fungus. The fungus is capable of causing sporadic deaths in some amphibian populations and 100% mortality in others. No effective measure is known for control of the disease in wild populations. It has been called “the worst infectious disease ever recorded among vertebrates in terms of the number of species impacted, and it’s propensity to drive them to extinction.” (Gascon et al, 2007).

This disease is thought to have originated in frogs caught in Africa, where it has been known for a long time, that were caught for pets or used for pregnancy testing in laboratories, that may have escaped or been moved to new locations, so it is now threatening populations in areas which have little immunity.

Dr Andreas Hertz, who took the second photo above, works at a laboratory that is looking for a way to advance probiotic strategies to mitigate the effects of chytridiomycosis in wild amphibian populations. (I’m pretty certain this means using microorganisms to help kill off the fungus or strengthen the immune response in the frogs).

Treefrogs are particularly at risk from deforestation, and sometimes species are only discovered when their trees are cut down.

Zetek’s treefrog is classified Near Threatened by the IUCN Red List for Threatened Species.

How our needs subsume those of every other species on the planet!

Here is my very last poem for the 2016 A-Z:




Just one tall tree

among the trees,

a scoop of water

furled in leaves,


an ant or two

on which to feed,

is all the world

a treefrog needs,


just one small part

of forest’s song –

but when trees fall

and all are gone,


rains turn flood,

earth turns stones,

and in the dust

a treefrog’s bones.


© Liz Brownlee


Information from:


Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.

IUCN Red List for Threatened Species.

Gascon C., J.P. Collins, R.D. Moore et al., editors: Amphibian Conservation Action Plan. IUCN/SSC Amphibian Specialist Group. Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge UK, 2007.




Y is for Yellow Tit

This wonderful photo of the yellow tit was taken by John&Fish.



Yellow Tit


A small bird

with soaring crest

black top,

lemon breast,


some birds lift hearts

this is one,

sings a song

shines the sun.


.© Liz Brownlee


This little bird is found in the central mountain ranges of Taiwan, living on insects it finds in the coniferous and broadleaf forests.

It is thought that it may always have been uncommon, but it is the victim of being caught in nets for the pet trade, and unfortunately felling of its forests have further reduced the population.

Luckily parts of its habitat are now in protected nature reserves and wildlife parks.

It is classified by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals and Birdlife International as Near Threatened.

Here it is showing its crest, taken again by John&Fish, and below that, a little video of its lovely song.

JohnandFish yellow tit



I can hardly believe that tomorrow is the end of the A-Z! I’m going to miss it. If you’d like to blog hop to another A-Z Challenge blog, please click on the logo in the right-hand column!


Information from:


Birdlife International.

Birding in Taiwan.

IUCN Red List for Threatened Species.

Image by John&Fish, shown here by Creative Commons License.

Prose and Poem © Liz Brownlee, all rights reserved, not to be used in any manner whatsoever without the permission of the author.

X is for Xantu’s Murrelet

This image from Wiki shows the size of a Xantu’s murrelet (recently renamed Scripp’s murrelet) when it leaves the nest and plunges into the ocean at fewer than 48 hours old, having not been fed, and without being able to fly. It is about 5 inches long:


Uniquely, from this moment forward this little chick spends it’s entire time at sea, with its parents in attendance for a few months, until it is an adult and returns to the cliffs where it hatched to breed itself.

Luckily it is hatched fully fluffy-feathered and half the size of the parents – the huge eggs the mother murrelet lays (in the cliff rock crevices on islands in the Channel Islands of California, and on Santa Barbara Island, and also several islands off Baja California) have one of the largest egg to bird ratios in the world.

I haven’t been able to find any information as to how the parents keep the chicks together on the open sea, but when the parent birds leave the nest, the babies follow them. The parents fly out to the sea, leaving the chicks to fall and scramble down the cliffs into the water. At this point the parents call to them and the babies swim out to join them – murrelets have a piercing whistle, probably to be heard through the surf, and I surmise that this call would help reunite them if they become separated.

They feed by diving underwater to get larval fish and crustaceans, and rely heavily on shoals of anchovy. They are usually seen feeding in pairs, and if one bird is on the nest then unrelated birds will team up.

While they are briefly in the nest, and as eggs, the chicks are vulnerable to feral cats, house mice, deer mice, and black rats.

Out at sea they become prey to marine animals, oil spills, getting entangled in fishing nets, and pollution.

Xantu’s or Scripp’s murrelet is classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Here is a great photo of a pair in the water, by Tony Morris:

Tony Morris Scripp's Murrelet


Here is my poem:




Murrelet’s chicks

jump into the surf

just two days after

their egg-hatched birth,


follow their parents’

loud cries to be free,

riding the swell

on the rising, green sea.


How do their parents

guide them and guard,

when their world becomes

just water and dark?


What do they do

in wind rush and storm,

tossed and plunged

when waves grow strong?


But the ocean is where

they make their home,

wind in feather, air in bone,

part ocean, part foam.


© Liz Brownlee


If you would like to blog hop to another A-Z Challenge, please click on the logo in the right-hand column!


Information from:



Channel Islands (USA!) National Park Service.

Prose and Poem © Liz Brownlee, all rights reserved not to be used in any manner whatsoever without the permission of the author.



W is for Wagner’s Viper

This stunning photo of a female and two young Wagner’s vipers is by Mario Schweiger, and is used by permission.

wagn babypaar 1b karakurt 8-89

Wagner’s viper was first discovered and described by German naturalist Moritz Wagner in 1846. Sadly he mislabelled the specimen’s place of habitat and so it was unseen for another 140 years, and presumed extinct. Then it was rediscovered on a road in eastern Turkey, its actual habitat, where it now lives mainly in one river valley about 1,600 and 1,900m above sea level.

Unfortunately, due to its rather attractive colouring, and rarity value, publication of the whereabouts of this beautiful snake brought a massive number of collectors to the area, mainly from Europe. They took large numbers of snakes, especially gravid females. So many in fact, that over succeeding years the snake suffered a devastating loss to its population.

Worried scientists worked to get the snake listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which bans international trade of species without export permits. But sadly 80% of these snakes had already disappeared. Furthermore a dam on the river in its territory threatened to destroy its habitat.

Today the snake is classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, and zoos (Saint Louis Zoo in particular) have instituted a breeding programme to bring the snake back from the brink.

Here is my poem:


Wagner’s Viper


On the rocky mountain slopes

around the rivers and the lake,

in coils of camouflaging scales

dwells the Wagner’s viper snake,


but every year more disappear

their future has been sold,

for the beauty of their souls

has been drawn in bronze and gold.


© Liz Brownlee


Information from:


Scientific American.

Image © Mario Schweiger and used by permission.

Prose and Poem © Liz Brownlee, all rights reserved, not to be used in any manner whatsoever without the permission of the author.



V is for Vietnamese Mossy Frog

This is another extraordinary frog – frogs really have some of the most incredible adaptations for their environment of any animal. This wonderful photo was taken by Andrew Mudd


And this photo was taken by Josh More:

Josh More vietnamese mossy frog

Have I mentioned yet this year that I adore frogs? I have been most restrained and only posted two so far this year. There’s still time, though!

These mossy frogs live in flooded caves and on the banks of mountain streams in northern Vietnam, among the mosses, and are semi-aquatic, often hiding among floating plants in the water.

They have also been found breeding on crevices of mossy trees, and are excellent climbers thanks to the large suction discs on the ends of their toes.

The texture and colour of their skin with their bulbous and spiny growths is very similar to moss, and a frog that is sitting still is almost impossible to see.

Even their large eyes have beautiful, mossy patterns – and give them excellent night vision (they are nocturnal) when they are looking for small invertebrates and insects to eat.

If these frogs are threatened they curl into a ball of moss – making them look even less like an edible frog.

Vietnamese mossy frogs are protected by the Vietnamese Government, but are suffering from habitat loss and being collected illegally for the pet trade. The IUCN Red List for Threatened Species does not have enough information to classify them.

Here is my poem for them:


Vietnamese Mossy Frog


As mossy as the moss it’s on

upon the mossy log,

it misdirects so you expect

it’s moss and miss the frog.


© Liz Brownlee


Information from:


Metropolitan Oceanic Institute and Aquarium.

Rosamund Gifford Zoo PDF.

IUCN Red List.

Image one taken by Andrew Mudd and used by kind permission.

Image two taken by Josh More by Creative Commons License.

Prose and Poem © Liz Brownlee, all rights reserved, not to be used in any manner whatsoever without the permission of the author.





Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,101 other followers