A Pirate of Exquisite Mind: The Forgotten William Dampier


By Diana Preston, published 1st March 2006

In September 1683 in the Cape Verde Islands William Dampier lay 'obscured' among the scrubby vegetation to do some bird watching. He was excited for he had just caught his first sight of flamingos. The detail and delicacy of his description would gladden any modern ornithologist. They were, he wrote, 'much like a heron in shape' though 'bigger and of a reddish colour' and in such numbers that from a distance they appeared like 'a brick wall, their feathers being of the colour of new red brick'. They nested in shallow ponds 'where there is much mud which they scrape together making little hillocks like small islands ... where they leave a small, hollow pit to lay their eggs ... They never lay more than two eggs ... The young ones are, at first, of a light grey.'

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