Wing sketch




‘Field Notes From a Hidden City’
An Urban Nature Diary
 Granta. Published: 7 March 2013

Field Notes From a Hidden City is set against the background of the austere, grey and beautiful northeast Scottish city of Aberdeen. In it, Esther Woolfson examines the elements - geographic, atmospheric and environmental - which bring diverse life forms to live in close proximity in cities. Using the circumstances of her own life, house, garden and city, she writes of the animals who live among us: the birds - gulls, starlings, pigeons, sparrows and others; the rats and squirrels; the spiders and the insects.

In beautiful, absorbing prose, Woolfson describes the seasons, the streets and the quiet places of her city over the course of a year, which begins with the exceptional cold and snow of 2010. Influenced by her own long experience of corvids, she considers prevailing attitudes towards the natural world, urban and non-urban wildlife, the values we place on the lives of individual species and the ways in which man and creature live together in cities.

 Read Field Notes from a Hidden City Reviews   

‘Corvus—A Life With Birds,’
Granta, hardback 2008, paperback 2009. Counterpoint (USA) hardback 2009, paperback, 2010.

A unique memoir of a life lived with birds.

Esther Woolfson's daughter rescued Chicken, a fledgling rook sixteen years ago. Amazed by their intelligence and personalities, Woolfson became fascinated by corvids. Chicken, Spike the magpie, and, most recently, Ziki the Crow have formed sibling relationships with Woolfson's daughters and with each other: cached food in her kitchen wall and laid eggs in her living room; called to her at dawn, and perched companionably on her knee of an evening; and taught her more than she ever expected about birds and about human beings. Woolfson's account of her experiences is funny, touching and beautifully written, and offers fascinating insights into the closeness human beings can achieve with wild creatures.

Read 'Corvus' reviews

‘Piano Angel’—Two Ravens Press, 2008.
 Two Ravens Press, 30 Oct 2008

Following the recurrence of a brain tumour, Mark Blum chooses to return to his native Glasgow to die, leaving behind in New York his architectural practice, and bewildered friends and family. The processes of illness oblige Mark to re-assess his life and to re-establish contact with his brother Daniel, a successful photographer.

A legacy of bitterness and jealousy in the brothers’ relationship stems from their friendship as teenagers with a young Hungarian refugee, Anci Goldman. Anci, now a widow, reads of Mark’s death in a newspaper, and finds her feelings of loss inseparable from her own past and history. As she embarks on a commission to illustrate the work of Hans Christian Anderson she revisits her childhood in post-Trianon Hungary, the precarious days of war, and the siege of Budapest in 1945.

As Daniel comes to terms with the aftermath, practical and political, of Mark’s death. Anci, encouraged by her sons, decides to contact him again after forty years of silence…

 Read 'Piano Angel' Reviews

‘Possessions’:     New Writing Scotland, 1983.                                                             
‘Stone Pyramid’: New Writing Scotland, 1985.  
‘Kandinsky’:       New Writing Scotland, 1990.      
‘Letters From Another Place: ‘A Roomful Of Birds’- Collins Scottish Short Stories 1990.    
‘In the City’: ‘The Devil And Dr Tuberose’- HarperCollins Scottish Short Stories 1991.          
 ‘Quiet In This Time Of Change’: ‘The Laughing Playmate’- Harper Collins Scottish Short Stories 1992.      
‘Snow Again Tonight’: ‘Three Kinds Of Kissing’ —Harper Collins Scottish Short Stories 1993.     
‘At the Turn’:  ‘Looking For The Spark’ — HarperCollins Scottish Short Stories 1994. HarperCollins
‘Rosh Hashanah’ — Flamingo Scottish Short Stories 1995.
‘Corvus’:   BBC ‘Wildlife’ magazine, 1992.

Article: Guardian ‘First Person,’ August 2008 - read here
‘Top Ten Birds in Fact and Fiction’ Guardian September 2008

Article (and featured book) ‘New Books’ May/June2009.
 ‘Chagall’: published on Scottish Arts Council web site, September 2006 - read here

‘Trump in Scotland—The Shifting Sands,’ published in n+1, February 2009 - read here

An article on the urban and the wild appears in the February edition of 'Earthlines' magazine.
‘Abramski’  —‘Story Time’, BBC Radio 4, 1993
‘Kandinsky’—‘Story Time’ BBC Radio 4, 1994
‘Corvus—A Life With Birds’ — ‘Book of the Week’ Radio 4, 2008


In 2011, Esther was part of an Artists’ Residency at Aberdeen University’s Centre for Environmental Sustainability working with visual artists and musicians. The residency was part of a global conference held by the university, on conflicts in conservation.

In 2012 she was Writer in Residence at Kielder as part of the Hexham Book Festival. An account of her time there will be published in an anthology following a continuing series of residencies at Kielder.

field notes