We first learnt about a rescue magpie called Penguin back in 2014. It was photographer and artist Leila Jeffreys who first introduced us to this unique little bird, who had been discovered and nursed back to health by a family in Sydney’s Northern beaches. We soon began following her antics on social media – she’s the only bird we know with her own instagram account (and over 128,000 followers!).
The story of Penguin Bloom, in fact, is more than a straightforward animal rescue story. As Penguin gradually regained her strength, she, in turn, shared a certain strength with the Bloom Family. This incredible story has been documented by photographer Cameron Bloom, and is the subject of a new book – Penguin Bloom – The odd little bird that saved a family.
Cameron Bloom is a photographer, husband and father of three boys based on Sydney’s Northern beaches. When his youngest son, Noah, found a baby magpie who had fallen from the nest one afternoon outside his Grandma’s house, no one could have predicted the impact it would have on the Bloom family.
It just happens that Penguin found her adoptive family at a particularly difficult time, following a freak accident in Thailand which left Cameron’s wife Sam with a serious spinal injury.
As Penguin gradually regained her strength with special care from the Bloom family, she, in turn, supported Sam’s gruelling recovery. Over two years, Penguin spent time with the Bloom family daily.
‘I think it would be fair to say Penguin balanced being a Bloom and a wild bird incredibly well’ Cameron reminisces. ‘She’d be asleep lying on her back in our bed at 7am, then out in the garden looking for insects at 9am, back inside sitting on Sam’s shoulder later in the day, then flying away ’til 3.30pm, just in time to sing to the kids coming home from school and inside for afternoon tea and left over lunches!’
Cameron first started taking photos of Penguin a few weeks after she arrived. It soon became clear he was documenting something very special.
‘Penguin’s relationship with the kids and Sam grew into something much more than just a pet.’ Cameron says. ‘I set out to document this incredible bond and enjoyed the thrill of capturing the moment – you never knew if she would fly away. Penguin was with us for about 2 years.’
Cameron was soon approached by publishers, and after some time his incredible archive of photos of Penguin have been turned into the most beautiful book. Penguin Bloom – The odd little bird that saved a family documents Penguin’s time with the Bloom family, and recounts Sam’s incredible recovery, egged on all the way by this most unlikely feathered friend.
‘It is essentially a love story – at times incredibly sad and tragic but uplifting and funny too’ Cameron says of the book. ‘It has a back story of how Sam and I met, then gives a chilling account of what happened around Sam’s accident. Sam spirals into a dark depression upon arriving home, and then just at Sam’s lowest point, Penguin arrives, which changed the course of her recovery.’
Always free to fly away, Penguin left the Bloom family late last year. Cameron suspects she has probably started a family of her own. Meanwhile, Sam continues to paddle her kayak competitively, and represented Australia at the world titles last year! She has now begun to mentor other paralysed men and women.
Penguin Bloom – The odd little bird that saved a family is published by ABC Books, and is priced at $28, with 10% of proceeds going to Spinal Cure Australia. You can buy it online here.
A selection of Cameron Bloom’s photographic portraits of Penguin are for available through Arthouse Gallery.