Curlew – Numenius arquata

It’s a very rare treat to see or hear a Curlew today, my last encounter was in Scotland last October and it never fails to thrill me.

You can hear the call of the Curlew here.

Finally I have completed a piece showcasing this beautiful bird.  It’s been very much on my ‘to do’ list since reading Mary Colwell‘s fabulous book ‘Curlew Moon’.  I was lucky enough to hear Mary speak in Bristol a while ago and her passion, knowledge and drive was utterly inspiring.

I have never been fortunate enough to see a herd of Curlews and love this photo captured by Chris Hooper.

The Curlew is listed as Red in the conservation status in the UK.

The RSPB describe the situation as follows;

‘There have been worrying declines in the breeding population throughout much of the UK, with the Breeding Bird Survey indicating significant declines in Scotland, England and Wales, and an overall UK decline of 42 per cent between 1995 and 2008.

Curlews are also declining more widely across their global breeding range and, consequently, their IUCN status is near threatened. The species is a UK BAP priority, and is Amber listed due to the international importance of both breeding and wintering populations in the UK, its unfavourable conservation status in Europe and the declines in UK breeding numbers.

Within the UK, curlews breed on a range of habitats but are primarily birds of extensively managed rough grasslands, moorlands and bogs. The bulk of the breeding population (around 60 per cent) occurs in Scotland, with the majority of the remaining birds in northern England.

Agricultural intensification of upland farmland and moorland (eg drainage and reseeding) is likely to have been important in causing past declines in breeding populations, as has afforestation of moorlands, and these activities may continue to exert deleterious effects on populations.

However, RSPB research in Northern Ireland identified high levels of predation on nests as the likely cause of population declines, with foxes being the most important predators. Similar findings have been obtained from declining populations elsewhere in Europe, suggesting that increases in predator populations have also contributed to declines.

In some upland areas, the control of foxes and crows by gamekeepers managing moorlands for red grouse shooting may be important in maintaining breeding curlew populations and preventing further declines’.

Those of you have read earlier blogs will know that I have based pieces on the beautiful poetry of Somerset farmer Mark Britten.

Mark has such an incredible understanding of the land he has grown up on and farmed and his poem ‘Man of the Moor’ felt perfect as a background for this Curlew study.

Rather than layering fabric, this complex feather pattern lent itself to painting the image as a stitch guide.  Using a very fine brush and fabric paints I marked out the areas to be stitched in a limited colour range.  The initial outline was done with iron removable pen.  The only area I used fabric rather than paint was the beak.

The poem was free motion stitched directly onto the backing fabric and wadding after free hand drawing the spiral lines as a guide.  The cropped image at the top of this post shows the bird stitched and applied to the written poem.

This piece will be one of the artworks in my solo exhibition at Ace Arts in Somerton, Somerset next September.  The aim is to have a number of pieces based on this particularly threatened beautiful bird.