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Birds of prey remain one of my favourite groups of birds to recreate in stitch. Their strong features and profiles are both exciting and challenging to capture. This is the send Merlin I have stitched, but this time, captured with embroidery threads and hand stitching.

The Merlin is another of the Red listed birds that I have never been fortunate enough to see. This is the only bird of prey I am planning to have in the ‘Hanging by a Thread’ Exhibition next year, through if time allows I would love to feature a Hen Harrier. There are currently 3 birds of prey on the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) Red List, the Merlin, Hen Harrier and Montagu’s Harrier .

The RSPB’s description – ‘Merlin’s are the UK’s smallest bird of prey, this compact, dashing falcon has a relatively square-cut tail and rather broad-based pointed wings, shorter than those of other falcons. Its wingbeat tends to be rapid with occasional glides, wings held close to the body. In winter, the UK population increases as most of the Icelandic breeding birds migrate to our warmer climate. Although recovering from a population crash in the late 20th century, it is on the Red List. It is a Schedule 1 listed species on The Wildlife and Countryside Act’.

I started by creating a strong outline profile and lightly painted the dominate colours to help inspire the selection of threads ready to start stitching. I use Maribu Textil paints, although only a small colour range they mix well and when not too much water is added they don’t bleed into the fabric beyond the area needed.

As always, I begin by stitching the eye and its reflection. The feather colour and direction around the eye and beak are the next stage. These initial threads create the base for me to start building up further thread colours and create a realistic feather impression. I use both DMC and Anchor embroidery threads occasionally mixing these with Oliver Twist hand dyed cotton variegated machine threads

Below, the piece is nearing completion. I’m popping it to one side for a while now and will return to it with fresh eyes soon. The Merlin is one of a small series of pieces I am making for the exhibition, all small portraits of red listed birds. Other birds created in this style are a Greenfinch, Linnet, Shag, Ringed Plover, Dotterel, Fieldfare and Skylark. I look forward to sharing my work in progress with these pieces in future posts.