This book by artist Jane Smith opens the door to the island and its wildlife. Since Oronsay is an RSPB nature reserve I know some of the characters in the pages of this book – it’s a long time since I met Mike and Val Peacock but I remember them well, and I certainly remember Choughs, Tysties, Rock Doves and the thinking man’s Linnet, the Twite.
I’ve probably seen Jane Smith’s artwork at SWLA exhibitions, I’ve probably liked it too, but her name hasn’t stuck in my mind so I came to this collection of work afresh. Her art is simple but accurate and sympathetic. She captures a lot of the personality of birds in her illustrations – check out the Starlings on p88, for example. There are lots of birds but seals, Otters, butterflies, Thrift, bumblebees too. Note: the jacket illustration above gives a good idea of the style but the actual colours are softer and more pastel than they appear here in this download.
The words wrapped around this lovely artwork are good too – although I think there might be better candidates to be the Audrey Hepburn of the bird world than…well see for yourself 0n p146. But I recommend that you read the very last paragraph of the book as it neatly encapsulates one reason why we should bother about nature conservation. It’s a short paragraph worth reading every few months and pointing out to other people.
You will learn about island life, a bit about farming and something about birds such as the Corncrake – one of the RSPB’s many conservation success stories.
And the Foreword by RSPB’s Scotland Director, Stuart Housden, is a good read too.
But the artwork is a delight and if you know the Hebrides then this collection of images will remind you of landscapes of machair, sandy beaches, seaweed-bedecked rocks and meadows buzzing with insects.
Wild Island: a year in the Hebrides by Jane Smith is published by Birlinn Books. Jane Smith has an exhibition at the Scottish Ornithologist’s Club centre at Aberlady.