This is a truly lovely book. I’ve blogged about it before, because I knew it was coming, but now I am holding a copy in my hands it is just a delight.
The idea is simple, as many good ideas are; there are 67 red-listed species of bird in the UK, let’s get 67 writers to write about them and 67 artists to depict them. The idea was that of Kit Jewitt (he has lots of good ideas) and the BTO have published the book. The BTO is a very good book publisher which isn’t necessarily what one expects from a bunch of bird boffins in East Anglia but this is the latest in a series of cracking books (see Bird Atlas 2007-20“11 and Flight Lines for example).
What emerges is a varied book of different writing styles and perspectives with each page of text facing a piece of art with its own special character. Only one species has its text and artwork provided by the same person and the Long-tailed Duck should be delighted to have got so much attention from the talented Mr Packham.
There is a nice touch at the back where three species which have always been rare in the UK as breeding species, but at least one of which was tipped as a rampaging new colonist in the past, are mentioned for their current absence as breeding species from the UK. Can you think what they are? Maybe buy the book to find out.
But buy the book anyway because the profits go to the BTO and the RSPB to help these species get onto the green list, by way of the amber list, from the red list. The text is a little coy about what ‘profits’ are and how these will be split but that’s where they are going.
It pleased me to notice that all three Wild Justice co-founders have their words in this volume: Chris for Long-tailed Duck, Ruth for Merlin and myself for the Linnet, and that made me wonder how the species were allocated. I know I volunteered with enthusiasm for the Linnet and I believe Ruth asked for a raptor and got a Merlin for a lady and Chris can pop up anywhere – we all know that. But I turned to the gamebirds, Grey Partridge, Black Grouse and Capercaillie, and noticed a couple of friends’ names attached to the first two. And then I turned to the waterfowl and saw Chris’s name and couple of others I know well on Velvet and Common Scoter, White-fronted Goose, Scaup and Pochard. And so I looked at the raptor texts too. Not a GWCT, BASC or Moorland Association author to be seen.
If Dick Potts were still with us I think he would have been bagging the Grey Partridge, and I’m sure he would have been seen as one of us. I can think of other writers from a shooting perspective who could have done a good job but they aren’t in here. Is that because they are now seen as beyond the pale? It might be. Or was it because ‘we’ just don’t think of ‘them’ when it comes to loving wildlife like ‘we’ do. I think that would be a bit harsh although I can also see that the pages of love for particular species which ended with ‘…and then I shot it’ might have been a bit tricky to cope with. The rift between bird watchers and bird shooters is pretty deep – probably deeper than ever. Discuss!
Red Sixty Seven: a collection of words and art inspired by Britain’s most vulnerable birds curated by Kit Jewitt is published by the BTO.