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Artist helps save threatened turtle dove

Last modified: 10 July 2013

Turtle dove print

Image: Matt Sewell

Fresh from giving a series of ‘spotting & jotting’ talks at this year’s Glastonbury Festival, artist and illustrator Matt Sewell has teamed up with the RSPB to help raise vital funds for their work across the southeast.

Matt’s distinctive and enchanting pop-art watercolours and innovative descriptions first appeared in 2009 as the ‘Bird of the Week’ feature for the Caught by the River website. He quickly became a cult hit, and has recently published his second illustrated book ‘Our Songbirds’ as a follow up to his best selling ‘Our Garden Birds’.

Now, one of these quirky and unique watercolours is set to help reverse the fortunes of one of England’s best-loved farmland birds – the turtle dove.

Matt has released a giclee print of the original turtle dove watercolour painting, taken from his latest book, and from each print sold, £30.00 will be donated to the RSPB’s work protecting wildlife in the south east.

The prints are available through mattsewell.co.uk as an 18 cm x 24 cm, archival pigment print on 310gsm fine art stock, signed and dated for £45 including p&p.

Turtle doves were once widespread across much of England and Wales, but the most recent figures show that the population in the south east, one of the last remaining strongholds, has fallen by 84 per cent since 1995.

“I have hazy summertime memories of hearing the cooing lullabies of turtle doves from when I was a child, it’s horrible to think that that sound could soon be vanishing from Britain completely” said Matt.

From The Bible to the works of Chaucer and Shakespeare, the turtle dove is well known in literature and folklore as a symbol of love and devotion. But numbers have fallen dramatically in recent years and there are now just nine birds for every 100 there were in the 1970s.

At this current rate of change, if we don’t help this species, scientists calculate there will be fewer than 1000 pairs by 2020, and complete UK extinction as a breeding species will be a real possibility.

To help combat and research against the loss of the turtle dove, conservationists embarked on an urgent mission to save the UK’s most threatened farmland bird from extinction. Operation Turtle Dove was launched in May 2012 by the RSPB, Conservation Grade, Pensthorpe Conservation Trust and Natural England.

Matt continued: “By supporting the good work of the RSPB and Operation Turtle Dove we can hopefully turn round that decline and many more people can enjoy the sight and sound of this gorgeous bird.”

For more information on Matt Sewell and his work, including the turtle dove print and his latest book Our Songbirds, please visit his website mattsewell.co.uk.

To find out more about the work of Operation Turtle Dove and other ways to support the project, please go to operationturtledove.org

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