A new collection of poems inspired by some of the UK’s most popular birds was launched at RSPB Leighton Moss nature reserve in Silverdale on Friday 16 November.
When local publisher Rebecca Bilkau had a chance encounter with a lapwing, little did she know where that brief moment would take her. Keen to learn more about this iconic bird of farmland and shore, she soon discovered that this once common wader is now in serious decline and placed on the Red List of endangered UK birds. As Rebecca delved deeper, the more horrified she became, learning that many of our most treasured and familiar birds can be found on this list: Red is the highest conservation priority, with species needing urgent action.
In an effort to highlight the plight of our troubled birdlife, Rebecca contacted multiple poets from around the country with a plea that each should choose one bird from the list and write an exclusive poem to celebrate that individual species. Accompanied by specially commissioned illustrations, the book features all 67 birds on the Red List as well one which will never return, the sadly extinct great auk.
Jon Carter, Visitor Experience Manager at RSPB Leighton Moss and Morecambe Bay nature reserve, said: “For centuries, poets have been inspired by the natural world and birds in particular have been the subject of some of the most important verse. At a time when our native wildlife is in real trouble, it is really encouraging to see so many talented people coming together to contribute to this lovely project. It is essential that we try to reach as broad an audience as possible in order to gain support for the UK’s diminishing nature.”
As well as helping to raise awareness of the issues surrounding our declining wildlife all profits raised from sales of the book, titled ‘Watch The Birdie (While You Can)’, will be donated to the RSPB. Published by Beautiful Dragons, the book will be available from the RSPB’s shop at Leighton Moss and other local outlets.
Rebecca Bilkau of publishers Beautiful Dragons said: “I was appalled to discover the Red List. I couldn’t believe that some of our most familiar birds were now considered endangered species. What? Song thrushes. Herring gulls. Sparrows (tree and house). Sparrows? We decided we wanted to do something to help draw attention to the situation and to support the RSPB.
“Our writers were so passionate about the subject that within 56 hours of launching the project, each of the 67 birds on the list had its own poet. Writers range from those with several collections to their name, those with set-work in the school curriculum, to newbies”.
To find out more about the other events being held over the winter and wildlife you can see on the reserve visit rspb.org.uk/leightonmoss