Tuesday, 26 March 2019


Curlews are in crisis.

I've been reading Mary Colwell's Curlew Moon.  The book is both a celebration of the curlew and a lament.  A celebration of this long-lived bird with its spring song's beautiful, malancholy fluting cadence, its amazingly long elegant beak and its careful camouflage of its eggs and nest. A lament because so many places where it was once common are now silent - due to destruction of habitat, early cutting of sileage (it's a ground-nesting bird), more intensive stocking of livestock and predation by other species of birds and by wild mammals.  In the last two decades curlew numbers have halved in the British Isles (and they were going down before that).

I wrote 'A curlew at the equinox' in 2012 but sadly the place where I wrote it (near Wigton in Cumbria) is now devoid of nesting curlews, as is the Lleyn Peninsula where I live (though we do get some wintering birds, probably from Scandinavia).  However, I was heartened to read a recent tweet from fellow writer, Phil Houghton - 'Today that much awaited call added its curve to squared air, across a Rigg-straight landscape in the Eden Valley Cumbria - Curlew!'

Here's my poem celebrating the curlew:

     A curlew at the equinox

lands in the uncluttered landscape
     brindle-brown as winter grass

its grace-notes
     curl into chill air

it canopies
     the moor with sound

it sings into life
     yolk-yellow marsh marigolds

its fragile music
     turns winter into spring.

© Mary Robinson 2012

Curlew Moon Mary Colwell (William Collins 2018 p/b £9.99)
My poem 'A curlew at the equinox' was first published in 2012 in The Weekly Word (New Writing Cumbria)
Google youtube curlew to watch footage of curlews and listen to their haunting song.
Follow Phil Houghton on twitter @pHillpoet

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