Yesterday a friend asked me to help with some phrases for a talk he was giving on curlews and the crisis they are facing. It was a strange request in some ways as I haven’t thought like that before. So I sat down and wrote from the heart.
I said I would start by asking the audience what really matters to them? I bet if you did a poll very few, if any, would say just money. No one runs their lives purely on the basis of what something costs. Be that an otter or a sparrow, an elephant or a river, we value them for their own, magnificent selves, not because somehow their presence translates into cash. They lift our hearts, that is all that matters. I’d then ask, what do you teach your children? What do you want for their future? We all want the next generation to be good, fine citizens - rounded and balanced. We want them to inhabit a world that is full of wonder and awe. So, I doubt anyone tells them a bedtime story on how to invest in shares or hedge funds. We read to them about songs and animals, love and joy. We take them through forests and into outer space. We ask them to listen and be a quiet person when a mouse comes tiptoeing through the brambles, then shout loudly when a dolphin leaps or an elephant charges. These are the fantastical, earth inspired adventures we take our littles ones on when we pick up a book or go to the park. So what happens as we get older? Why don’t we notice when something beautiful slips away? Why does it take the empty seat on the bus where the curlew sat, or the eagle or the lion, to be permanently empty before we realise what is happening? Sadly we do, despite being members of wildlife organisations and caring in our hearts for the state of the planet.
We are a species that wants to live with other species, it seems to be part of our nature to reach out to our fellow travellers, but we do a good job of letting them fade away.
I think we love birds like curlews simply because they take us to where the wild things are - out onto the estuary, onto the shores of the ocean, into cold, wet, quiet fields. We love that burst of song that stops us in our tracks and for a moment, we can just listen, just be with a beautiful, shy bird. But the declines continue and we are getting perilously close to the time when it will be silent in those places where we loved to listen to them tremble their way through spring and summer. Is there no longer any room in our lives for a singer of wild songs? Sadly, it seems not.