Curlew Moon

Curlews are Britain’s largest wading bird, known for their evocative calls which embody wild places; they provoke a range of emotions that many have expressed in poetry, art and music.

A bird stands alone on the edge of a mudflat. Its silhouette is unmistakable. A plump body sits atop stilty legs. The long neck arcs into a small head, which tapers further into a long curved bill. The smooth, convex outlines of this curlew are alluring. They touch some ancestral liking we all have for shapes that are round and smooth.

Over the last 20 years numbers in the UK have halved; the Eurasian Curlew is one of our most endangered birds. With a quarter of the world population breeding in the UK and Ireland, this is nothing short of a disaster. The curlew is showing all the signs of being the next Great Auk.

In Curlew Moon, Mary Colwell takes us on a 500-mile journey on foot from the west coast of Ireland to the east coast of England, to discover what is happening to this beautiful and much-loved bird. She sets off in early spring when the birds are arriving on their breeding grounds, watches them nesting in the hills of Wales and walks through England when the young are hatching. She finishes her walk on the coast of Lincolnshire when the fledglings are trying out their wings. This is also the place many curlews will return to for the winter months.

This evocative book chronicles Colwell’s impressive journey, with beautiful illustrations by Jessica Holm, weaving a gentle tale of discovery interspersed with the natural history of this iconic bird that has fascinated us for millennia – and so desperately needs our help.

‘‘In this empowering account of a walk that focuses a razor light on the plight of one of the UK and Ireland’s most iconic birds, Mary Colwell adds a powerful fresh voice to the conservation debate and challenges us to think and act differently. Inspirational!”
Professor Tim Birkhead FRS

Here are some review comments: 

A beautiful, beautiful heartfelt book.If you have any interest in birds or nature or our countryside then this book is an absolute must.As someone who learnt to admire this bird from his now deceased father I found these pages both delightful and painful.From evocative descriptions of the curlew's appearance and call to thought provoking passages about intensive farming, the role of grouse moors the clear narrative ranges far and wide.Please read this book, it is a call to arms!   Janice Marriott

This is an outstanding book about one of the most precious of our British birds - now sadly threatened. May it encourage us all to do more to protect it, so that our grandchildren may be thrilled, as we have been, by the sight and sound of this wonderful Spring visitor to our high pastures.  The writing style is bold and fresh. Makes you want to head out there for yourself. A real tonic.  Robin Watson

"Curlews are shape-shifting sprites that tease and tangle our emotions." (P12) So writes the author in her quietly impassioned manner. This is not quite a book that one might expect. It is far from being sentimental and naive. Neither is it a case of envrionmental whingeing . It is a work in which the author draws in endless literary and cultural references in support of a simple argument: the threat to this particular creature which speaks to her soul and beyond is symptomatic of a disturbed relationship between homo sapiens and the rest of the natural world. We are devouring the womb that sustains us. It is to the author's credit that she never gets into this misery/blame game. As a tactic for animating people to change their way of thinking, she knows it doesn't work. So through beautifully drawn sketches, clever citing of poetry and her own personal experience of encounter on a 500 miles trip, she tries to persuade through celebration and appealing to our higher instincts.
Two meetings in Ireland tell the tale of how far we have come as a species in so little time. In a high school she shares the tale of the near extinction of the curlew with a group of students. She uses images and archive to raise consciousness, but the reaction is a shrugged silence of apathy. Never heard of these birds. "We don't really care one way or another." Then a few miles along the road, an elderly man who has almost forgotten the sound of this mysteriously alluring creature. She plays him a recording of its haunting cry and in a second his eyes well up. It reminds him of his infancy. "Switch it off, " he says it's too painful."
This is a fine book. It is also beautifully produced by the publishers. It deserves a wide and committed audience.  Mark Dowd