I fear the next generation will never see a sparrow hopping about
PUBLISHED: 15:25 03 May 2019 | UPDATED: 15:25 03 May 2019
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Have you heard of the Red List? The growing number of British birds in danger of extinction.
Let me give you just a few examples.Small birds:
n House and Tree Sparrow.
n Yellow Hammer.
n Mistle and Song Thrush.
n Lesser-spotted Woodpecker.
n Hen Harrier.
And so many more.
I never realised the list was so extensive until I picked up a new book this week by Norfolk artist Jayne Ivimey and Suffolk writer Julie Blackburn. They have come together to produce an extraordinary offering. A book about birds like no other.
Look at the images, read the words and I think you will be disturbed by what you discover. I certainly was.
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Imagine the next generation never seeing a sparrow hopping about.
Bird by Bird: The Red List in Thought and Image is a little masterpiece. A celebration of the beauty of birds and a lament for the many species on the edge of extinction.
This all started about six years ago when accomplished author Julia Blackburn, of Halesworth visited her friend Jayne Ivimey at her studio in Cromer. She had been telling her she wanted to do something to bear witness to the implications of the Red List.
Jayne, who lives at Sheringham, had decided to commemorate each species in a life-sized clay model.
“When I arrived the firing of the first two birds had just been completed,” said Julia. “They were lying on a table: a goose, its neck bent into a soft loop and a nightingale, looking small and insignificant in silence.
“White and still, they made me think of those effigies in marble or alabaster, in which dead kings and princes, queens and knights and other representatives of noble and powerful families are immortalised, along after their names and deeds have been forgotten.”
Julia explains: “I was moved in a way that I am not often moved. We are accustomed to seeing paintings of birds in all their brightness, photographs of them darting and diving, preening and dancing.
“We are also growing sadly accustomed to the solemn portraits of their destruction; cloaked in black and sticky oil, tangled in nets, killed by gunshot, by poison, by some environmental disaster.
“But these images were different; they held the simplest essence of the creatures they were representing and allowed me to think about them, to marvel at their elegance their beauty,” writes Julia.
The story of how Jayne came to make the Bird by Bird exhibition which is the backbone of the book started in 2006 when there were 36 birds on the new British Red List. She went to New Zealand to work with naturalist Julian Fitter and they set up a conservation programme for the preservation of the dotterel – the little darting sea birds.
Five years later a major environmental disaster was precipitated when the cargo ship Rena ran aground in the Bay of Plenty which was where the dotterel conservation programme was based. She was closely involved in the clean-up operation witnessed the filth, the chaos and the destruction of entire habitats.
Back in East Anglia she wanted to communicate her sense of helplessness and despair in the face of what happened. That led to clay models of the poor dotterels and eventually our birds teetering on the edge of extinction.
Jayne visited the collection of birds held by the Caste Museum at Norwich. They were stored in grey metal filing cabinets and, she said, seemed to be drowning, while staring out at the world they had lost.
Slowly but surely with extraordinary clarity and detail, clay models of 70 birds were completed in specially made wooden crates – highlighting the mass storage system she had seen in museums, but also the mass production of modern farming methods. “When Bird by Bird was exhibited for the first time in 2016, the wooden crates were used as a display platform which could hold row up on row of bodies from the tiny finches and tits to the solid strength of the capercaillie and the white-tailed eagle,” writes Julia.
People cried as they stood, looked at the numbers, and realised they could be lost forever.
Bird by Bird: The Red List in Thought and Image has been self-published and is on sale at £10 in Jarrold, Cromer, the Holt Bookshop and the Halesworth Book Shop as well as Jarrold and City Books in Davey Place, Norwich. You can also order a copy from Jayne at firstname.lastname@example.org
Diary date. The clay birds will be part of an exhibition with Gordon Senior at The Cut, Halesworth, called Land and Sea from June 4 until July 20