ATM – Curlew

Curlew Otherwise known as: Numenius Arquata

Status: Near Threatened

Estimated number (UK): 68,000 pairs
Population trend: Decreasing.

The Curlew is one of our most rapidly declining breeding bird species showing a 46 % decline across the UK from 1994-2010 with this figure exceeding 50 % in Wales and Scotland.

Location: Europe, Russia

The Eurasian Curlew breeds across Europe from the British Isles, through to north-western Europe and Scandinavia into Russia extending east into Siberia, east of Lake Baikal.

Why are they under threat?

Many of their natural habitats and breeding grounds are under treat from the impact of climate change, urbanization and tidal management. The species breeds on upland moors, swampy and dry heathlands, fens, damp grasslands, meadows, dune valleys and coastal marshlands; all of which are rapidly changing shape.

What can you do?

Support the RSPB Curlew recovery programme and help their conservation efforts

Interview with ATM

You’re mostly painting birds, have birds always played a big part in your life?

Ever since I was a young child I’ve loved birds, they are always synonymous for me with the wild places I love exploring. I always find solace in the proximity of birds and their song, more connected to those essential rhythms of life that can often be obscured in a city. The presence of many kinds of birds in large numbers indicates the health of an environment. There must be plentiful food supplies to support them and places to make their nests and rear their young, so an abundance of birds indicates the richness and health of a whole ecosystem. Such a healthy and flourishing habitat is a joy to experience, whether it’s a spacious old oak woodland in the New Forest, alive with the song of warblers in spring, a salt marsh on the Norfolk coast thronged with wheeling flocks of waders in the depth of winter, or an old Caledonian pine forest in the North of Scotland, with rich under-storey of juniper and bilberry, home to Capercaillie and crossbill.

What’s been your favourite mural painted to date and what would outdo that wall?

My favourite has been the hen harrier I painted on a concrete pill box by the sea on the Isle of Sheppey, which was part of the World War II gun defenses against a possible invasion. My friend Ben Oakley sorted out the wall.  It was so good because the building is completely isolated on the edge of a marsh and meadows, with just a track leading to it, with the sea, sand and shingle on the other side. So this incongruous concrete block just sits on its own in this wild and beautiful landscape.  It was a beautiful experience painting it, because the sun was shining, the wind was blowing in from the sea, and the air was full of the calls of oystercatchers, redshanks and curlews.  The painting faces the sea, so can be seen from passing boats. It was also site-specific in the sense that hen harriers migrate over this very spot. So if I could find another completely unique wall somewhere like that and do something very site-specific on it I’d be very happy

Out of all the London based artists, I feel that we share a very similar view on the environment and animal kingdom. Why are you telling your story?

That’s very true. I want to communicate the idea that we as human beings are very much a part of the whole web of nature, ultimately as dependent on a healthy environment as any other living thing, even though it is so easy to forget this in our modern industrialized world. The environmental damage we do is increasing its impact on our own health and wellbeing too, and this will accelerate unless we curb our more destructive practices of over-exploiting natural resources and pouring pollution and toxicity into the environment.  My intention is to bring these ideas into the public domain so that more people consider them and hopefully we start to do things differently.  We need to show more respect and appreciation for the rights of other living beings to live their lives unfettered. The birds, insects and flowers are disappearing, but they have the right to live and flourish, and we are not as separate from them as we like to think, we are not immune to the effects of our activities.