The last call of the wilderness

Curlews are a familiar site on Westray. Their distinctive ‘Whaup whaup’ can seem very eerie when it echoes around the Island. The call of the Curlew is the very last sound of our wilderness, a wilderness which has been progressively eradicated over thousands of years,

Driving past a field we see one camouflaged against the grass:

Curlew - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

I take a photograph of it, with me camouflaged by the car.

Curlew numbers have collapsed to half of what they were twenty years ago in England and Scotland and to a fifth of what they were in Wales. In Ireland there are less than 1 in 10 left from the population twenty years ago. They are one of our most threatened birds.

Later there’s one probing the soft sand on the beach with its gently down-curved bill.

Curlew - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Let’s hope we change farming practices, protect vulnerable wetland habitat and increase biodiversity to keep their predators at bay or Orkney could be the last place we hear their call of the wilderness.

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