Curated by Kit Jewitt
Hbk, 158pp; 67 colour plates
ISBN 978-1-912642-13-7; £19.99
Red Sixty Seven is an important conservation tool that is also a delightful collection of words and images, crafted within a package that will enhance any birder’s bookshelf.
Its subtitle is ‘a collection of words and art inspired by Britain’s most vulnerable birds’ and it was the brainchild of Kit Jewitt (aka @YOLOBirder on Twitter) whose previous projects include 99Birds, another collaborative work that combined 99 artworks into a book that raised £3,000 for bird conservation.
Red Sixty Seven is a celebration of the 67 UK bird species that were Red-listed in the most recent Birds of Conservation Concern report, BoCC 4, published in BB in 2015 (Brit. Birds 108: 708–746). It is also a sombre warning: these are the species disappearing before our eyes, many of them formerly widespread, even abundant, but now threatened with extinction in the UK.
Kit Jewitt’s aim was simple: to recruit 67 writers and 67 artists to record their personal responses to the 67 breeding and wintering species that spend much of their annual cycle in the UK but which are rapidly declining – from White-fronted Goose Anser albifrons to Corn Bunting Emberiza calandra. Sales of the book – and an auction of the 67 artworks – will raise funds for conservation projects targeted at Red-listed species by the BTO and RSPB.
Former RSPB Principal Conservation Scientist Mark Eaton (now Secretary of the Rare Breeding Birds Panel) outlines the challenges to conservation of Red-listed species in his Introduction, particularly the dwindling financial support of the Government – there has been a 42% fall in spending on biodiversity as a proportion of GDP in the past decade. So the NGOs have to step up – and this BTO/RSPB collaboration is a good example of imaginative fundraising.
The book is well worth £20 of anyone’s money. The whole product is beautifully designed, from the bold red cover to the double-page spreads of authored account and corresponding artwork on the facing page. The 134 contributors (2 x 67) range from household names to young naturalists for whom the Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris and House Sparrow Passer domesticus have always been scarce species.
Writers include Simon Barnes (Savi’s Warbler Locustella luscinioides), Ann Cleeves (Skylark Alauda arvensis), Mark Cocker (Grey Partridge Perdix perdix), Melissa Harrison (Lesser Spotted Woodpecker Dryobates minor), David Lindo (Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros), Dara McAnulty (Corn Crake Crex crex), and Chris Packham (Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis).
The 67 artists employ a range of techniques and styles, from detailed field sketches to graphic art, which make the book a delight to dip into. We all have our favourite species that feature on this list and will turn eagerly to see them represented in perhaps new and unfamiliar ways. My personal favourites include Darren Woodhead’s Pied Flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca, Jane Smith’s Hen Harriers Circus cyaneus and Rachel Toll’s Lesser Spotted Woodpecker.
Every species account contains words and an image that convey the affection the writer and artist feel for their subject. For your very first dip into this miscellany, I recommend actor Samuel West’s tribute to the Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus, illustrated by Carry Akroyd.