Love for one of the UK’s most evocative but endangered birds, the Eurasian curlew, has inspired a range of musicians to come together and make an album celebrating the species and helping support the RSPB’s work, including projects in Country Antrim and Fermanagh, to save them.
Merlyn Driver, David Gray and The Unthanks are among the line-up of bird-lovers who have contributed to Simmerdim – Curlew Sounds, a unique double-album of music created out of a love for these threatened waders, which was added to the red list of birds in 2015 – those recognised as most endangered – after numbers had almost halved over the previous two decades.
In Northern Ireland the species are at risk of becoming extinct in the next 10 years.
The Orkney-born musician Merlyn Driver, who drove the album and was inspired by his vivid and special memories of this bird alongside his childhood and home, travelled to RSPB sites to record soundscapes that are included in the album, visiting Lough Erne Lowlands and Antrim Plateau in Northern Ireland.
At these sites, RSPB NI is aiming to stabilise curlew breeding populations through the Curlews in Crisis project, which was developed across the UK with generous support from the EU Life programme, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency and other statutory bodies.
These areas account for approximately 60 breeding pairs – the equivalent of up to aquarter of the Northern Ireland breeding population and around 20 per cent of the all-Ireland breeding population.
Merlyn said: “Curlew vocalisations are bewitchingly unique – they often sound major and minor at the same time.
“Curlews gave me so much joy and so many different pathways into imagination and wildness when I was growing up.
“The idea that we could lose breeding curlews in the UK inspired me to act and assemble new creative responses to this amazing bird so it’s great to be able to pay reverence to them and contribute in a small way to their conservation.”
Samantha Lee, RSPB Senior Species Recovery Officer, said: “Curlews are a species that people really emotionally connect with, a bird associated with the changing of seasons and wild, sweeping, landscapes.
“They have such distinctive calls, but curlews are in real trouble and each year these sounds are getting quieter.
“It is really exciting for the RSPB to be working on a project like this, with Merlyn and others in the creative industry to help us engage with people about one of the UK’s most endangered birds in such a different way.”
The first single was released on April 21 to coincide with World Curlew Day, and the album will follow on May 13.
n For more information or to order the CD, visit www.curlewsoundsproject.org
n You can also find out more information from www.rspb.org.uk/curlewsounds
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