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Into the Red

Equal parts beautiful and biting, Into the Red is a series of odes on disappearing birds. Following the success of their similar publication Red Sixty-Seven in 2020, Mike Toms at the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and author Kit Jewett invited seventy writers and seventy artists to contribute to the 2022 sequel, raising awareness of each vulnerable species on the UK’s Red List.

I was honoured to have a place in Into the Red alongside wildlife artist Peter Partington with my take on the long-tailed duck. This elusive bird of cold northern seas is a master diver, known for raucous yodels and complex moults. While the males’ ostentatious tail feathers give the species its name in English, in Icelandic it is known as hávella, a transliteration of one of its many rowdy calls. But regardless of what we call it, Clangula hyemalis is now listed as globally threatened, partly due to frequent deadly entrapments by fishing nets. In Partington’s group portrait paired with my text, I love the cool palette perfectly capturing the frigid waters, the angle and framing suggesting bobbing along on the open ocean, and of course, the long-tailed ducks themselves, handsome but unassuming – just as they should be, ducks being ducks.

Proceeds from sales of Into the Red support conservation work by the BTO and the Rare Birds Breeding Panel. The book can be purchased through the BTO website.

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