There and Back? A celebration of bird migration

Edited by Andy Brown & Michael Warren

The latest Langford Press ‘wildlife in art’ title looks at bird migration as a means to promote the ongoing slaughter of migrants on the Mediterranean island of Malta.

Thirty-nine authors have contributed written essays to accompany the array of fabulous artwork (more of which below). The essays provide individual insights in to different challenges facing the migrants themselves and those trying to conserve them. These contributions cover migration, including insects, from around the world with articles covering North America songbirds, Nearctic vagrants to Europe, many contributions from Europe (about 40% of the book) with a main section on Malta itself (20% of the book), Africa – the winter destination for most of Europe’s migrants, southern hemisphere seabirds and the UK – around a quarter of the book to our own islands looking at many different passage, summer and winter migrants. Within these I have contributed an essay on Lesvos highlighting the migration bonanza of the island, the continued occurrence of illegal poaching and the role of birding tourism. The essays themselves are all very different. It would have been easy to have edited these in to a house style, but their individuality compliments the individuality of the artwork and together they work in capturing the fascination we have with migration, the sheer joy of experiencing it, the perils faced by our migrant species and a clear ray of sunlight in our battle against the illegal hunting of them.

As good the essays are, they are however merely dressing for the main interest of this ‘art’ book. Thirty-nine artists have contributed artwork including some of my personal favourites (Carry Akroyd, Michael Warren, Greg Poole, Chris Rose – to name but a few). The mix of artists and their differing styles adds to the success of the book. I find that titles of this size can easily appear ‘samey’ if illustrated by a single artist. Using so many contributors allows each to shine in their own individual interest. Its not difficult to pick out some shining examples of this – Mike Henry’s sketches of Honey-buzzards, Greg Poole’s abstract pieces, Bruce Pearson’s Arctic sketches, Barry Van Dusen’s Neartic watercolours – I could easily go on. Singularly, many are fabulous, collectively this is an outstanding collection of works. And like many of the Langford Press titles, it’s a pleasure to simply pick up and dip in to every now and then, letting the artwork speak their individual stories as you flick through.

There are a few caption, typos and capitalization errors, but don’t let that detract from what is a magnificent celebration of bird migration and a title which easily compliments the many others in the Langford Press stable.