Autumn In the UK is a season for wading birds as much as falling leaves. Long hours in the field elicit a feel for the landscape and here is a small work on paper seeking something of the wheeling flocks of dunlin on the Dee estuary.

This is a simple painting attempting to communicate something complex. Thousands of dunlin from northern Europe and Scandinavia meet and combine on the mudflats of the Dee forming enormous flocks (tens of thousand) to feed and roost in avian fellowship. This work captures from memory the moment of launch, where a shape.. lifts from the horizon, as a kind of cloud. The birds then fall like rain en masse and are hidden again by the horizon.

A simple painting, but one that took multiple tests in the studio to get it right.

Dunlin Cloud (2021)

Dunlin Cloud
Acrylic on watercolour paper, 72.5 x 52.5cm

Currently on show (online) in the 2021 Masterpiece 100 exhibition of the Painter-Stainers’ Company, until Dec.


In 2018 I published a poem about dunlin in the collection Vallum.


My brothers! Hear me.
Wind whittles foreshore reeds

Brothers, hear me!
Sand scours weathered plucking post

Your sweet voices sing softer.
Rain cloys shaking ash keys

I wish you nearer.
Moon-drawn water mires the roost

My bill tires from our endless bowing.
Cold leaches warmth from the willow sap

Yearning to preen my tail, I fail.
Death-knell of Curlew calling

Friends, you fall off in the distance.
Rushing tide harried by wind

Sleep comes.. yet I see grey light?
Black clouds drip with needling rain

Pity me brothers, for my wings stay furled.
Beetling flock, flashes with brilliance

How cold this water on my wind-worn flank.
Sea kisses, caresses, claims

Subsequently, this was given a miraculous treatment by the composer Michael Higgins and you can listen to his wonderful interpretation I Wish You Nearer, here: