The Benefits of Birdlife

Bob Coyle

Artist Lucy Stevens shares how visiting nature reserves and identifying bird songs, inspires her to create art showing the benefits of nature and wildlife.

I’m an artist based in Leicester whose mixed-media artwork and soundscapes are predominately inspired by birdlife, including natural science collections and scientific research shared by museums and wildlife charities. I’ve been an artist for almost 14 years whilst working part-time for art centers and universities in various marketing roles.

At the start of 2021, I promised myself that I would go full time with my art career and spend more time outside to improve my bird identification skills. I’m pleased to say that this is exactly what I have done, and I have a handful of birdsong recordings by bird recorder Geoff Sample as a handy reminder of the different nuances.  

Like many other bird amateurs, I am keen to visit local nature reserves, including Wildlife Trust sites in the hope of identifying new bird species through sight and sound. I’ll document my experience by noting down the birds, taking photographs, and sometimes sketching the bird/surroundings which I finish later on in my studio.

I also record the sound of the dawn chorus in various locations across Leicestershire. I find this experience almost meditative as I’m usually immersed in darkness and the sound of birdsong is amplified by a microphone, meaning every tiny call or movement is heard over headphones.

With 2020 and part of 2021 confining us to our homes, it seems that more people have developed an appreciation for nature and the calming impact it has on their mindset. In particular, birdsong has been cited as one of the most calming influences on Covid anxiety as memberships for grassroots birdwatching and gardening groups soar.

During the lockdown, the sound of birdsong replaced the hum of traffic, which helped to make people notice nature and appreciate it more. The increasing interest in nature has, in turn, encouraged households to take part in citizen science projects such as the Birdwatch with the British Trust of Ornithology and Big Garden Birdwatch with the RSPB, where people are asked to note down the number of birds in their garden or park which is used to showcase any changes in bird populations, including any declines caused by habitat loss, pollution or climate change.

In May I will showcase a new body of mixed media artwork which explores the effects of climate change on bird species, working in collaboration with scientists and experts in the natural world from the British Trust for Ornithology and the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust.

The exhibition has been supported by an Arts Council National Lottery Grant and will open Friday 7 – Thursday 20 May at StudionAme in Leicester. Please visit the link for opening hours and to view the virtual exhibition coming soon.

Chasing Seasons by Lucy Stevens