Biodiversity Online A Sky Full of Flight

Return to Gallery

A Sky full of flight, mudland, birdland. Norfolk Saltmarsh.

Kurt Jackson (2019)

Mixed media on linen, 183cm x 203cm



Bar-tailed godwit (Limosa lapponica)

Flocks of godwits can be seen overhead in select coastal areas of Britain from September through to April, where they migrate after breeding in the Arctic.

Redshank (Tringa totanus)

Pied avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)

Avocets are commonly found in the coastal areas of East Anglia from April to September. However, many avocets overwinter on the southern coasts of the British Isles. 

Migratory patterns like these result in annual changes in the species richness of British habitats, creating natural fluctuations in their biodiversity.

Kurt Jackson Q&A

How was Kurt inspired by the birds of Norfolk?

"Well, this was painted near Cley in Norfolk, and it's the place that's infamous for its birdlife, especially its wetland birds, its waders, its waterfowl, etcetera. Anyone who has an interest in ornithology at sometime in their life goes to experience what's there. I went initially, probably when I was about twelve years old, to be a young bird watcher. When I made this piece, I just wanted to capture that sort of experience of being in, what appears to be quite a bleak, barren landscape. 

But you start listening and there's just so many different bird calls and then your eye focuses in on these flocks of birds passing over above, around you, settling around you. And if you walk in the marsh the birds come up and then they land again.

This piece only really engages with the birdlife of the landscape. But when you look at your feet, there's all this adaptation going on in terms of the plant life. It's absolutely incredible, the number of plants that can tolerate salt, for instance, that grow in this mud land; as well as the invertebrate fauna, and all the rest of it.

And, of course, invertebrates largely feed off the plants or the mud substrate, and then the birds and the fish are feeding off them, and it's all part of the same place. These ecosystems are what gives this location its identity, its importance, and its attraction to both the birds and the ornithologists.

At the very top of the canvas, almost like another cloud in the sky, or another flock of birds, is some text, and it's all the birds that were seen on that day by bird watchers. The ornithologists – or the twitchers, or the birders, whatever you want to call them – had these blackboards on which they wrote down their observations of the day. A lot of those birds I also saw myself, but I don't claim to be an expert birder. So I just helped myself to those lists of birds that had been seen and they became, as it were, another flock of birds in the sky."