Waders returning to Speyside to breed were welcomed with an evening of music, song, poetry and art, hosted by the Curlew LIFE team at RSPB Scotland Insh Marshes.

On Friday 22 March 2024, over 70 guests enjoyed a free event held in the Loch Insh Watersports centre, to celebrate the return of the wading birds to their nesting grounds, marking the beginning of spring.

Curlew art on display with people browsing and chatting

© Leah Bowman

The celebration involved a wide range of local and passionate creatives who brought along wader-inspired art, music and poetry, which were enjoyed along with locally sourced venison snacks and drinks. The aim of the event was to welcome these birds back, whilst bringing people’s attention to the uncertain future these birds are now facing.

“Now that spring has returned, so have the wading birds,” said Cat Mackenzie, Curlew Life intern at Insh Marshes. “The Curlew, Redshank, Snipe, Oystercatcher and Lapwing can be heard all over the nature reserve and surrounding areas, singing and calling out their unique sounds. However, these birds face an uncertain future. If we don’t help them now, there may be a year in the not-so-far future that we hear silence instead.”

Events such as the Waders’ Welcome play a key role in protecting these species, by empowering and bringing together people who are passionate about them, and spreading the joy found in connecting with these wonderful birds.

“Hopefully, with the help of projects such as Curlew LIFE, landowners and local communities, there will be similar celebrations for years to come,” Cat said.

Bird song

One of the artists who contributed to the event was M Louise Cooper, who penned these beautiful lyrics, to be sung to the tune Ye Banks and Braes:

The Waders Return

A Lapwing on a TV screen with two people watching

© Leah Bowman

As mountain snow ungrips its hold and geese and whoopers fly away
Chasing a summer in the cold the springtime birds return to Spey.
Returning ospreys soar up high with outstretched wings and lazy flap
Searching Loch Insh with beady eye strong piercing talons poised to trap

Spey’s summer callers here once more. The whaups and peewits back for spring.
And old Loch Insh’s reedy shore resounds again as waders sing.
The curlew calls its haunting cry. The redshank whistles through the day.
The screaming lapwings take to the sky and dance their flashing bold display.

The ancient Spey meanders long through misty glens down to the sea.
The air is filled with fresh birdsong as waders flock back to the lea.
Curlew, lapwing and redshank lay in reedy beds where they were born.
The waders return, return to Spey and fill the air with summer’s song.

M Louise Cooper March 2024

Curious about Curlews?

People looking at Curlew art

© Leah Bowman

There’s a chance to see Curlews and maybe even their elusive nests at RSPB Scotland Insh Marshes, with the return of the Curious Curlew Mornings. These drop-in events will happen throughout the breeding season. Please keep an eye on our events page for more details shortly.