About the project
The Slender-billed curlew, Numenius tenuirostris, ‘the slim beak of the new moon’, is one of the world’s rarest birds.
It once bred in Siberia and wintered in the Mediterranean basin, passing through the wetlands and estuaries of Italy, Greece, the Balkans and Central Asia. Today, the Slender-billed curlew only exists as a rumour, a ghost species surrounded by unconfirmed sightings and speculation. The only certainty is that it now stands on the edge of extinction.
Birds are key environmental indicators. Their health or hardship has a message for us about the planet, and our future. What does the fate of the Slender-billed curlew mean for us and the natural world? What happened to it, and why?
Horatio Clare is the acclaimed author of Down to the Sea in Ships, A Single Swallow and Running for the Hills, which was nominated for the Guardian First Book Award and won the Somerset Maugham Award. Orison for a Curlew is the story of Horatio’s journey through a fractured Europe in search of the Slender-billed curlew, following the bird’s migratory path on an odyssey that takes us into the lives of the men and women who have fought to save the landscapes to which the bird belongs.
This is a story of beauty and the struggles of conservation. It is a homage to a creature that may never be seen again.
Little Toller is as small, independent publisher based in West Dorset. Our work is attuned to writers and artists who seek inventive ways to reconnect us with the natural world and to celebrate the places we live in. Alongside helping us cover the costs of printing the book, your contribution to the project will help us commission the young artist Bea Forshall to create a sequence of illustrations for the book, including cover artwork, chapter illustration and endpapers, all using an engraving and drypoint technique.