Artists to Africa

Baobab. Photograph by Phil Atkinson

Baobab, Senegal. Photograph by Phil Atkinson

In January 2014, a team of four Society of Wildlife Artists (SWLA) artists accompanied Dr Phil Atkinson, the BTO’s Head of International Research on a trip to Senegal.  For the four artists, Robert Greenhalf, Bruce Pearson, Greg Poole and Esther Tyson, this was an opportunity to learn the context behind what they were seeing and sketching. Why did the landscape look the way it did? What were the birds doing and how were changes in these African habitats influencing their populations.

Senegal shoreline. Bruce Pearson

Senegal shoreline. Bruce Pearson

Many of Europe’s summer migrants winter in West Africa. Migrant waders, like sandpipers, Turnstone and Whimbrel, make use of the tidal wetlands near St. Louis in the north-west of Senegal, while the world-famous Parc National des Oiseaux du Djoudj holds hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Sand Martin and high numbers of Sedge Warbler, Yellow Wagtail, Garganey and Chiffchaff. How many of our summer migrants return north to breed will be influenced, at least in part, by what happens to the habitats used on these African wintering grounds.

Some of the artwork from the 2014 trip was exhibited at the SWLA’s annual exhibition – The Natural Eye – at the Mall Galleries and more of the artwork will be used in the Flight Lines book, due to be published in 2016.