Award-winning Karen Lloyd launches her new book: The Blackbird Diaries

Posted on November 20, 2017

Nature writer Karen Lloyd has launched her new book, The Blackbird Diaries, at this year’s Kendal Mountain Festival. Saraband’s Jim Crumley was on hand to ask Karen all about the book, which charts her encounters with birds and wildlife over a calendar year.

The Blackbird Diaries begins with the blackbird’s sub-song, pulsed into the early morning from a neighbour’s Scots pine, and culminates at the year’s end, when Nature re-established some kind of equilibrium after the devastating floods of Storm Desmond.

Throughout the book she maintains a close watch on avian visitors to her South Lakeland garden, including three broods of blackbirds raised over the summer, and makes detailed observations during her walks in the limestone scars and fells close to her home. Karen travels north to Scotland in search of Barnacle geese on the Solway, and finds thousands travelling in from their summer breeding territories on Arctic Svalbard. Before dawn she walks out onto the dark midwinter marsh to watch the geese lift from their sandbar roosts and pass overhead in discordant skeins. And with the geese comes the memory of something that happened on the morning of her father’s funeral – something inexplicable and uncanny.

On the Scottish island of Mull, she encounters whales and whale-watchers, spends a midsummer’s evening on the island of Staffa – a jewel in the Hebridean crown – and stakes out a sea-eagle eyrie, where, watching through binoculars she sees the last rays of the setting sun glint like crystals in the birds’ eyes. In the deeply rural shires of the Shropshire and Wales border counties, there are visits to hidden curlew nests, and a steep learning curve about the parlous state of these iconic birds.

Late in the year, a story breaks about the intact skeleton of a wolf found in a cave on Kendal Fell, a mere 10 minutes’ walk away from her back door. What does the wolf represent amidst the talk of re-wilding, and what are the links between it and the demise of England’s last Golden Eagle?