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Create the space and the animals will come. (David Attenborough).

Habitats are crucial for species of all kinds, whether resident or migratory. The Avalon Marshes in the Somerset Levels and Moors, near where I live, are one of the largest wetlands areas in Britain. There used to be lakes there; and wooden tracks to cross the lakes and swamps, from island to island, have been found preserved in peat, dating to the Neolithic period.

With civilization encroaching via towns, villages and roads, the areas available to species to dwell in and feed on have been steadily reduced. Fortunately six different nature reserves have been created in the Avalon Marshes, where wardens and volunteers work to preserve, improve and increase the habitats. They have been very successful and the extensive reedbeds, open water areas, grasses, meadows, downy birch woods, and other specialised habitats, now house a large number of mammals, waterfowl, birds, butterflies and insects of all sorts, both residents and migrants. And new ones come all the time. Otters have returned and settled; the nearly extinct bittern has multiplied unbelievably fast; the unexpected great white egret has settled here, after some tentative seasonal visits from Northern France. Migrant birds and butterflies choose to come, either for wintering or as spring and summer visitors. In January, visiting starlings come to join the resident ones, giving rise to ‘murmurations’ numbering up to 9 million birds.

My piece is inspired by Shapwick Heath Nature Reserve in the Avalon Marshes, where my daughter works as Reserve Warden. She takes us for walks there. On Boxing Day the light was beautiful and I loved photographing the woods, reedbeds and open water where most of the winter visitors reside. The colours are very different from my usual palette and I have tried to respond to the feelings created by the colour and the light.

Hand-dyed fabrics, freehand cut, improvisationally machine pieced, fused appliqué, machine quilted. Size 18” by 36”.

Alicia Merrett, Viewpoints 9-4, Challenge 2 – Migrants.

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