Scotland’s Rare Nightjars In Focus For Artful Migration Exhibition


● Conference to feature Sacha Dench and Chris Fremantle
● What’s the future for arts and conservation collaborations?


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Image: Ted Leeming and Morag Paterson on site at the Lochar Mosses. Photo by: Colin Hattersley.
Image: Ted Leeming and Morag Paterson on site at the Lochar Mosses. Photo by: Colin Hattersley.

A remarkable collaboration between artists and conservationists in the remote Lochar Moss peat bog has been exploring a welcome success in reviving the fortunes of the rare and enigmatic nightjar.

As part of their project well-known fine art landscape photographers Ted Leeming and Morag Paterson’s Nightjar Residency have spent long nights in the Dumfries and Galloway peat bog, following the lives of the shy nocturnal birds.

Their Nightjar Residency is the latest element of the wider Artful Migration initiative which has involved two other residencies in south west Scotland.

One involved the ospreys at Threave Nature Reserve and the other looked at the perilous annual migration of whooper swans from the Iceland to the WWT reserve at Caerlaverock.

Leeming & Paterson will hold an exhibition entitled Much Ado About Nightjars from 14 October to 11 November at Gracefield Arts Centre, Dumfries which will offer insights into the lives of the nightjars in one of their few Scottish habitats.

They will also be among the key contributors to the Artful Migration Conference on 20 October which will bring together artists, conservationists, bird lovers, academics and policymakers to:

  • Reveal the achievements and challenges of the artist residency programmes.
  • Discover how the artists responded to the challenges facing these birds, including shifting weather patterns and changing management of habitats.
  • Listen to keynote speakers from conservation and ecological art perspectives.
  • Consider the implications of Artful Migration for global agendas on the conservation of migratory species.
  • Celebrate the partnerships and collaborations stimulated by Artful Migration, and discuss where these might lead in future.

Keynote speakers will be Sacha Dench (UN Ambassador for Migratory Species) Co-founder of Conservation without Borders, scientist, campaigner for climate action and Chris Fremantle, Research Fellow and Lecturer at Gray's School of Art, producer of public art and design projects, and writer/editor for

Morag said: “The story of the Lochar Moss nightjar is, at least in Scotland and the UK, a positive one with numbers increasing.  

“But they remain rare and face many serious threats along their migration route between Africa and the UK.

“We believe that residencies like this can make a real difference – because artists can work with conservationists and communities in distinctive, imaginative and unusual ways that allow people to see the issues affecting our wildlife and environment from
entirely new perspectives.”

Forest and Land Scotland, which owns a huge conifer plantation on the Lochar Moss bog, recognised its unique qualities and sought to designate it a Site of Special Scientific Interest and Special Area of Conservation in recognition of its ecological importance.  

Following its designation they implemented a 25-year plan to restore their plantation to blanket bog.  

Artful Migration is a collaboration between Upland CIC, Dumfries and Galloway arts development organisation and Virginia Wollaston and Nicholas Paton Philip of Moving Souls Dance.

Virginia said: “Artful Migration has been successful in providing opportunities for artists to work in local habitats to study selected migratory birds nesting in specific habitats managed by local partners. 

“We have been delighted to work with Upland to develop these residencies over a 6-9 month time frame, to allow artists time to immerse themselves in the local habitat and look deeply at the challenging migrations of these birds.

“We could not have done this without local partners, who have encouraged and informed the artists about the birds, supported engagement with audiences and volunteers and provided a final exhibition on each site. Partnership working and collaboration is key to the success of these residencies and we look forward to seeing all the artists exhibit work at Gracefield Arts Centre.

“Our first Artful Migration Conference is a step towards sharing publicly what we have learnt over the past three residencies and finding new partners to ensure that Artful Migration can continue into the future.

“We are delighted to have inspirational figures such as Sacha Dench and Chris Fremantle as keynote speakers alongside contributions from our partnerships with RSPB Scotland; Forest Land Scotland, NTS Scotland, Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere.

“It is obvious that each organisation is making significant adaptations to the way that land  is being managed so that the birds and the biodiversity of food that the birds rely on can survive the challenges of climate change.

“This conference will underline the ways that all of us - as citizens - can play our part to support the extraordinary migration of these birds from Africa and Iceland to Scotland and back again.”

Amy Marletta, Creative Director of Upland, added: “Artful Migration reminds us of how we are all deeply interconnected and responsible for our survival and the future of our planet.

“As an arts organisation we are proud to be involved in its delivery and in helping ensure that the arts and artists are at the forefront of debate about the threats to wildlife and the environment.”

Conference details

Exhibition details

  • 14 October to 11 November
  • Gracefield Arts Centre, Edinburgh Road Dumfries
  • Entry is free