Spring Fling artist highlights wonderful wildlife and Scotland’s vanishing species


Lisa Hooper’s original prints raise awareness of all we are losing and celebrate what remains.

Curlews, lapwings and skylarks – some of the beautiful species disappearing from Scotland’s skies 

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Not long ago the skies, coastlines and countryside of south west Scotland were rich with the sight and sound of birds like curlews, lapwings and skylarks. A wildlife artist who previously worked for the Countryside Commission, Lisa Hooper has been a first-hand witness to the decline of these and many other species. She now uses her art to raise awareness of all we are losing, celebrate what remains and promote conservation. 

Lisa is one of a number of participants selected for this year’s Spring Fling open studios weekend who will be encouraging people to cherish our wildlife and natural environment. Taking place from 27 to 29 May, this year’s 21st annual event will see 100 studios in every part of Dumfries and Galloway open their doors to the public. 

Lisa, a member of the SWLA (Society of Wildlife Artists), who creates beautifully observed original prints of birds and landscapes, says: “I have a lifelong love of natural history – the flora, the insects, the birds. But sadly the places which were once filled with the sounds and sights of birds have become quieter and more empty as the years pass. 

“So much of it seems to be the result of small actions. I remember one example - each day I walked past a field and there was a skylark soaring high above the nest where its chicks were. The sound was wonderful. There was an early silage cut, something that’s increasingly common, and after that there was just silence.

“My walks are now populated by the ghosts of birds, plants and animals lost. Meanwhile our mark is everywhere. Hardly a natural landscape remains except perhaps on parts of our coast. Now I’m fearful about the additional impacts of climate change. Increasingly I use my work to celebrate what is still there and also to inform people about what’s going on.” 

Lisa will be opening her Port William studio with its beautiful 19th-century press for Spring Fling. It will be a chance to see how she works, and to get a close look at pictures she has created in southern Scotland and on her frequent visits to Orkney and Shetland. Among the species she depicts in her work are lapwings, curlew, snipe and sparrows – some are birds facing a threat, others less so. With curlews she says that while we still have substantial numbers of winter visitors, the native population in Scotland has crashed by 61% since the mid 1990s – just across the water in Ireland it’s 96%. The causes include loss of appropriate habitat owing to agricultural changes, afforestation and high chick predation (the latter are linked).

Lapwings, or peewits, used to be a common sight in Galloway, but less so now, with numbers in Scotland having fallen nearly 30% per cent since 1987 mainly due to changes in agricultural practices including drainage, fertiliser and pesticide use and early silage cuts. 

However, Lisa is anxious to emphasise that there are positives – in Galloway the efforts to protect the magnificent Svalbard barnacle geese have been outstanding. And while urban areas like Glasgow have seen house sparrow numbers plummet by as much as 90% since 1969, the numbers overall are showing a slight recovery in rural strongholds like Dumfries and Galloway. 

Other Spring Fling artists with a strong interest in nature conservation include: 

  • Rosie Dobson: A wildlife artist and printmaker, based in Bladnoch, who expresses her love of nature through carefully observed studies of birds, mammals, and insects.  
  • Maggie Kellie: A multi-disciplinary Wigtown artist inspired by the power of nature and the interrelationship between the human and the non-human worlds; the way in which they interact with each other (for good or ill) and how this influences co-evolution. 
  • Daniel Lacey: Award-winning furniture maker, Langholm, is an active supporter of the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project and the Langholm Initiative & Tarras Valley Nature Reserve. 
  • Linda Mallett: The Borgue artist uses plastic waste and cordage washed up on the seashore near her home and weaving them into 3D pieces. 

Joanna Jones, Upland Assistant Director which organises Spring Fling, said: “Many of our artists and makers live very close to the natural world and observe the changes taking place. 

“Their work not only brings us closer to wildlife and the environment but also to the impact of everything from climate change to habitat loss.” 

“Upland is keen to promote this conservation and awareness through our programming so we are delighted that we can use Spring Fling as a platform to do this. Other projects like our Artful Migration residency programme offers artists a unique insight into the migratory birds of Dumfries and Galloway through partnership working with local nature reserves.”