The Legend of St Beuno

The legend of St Beuno explains why it is so hard to find the nest of the Curlew:

As a matter of fact it is the fault of St Beuno. When he lived at Clynnog he used to go regularly on Sunday to preach at Llanddwyn, off the coast of Anglesey, walking on the sea with the book of sermons which he used to carry about with him. One Sunday, as he was coming back from Llanddwyn to Clynnog, treading the surface of the sea as if it had been dry land, he dropped his precious writings into the water, and failed to recover them. The saint was much worried, because even for saints the task of writing sermons is a troublesome one.

When he reached dry land he was much relieved to find his book on a stone out of the reach of the tide, with a Curlew mounting guard over it. The pious bird had picked it up, and brought it to safety. Thereupon the holy man knelt down and prayed for the protection and favour of the Creator for the Curlew. His prayer was heard, and ever since it has been extremely difficult to discover where the long-beaked bird lays its eggs.

Painting of St Beuno, from the St Beuno’s Retreat Centre in North Wales

Chris Robinson writes:

So, here we are nearly at the end of another Curlew season and I wonder if I’ve really learnt any more about these birds. I’ve spent twice as many hours in the field this year but I still don’t know what they are doing or even where they are half the time! They really are buggers to keep tabs on! With this in mind, I thought you might be amused by the attached which I composed after a couple of pints of finest Herefordshire cider last night. Feel free to share with your team if you think it’s worthy – you might need to remind them of the story of St Beuno first though!

Chris’s letter to St Beuno:

Dear St. Beuno,

It’s been 1400 years since you bestowed special protection on nesting Curlews and while I appreciate that your bible was very precious to you I do wonder whether it might be time to relax your regulations a little. You see, in the intervening centuries things have changed a little – it’s now 2019 and the Curlew is rapidly becoming an endangered species and many conservationists1 are now working to save this bird. The trouble is, your protection blanket is making our job very difficult. For a start, we need to be able to find their nests so that we can (a) protect the eggs, (b) protect the young and (c) find out how successful we have been. I’m not suggesting that finding nests should be easy but would you consider (say) allotting a short period at the beginning of April when the Curlew was a bit more obvious about exactly where it was going to nest? If this could be well before any eggs were laid it should not be obvious to those of malign intent such as crows or foxes but it would help us a lot.

While you’re at it could you do something about the post-hatching period please? At the moment there don’t seem to be any hard-and-fast rules about this so we are finding that different parents seem to be acting in different ways. Typically the extent of protection they give does not seem to be consistent, even between individual parents. Sometimes one parent departs early leaving a silent partner (so you don’t even know it’s guarding anything) or, worse still, two birds remain but only do their guard duty when they feel like it. Can we have some rules please? I respect your wish to protect the young but I think you need to have a word with the Curlew fraternity and get them all singing (or alarming) from the same hymn sheet.

Yours numeniusically


1. A person who is concerned about protecting the natural environment.


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