From the bird’s mouth

This year National Poetry Day is on Thursday 6 October 2022 and the theme is The Environment.

National Poetry Day is the annual celebration on the first Thursday of October that encourages everyone to make, experience and share poetry with family and friends. To mark National poetry day, the Scottish Poetry Library is working with the RSPB and other organisations on a project, From the bird’s mouth. We hear more from the SPL about it below:

How do you come up with names for wildlife if your language has never named them before? Find out how an artist and a poet came up with a solution. 

Firecrest, by Derek Roberston

The Gaelic for goldcrest is crìonag-bhuidhe, and some suggestions for firecrest might be –
crìonag a’ chinn dheirg
crìonag lasrach

In October, the Scottish Poetry Library will play host to an exhibition of paintings and poetry which bring together nature, poetry and translation. The project, From the Bird’s Mouth, Bho Bheul An Eòin is a collaboration between artist Derek Robertson and-amongst others-Gaelic poet Rody Gorman. The project website describes how it works…

“A language holds its own traditions and treasures. In Scottish Gaelic, the word dualchas encompasses the intimate bonds that exist between the natural world, the land and its people – connecting through language, tradition and culture from generation to generation. The Gaelic names of the animals and plants that inhabit that landscape are a part of that tradition and reflect aspects of these relationships.

In recent times, a number of wildlife species have appeared in Scotland as our climate changes, or otherwise helped there by human agency, and some are so new to Scotland they don’t yet have a Gaelic name, which is something this exciting project is beginning to address.

From the Bird’s Mouth, Bho Bheul an Eòin, is naming the new. Through a process of research and consultation, with advice from scientists, researchers and Gaelic writers, the project will give Gaelic names to these colonisers, and tell their story through poetry and prose, through a high-quality art book, through this website – and, when possible, a travelling exhibition.

This exciting partnership project features award-winning and highly-acclaimed wildlife artist Derek Robertson, with support from NatureScot (formally Scottish Natural Heritage) and Bòrd na Gàidhlig and it will allow Scottish Gaelic speakers and learners to give voice to the new nature around them and maintain Gaelic’s rich, cultural link with the changing ecology of the landscape in which it is embedded.”

The SPL will host the exhibition from the 14th of October until January the 4th (free to visit during opening hours), and on National Poetry day they will also stage a ‘takeover’ of the RSPB’s social media, with poetry and environment related content.


Scottish Crossbills by Derek Robertson

For more about the project and to see all of the paintings, please visit or visit the Scottish Poetry Library from early October.

Featured image of St Kilda Wren, by Derek Robertson. All image credits Derek Roberston.