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John Constable Cloud Study: Stormy Sunset and Sky Study with a Shaft of Sunlight

Cloud Study: Stormy Sunset
Cloud Study Stormy Sunset 1998.20.1
Sky Study with a Shaft of Sunlight
Sky study with a shaft of sunlight: PD.222-1961

I look at these clouds and I think instantly of the fens and the vast skyscapes that dominate them. I’m taken back to summer days in the late 1990s when I worked with ecologist Nick Davies at Wicken Fen, so much so that I can hear the chirrup of reed warblers, and the cuckoos calling, and smell the damp of the earth. We studied the behaviour of the cuckoo chick, back then, to work out how this monster in the nest could fool its reed warbler hosts into caring for it. Nick did the hard work, finding the reed warbler nests. My job was to record and edit begging calls that we broadcast through small speakers affixed to the reed warbler’s nest. Together we sat hidden in the reeds for hours each day, one of us watching the nest to count feeding visits by parents, the other taking notes, working the tape recorder and watching the sky intently for signs of any rain.

Rebecca Kilner , Director of the Zoology Museum
Museum of Zoology, University of Cambridge

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