9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Travel with some beautiful birds,
This review is from: The Birds of Heaven: Travels with Cranes (Hardcover)
Following an excellent review in "The Independent" I decided to buy this book. It seems that among all the information we get as birders these days there is very little written about the experiencing of birds. Very few people appear to write about how birds affect them, after all the reason we bird is, that at some level, seeing birds has an effect on us.
This hardback book was one I really enjoyed. The author sets everything in its place whether it is the wide open skies and landscapes of the Outer Mongolian steppe or the crowded farmlands of northern India. He discusses the 14 species of Crane extant today, putting them in their historical and cultural context. The place of Cranes in Asian iconography and mythology features strongly in the early chapters and this is a particularly strong part of the book. At the same time he discusses the taxonomy and phylogeny of the Gruidae in terms which are easily accessible for the non specialist, opening up the reader's thoughts to how and why speciation occurs.
The book also discusses the conservation of cranes from the hopeful, in the Whooping Crane programmes in the US, to the pessimistic, cranes in Asia. He ties the conservation of cranes into the conservation of whole ecosystems, emphasisng the cranes' requirements for huge, undisturbed territories. Matthiesen communicates the wonder of the far flung wild places he goes in search of Cranes, describing the landscape and the other wild species found within them. He also describes the reactions of the local people to the conservationists and the cranes, as well as giving pictures of different personalities working to conserve Cranes. He even manages to visit Norfolk and see Common Cranes and discusses this species in its British context.
The book is beautifully illustrated by the Canadian artist Robert Bateman with plates and line drawings which complement the text. This book is really a travel book but it is also a bird book, and one which I would thoroughly recommend. Reading this on the bus to work each day transported me to many places but, unfortunately, the bus always ended up in Edinburgh.