Friday, February 22, 2019

Book Review: The Seabird's Cry by Adam Nicolson

If you are interested in seabirds then I can not recommend Adam Nicolson's The Seabird's Cry highly enough. It is fascinating, researched with many details and shows a great depth of understanding while remaining poetic, not dry. It combines scientific analysis with a passion for the environment.

Each chapter describes a different seabird, including:

  • Fulmar
  • Puffin
  • Kittiwake
  • Gull
  • Guillemot
  • Cormorant and Shag
  • Shearwater
  • Gannet
  • Great Auk and its cousin Razorbill
  • Albatross

A key concept is that of Umwelt, which means "surrounding world" and is about how each animal lives in its own world, driven by its needs, skills and environment.

At first I was thinking to write about each bird, folding down corners of pages of interest. But there were too many amazing moments and the edge of the book is now full of gaps. To pick just a few, flicking through at random:

  • How gulls can turn into sociopathic cannibal superkillers
  • How the fishing patterns of kittwakes follow the phases of the moon
  • How puffins can dive up to 220 feet over two minutes
  • How albatrosses tack their way around the southern oceans
  • How boobies are traumatised to turn psychopath and even rapists
  • How shearwaters fly between 10,000 to 20,000 miles a year by understanding the trade winds and knowing their location by its smell
  • ...

The final chapter, named the Seabird's Cry, is about how we humans are destroying our planet, with global warming, loss of habitat, depletion of fish stocks and endless plastic waste. It is a call to action to help protect these incredible animals.

Full of details and personal experience, maps of routes of seabirds gathered using GPS trackers,
this is an brilliant book, a masterpiece even.

No comments: