I picked up this book during a date day. I’m not the most romantic of people and fortunately, a trip into Leeds to buy my wife Jan any book of her choosing was accepted as a near ideal date day. And of course, once in a bookshop, I felt it only right that such a romantic gesture should be rewarded by also buying myself a book. The book I chose was The Seabird’s Cry by Adam Nicolson.
Its 400 pages comprise 11 chapters, 32 pages of notes and references, and a good index. I found no mistakes, confusing sections or typographical errors at all. Each chapter focuses on one type of seabird. I thought this would be a great way to increase my knowledge of seabirds; although I did think it might be a little tedious. How wrong I was. This book is excellent, and I can honestly say engaging, enlightening, and yes, entertaining, from start to finish.
I have lived by or very near to the sea for over 30 years but disappointingly for the last 25 years, I have lived inland. I was aware of many different seabirds but no book I’ve seen has such a readable and comprehensive account. Whilst extolling this book to a relative, they asked how a book on seagulls could be interesting. They need to read this book. There is so much more to seabirds than ‘just’ seagulls.
We learn for examples…how the highly evolved intelligence of birds is different from ours, but wonderfully adapted for the birds’ needs. their societal and colony arrangements, how they navigate across great swathes of ocean, how they find fish; the evolutionary and practical balance between flight and flightless birds, and bird ‘design’ and evolution, including why most have white breasts but black backs.
We also are given a chilling insight into how humans have lived with, used, plundered, and abused the seabird population for centuries, even to the point of extinction; and how our actions are driving behavioural changes. And a telling indictment of us is that seabird numbers have plummeted by 70% over the past 60 ye
My favourite seabird, the wonderfully mysterious and evocative albatross, is described in detail and how the mysteries of its lifestyle have only very recently begun to be discovered.
But the book is in no way sugar-coated. The brutal aspect of competition for food and mates, chick rearing, and living within a large colony is described accurately. Unless you have a stone heart, you will feel for the birds even before human actions make life so much more difficult for these fascinating creatures.
As you will have deduced, I can wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in either ornithology or the coastal and marine environment. If you live near the coast, then this book is an ideal guide for you to be able to further your knowledge in recognising and appreciating the birds you will see daily. I learned so much from this book, but learned in such an enjoyable way.
- The Seabird’s Cry
- By Adam Nicolson with illustrations by Kate Boxer
- Published by William Collins. 2018
- ISBN 978-0-00-816570-3