Curlew by Harry Saddler [7/10]

A gentle book by seemingly gentle Australian naturalist and writer, Harry Saddler, “The Eastern Curlew: The Extraordinary Life of a Migratory Bird” examines one distinctive species of migratory bird. The Easternn Curlew has a curved bill like an exaggerated scimitar and annually migrates 10,000 kilometers from the Arctic to wintering grounds in Australia, and returns again in time to breed. A few years ago, Saddler traveled to China and Korea, along the Curlew’s flyway, as well as throughout his state of Victoria, to investigate what he already knew, namely the incursions of developers into the shores that are its feeding stops, incursions that are slowly but surely destroying this splendid bird. Saddler writes smoothly and intelligently, with a wonderful air of curiosity, and the slim book is beautifully structured and paced. As he puts it: “And shorebirds can’t exist in the world that we are making. A bird that has long-distance flight so deeply and essentially ingrained in the very fabric of its existence can’t be held in a zoo. Migratory shorebirds will survive in the wild or not at all..” Even if you’re not a birder (and if not, why not?), this is a lovely example of penned naturalism in action.

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