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The Titles

The Birds of Heaven; Travels with Cranes, by Peter Matthiessen

The Reviews

The Birds of Heaven; Travels with Cranes

by Peter Matthiessen

ISBN = 0374 19944 2
Price = $27.50
Published = December 2001
Review written = June 2002
347 pages
Illustrations by Robert Bateman

There is no beating about the bush, this is a wonderful book and I loved reading it. Peter Matthiessen's innate humanity, dedication to natural history and cranes in particular and his pleasant flowing writing style all combine to make this a book that any naturalist, or perhaps even any relatively intelligent person can enjoy.

There is no doubt that cranes are magnificent animals and this book spans 7 years of Peter Matthiessen's life during which time he travels to Europe, Africa, Siberia, China, Japan, India, Mongolia and North America in search of these birds in their natural environments. The book charts his success and failures, as well as supplying a highly enjoyable selection of local folklaw and myth mixed with generally biology, ecology with particular reference to conservation. As far as I know his claim that Grus japonensis is the heaviest of flying birds is a bit off beam, both Ardeotis kori, and Otis tarda from the same order, Gruiformes, as well as the swan Cygnus olor have heavier maximum and average weights, but apart from this the science seems in good condition

Cranes are among the most endangered birds on the planet, and while the work of a few dedicated individuals has prevented any species from becoming extinct recently it is sad to see that the majority of politicians and businessmen are still woefully ignorant of their own humanity and the needs of the world around. However while these unfortunate facts inevitable come to be seen they are not dwelt upon and the book as a whole is pleasantly focused on the birds themselves and the people who love them.

Further to this the book is illustratd in both b/w and colour by Robert Bateman whose artistry is of a high calibre. Each species is illustrated at least once in colour and most more than once.

Without doubt this is a highly enjoyable read and I would honestly recommend it to anyone.

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