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'Transfixed' by rare birds - especially those in the Outer Hebrides (1 Viewer)

Book review: Art and Nature in The Outer Hebrides

Imagine this! It is 7.30am You are out birding in wide open countryside when, far in the distance, you see a 'thing', possibly a bird perched on a post.

It could be a carrion crow but, if it is a bird, the silhouette suggests a buzzard. Without a 'scope, it is hard to tell just through binoculars.

As you get closer, the 'thing' definitely has a head - and it moves.

Midway through his captivating book, an excited Bruce Kendrick takes up the story as he reaches to about 200 metres from his 'target'.

"It must be. Could it be? Surely not! Think of the odds. This is a once-in-a-lifetime event.

"I'm trying to tell myself to calm down and be rational. Rational? What do I do right now, this very second? Think hard. Call on all your birdcraft, your experience. This is not a time to screw up. Any movement could scare it out on to the vast mudflats."

For those who have not already guessed it, I won't reveal the species, except to say that Kendrick understandably describes the 30-minute experience as a 'pinnacle' of his birding career.

"Why am I so transfixed?" he asks. "Is it the success, at last, after so many birding days when hope and optimism are rarely rewarded?"

In a way, this is two books in one - structured around a single Hebridean journey from Lewis in the north to Vatersay in the south.

The thrust of the fast-moving narrative recounts the author's absorbing birding experiences along the way, including precious time spent with like-minded enthusiasts Tony Marr on Lewis and Rare Bird Alert contributor Bruce Taylor on Barra, but it is enriched by interviews with some of the brilliant creative artists who have made their lives in the Outer Hebrides.

A word, too, for the excellent photographs, many by the author, including two of the 'thing' that caused him such euphoria.

"Nature is not an exotic faraway construct of a place," he concludes. "It's right here with us, wherever we live. We need nature. We are nature."

Art and Nature in The Outer Hebrides is published in paperback at £18.99 by go-ahead Caithness-based firm Whittles Publishing. (www.whittlespublishing.com)


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Thanks for the heads up. I'd be interested to see what others make of it and might get a copy. I have to say the cover looks more like the old television testcards than something designed to entice people into purchasing...
Truly beautiful birds.
In 1972 a junior school day trip to Edinburgh Zoo let me see some exotic birds, including a pair of Snowy Owls.
I was hooked. Actually one of those life changing moments.

Took a very poor photo on my Kodak Instamatic

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