The Seabird's Cry: The Lives and Loves of the Planet's Great Ocean Voyagers

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Life itself could never have been sustainable without seabirds. As Adam Nicolson writes: "They are bringers of fertility, the deliverers of life from ocean to land."

A global tragedy is unfolding. Even as we are coming to understand them, the number of seabirds on our planet is in freefall, dropping by nearly 70% in the last sixty years, a billion fewer now than there were in 1950. Of the ten birds in this book, seven are in decline, at least in part of their range. Extinction stalks the ocean and there is a danger that the grand cry of the seabird colony, rolling around the bays and headlands of high latitudes, will this century become little but a memory.

Seabirds have always entranced the human imagination and NYT best-selling author Adam Nicolson has been in love with them all his life: for their mastery of wind and ocean, their aerial beauty and the unmatched wildness of the coasts and islands where every summer they return to breed. The seabird’s cry comes from an elemental layer in the story of the world.

Over the last couple of decades, modern science has begun to understand their epic voyages, their astonishing abilities to navigate for tens of thousands of miles on featureless seas, their ability to smell their way towards fish and home. Only the poets in the past would have thought of seabirds as creatures riding the ripples and currents of the entire planet, but that is what the scientists are seeing now today.

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About the author

Adam Nicolson is a prize-winning writer of many books on history and nature, including Sea Room, NYT bestselling God's Secretaries, and the acclaimed Why Homer Matters. He is winner of the Royal Society of Literature's Ondaatje Prize, the Somerset Maugham Award, the W. H. Heinemann Award, and the British Topography prize. He has written and presented many television series and lives on a farm in Sussex.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Henry Holt and Company
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Published on
Feb 6, 2018
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Pages
416
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ISBN
9781250134196
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Language
English
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Genres
Nature / Animals / Birds
Poetry / Subjects & Themes / Nature
Science / Environmental Science
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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As heard on NPR's This American Life

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“One of the most peculiar and memorable true-crime books ever.” —Christian Science Monitor

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On a cool June evening in 2009, after performing a concert at London's Royal Academy of Music, twenty-year-old American flautist Edwin Rist boarded a train for a suburban outpost of the British Museum of Natural History. Home to one of the largest ornithological collections in the world, the Tring museum was full of rare bird specimens whose gorgeous feathers were worth staggering amounts of money to the men who shared Edwin's obsession: the Victorian art of salmon fly-tying. Once inside the museum, the champion fly-tier grabbed hundreds of bird skins—some collected 150 years earlier by a contemporary of Darwin's, Alfred Russel Wallace, who'd risked everything to gather them—and escaped into the darkness.

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“A charming portrait of an ancient and beautiful house in Kent [and] a poignant and amusing portrait of the English class system.” —Simon Winchester

From lavish palace for Elizabethan nobles to dreary jailhouse for eighteenth-century prisoners of war, from well-manicured country house for a string of landed families to weed-choked ruin, Sissinghurst, in Kent, has become one of the most illustrious estates in England—and its future may prove to be just as intriguing as its past.
 
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“A charming portrait of an ancient and beautiful house in Kent [and] a poignant and amusing portrait of the English class system.” —Simon Winchester

From lavish palace for Elizabethan nobles to dreary jailhouse for eighteenth-century prisoners of war, from well-manicured country house for a string of landed families to weed-choked ruin, Sissinghurst, in Kent, has become one of the most illustrious estates in England—and its future may prove to be just as intriguing as its past.
 
In the 1930s, English poet Vita Sackville-West and her husband, Harold Nicolson, acquired land that had once been owned by Vita’s ancestors. Together they created elaborate gardens filled with roses, apple trees, vivid flowers, and scenic paths lined with hedges and pink brick walls. Vita, a gardening correspondent for the Observer and a close friend of Virginia Woolf, opened Sissinghurst to the public. But the thriving working farm began to change after her death. Her son Nigel instituted sweeping changes, including transferring ownership of the estate to Britain’s National Trust in 1967 to avoid extensive taxation.
 
For author Adam Nicolson, the grandson of Harold and Vita, Sissinghurst was always more than a tourist attraction; it was his home. As a boy, Nicolson hiked the same trails that Roman conquerors walked centuries before. With wistful imagination, fascination with natural beauty, and connection to the land, Nicolson has returned home to restore Sissinghurst’s glory. His journey to recreate a sustainable and functioning farm, despite resistance from the National Trust, makes for a compelling memoir of family, history, and the powerful relationship between people and nature.
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