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The Birds of Heaven: Travels with Cranesby Peter Matthiessen
Synopses & Reviews
Cranes are ubiquitous in the earliest legends of the world's peoples, where they often figure as sentinels of heaven and omens of longevity and good fortune. For their great beauty and imposing size — they are the largest of all flying birds on earth — they are held near-sacred in many lands. Their broad wilderness habitat requirements make them "umbrella species"; protecting them ensures that other creatures and the earth and water of the ecosystem are also protected. In addition, the enormous spans of cranes' migrations have encouraged international conservation efforts.
In The Birds of Heaven, Peter Matthiessen chronicles his many journeys in search of the world's fifteen species of cranes. From the vast taiga of Siberia's Amur basin and the Mongolian steppe, breeding grounds for the glorious red-crowned and white-naped cranes, his travels take him to India, Bhutan, China, Japan, and Korea, then on to Australia, Africa, and western Europe (where the native crane is being encouraged to return), and finally to Wisconsin, Nebraska, the Gulf Coast, and Florida, where ingenious efforts are under way to establish a nonmigratory population of the rare whooping crane. He is accompanied by erudite and passionate ornithologists and "craniacs," along with many fascinating regional people, from Mongolian nomads to Gujarati nawabs. Through their eyes as well as his own, he portrays the astonishingly tenacious cranes' struggles to survive in a rapidly developing world in which man is leaving less and less place for other creatures. He also captures the deep loss to humankind should these majestic creatures — their majesty illuminated by Robert Bateman's eloquent renderings — be permitted to disappear.
"Peter Matthiessen has a strong claim to being the most distinguished all-around writer of our postwar years." Frederick Turner
"There is...no writing life more vital and of greater distinction in the second half of our century." Howard Norman
"The Body of his enormous work, and its integrity and range, continues to amaze me." W.S. Merwin
"An original and powerful artist...who has produced as distinguished a body of work as any writer of our time....He has immeasurably enlarged our consciousness." William Styron
Book News Annotation:
Renowned novelist, naturalist, environmental activist, and wilderness traveler Matthiessen here chronicles his travels to investigate the 15 species of cranes in the eastern and western hemispheres. Full color and mostly full-page paintings are contributed by Robert Bateman.
Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
“You dont have to be a ‘craniac . . . to appreciate [this book] . . . All you really need is a passion for prose as good as it gets.” —Chicago Tribune
In legend, cranes often figure as harbingers of heaven and omens of longevity and good fortune. And in nature, they are an “umbrella species” whose well-being assures that of the ecosystem at large. The Birds of Heaven chronicles Peter Matthiessens many journeys on five continents in search of the fifteen species of cranes. His telling captures the dilemmas of a planet in ecological crisis, and the deep loss to humankind if these beautiful and imposing creatures are allowed to disappear.
A leading naturalist and writer travels the globe in search of a prized-and vanishing-bird
Cranes are ubiquitous in the earliest legends of the world's peoples, where they often figure as harbingers of heaven and omens of longevity and good fortune. They are still held sacred in many places, and for good reason. Their large size and need for wilderness habitat makes them an "umbrella species" whose wellbeing assures that of other creatures and of the ecosystem at large. Moreover, the enormous spans of their migrations are a symbol of, and stimulus to, international efforts at conservation.
In The Birds of Heaven, Peter Matthiessen has woven together journeys in search of the fifteen species of cranes in Asia, Africa, Europe, North America, and Australia. As he tracks them (and their declining numbers) in the company of scientists, conservationists, and regional people encountered along the way, he captures the dilemmas of a planet in ecological crisis, and the deeper loss to humankind if these beautiful and imposing creatures are allowed to disappear. The book includes color plates by renowned wildlife artist Robert Bateman.
About the Author
Robert Bateman is a world-renowned artist, naturalist, and environmental spokesman. His paintings and drawings of wild creatures hang in many art museums, and he has numerous books to his credit. His honors include the Order of Canada, nine doctorates, and the Rachel Carson Award.
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Science and Mathematics » Nature Studies » Birds » Birdwatching