Monday, May 23, 2005

Birds of heaven: Travel with Cranes by Peter Matthiessen

In the January 9, 2005 issue of Chicago Tribune Sunday book section, Bill Belleville reviewed three books about birds, including The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession by Mark Obmascik. He liked all the books, but none as much as Birds of Heaven by Peter Matthiessen, which was published in 2001. So I checked out the older book from the Thomas Ford Memorial Library.

Peter Matthiessen must be one of the luckiest people in the world. He gets to travel all around the world to investigate the state of wildlife conservation and write about his experiences in books and in articles published in nature magazines. In Birds in Heaven, he tells about going to all the continents to see cranes in the wild. It took several years and he spent months in very remote locations with experts, including George Archibald of the International Crane Foundation.

The cranes are not so lucky. Many of the species are threatened by habitat loss and poaching and the dangers of migrations. Matthiessen had to be guided through reserves to very inaccessible places to see some of the rarer species. His quest is a good story.

Included in Birds of Heaven are two sections of color plates with beautiful illustrations by Robert Bateman. I turned to these frequently as I read Matthiessen's accounts of the species. I recommend this classic book to all nature lovers.

Matthiessen, Peter. Birds of Heaven: Travels with Cranes. New York: North Point Press, 2001. ISBN 0374199442


Shirley said...

Thanks for highlighting a work about these fabulous and charismatic birds. Although I read So Cranes May Dance by Katz many years ago, I remember it as doing a serviceable job--for those interested--of discussing the history and mission of the (shameless plug here) wonderful conservation organization, the Intnl. Crane Foundation.

ricklibrarian said...


I remember very fondly our two visits to the International Crane Foundation near Baraboo. Everyone should go. We should all go again.