Review - To The Ends Of The Earth

I was kindly provided a copy, courtesy of Anthony McGeehan, of his latest publication: "To The Ends Of The Earth - Ireland's Place In Bird Migration", which was patiently waiting for me when I arrived in Dublin a couple of weeks ago.

I managed to delve straight into it, absorbing half of it with gusto the first evening. Visiting friends, parental duties and birding got in the way of the second half until this week, when it provided a fitting substrate for my commute reading.

This is a fabulous book that every Irish birder should own. All too often birders obsess over the migration of birds and the timings and conditions of their occurrence in our country, without actually delving into the science and mechanisms of their amazing abilities, or the history and individuals who have worked to elucidate those mechanisms.

This book, perfectly and eloquently, attempts to tackle these concepts, without being dry and overly technical, in a manner I can only describe as the scientific poetry of migration.

From their early evolution (do we forget that we are, in essence, dino-watchers), to migration itself being a pressure for evolution and speciation; from understanding how birds read the magnetic field of the earth, read the sky and the stars, to the weather systems that birds must endure, this book takes you from the dawn of birds themselves, to the Sparrows and Thrushes in your own back garden.

It's warm and welcoming, enticing readers of all backgrounds to turn that page, over and over, to learn about the next species and it's ordeals, the next beloved group of birds and how they do what they do, all while conveying one, ever obvious sentiment, the author's love and awe of birds.

The production value of the book is superb, beautifully laid out, with excellent graphics and image selection, and a clean and sleek feel to the text that is easy on the eye.

Your eye is instantly drawn to each inset, which on any given page feels as though it was specifically designed to make that page unique. You can physically feel that thought, effort and care was put in to how each and every single page presents itself to the reader.

This is a book made for a warm fireside and a giant mug of tea, as a howling storm rages outside with the promise of migrants, and that's perfect. I almost feel guilty, an international migrant myself, migrating to and from work, reading on packed train. The distracting motion of the train, interspersed with the occasional perched train-side Great Grey Shrike (another migrant), hardly allows for the level of focus this read deserves.

Save a space on your bookshelf with relish, but don't expect it to stay there gathering dust, you will go back to it again and again.


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