One man’s serendipitous adventures and misadventures as he follows the annual southern migration of his favorite birds.
Longtime osprey observer Gessner (Creative Writing/Univ. of North Carolina, Wilmington; Return of the Osprey, 2001, etc.) began his journey on Cape Cod in September 2004. Armed with the usual birding equipment, plus a cassette recorder and journal for recording his impressions, he seems to have also taken along Lady Luck as a traveling companion. On a tight budget and schedule, he was repeatedly given advice, directions to good sites and even room and board by fellow birders he met along the way. While focused on the behavior of a particular species, this is also about birders and their highly competitive sport. The author himself was in competition with a British television crew that was tracking five ospreys on their southern migration with the aid of a satellite and sophisticated telemetry. One osprey, dubbed Bluebeard by the Brits, Gessner renamed Fidel, hoping he would see it in Cuba. Getting to Cuba was an adventure in itself, as was getting around the country once he arrived. The author went back to North Carolina for a brief stay with his wife and daughter before setting out for the jungles of Venezuela, taking along as a sort of bodyguard a friend who resembled “a large, hairy scarecrow.” Much beer and many birds later, they returned home safely. Gessner’s account is filled with nitty-gritty details about the days and nights of an itinerant birder and beautifully detailed descriptions of ospreys in action. When actual observations were not possible, he imagined what the ospreys were doing and writes intelligently of that. In the final chapter, while summering on Cape Cod, Gessner learned that Fidel had been tracked back to Martha’s Vineyard, and it was there that he got to see his special bird.
A grand adventure, not just for birders and nature lovers.