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The Seabird’s Cry: The Lives and Loves of Puffins, Gannets and Other Ocean Voyagers
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The Seabird’s Cry: The Lives and Loves of Puffins, Gannets and Other Ocean Voyagers

4.41  ·  Rating details ·  370 ratings  ·  77 reviews
Seabirds are master navigators, thriving in the most demanding environment on earth. In this masterly book, drawing on all the most recent research, Adam Nicolson follows them to the coasts and islands of Scotland, Ireland, Iceland, Norway and the Americas. Beautifully illustrated by Kate Boxer, The Seabird's Cry is a celebration of the wonders of the only creatures at hom ...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published April 5th 2018 by William Collins (first published June 1st 2017)
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4.41  · 
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 ·  370 ratings  ·  77 reviews

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A wonderful combination of scientific revelations about the lives and ecology of seabirds and of the human emotional and spiritual responses to these otherworldly birds from poets and others’ personal encounters with them over human history. I appreciated his overall thrust of raising consciousness of the special intelligence of each of 10 types of seabird he covers and the threats to their abundance or survival from global warming and other negative human impacts on their environment. But what ...more
(4.5) This is an extraordinarily well-written and -researched book about the behavior, cultural importance, and current plight of the world’s seabirds. A worthy Wainwright Prize winner. I marveled at how certain species can navigate thousands of miles and end up back on the same rock with the same mate, year on year. Each chapter takes up a different species and dives deep into everything from its anatomy to the legends surrounding it. Nicolson simultaneously conveys the playful, intimate real l ...more
Sep 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-favourites, 2018
I started reading this book when we were on holiday in Northumberland and after a boat trip out to the Farne Islands where Puffins nest in the Spring. I saw that one of my Goodreads friends was reading this and that inspired me to read it too. I always read fiction so this was a real departure but I am so pleased I persisted. I will never look at sea birds in the same way again from the amazing Albatross flying at ninety miles an hour and flying tens of thousands of miles a year to the incredibl ...more
May 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Life on the open ocean is harsh relentless and unforgiving. To survive there takes resilience and millennia of evolution. Seabirds are masters of this environment, relishing the storms that drive the vast ships to save havens, navigating ten of thousands of miles, and when they do touch land inspiring those that see the fight as a species to survive to the next generation.

Nicolson has been fascinated by these utterly wild birds since visiting and then inheriting The Shiants, the Hebridean island
Aug 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I unreservedly loved this book. Nicolson has long been fascinated by seabirds, and explains how these birds differ so much in habit and lifestyle from the garden birds with whom many of us are more familiar. Then he takes ten different species to examine in turn. He refers to his personal observations, to scientific research, to history and to literature to build a rounded and fascinating portrait of each species he's chosen. My husband got used to having a daily bulletin of 'today's most fascin ...more
Keith Taylor
Feb 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Every now and then I must sit down and read a book on birds by a British nature writer. They do things differently than we do, although I am hard pressed to figure out what that is. Nicolson is a great example. This book is deeply researched, but that is not unique to British writers. We have lots of writers who dig deeply into things. It is stylistically rich -- but we have that, too (Lopez, Matthiesen, Williams). But there is something in that combination of research and style with a deep and ...more
Tim Morley
May 21, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: animals
I will start by saying that I am a scientist, in fact a seabird ecologist, and I came in to reading this book with a certain level of expectance – and yes, bias – so my review may not concern the general reader; but I have endeavoured to be as fair as possible.

Nicolson is clearly passionate about his subject material and his descriptions can hit the mark well. However, there are unfortunately many times where Nicolson has a tendency to produce over-long and convoluted descriptions that detract f
Mar 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
With a readable and lyrical -- almost reverential-- tone this book brings 10 seabirds to life on its pages. Albatross, puffin, gannet and others are introduced as if they are famous or quirky characters you need to know. Idiosyncracies, amusing anecdotes, and mind-boggling facts make for interesting reading, and the graphics and maps are helpful. I particularly appreciated the deft way that the author presented and distilled considerable amounts of scientific research-- not an easy task.
Apr 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars
Fantastic books focusing on seabirds. As a keen amateur wildlife photographer and birder, I thoroughly enjoyed it and learned a lot.
Half a star taken off because I found some of the history to be a bit too much and wish there was more information on the birds themselves.
Anna Groover
May 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, 2019
Lovely, lyrical overview of ten seabirds and both what we know about them and their unknowability. Also about the threats their populations are facing thanks to climate change, overfishing, and hunting
Dec 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully written, this series of essays on ten avian species blends science, history, and nature writing to draw a picture of birds that largely go unseen by bird watchers and casual observers. The albatrosses, flying hundreds of miles a day expending almost no energy, Atlantic Puffins dwindling in numbers because of the changes in their preys habits and habitats, the Great Auk, the northern hemisphere’s penguin, clubbed for food and extinct with the last two centuries. The book takes on clim ...more
Natalie (CuriousReader)
Shortlisted and Winner of the Wainwright Prize 2018.
My Video Review:
Chris Arnell
Mar 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What an astonishing book.
So much science, literary references, insights into behaviour and personality, but delivered with a lightness of touch that makes you want to keep reading.
Above all, a deep rooted love and admiration for these amazing creatures.
There are some heart-rending moments - nature lacks sentiment and mankind is making a harsh environment almost impossible for some birds - so it's not always a comfortable read.
This is a book you won't want to put down but which will teach you so
Jun 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
Way more than most people ever need to know about seabirds and way less than what we need to learn about the world we live...and how we effect it.

adam nicolson gives you something to think about...coupled with dugald bruce lockhart's british/scottish accent...great summer road trip audio.
May 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A beautiful book about 10 species of seabirds: fulmar, puffin, kittiwake, gull, guillemot, cormorant and shag, shearwater, gannet, razorbill, and albatross. The author is not a biologist or naturalist, but he is a seasoned journalist and author with a great love of these animals who has spent a lot of time traveling and birding in the Northern Atlantic. He gives a clear and sometimes poetic vision of these great ocean travelers.
Anna Iltnere (Beach Books)
When I studied philosophy more than ten years ago, I remember how excited I was about an idea that theoretically I could have a new kind of sense that would reveal a hidden pocket of the world around me. As to give the sight for the blind or the hearing for the deaf, the landscape would gain an additional dimension. The idea did not let me go for a few days and I desperately tried to imagine what could this new sense be like, but I couldn’t. Nothing would surpass what I already knew.

There is a G
Jul 29, 2018 rated it did not like it
I have read so many rave reviews of this book, but personally I found it very disappointing.

With a chapter each describing the trials and tribulations of ten different seabirds, and handsome illustrations by Kate Boxer, what's not to like? The perspective of the author is flagged up in his introduction when he casually mentions of his father "when he was twenty...he had bought the (Shiant) islands" - as you do. Later on we have "(E)ver since I have known the Shiants, which my father gave to me
Kit Gerzefsky
Sep 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: natural-history
Nicolson takes 10 different seabirds and writes a chapter on each. This has the potential to be incredibly boring, seagulls aren’t exactly sexy. However, Nicolson makes his book incredibly fascinating. It is part zoology, part mythology, part sociology with a little bit of philosophy and personal memories thrown in for good measure. What this creates is a fascinating profile into each specific bird and leaves the reader with a deep appreciation for the seabirds. We meet the Fulmars, Razorbills, ...more
Genetic Cuckoo
Aug 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
*Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*

This is a beautiful and poetic book. I love that each chapter focuses on a different seabird, and the mix of poetry and science is beautiful. I was fascinated by the fact that the Shearwater navigates the ocean by smell not sight, and that plastic releases a gas which is similar to that of fish and krill and so the birds eat plastic by mistake. It is worrying when you think of the amount of plastic added to the
I loved this book. It provides genuine insight into challenges and family lives of these birds that are at the same time familiar to us as humans and yet very alien. I came away with a new appreciation for the struggles these birds go through and extreme gratitude that I was not born a Nazca Booby [spoiler alert: a daft name is the least of these bird's worries].
Mary Warnement
p. 3 Nicolson was inspired by a poem of Seamus Heaney

What came first, the seabird's cry or the soul
imagined in the dawn cold when it cried?

My superficial impression was of the British upper class which seem either lounging & awaiting cocktail service or paddling to an uninhabited island to rough it as their summer getaway. Nicolson has written an intelligent description, combining summaries scientific and literary of 10 birds, accompanied by personal observation, photos, and paintings. Each
Jul 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Adam Nicholson (a.k.a. Lord Carnock, son of Nigel Nicolson, grandson of Vita Sackville-West) grew up intimately connected to some of the seabirds he describes in this book. Each of ten of these amazing birds has its own chapter: Fulmar, puffin, kittiwake, gull, guillemot, cormorant and shag, shearwater, gannet, great auk and its cousin razorbill, and albatross. There is a concluding chapter on the tenuous hold most of these birds have on their place on the planet. Black and white drawings and ph ...more
May 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Full disclosure, I love birds. And I discovered my love of birds during a visit to a colony of Atlantic puffins. Undoubtedly, some of my significant affection for this book is tied up in my affection for the animals it describes, and for the wild, deserted (of humans, anyway) cliffs where they visit shore.

Adam Nicolson clearly loves these birds as well. He discovered his love for them as a youth on a small group of Hebridean islands that he now--lucky man--owns. His book dedicates a chapter api
Jun 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a birder, I had a great time reading this book. There was plenty that I did not know myself about the natural histories of some of these species. It's well-written and poetic, and accessible to just about any reader. I doubt that you need a solid knowledge of birds to enjoy reading about and learning more about these various species of seabirds. There are interesting anecdotes about people coming across the various species over time, and harrowing stories about the tragedies of the necessitie ...more
Jun 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Nicolson's fascination with seabirds began when his father took him to visit a cluster of the Shiants in North West Scotland - islands he has now inherited! It was there that Adam Nicolson’s fascination with seabirds began.

Each chapter is dedicated to one of 10 species of seabirds, such as the puffin, “whose life stands outside the cuteness in which we want to envelop it.” Each chapter is illustrated by the beautiful drawings of Kate Boxer.

Seabirds are difficult to study, because they spend most
Jul 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This writer inspects in detail the lives, habits, history and populations of 10 species of seabirds. If it's too much detail for a reader, the length it is mitigated by facts being folded into stunning poetic prose. If nothing else, read the first and last chapters.

"Next time you sit among the puffins on a summer evening, looking at their elegance and anxiety, that is what to hold in mind; not clowns but beauties, Ice Age survivors, scholar gypsies of the Atlantic, their minds on an everlasting
Jun 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Truly a remarkable book. I have almost never rated a book five stars, but Nicolson's deep experience and love of seabirds is clear, and you will love seabirds too after reading this. Their incredible feats whether is distance traveled or socialization in their community are fascinating. But what makes this book so great is the combination of a highly readable tale about the science of their lives combined with beautiful turns of phrase, a literature aficionado's love of literature and an anthrop ...more
Andrew Cox
Jul 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating account of seabirds. Beautiful and poetic at times but also incredibly brutal in describing the birds behaviour and some of the science used to discover this.
I find the concept of umwelt extremely interesting not just in terms of the natural world but in our understanding of each other. There are great lessons to be learnt.
The science is interesting & at times frightening. It is strange how the anthropomorphising of nature is generally condemned & yet it is our human intera
Feb 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Can this possibly be one of the best books ever? Adam Nicolson writes beatiful lyrical prose, full of anecdotes of what he has observed and what many others before him have observed, all interspersed with scientific facts and amazing pieces of information. These wonderful creatures are more than intelligent, each of them is a genius. The author loves them, and we love them too. They are so distinctly other, and they live in another world from us. But our worlds overlap to the extent that we are ...more
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Adam Nicolson writes a celebrated column for The Sunday Telegraph. His books include Sissinghurst, God’s Secretaries, When God Spoke English, Wetland, Life in the Somerset Levels, Perch Hill, Restoration, and the acclaimed Gentry. He is winner of the Somerset Maugham Award and the British Topography Prize and lives on a farm in Sussex.
“She revived the extraordinary Anglo-Saxon word dustsceawung, meaning ‘the fascination experienced by someone looking at a ruin, a kind of daydream of dust, pondering that which has been lost: dust-seeing, dust-chewing, dust-cheering. The daydream of a mind strung between past and present.” 0 likes
“No one has ever encountered the full burning ecstatic beauty of a seabird quite in the way the twenty-two-year-old Herman Melville, crewing as a green hand on board a New Bedford whaler deep in the South Pacific at some time in 1841, first met an albatross. It was during a prolonged gale, in waters hard upon the Antarctic seas. From my forenoon watch below, I ascended to the overclouded deck; and there, dashed upon the main hatches, I saw a regal, feathery thing of unspotted whiteness, and with a hooked, Roman bill sublime. At intervals, it arched forth its vast archangel wings, as if to embrace some holy ark. Wondrous flutterings and throbbings shook it. Though bodily unharmed, it uttered cries, as some king’s ghost in supernatural distress. Through its inexpressible, strange eyes, methought I peeped to secrets which took hold of God. As Abraham before the angels, I bowed myself; the white thing was so white, its wings so wide, and in those for ever exiled waters, I had lost the miserable warping memories of traditions and of towns. Long I gazed at that prodigy of plumage” 0 likes
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