Adam Nicolson is the author of many books on history, travel and the environment. He is winner of the Somerset Maugham Award and the British Topography Prize and lives on at Sissinghust Castle in Kent. His most recent book for HarperCollins is Sissinghurst, a wonderful and personal biography of a place – the story of a heritage, of a vision of connecting once more buildings and garden, fields and farms and of how that dream was realised.
In ten chapters, each dedicated to a different bird, and each beautifully illustrated by Kate Boxer, The Seabird’s Cry travels the ocean paths along with them, looking at the way their bodies work, the sense of their own individuality, the strategies and tactics needed to survive and thrive in the most demanding environment on earth.At the heart of the book are the Shiant Isles, a cluster of Hebridean islands in the Minch but Nicolson has pursued the birds much further across the Atlantic, up the west coast of Ireland, to St Kilda, Orkney, Shetland, the Faeroes, Iceland and Norway; to the eastern seaboard of Maine and to Newfoundland, to the Falklands, South Georgia, the Canaries and the Azores reaching out across the widths of the world ocean which is the seabirds’ home.
But a global tragedy is unfolding. Even as we are coming to understand them, the number of seabirds is in freefall, dropping by nearly 70% in the last sixty years, a billion fewer now than there were in 1950. Of the ten birds in this book, seven are in decline, at least in part of their range. Extinction stalks the ocean and there is a danger that the grand cry of a seabird colony, rolling around the bays and headlands of high latitudes, will this century become little but a memory.