Parts Unknown: A Naturalist's Journey in Search of Birds and Wild Places

Parts Unknown: A Naturalist's Journey in Search of Birds and Wild Places

5.0 4
by Tim Gallagher

When Tim Gallagher was a child, he went to a museum exhibit of early maps. These tattered, ornately drawn charts often had one thing in common - a vast, black area to the north labeled Parts Unknown. Tim was fascinated with the idea of places completely unknown to mapmakers, and he made it his goal to visit and photograph these "unexplored" regions (and its avian…  See more details below


When Tim Gallagher was a child, he went to a museum exhibit of early maps. These tattered, ornately drawn charts often had one thing in common - a vast, black area to the north labeled Parts Unknown. Tim was fascinated with the idea of places completely unknown to mapmakers, and he made it his goal to visit and photograph these "unexplored" regions (and its avian inhabitants) for himself.Parts Unknown is the result of that quest. Here is a remarkable new collection of essays on Tim's lifelong fascination with birds, and how it has evolved into a daring brand of "adventure birding." Join Tim as he dangles on ropes at Gyrfalcon nest cliffs in northern Greenland and Iceland, traps migrating Arctic Peregrine Falcons on barrier islands in the Gulf of Mexico, journeys in an open boat for hundreds of miles up the west coast of Greenland to survey bird colonies, and learn about the continuing efforts to save the endangered California Condor. With a stunning full-color insert of Tim's finest photographs, Parts Unknown is an extraordinary look into an unexplored world. (6 1/4 x 9 1/4, 244 pages, color photos)

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Author of Wild Bird Photography and editor of The Living Bird, the excellent quarterly of Cornell's Laboratory of Ornithology, Gallagher has a special affinity for the Arctic and hawks. This volume is concerned with exotic locales such as India, Iceland, Greenland, northern Manitoba, and Alberta, and the birds of those regions. However, Gallagher also writes of the wildness found in our own backyards New Jersey, coastal Texas, and Southern California and of tracking the sounds birds make when they fly overhead at night, which is the manner in which most migrate. This evocative book is presented in three parts: "Parts Unknown" (exotic places), "Rare Raptors" (condors, falcons, eagles, and hawks), and "Birding and Ornithology" (a potpourri the Everglades, birding marathons, wildlife law enforcement, Santa Catalina Island, etc.). Delightful, informed reading with excellent photographs; highly recommended for all wildlife collections. Henry T. Armistead, Free Lib. of Philadelphia Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
"Take a passion for birds, a love of the wild, and an incurable dash of wanderlust, and you've got the makings of unforgettable experiences. Add a generous helping of fluent writing, honesty, and environmental awareness, and you've got PARTS UNKNOWN, a recounting of Tim Gallagher's adventures in some of the earth's most remote places.

This collection of essays chronicles visits to the icy wilds of northern Greenland and Iceland, where the author dangles from a rope off gyrfalcon nest cliffs, and to the barrier islands in the Gulf of Mexico to trap peregrine falcons. He returns to Greenland to journey hundreds of miles in an open boat along the island's coast to check 210 nesting sites documented by a Danish physician at the beginning of the last century. A flight over the Everglades inspires an examination of the ecosystem's threats. Gallagher even braves a visit to a polluted marsh in New Jersey to compete in the World Series of Birding.

The prizes in all these travels are the glimpses of avian life Gallagher comes away with, glimpses he captures in stunning detail in photographs displayed in the book's full-color insert.

Readers will come away with a deeper understanding of birds, their habitat, and the people who study them."

Birders World
Living Bird editor Tim Gallagher's accounts of endangered birds of prey in Greenland and other wild places have been delighting Cornell Lab of Ornithology members for years. This book combines his dispatches with 16 pages of his beautiful photos.

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Product Details

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.24(w) x 9.26(h) x 0.96(d)

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Read an Excerpt

What do you do when you're cruising through an iceberg-choked fjord in Greenland, wearing every piece of clothing you brought along, and you're still freezing? If you know the answer, please tell me. We just finished searching more than 100 miles of high, rugged cliffs for nesting falcons and other birds, and I'm still shivering.

But it was great . . . the steep cliffs along both sides of the fjord rising up around us like an Ice-Age Grand Canyon . . . the massive icebergs, some the size of small islands, looming up through the mist. There's nothing like it. If only I could keep my teeth from chattering.

I finally connected with the Peregrine Fund research team on Thursday morning-a group consisting of Cornell professor emeritus Tom Cade, who founded the "P-Fund"; the group's president, Bill Burnham, and his son, Kurt; and Jack Stephens, a weather forecaster at Thule Air Base. In many ways, exploring this area near Uummannaq is the most important part of this entire research expedition. We're trying to retrace the steps of Alfred Bertelsen-a Danish medical doctor who treated Inuit patients in the villages near here in the early 20th century. He also studied birds avidly and mapped out more than 200 bird sites, ranging from falcon nests to giant seabird colonies. Our task-using his maps and data published in the 1920s-is to find every site and see how they have fared over the decades.

So far, it doesn't look good. Earlier today, we took the boat to an enormous cliff face, which used to have a great seabird colony with half a million pairs of murres, razorbills, kittiwakes, and other birds. We couldn't find any of those species there. We saw only orange lichens growing where the birds' guano had stained the rocks. What happened to the bird colony? Could Inuit hunters from nearby villages have exterminated the entire colony? It's hard to say exactly what happened at this point.

Some of the falcon nest sites also seemed to be vacant, though we did find some new nests. To locate them, we usually drive the boat to the base of the cliff and fire a rifle. A falcon will generally fly from its nest as the gunshot echoes along the cliff face, have a look around, and then return to its nest. It doesn't seem to cause any more of a disturbance than the loud crack of a calving glacier-a common sound around here. At one cliff today, a Peregrine Falcon flushed from the cliff as Kurt fired and was joined by her mate who soared across the sky above us. But the high point of the day came later when we saw a pair of snow white Gyrfalcons perched high atop a massive palisade.

We'll spend a few more days checking the rest of Bertelsen's sites and then embark on the great adventure, taking this boat all the way north to Thule. We'll be cruising across Melville Bay-a place of terror to whalers for centuries because of its icebergs and unpredictable storms. I just heard that the weather is turning nasty up north and may hit us soon. And I made two big mistakes before I left home: I watched The Perfect Storm-which is enough to terrify anyone who's considering a sea voyage-and I read Rockwell Kent's book N by E, about a disastrous trip he and his friends took by sailboat to Greenland in 1929 (the boat ground against a cliff face near here in a storm and sank).

But, for now, we're getting a couple of hours sleep, then starting a 16-hour day of searching for birds in a freezing rain in an open boat. Enjoy the weather, wherever you are.

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Parts Unknown: A Naturalist's Journey in Search of Birds and Wild Places 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Although non-raptor species are mentioned in this book, as an unabashed admirer of birds of prey, I was attracted to Tim Gallagher's new book. I first saw the book in a local book store, and the photo of the white gyrfalcon on the cover caught my attention even before I saw the title or contents. Many of us admire the spectacular beauty of large falcons, such as gyrfalcons and peregrines, but we know that we will never have an opportunity to visit the birds' northern breeding grounds in places like Greenland and Iceland. Tim takes us there and lets us feel what it is like to set foot in such faraway places, and his photographs also help us visualize the stark environment some of these magnificent predators survive in. Other spectacular raptors are mentioned, too. The ferruginous hawk is the largest non-eagle in North America, and one of the experts on the species is Dr. Joe Schmutz of the University of Saskatchewan. I loved Tim Gallagher's discussion of some of the factors affecting ferruginous hawk population dynamics and how Dr. Schmutz analyzed the ecological factors involved. I loved reading about Pete Bloom's feelings after trapping the last wild California Condor and about Dave Garcelon's joy in seeing adult bald eagles in places where he had released juveniles into the wild. I enjoyed hearing about trapping and banding migrant peregrine falcons at Padre Island, Texas. Tim Gallagher has been privileged to visit wild places most of us will never travel to. And he has been able to visit top raptor researchers as they carry out their work. Usually the only access we have to this sort of information is limited to scientific texts, which are interesting but not as colorful as the stories in this book. I found this book an easy read, but captivating and enjoyable at the same time. I think raptorphiles, falconers, and bird lovers in general will enjoy reading Tim Gallagher's stories in this collection.
Guest More than 1 year ago
You know, I thought I'd been on some wild adventures in search of raptor nests. I've rappeled down spectacular cliffs to see young prairie falcons and golden eagles. I've scrambled up treacherous trees to get to goshawk nests. But everything I've done seems tame compared with Tim Gallagher's feats of daring in PARTS UNKNOWN. I recommend it highly to anyone who loves birds of prey and adventure.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Who knew that birdwatching could be so exciting? Tim Gallagher goes on lengthy voyages through stormy, iceberg-infested waters in northern Greenland. He crawls around on thousand-foot cliffs in Iceland while huge gyrfalcons dive at his head. In his essays, he captures all the flavor and feel of each place's history (both natural and human) and culture. And the writing is so vivid, I felt like I was right there with him. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes to read about the outdoors and nature and also to share vicariously in an adventure.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just got this book a couple of days ago, intending to read it on a trip to the West Coast next week. Problem is, I couldn't put it down. Now I've finished reading it and I want more. Whether you're a birder or not, it's a great read--especially the essays about the author's trips to Greenland and Iceland, which are outstanding. It made me grateful to be sitting here reading this in a warm place.And the piece about the World Series of Birding is hilarious.