Soaring with Fidel: An Osprey Odyssey from Cape Cod to Cuba and Beyond

Soaring with Fidel: An Osprey Odyssey from Cape Cod to Cuba and Beyond

by David Gessner
     
 

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One September, after writing about ospreys on Cape Cod for years, David Gessner impulsively decided to follow the birds on their annual migration. Each fall these graceful raptors, with wingspans of up to six feet, cruise over the eastern United States, then soar over Cuba and winter in South America, returning north with the spring. In 2004, Gessner went along for… See more details below

Overview

One September, after writing about ospreys on Cape Cod for years, David Gessner impulsively decided to follow the birds on their annual migration. Each fall these graceful raptors, with wingspans of up to six feet, cruise over the eastern United States, then soar over Cuba and winter in South America, returning north with the spring. In 2004, Gessner went along for the ride, traveling illegally into the mountains of Cuba and deep into Venezuela as he competed with the crew of a BBC documentary to be the first to follow the full migration, trailing the birds by car, boat, foot, and plane. He called his favorite osprey Fidel.

Soaring with Fidel is about the exhilaration of migration, but it is also a deeper meditation on the nature of human happiness. In describing the thrill of travel, the antics of these swashbuckling birds, and the cast of characters he meets (and drinks with) along the way—including scientists, students, tour guides, and an online group of birders—Gessner gives us a profound lesson in the importance of following what you love.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

At the outset, Gessner tells readers that "[t]his is not a bird book"; indeed, it's more about what Gessner came to understand about himself by spending day after day studying one particular species of bird, the osprey. Gessner, who previously wrote Return of the Osprey, which focuses on the effort to rescue ospreys from DDT annihilation, this time turns his attention to migration—why ospreys migrate to Central and South America every winter, and what they do when they're there. He tracked ospreys on one basic migration route—from Cape Cod to Cuba and back. While Gessner weaves in the science of tracking the birds, it's his rowboat-and-binoculars approach to the subject that will most attract readers. Spending days watching ospreys and chatting with other bird-watchers, Gessner discovers the "joy in reducing life to one thing." Gessner writes beautifully, with grace and humor. (Apr.)

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Library Journal

Birds of prey attract aficionados as no other group of birds does. Gessner (creative writing, Univ. of North Carolina, Wilmington; Return of the Osprey), a charming, literate maverick, tells of his travels and travails following ospreys ("fish hawks") in their migrations. Much of his journey's drama derives from the fact that his project, by happenstance, competes with a parallel, simultaneous one of the BBC, with all of its resources. Unorganized and of modest means, Gessner is nevertheless knowledgeable, lucky, and endearing himself to key experts and authorities along the way. He engagingly takes the reader down the East Coast, to Cuba, and to Colombia using information from birds tracked by satellite and his own narrative of travel to and within these places. His book shares many of the good qualities of On the Wingby Alan Tennant, another off-center character and gifted writer who followed wide-ranging peregrine falcons in a small plane. Good reading; recommended for the biology and natural history collections of all libraries, especially large public.
—Henry T. Armistead

Kirkus Reviews
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 aA grand adventure, not just for birders and nature lovers.
From the Publisher
Gessner's travels are filled with small delights . . . As he stands on a rock above Cuba's Sierra Maestra, watching ospreys rocket past, we wish we could be up there beside him, binoculars in one hand, a cold beer in the other.—George Black, OnEarth

"Soaring with Fidel is a grand and cheering journey on the wings of one of nature's most sociable predators."—Carl Hiassen, author of Nature Girl

"From the tidal marshes of Cape Cod to jungle lakes in Venezuela, David Gessner lets nothing—not language barriers, not empty pockets, not steely-eyed Cuban bureaucrats or American embargoes—stop him from following the migration of the osprey. Just reckless enough to be lucky, Gessner wins over everyone he meets. Soaring with Fidel has wings."—Scott Weidensaul, author of Living on the Wind

"Because of its robust passion and focus, Soaring with Fidel would have probably been a favorite of Teddy Roosevelt’s. It’s Gessner’s finest book, unpredictable in the best way, and funny, too; an adventure book and much more—a book of contact written by a writer who quickly becomes an audible and visible presence. Soaring with Fidel demonstrates that you can ‘pick up one thing and find the rest of the world hitched to it.’ If you’ve experienced a passion that you failed to follow—or that you did follow—then this is your book."—Clyde Edgerton, author of Solo

"Exhilarating, hilarious, tender, this is David Gessner at his best. Call it whatever you want—osprey lust, wanderlust, migratory unrest—but when Gessner decides to follow the birds he loves from Cape Cod to Cuba to Venezuela and back north, over thousands of miles of mountain, swamp, and sea, we all benefit."—James Campbell, author of The Final Frontiersman

"Equal doses of Jack Kerouac and Roger Tory Peterson promise to enshrine Soaring with Fidel in the pantheon of great travel writing and natural history."—Keith L. Bildstein, author of Migrating Raptors of the World

"Gessner seldom sets out deliberately to be funny, as Bill Bryson does, but his deadpan, self-deprecating humor ("I had vast experience in not seeing birds") makes him an ideal traveling companion and guide. Soaring With Fidel lets you hover for a while in the thermals of fine language, seeing the same old world from a fresh and invigorating altitude."—Wilmington (NC) Morning Star News

"David Gessner, author of Soaring With Fidel, said, 'There will be a huge hole in the Cape literary community. I have done a brunch for every one of my books and had planned on doing them for each future book. Each time Jack and Bess made it a personal celebration. It was a great way to interact with Cape people, and Cabbages and Kings will be deeply missed.'"—Shelf Awareness

"This probing investigation of the migratory flight of the osprey embraced several unexpectedly, exciting adventures . . . I found Gessner’s book a most interesting read."—NH Union Leader

"This is a thoughtful and loving examination."—Booklist

"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…A grand adventure, not just for birders and nature lovers."—Kirkus

"Hunter Tompson gone birding, pen in hand." —Hartford Courant

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780807085905
Publisher:
Beacon Press
Publication date:
04/01/2007
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
1,272,478
File size:
0 MB

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