My Summer Reading – A Wing and A Prayer

I was in our local bookstore picking up books Karen ordered and spotted a stack of books titled A Wing and a Prayer.  On impulse I purchased one and am I glad I did, and I’m thinking you might like it too.

Written by Anders and Beverly Gyllenhaal, in the introduction they state, “This is the story of the ranks of biologists, ranchers, ecologists, birders, hunters, wildlife officers, and philanthropists trying to protect the continent’s birds form a growing list of lethal threats and pressures”.  In order to tell that story they lived in a twenty-three-foot Airstream for a year and traveled 25,000 miles (some by air) going to where people were trying to save and restore bird species – some of which are on the brink of extinction and others whose populations are in sharp decline.

Throughout their journey you can sense the passion the people they met have for birds, and their sense of urgency they have to help threatened bird species.  A chapter is devoted to the people who conducted the study of overall avian numbers that we are all familiar with by now – three billion birds lost since 1970.  That’s billion with a “B”.

Their journey took them to some remote locations – the grasslands of Florida where researchers are releasing Florida Grasshopper Sparrows that were bred in captivity into the wild.  To remote areas of the Sierra Nevada Mountains where researchers have had to resort to drastic measures to save the California Spotted Owls.  At each stop they describe the powerful new technologies being used to understand birds better – that knowledge helps wildlife managers create unique solutions for each species being rescued.

If you follow news about bird conservation efforts at all you may have heard about some of the projects they share in their book, but it is written with such an engaging style and feature close-up looks at the people who are frantically working to keep birds from disappearing you’ll want to read every word.

Get A Wing And a Prayer.  You’ll be inspired. But you will also come away after reading it feeling, “Is it enough?  What more can we do to help the remaining birds?”  Without more conservation efforts the birds we love the photograph will become harder and harder to find.


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