In 2016 Conor O’Brien had a notion that would ultimately take him all over Ireland, across the four provinces and take two years to complete. His idea was to seek out 12 of our rarest or most elusive birds, species that had eluded him on all of his previous forays across Ireland. It was a quest that would test and try him – while also opening his eyes and ears to the beauty, variety and history of our island.
Hopping on buses and trains to the four corners of Ireland, O’Brien endured all weathers from the warmest days of summer to driving winter rains in search of his subjects. Some are highly localised, some extremely shy. They include top predators of day and night; migrants who cross continents to be here; sea-going pirates; underhanded nest parasites; songsters of the high mountains; and ingenious forest dwellers.
Ireland Through Birds, published Oct 25th, takes the reader on an ornithological adventure around Ireland in search of twelve of our rarest and most elusive birds. Along the journey the author explores every kind of landscape and habitat our island has to offer across all four seasons, from the remote isles of Donegal to the rugged mountains of Kerry and urban parks of Dublin. Through it all, O’Brien is enchanted by calling corncrakes, mesmerised by hunting harriers, and chased by angry skuas.
It’s a journey through a staggering array of landscapes that’ll bring the reader face to face with the rich history and stunning wildlife to be savoured right on our doorstep. It explores the stories of the remarkable birds that live here: the genius of the jay, the sublime mimicry of the cuckoo, the nocturnal prowess of the barn owl, while paying a moving, poetic tribute to our natural heritage – and warning about the threats that face it. Ireland Through Birds is a unique blend of natural history and travelogue, making it a great read for anyone with an interest in Ireland’s natural world. (PB RRP €16.95/£14.99)