holy-island

By Ian Kerr; Nature Guides, 2016 Hbk, 150pp; line drawings, maps, many colour photographs ISBN 978-0-9544882-4-6, £14.99 Ian Kerr has decades of first-hand experience of living and birding in this area and has written extensively on the birds of Northumberland, and in particular this much watched and fascinating place. This is in essence a third revised and updated version. The comprehensive classified list covers all 330 species and 19 subspecies recorded up to 2016. This alone is an interesting read and gives a good account of the many changes that have occurred in species status over the years, as well as the many scarce and rare vagrants seen. Earlier sections give an informative and entertaining insight into the island and the reserve area and its immediate surroundings. The history section includes the religious significance of the island, the unwelcome visits of the Vikings and some of the earlier Victorian hunter/naturalists and their fascinating hunting exploits and valuable ornithological contributions. Seasonal accounts take the reader through the marked changes that occur as the seasons pass. Both fauna and flora are covered in an interesting way and in just the right amount of detail. I particularly enjoyed the section describing the wildfowl that flock to the mudflats in great numbers including that Lindisfarne speciality, pale-bellied Brent Geese Branta bernicla hrota. There are a number of useful maps of key sites, including (interestingly) on the reverse of the dust jacket. The text is enlivened by many anecdotes, which help bring the place to life and make this an easy, entertaining read. One of these stories relates to a Stoat Mustela erminea that developed a liking for not only Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis chicks but also adult Fulmar projectile vomit. Fulmar ringers will doubt this is credible but there is even a photograph to prove it! One of the great birding experiences in Britain must be witnessing the arrival of vast numbers of thrushes during the autumn migration as they pass over Holy Island and, if the conditions are right, drop into the village'€™s trees and across the island. The thrushes’ urge to gather strength quickly and move on is beautifully described. Reading Ian’s accounts of events such as these reminds me of why so many birders love visiting this place. If you know Holy Island well this book is a great reminder of the many attractions of the area and if you haven’t yet been it’s a must-read before you go. Alan Heavisides

Volume: 
Issue 12
Start Page: 
752
Display Image: 

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