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

By David Gessner
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Book Details
  • Author: David Gessner
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • Publisher: Brand: Beacon Press
  • Published: 2007-04-01
An irreverent, absorbing, and insightful tale of one man's adventures following the great 7,000-mile osprey migration across two continents

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 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'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, review in the January 15th issue

"Soaring with Fidel is a grand and cheering journey on the wings of one of nature's most sociable predators. It's impossible to watch an osprey hovering above a crystal calm bay and not envy the great bird's freedom. Now, thanks to David Gessner, we are invited to follow."
—Carl Hiaasen, author of Nature Girl

"Gessner's travels are filled with small delights. He has a great gift for conveying reverence without sanctimony, and even at his most sardonic and self-deprecating, his sense of wonder at the osprey never falters. 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." —OnEarth

"An engaging, lyrical guide to osprey migration, Cuba, and a common humanity. On his impulsive journey, Gessner meets other devotees of this magnificent raptor, and experiences the thrill of following what he loves."
—Orion Magazine

"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

"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

"He gives an occasional nod to Henry David Thoreau, perhaps to assure us that, yep, he's read the masters, but his style—well, imagine Hunter Tompson gone birding, pen in hand." —Hartford Courant

David Gessner is the award-winning author of several books, including Return of the Osprey and The Prophet of Dry Hill (Beacon / 8568-5 / $19.95 hc). He is editor of the literary journal Ecotone and assistant professor of creative writing at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington. Each summer, Gessner migrates north to Cape Cod.

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