The Spirit of the River by Declan Murphy

3.5 out of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

I have been fortunate to see a few glimpses of kingfishers, they are super fast and you have to learn where they will be perched to see them feeding. That iridescent blue flash is captivating for many others too, one of whom is Declan Murphy. He first spotted one of these birds as a young lad and he never forgot it.

Nature becomes more than his crutch; it was his comfort and became his way of coping with the world around him. He had spent time watching a family of woodpeckers in the past and realise that even though he had seen a lot of kingfishers, he knew nothing about their habits and lives. He decided that it would be an opportunity to find a pair and spend a spring and summer watching them. It would also mean that he was immersed in the natural world once again. But first, he had to find them.

He stood on the bridge on his first trip to the river watching the mass of water rush underneath that Storm Daniel had unleashed on the land. It didn’t bode well. However, over the noise of the water, he could hear birdsong. It took a little while, but he then spotted the bird creating the song; a Dipper. These are amazing little birds who forage for food in rivers picking invertebrates out from the river beds. They would be a perfect bird to watch as he tried to locate where the kingfishers were nesting.

Then one day he spots the flash of blue on his way to see the dippers. They were back and now he had to try and find where they were going to be nesting, it would be a bit of a challenge given the landscape. But a chance spot of a pair helped him to locate the unusual spot where they were nesting. Now he knew their spot, he would spend as long as he could there watching them.

Overall I liked this book, though there were a couple of parts that I didn’t think fitted with the rest of the book, though I understand why they were included. Murphy has a keen eye and is able to describe the things that he is seeing on the river in enough detail so you feel that you are participating in watching the dippers or kingfishers alongside him. The writing style is conversational, he has put in long hours watching the kingfishers raising their brood into a pretty good book. I can imagine him telling you of his day’s exploits a watching these birds over a pint in the pub. I am not sure which part I liked the most, the chapters about the kingfishers or the chapters on the dippers.

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  1. Liz Dexter

    I’m intrigued by the bits that didn’t fit the rest of the book – were they all stuff plunging into his personal life (which I am not super-keen on)? I have been lucky enough to see a few kingfishers during the last summer, there seemed to be more than usual along the canals and streams.

    • Paul

      There were two incidents from his personal life that whilst they were part of the story, really didn’t fit in with the book in my opinion. I haven’t seen that many sadly. I have seen more otters!

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