One of the world’s rarest birds is the Slender-billed curlew. It breeds in Siberia in the brief summer and then heads south across the vast landscape to over winter in the much warmer Mediterranean region. It used to be a common enough bird, being seen often in Italy and Greece as well as the Balkans on the wetlands and estuaries. Then within a few years it stopped being a regular sight and almost vanished completely, just the odd speculative glimpse, but nothing confirmed. Horatio Clare wants to see if this fine bird has become extinct, or if there are the still some around. He travels from its wintering sites across Europe meeting conservationists who are trying their best to save habitats and creatures across a landscape undergoing dramatic changes.
Too much certainty is a miserable thing, while the unknowable has a pristine beauty and a wonder with no end.
Clare is engaging with all those he meets as he crosses Europe looking for these elusive birds and talking to those that remember them returning in the winters. It is quite a moving book as he searches for the elusive curlew and considers the reasons behind the decline. There are echoes of his book, A Single Swallow, and it is written in the same lyrical style, making this a joy to read. If it has one tiny flaw it is that it is very short, it felt like it took no time at all to read. 4.5 stars