In Search of One Last Song: Britain’s disappearing birds and the people trying to save them
‘Wonderful and enriching’ Adam Nicolson
‘The best book on conservation and the countryside I have read in years’ John Lewis-Stempel
‘A modern pastoral written with intelligence, wit and lyricism’ Cal Flyn
Our wild places and wildlife are disappearing at a terrifying rate. This is a story about going in search of the people who are trying to save our birds, as well as confronting the enormity of what losing them would really mean.
In this beautiful and thought-provoking blend of nature and travel writing Patrick Galbraith sets off across Britain on a journey that may well be his last chance to see some of our disappearing birds. Along the way, from Orkney to West Wales, from the wildest places to post-industrial towns, he meets a fascinatingly eclectic group of people who in very different ways are on the front line of conservation, tirelessly doing everything they can to save ten species teetering dangerously close to extinction.
In Search of One Last Song mixes conservation, folklore, history, and art. Through talking to musicians, writers and poets, whose work is inspired by the birds he manages to see, such as the nightingale and the capercaillie, Galbraith creates a picture of the immense cultural void that would be left behind if these birds were gone.
Among those he meets, there are feelings of great frustration. There are reed cutters and coppicers whose ancient crafts have long sustained vital habitats for some of our rarest birds but whose voices often go unheard. There are ornithologists who think their warnings are being ignored, and there are gamekeepers and animal rights activists who both feel they are on the right side of an increasingly ugly battle. Ultimately, it emerges that many of the birds Galbraith encounters could thrive, but it would require much better cooperation between those who are caught up in the struggle for their future. It also becomes clear that while losing birds like the turtle dove and black grouse will result in a paler country for all of us, for some of those who live alongside them, it will mean the bitterly painful end of so much more.
”'One of the great oral histories of British nature and the British countryside … Sad and honest and important and often very funny” - Richard Smyth, Review 31
”'A treasury of a book … filled with beautiful moments, amazing and sometimes rather surprising characters, and, if we could only learn from them, reasons for hope.” - John Burnside, New Statesman
”'It's a delight to jump into this slightly strange parallel world. Galbraith is such an able communicator of its weirdness, that it is a pleasure to go along for the ride” - The Times
”'In terms of both scope and execution, this book is a hugely impressive achievement, and it will be fascinating to see where Galbraith goes from here.” - The Scotsman
‘An important and timely book that explores the human context of an ecological emergency. Galbraith is a thoughtful, assured and elegant writer who brings a mature intelligence and open-minded insight to his subject.' Oban Times -
”'Entertaining” - Jamie Blackett, Country Life
”'Galbraith’s writing is beautiful … In Search of One Last Song feels like an important step in the right direction” - Stephen Rutt, British Birds
”'The birds come to life in his fine writing” - Helen Bynum, Literary Review
”'Galbraith combines the ability to write lyrically with a formidable grasp of his subject” - The Week
”'Patrick Galbraith’s engaging debut volume will appeal to the layman as much as to the committed naturalist, being a quirkily enjoyable journey through a slightly nether worldly version of Britain.” - David Profumo, The Critic
”'The writing is strong, the book an impressive debut, establishing Galbraith as a quality writer.” - Tim Dee, Caught by the River
”'The best book on conservation and the countryside I have read in years” - John Lewis-Stempel
”'Beautifully written and earthy” - Philip Womack, The London Magazine