The Eastern Curlew review: Harry Saddler on the trail of his obsession
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The Eastern Curlew review: Harry Saddler on the trail of his obsession

The Eastern Curlew

Harry Saddler

The eastern Curlew. By Harry Saddler.

The eastern Curlew. By Harry Saddler.

Affirm Press, $29.99

Both Harry Saddler's earliest encounters with the migratory shorebirds of the title, on islands off Victoria, ended with the birds flying away. He's followed them ever since, in particular on the crowdfunded journey that informs the latter part of this book. The East Asian-Australasian Flyway is the path the birds take on their 10,000-kilometre journeys between Australia and their breeding grounds in Siberia; it passes through the Yellow Sea, encircled by China and Korea, where increasing population pressure on its habitat has contributed to the birds' current critically endangered listing. Saddler flies to China, then Korea, finding the curlew and its fellows in both their natural and increasingly urbanised settings. Through it the bird is both its real, striking, extravagantly long-beaked self, and a symbolic citizen of a changing world. Saddler's gentle, reflective book is both celebration and lament.