Gone wild: stories from a lifetime of wildlife travel by Malcolm Smith

By Malcolm Smith

Often a laugh, occasionally romantic or fraught with threat, those 30 brief tales are approximately area people, astonishing areas and the unique natural world the writer units out to discover. The tales comprise searching out Arabian Oryx at the searing plains of the Saudi desolate tract; eiderdown accumulating in Iceland, crouching in swirling clouds and darkness on a knife-edge ridge within the rugged Madeiran mountains and swimming with gray Seals off the Pembroke coast.
the writer describes exceptional encounters with miraculous animals from lumbering manatees and hazardous rhinos to unforgettable reports comparable to being led by means of a honeyguide with a Kenyan Dorobo tribesman to the nest of untamed bees and looking at cranes tip-toeing their courtship dances.
These highly unique stories stopover at locations as different because the Florida Everglades, England’s New woodland, Iceland’s offshore islands, the Empty region of the Saudi wilderness, the tiny remnants of Jordan’s Azraq wetland and the notable oak dehesas of Extremadura. chill out and stopover at the world!

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Ironic, then, that I’ve come here to take part in the annual collection of one of the most insulating natural materials known, a rural industry established for over 1,000 years. Eiderdown collecting. It was an experience I later recounted in the CNN Traveller and The Telegraph magazine. To get here I had driven from Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik, north to the pretty little port town of Stykkishólmur to get the late afternoon ferry which crosses to Brjanslaekur on the Snæfellsnes peninsula much further north.

Depending on the quantity of floodwater – the huge variations in which can make the difference between starvation and plenty for the million people that rely on the delta – the birds might be spread about or concentrated on much smaller areas of marsh. When we were there, the big flood had spread them out enormously, there was so much waterlogged land. Many of Britain’s breeding swifts and maybe some of our swallows pass over this floodplain en route to and from southern Africa too. After all, when it is flooded it must be a good place for migrants to pick up lots of aerial insects having almost starved themselves flying over the vast arid stretches of the Sahara just to the north.

With its rank heather and pale coffee sedges hiding the brown remains of the delicate Heath Spotted Orchids. Needle-thin, vibrant blue damselflies were flitting around the squishy flushes and rusty-bottomed streams as we walked by. A little further on we had our first close encounter with one of the New Forest’s ninety-something (according to Natural England’s experts who seem to have counted them) valley mires: the bogs which fill up the lowest-lying parts of shallow, waterlogged valleys, are known here as ‘bottoms’.

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