Sunday, January 12, 2014

Book Review: Imperial Dreams

One of only two known clips of the Imperial Woodpecker
(C) Cornell University and Made by William Rhein in 1956

One of my gifts this holiday season was Tim Gallagher's latest book Imperial Dreams.  The book is a voyage into the natural history of the Imperial Woodpecker (Campephilus imperialis) in the Sierra Madre Mountains in Mexico.  For me this book was more than just a travelogue.  It was a journey into a nation and land that seem to be disappearing more and more every day and descending further and further into violence and chaos. Author Tim Gallagher takes on this fierce region, its tough natural history, hardy inhabitants, and current struggles.  The prose balances these well and you can't help but read on and on as Gallagher strikes deeper and deeper into this region.

For me, the birds of Mexico are not only far and distant because of time and space, but also the political and economic troubles make it a difficult journey and the birds distant.  Gallagher's account of his travel this land strikes a good balance between making the reader want to go and climb and explore these ancient mountains and lament the political and crime issues that plaque Mexico.

Does he find the Imperial Woodpecker?  How does Gallagher's quest end?  How does he deal with the dangers of the region?  Pick it up and find out!  It is definitely worth the read and you won't regret following Gallagher and on his journey through the Sierra Madre.

Some Campephilus Woodpeckers in the Peabody Museum's Collection
Sadly, this is how close many of us will come to the these birds...

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