Every day provides an opportunity for learning and the past few days of reading Wings Over Water have provided just that. Wings Over Water is a companion book to the IMAX film released earlier this year of the same name. It’s about the plains wetlands of North America and the birds and other wildlife that call it home. This area is not only important for the birds who nest there but also because it provides “clean water, and sufficient grasslands to keep our continent healthy.” Like the Amazon and the Everglades, these heartland wetlands are environmentally vital. And, that is something I didn’t know. The area includes: Iowa, Minnesota, the Dakotas, Montana and part of the Canadian provinces of Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan.
Blurb: Covering 300,000 square miles stretching from Canada through Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Iowa, the prairie wetlands are one of Earth’s most important, yet little-known, ecosystems. More than half of all North American migratory waterfowl and 96 species of songbirds breed and nest there, and more than 60 percent of the continent’s ducks are hatched there. Wings Over Water immerses readers in this awe-inspiring, essential region, using more than 300 breathtaking photos and inspiring essays from some of North America’s foremost conservationists to shine a spotlight on these critical breeding grounds and the need to protect them.
Wings Over Water is a joint venture of the Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation, which works to secure the future of hunting, fishing, and land management; Ducks Unlimited Inc., Wetlands America Trust, and Ducks Unlimited Canada, the world’s largest nonprofit organizations dedicated to conserving North America’s disappearing wetland and waterfowl habitats; and the National Audubon Society, the world’s oldest nonprofit environmental organization dedicated to bird conservation.
Wings Over Water is a beautifully photographed and informative coffee table book that includes personal reflections about the wetlands, a lovely haibun as well as information regarding the different environmental and conservation groups that have worked for over a century to keep these wetlands and others like them safe.
The photographs taken by remote electronics and photographers, some in blinds, are stunning. Many capture birds in flight, taking off, or landing. As well, the landscape is shown in breathtaking images of sunset or just showing its vastness and make all of those jokes about flyover states pretty ridiculous since we can now see how beautiful they are.
It can be easy to just page through the colorful photographs but the text provides equally mind-boggling stuff like: “in the past 50 years over 3 billion birds have vanished from North America.” Noting the number and location is pretty sobering. “. . .seven out of ten birds that migrate over North America rely on prairie wetlands during part of their life cycle.” The importance of the wetlands cannot be over-emphasized, but it seems like they suffer from a huge PR issue that perhaps the movie and book can help to alleviate. Of course, getting the people who need to read the words in this book to actually read them and not just flip while concentrating on the pictures might be a challenge.
While many of us may never have the opportunity to visit this area, the pictures and information do a great deal to bring it to life and the work that is being done to conserve the area. I learned a lot and have definitely had my interest piqued enough to learn more.
I will note that there is an effort to establish a link between hunters and conservation which didn’t sit well with me probably in the same way that while one gives Teddy Roosevelt his due because he established hundreds of parks, reserves and conservation areas and may have aided in recovery of some species, turkeys for instance, he was also a voracious hunter. The hunters role in conservation seems self-serving rather than for the benefit of the species.
A beautiful book and I’m looking forward to seeing the film.
I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Wings Over Water teaser (YouTube)
Wings Over Water (the Official Trailer)