When we try to pick out anything by itself,
we find it hitched to everything else in the universe. - John Muir
Soaring with Fidel

"Soaring with Fidel"

“A grand adventure, not just for birders and nature lovers.” Kirkus Reviews

In the fall of 2004 I began a seven thousand mile trip following ospreys from Cape Cod to the mountains of Cuba, then down to Venezuela and back the next spring.

I did this for many reasons—not the least of which was that I planned on writing a book about it—but when I began I couldn’t have imagined how exhilarating, wild, and just plain fun the experience would prove.

At that point I had studied the birds at their home nests on Cape Cod for years, but that fall, driven in part by finding myself suddenly uprooted and living in North Carolina, I decided to fly to the Cape and then head south with the birds to see where they went when they left their nests. The resulting book is about the exhilaration of migration—a great annual exercise in exuberance in the animal world—but also about the uncertainty and risk inherent in all our migrations.

Here’s is some of the stuff I found along the way:

*On Long Island I spent a day with a group of virtual birders who spend their time watching real time footage at a nest in a kind of Real World with Ospreys.

*At Hawk Moutain, PA, I encountered some of the country’s best hawk watchers—folks who wield their binoculars like six-shooters--and all-around great storyteller/ornithologist Keith Bildstein.

*At Cape May I spent 24 hours with the hawkwatch interns, including the charismatic 24 year old Jason Starfire, who tragically died in the summer of 2005.

*In Cuba, where according to the government I traveled illegally (despite the fact I was there for journalistic reasons), I hiked up to the top of la Gran Piedra (the big rock) with local ornithologist Freddy Santana Rodriguez, and we watched a river of ospreys migrate toward Guatanamo Bay.

* In Venezuela, Adrian Navez guided us through machine gun security blocks to see more ospreys than we’d ever imagined were there.

Of course part of the reason for this website is to promote the book and in the slim hopes you will actually go out and buy it. But another reason for this site’s existence is that there was a whole lot of the year that I couldn’t cram into the book. For instance I have cartoons I drew of the people I met along the way that didn’t fit the tone of the book. Also pictures, most of them by my literary sidekick and great drinker/eater/friend, Mark Honerkamp. Oh, and maps, too, one of which will appear when the book comes out but most of which won’t……

So. This site is about the book but it is also about ospreys and how you can find inner peace and be happy (and thin and famous) by following ospreys…..

Soaring with Fidel - book cover

An irreverent, absorbing, and insightful tale of one man’s adventures following the great 7,000-mile osprey migration across two continents.

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" Gessner's rollicking road-trip account of 21st Century hawkwatching captures the essence of both migrating ospreys and the mixed bag of people who track them. Equal doses of Jack Kerouac and Roger Tory Peterson promise to enshrine Soaring with Fidel in the pantheon of great travel writing and natural history."

--Keith Bildstein, author of Migrating Raptors of the World

"Because of its robust passion and focus, this book would have probably been a favorite of Teddy Roosevelt's. Reading SOARING WITH FIDEL, I traveled to bars, houses below palm trees, mountain tops, lakes, oceans, seedy hotels--and then home again. But so much more is going on: Gessner is not just following an obsession--he is eloquently exploring and explaining 'levels deeper than memory.'"

--Clyde Edgerton, author of Lunch at the Picadilly









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