Few and Far Between: On the Trail of Britain’s Rarest Animals

Charlie Elder is on a mission.

From endangered snakes to adorable dormice – this author will stop at nothing until he’s uncovered some of the rarest animals in the British Isles.

Few and Far Between gives us a unique glimpse into the lives of our most secretive creatures, and the experts who are doing all they can to protect them, in a whirlwind trip through the wilderness.

Elder, Charlie - Few and Far Between Cover

But this isn’t the author’s first trek across our countryside: in his last book, While Flocks Last, he took us on a journey to the treetops in search of Britain’s most furtive birds. His latest adventure is jam-packed with an impressive list of species, each more strange and seductive than the last. From the very beginning, we get a titillating insight into the world of the Scottish wildcat, the basking shark and the mysterious pine marten, to name just a few.

Opening Few and Far Between, there is a real sense of the passion that has gone into planning this trip – the 4am starts, the wobbly ferries to tiny islands – Charlie Elder will go to extreme measures to quench his thirst for the weird, wonderful and the just plain bizarre!

But it’s not always plain sailing. After some astonishing finds, things get a little stickier. Dealing with some of the most elusive creatures in the world, sometimes even the experts can get it wrong. Whilst in search of the camera-shy Bechstein’s bat, he is left empty-handed as the critter makes a sneaky getaway.

This book is packed full of fun anecdotes interspersed with hard-hitting facts which makes for a very satisfying read. Charlie Elder really does have a way with words. The descriptions of these rare and wonderful creatures can be completely mesmerising – take the Duke of Burgundy butterfly with its “wings, patterned like cracked marmalade glaze” or the skylarks “sieving the air into thousands of semiquavers”.

Duke of Burgundy butterfly, Charlie Elder

While at times it is hard to see why the author has chosen to take up such a task – he is no nature expert and can’t use an OS map without falling face first into a hedge – Charlie Elder, nevertheless, sweeps us up on his mission. It’s easy to agree that “scarcity bestows a certain quality, an undeniable allure” to these creatures. This book is so easy to read, gliding seamlessly from one habitat to the next, covering a dazzling array of species across sea, land and air.

But this isn’t just a tick-sheet; this is an exploration of how humans and nature co-exist. Few and Far Between is a heartfelt journey into how we are responsible for some of the most shocking declines in natural history. Over the past fifty years, 60 per cent of our species have plummeted in numbers and some are now close to disappearing. Without our meddling, we would not have to travel to the depths of the wild to catch a glimpse of Britain’s amazing creatures.

This book shows us what we have been missing and offers hope for a future richer in nature.

Few and Far Between by Charlie Elder is out on 23 April 2015 (Bloomsbury).

Published by jennlane

Wildlife and writings.

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