The natural world, country life & pets
A Guide to Wild Spain, Portugal and Gibraltar is a unique book that brings together the history of exploration of the 'wild' country that is the Iberian Peninsular in the 19th Century. The authors retrace the footsteps taken by four British naturalists based in Gibraltar and Jerez: Abel Chapman, a vitner from Sunderland, among whose achievements was the saving from extinction of the Spanish ibex and large involvement in the establishment of Africa's first game reserve, now the Kruger National Park; Walter Buck, a native of Jerez who became British Vice-Consul in that city, and together with Chapman described the countryside, people and wildlife of Spain in two classic books Wild Spain (1893) and Unexplored Spain (1910); Leonard Howard Loyd Irby, an army officer and keen ornithologist who devoted his time to the study of birds in southern Iberia aftern his arrival in Gibraltar in 1868 and published his findings in his Ornithology of the Straits of Gibraltar (1875);and William Willoughby Cole Verner, also a military man, who was a keen naturalist and explorer and wrote in 1909 My Life among the Wild Birds in Spain on his retirement in Algeciras. Quoting liberally from the works of these intrepid naturalists and embellishing the book with their own exquisite photographs, the Finlayson family has produced an evocative image of a landmass so diverse that their predecessors, Chapman and Buck, recognised that "included within its boundaries are nearly all the physical conditions of Europe and northern Africa". The book is, however, not only a fascinating travelogue but also a plea for conservation as some of wild Iberia's treasures are now under serious threat. The grand Egyptian vulture,for example, the authors maintain, may well be extinct in Andalucía in a decade's time. Happily there is a counter-balance with the recovery of some species like the glossy ibis and the purple gallinule. A Guide to Wild Spain, Portugal and Gibraltar is a multi-facetted, cleverly conceived book that is directed at anyone who has an interest in the natural history of the three territories that make up the Iberian Peninisular. It tells the reader where to go to find unique species or natural phenomena like the migration of birds of prey. In substance, it is visually stunning 21st Century snapshot of one of Europe's ecologically richest lands. Author's Note: Clive Finlayson is a Gibraltar-born biologist and his work has included research into the ecology of birds and that of the Neanderthals. His wife, Geraldine, was also born in Gibraltar and is a biogeographer. She has worked on many field projects including inside the Doñana National Park. Their son, Stewart, is a keen naturalist and is reading for a PhD in biology. He is intimately familiar with the wildlife of Iberia and also heads the Gibraltar Museum Caving Unit.