294 pages, no illustrations
For more than three decades, John Lister-Kaye has been enraptured by the spectacular seasonal metamorphosis at Aigas, the world-renowned Highlands field centre. Over the years, the glen's wildlife has come to infiltrate his soul, whether it is a warbling blackcap's cascading refrains, whooper swans hauling winter along with them, pine martens causing havoc in the hen run, loyal resident tawny owls defending their territory from adolescents, or a regal roe buck strutting in the broom and gorse, suddenly gilded by a fiery ray of sunlight.
John Lister-Kaye has come to understand intimately the movements of these beloved creatures, but increasingly unpredictable weather patterns have caused sometimes subtle, sometimes seismic shifts in their behaviour. Gods of the Morning follows a year through the turning of the seasons at Aigas, exploring the habits of the Highland animals, and in particular the birds – his gods of the morning – for whom he has nourished a lifelong passion. Gods of the Morning is an affectionate and wise celebration of the British landscape and the birds that come and go through the year, a lyrical reminder of the relationship we have lost with the seasons and a call to look afresh at the natural world around us.
"I love this book. It quickens the heart with hope and wrests real beauty from keen observations of the natural world. If only we could all be as attentive to the life around us as John Lister-Kaye. No one writes more movingly, or with such transporting poetic skill, about encounters with wild creatures. Its pages course with sympathy, humility and wisdom"
– Helen Macdonald author of H is for Hawk
"Compelling [...] a tour de force of forensic observation and imaginative reconstruction. The prose carries a deep, rich polish"
– Mark Cocker, Spectator
"Gods of the Morning is a rich treasury of secrets stolen from the Highlands, seen through the eyes of a great naturalist"
– Chris Packham
"I am addicted to the writings of John Lister-Kaye. Reading this book is to be at his side on the hills of Scotland. You can practically smell the leaf mould and stare in the merlin's eyes"
– Joanna Lumley
"Exquisitely observed and deeply evocative, Gods of the Morning is a joyful affirmation of the changing seasons, the wonders of wildlife and the value of living close to nature. Generous, poetic and wise, John Lister-Kaye is a national treasure"
– Patrick Barkham, author of Badgerlands
"This book has a beating heart. Intimate, sweetly sorrowful and sharply observed, Gods of the Morning will open hearts and minds with its blend of vitality, wonder and wisdom. This book is just what we need right now: a song that calls up and re-enchants the world in which we live. John Lister-Kaye's writing enfolds a conservation-scientist's eye with the soul of a poet. This book embodies all the cherished sounds and sights of the turning seasons and becomes a blessing, a prayer for protection"
– Miriam Darlington, author of Otter Country
"The gods of the morning, according to Virgil, are birds. They are regarded with reverence by naturalist John Lister-Kaye [...] He keeps a seasoned eye on the seasonal behaviour of birds, logging unusual variations in their migration and nesting patterns, and developing a wry sense of their character [...] Though Lister-Kaye warns of the damage caused by humankind, and sometimes strikes an elegiac note, he sings full-throatedly in praise of the persistence of nature"
– The Times
"Renowned conservationist John Lister-Kaye finds as much drama tracking the creatures of his garden in the Highlands as watching polar bears cross frozen ice packs near the North Pole. Whether it's the clever pine marten trying to find a way into its hen-house or the wild geese flocking south from the Arctic, John can see it all from the windows of his home. And he has fallen in love with these moments of everyday adventures [...] Gods of the Morning follows a year in the Highlands seen through the eyes of someone who's learned to notice what others pass by without a second glance"
– Sunday Mail
"A wonderful piece of writing"
– The Times
"John Lister-Kaye invites us to range deep into an extraordinary landscape, then soar over it and sense it change. Gods of the Morning is a triumph in nature writing"
– Tristan Gooley, author of The Natural Navigator
"Gods of the Morning is an exquisitely observed account of a year in the life of a Scottish glen, backed by a deep understanding gleaned through decades of study by a working naturalist, and homing in on the struggle the local wildlife is facing in coping with weather patterns that have become more and more unpredictable"
– Neil Ansell, author of Deep Country and Deer Island
"The spirit of nature holds many unknowns, mysteries and magic. John Lister-Kaye questions these unknowns with perfectly crafted words, delving so deep that you can almost feel nature's pulse"
– Colin Elford author of A Year in the Woods
"Gods of the Morning is an extraordinary, beautiful and honest book by a writer of profound personal and scientific knowledge. The trees, the pine martens, the fatalities brought by the beautiful but bitter winters, the abandoned nests, the robin's song – John Lister-Kaye's love and concern for all of these will touch the reader in a unique way, as his descriptive prose soars and glides and rests. Like the birds for whom he is a fierce and loyal guardian. Few books urge me to read them again but this is one of them"
– Virginia McKenna
"John Lister-Kaye is a rare species – a respected naturalist and a consummate wordsmith. Whether in person or on the printed page, there is no one I would rather choose to guide me through the glens in search of Scotland's wildlife"
– Brian Jackman
"Lister-Kaye writes with infectious joy about the wildlife he knows and loves [...] his endless curiosity and constant fascination with the natural world around him reads more as love story than as tragedy"
– Caught by the River
– Horse & Countryside
"His writing is poetic and informative, rich with description but unsentimental"
– Evening Herald
"Enjoyable and entertaining"
– NFU Countryside
– Scotland Outdoors
"May well inspire you to get in the great outdoors"
– Sunday Post
"Lister-Kaye celebrates the turning of the seasons in prose that is as fine as poetry [...] the perfect observer of the to-ing and fro-ing of the wildlife that graces the landscape"
– Sunday Express
"The beginning of wisdom is the asking of many questions, and this, you feel, is what Lister-Kaye does all day [...] This is the kind of naturalist one can relate to [...] endearing [...] Gods of the Morning is often sharp and poetic'"
"A lyrical account of a landscape intimately observed [...] John Lister-Kaye gets up at dawn so you don't have to [...] Intimate moments are captured with such immediacy that we are right there beside him"
– Country Life
"This is a book that needs to be savoured, John's descriptions evoke a sense of being in the landscape and his emotive language instils an enthusiasm for the natural world"
– Hexham Courant
"Tantalising [...] makes you think about things [...] heart-warming"
– Highland News
"Gods of the Morning proves what a haven for wildlife Lister-Kaye has created and the joy that can be evoked from understanding nature so closely"
– Scottish Field
"Lister-Kaye uses his observations as a springboard to a wide range of topic, some general and others highly personal [...] Birds feature most prominently. The author describes in vivid detail his encounters with a female Blackcap on the nest and a male Merlin surveying the glen at dawn. But it's not all about the birds. We also read about migrating money spiders, the author's Jack Russells, Roe Deer, how Pine Martens have returned to the Highlands and much more [...] This is a lyrical, even beautiful, exploration of Highlands wildlife"
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Sir John Lister-Kaye is one of Britain's best-known naturalists and conservationists. He is the author of nine books on wildlife and the environment, including At the Water's Edge, and has lectured all over the world. He has served prominently in the RSPB, the Nature Conservancy Council, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Scottish Wildlife Trust. In 2003 he was awarded an OBE for services to nature conservation. He lives with his wife and family among the mountains of the Scottish Highlands, where he runs the world-famous Aigas Field Centre.