Call of the Kingfisher is the enchanting debut from composer and wildlife recordist, Nick Penny. This love letter to a short stretch of Northamptonshire’s River Nene celebrates all the wild things that live there, especially the kingfishers. Uniquely, it comes with bonus audio content to complement the text, accessed via QR codes.
For four decades, Penny has walked beside the river at Oundle – a lovely but little-known part of England where where Clark Gable and thousands of American airmen were stationed during World War II, and where bandleader Glenn Miller performed his final airfield concert before going missing in action. For a whole year, Penny gave the waterway all the time it asked for. The more attention he gave, the more he saw the kingfishers and heard their high whistling calls.
Call of the Kingfisher relates a year by the river, the author’s experiences there and the people he meets. Other strands weave around the feathered protagonist: explorations of history and landscape, from Roman and Bronze Age sites to watermills and centuries-old stone churches; homages to naturalists who lived nearby; forest dawns and dusks listening to the precious song of nightingales. But the background tapestry is the riverbank’s sights and sounds, and its greens and browns, shot through with the blue and orange threads of a kingfisher’s glowing feathers.
As a composer and wildlife recordist, Penny has a deep interest in sounds in the natural environment. He uses the local landscape and wildlife sounds as inspiration, and brings fresh insights into countryside sounds. The book includes access to an hour of high-quality birdsong recordings made alongside the River Nene – audio soundbites of nature’s riches, from kingfishers and nightingales to owls and cuckoos.
This is a book about the things that can be seen and heard when we approach nature with patience and curiosity. It celebrates people who have used that focus to help preserve wildlife and pass on their knowledge to future generations. Above all, Call of the Kingfisher serves as a call to appreciate what we’ve got, wherever we are, and to use our ears as much as our eyes when we experience the natural world.
Nick Penny grew up in many different parts of the world before doing an arts degree at Oxford University. He then set up his own workshop making musical instruments, as well as writing and playing the Paraguayan harp. After moving to rural Northamptonshire four decades ago, he became fascinated by the birdsong in his local woods, starting to record it and use the sounds in his own music. He also began to watch and photograph the kingfishers on the River Nene close to his home – experiences captured in his nature-writing debut, Bradt’s Call of the Kingfisher. Although not a trained naturalist, Penny is an inspiring speaker about wildlife and birdsong, and writes with a deep passion and concern for his subject. Always curious, always with his musician’s ear to the ground, Penny is keen to learn about nature – and delights in passing that knowledge on to others. Penny is from Peterborough, UK.