Cover image for Glimpses of paradise : the marvel of massed animals
Glimpses of paradise : the marvel of massed animals
Bruemmer, Fred.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Buffalo, N.Y. : Firefly Books, [2002]

Physical Description:
255 pages : color illustrations ; 29 cm
General Note:
"A Firefly Book"--T.p. verso.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
QL705 .B78 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area-Oversize

On Order



For ten years, internationally respected photographer and writer Fred Bruemmer traveled around the world to capture on film the staggering spectacle of massed animals of all kinds. Glimpses of Paradise is just that: a peek into a world rapidly fading into extinction -- an Eden where animals and birds pulsed across the earth and through the air in huge numbers. Coupled with Bruemmer's engaging and earnest text, this is a stunning record of a world few have the privilege to see.

While forty-five animal and bird species from all corners of the globe are featured, all of these massings reveal the truly remarkable, interdependent relationships that are the web of nature. Masses of shorebirds migrating to their arctic breeding grounds stop along the Jersey shores to fill up on billions of eggs left by massing horseshoe crabs. In the Amazon, pierid butter- flies mass near Madre de Dios River, where they sip the salty tears of nesting turtles. Risking their lives, Peru's blue-headed parrots flock to exposed cliff-sides to lick the clay that protects them from the poisons in their preferred food, unripe fruit.

From across the world, Bruemmer brings us stunning photographs of nature's spectacles, including:

a million wildebeests -- the last great massing of an animal species in Africa the world's largest black-browed albatross colony nesting on the Falklands Island Africa's immense Rift Valley is dusted pink by a million flamingos the world's only colonies of king penguins on Antarctica's South Georgia Island millions of monarch butterflies filling the tree tops of remote Mexican mountains the roar of Canada's migrating caribou, last of North America's great wildlife herds millions of ladybird beetles "painting" remote Arizona hills in a deep red lacquer a thousand beluga whales congregating in Canada's Arctic to mate, molt and talk

Glimpses of Paradise is a remarkable vision of a natural world teeming with life. It is an essential addition to nature photography collections, both for its accurate and up-to-date text and for its stunning wildlife images.

Author Notes

Fred Bruemmer is an internationally celebrated writer and photographer. His previous titles include World of the Polar Bear , Seasons of the Seal , The Long Hunt and Arctic Animals and the ground-breaking The Arctic World , one of the first trade books to feature nature photography of the Arctic. He lives in Montreal, Canada.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Animals in huge numbers are one of the fascinating mysteries of nature. Why have they come together in the hundreds? Thousands? Tens of thousands? Author and photographer Bruemmer has "sought out those magic places where animals congregate in large number" for over 30 years, resulting in this lovely book of images of animals in large groups. In his look at 43 species that assemble in large numbers during some phase of their lives, the author does not simply concentrate on the more obvious subjects, such as the Serengeti's wildebeest, North America's sandhill crane, or Antarctica's penguins (though these species are given their due). The real strength of the book is its coverage of lesser-known animals. For instance, how many readers knew that red-sided garter snakes hibernate in the tens of thousands in one limestone pit? Accompanying text discusses the natural history behind the masses, often including the author's personal reflections on witnessing the spectacle. A nice addition to large natural history collections. Nancy Bent

Library Journal Review

Nature writer and photographer Bruemmer (The Arctic World) here features color photographs and brief descriptions of 43 animals known to congregate in large numbers. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to why these particular animals-ranging from seals to parrots to ladybugs to garter snakes-were chosen or to how their order in the book was decided. The idea behind the book is to impress upon the reader the wonders of nature through pictures of huge numbers of animals, but most of the photos are simply unexceptional. One problem may be the rather grainy, matte paperstock. The few outstanding photos (e.g., one of massed, lazing walruses on a rocky beach) don't offset the pedestrian nature of the text and the rest of the photographs. Not recommended.-Lynn C. Badger, Univ. of Florida Lib., Gainesville (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Introduction In 1919, toward the end of his life, the great American naturalist John Burroughs looked back in sorrow at the vanished world of his youth. Then spring had brought "vast armies of passenger pigeons ... the naked beechwoods would suddenly become blue with them, and vocal with their soft, childlike calls. It was such a spectacle of beauty, of joyous, copious animal life, of fertility in the air and in the wilderness, as to make the heart glad. I have seen the fields and woods fairly inundated for a day or two with these fluttering, piping, blue-and-white hosts. The very air at times seemed suddenly to turn to pigeons." The passenger pigeon was once the most numerous bird in the world. Alexander Wilson, the so-called father of American ornithology, estimated in 1808 that one Kentucky flock numbered more than two billion birds. John James Audubon saw such a flock cross the Ohio River in 1813: "The air was literally filled with Pigeons; the light of noonday was obscured as by an eclipse." Death waited for the massed pigeons. "The people were all in arms," wrote Audubon. "The banks of the Ohio were crowded with men and boys incessantly shooting ... Multitudes were thus destroyed." Market hunters killed the birds in millions. In 1805, Audubon saw "schooners loaded in bulk with pigeons ... coming in to the wharf at New York," and on New York markets passenger pigeons were sold for one cent a piece. Farmers shot adult pigeons, knocked down nests and chicks, and fattened their hogs with the dying birds. Sport hunters captured passenger pigeons, sewed their eyes shut, and set them out as decoys on small perches to attract other pigeons into shooting range (hence the term "stool pigeon"). By the 1880s the marvelous flights of massed pigeons ended, never to be seen again. Ruthlessly hunted, the birds became rare. The last wild passenger pigeon was shot on March 24, 1900. The very last passenger pigeon on earth, a female named Martha, died at the age of 29 at 4 p.m. on September 1, 1914 in the Cincinnati Zoo. All that remains of these lovely birds that once filled the sky in rushing masses of life are 1,532 skins and mounts in the museums of the world, where their luster has faded. The mighty bison, the largest land animal in North America, nearly shared the passenger pigeon's fate. In herds that numbered 100,000 or more, these animals roamed the infinite prairies. When they migrated south in fall to better grazing grounds, early European explorers saw streams of the mighty animals fill the land from horizon to horizon, and it filled them with awe. The total number of bison was estimated to be about 60 million. They were probably the most numerous large animals on earth. "The Bison has several enemies," wrote Audubon, "The worst is, of course, man." Bison formed the basis of existence for the Plains Indians, but since there were few of them and their weapons were simple, they never threatened the vast herds. That changed when white hunters came to the plains. They were dubbed "buffalo butchers," or "hide and tongue hunters," because they took only the skins that could be sold and the bison's tongues, which were prized as a delicacy. They left the carcasses to rot. In 1882 alone, the Northern Pacific Railway carried 200,000 bison hides out of Montana and the Dakotas. The vast herds dwindled, and the Indians starved. "A cold wind blew across the prairies when the last buffalo fell ... a death-wind for my people," mourned the great Indian chief Sitting Bull. A few animals did survive the slaughter. In 1889, William T. Hornaday of the Smithsonian Institution estimated that 835 bison remained, 200 of them in Yellowstone National Park. Legislation was introduced to protect the last few bison. Their numbers began to increase, but the animals were limited to parks and reserves, for nearly all their vast prairie realm was turned into farms and ranches. Humans have multiplied prodigiously and most of the ancient animal wealth of our world has been destroyed. We shall never see passenger pigeons again, and the great herds of bison are a wonder of times past. But here and there, for a variety of reasons, some animal species still exist in huge numbers and convey in their multitude a vision of Eden, of a world that once existed. I have searched for paradise for more than 30 years. I've sought out those magic places where animals congregate in large numbers, places that teem with the fullness of life. Not surprisingly, some of the greatest concentrations of animals are in regions where humans do not live or where populations are small-the Far North and the Far South, the Arctic and the Antarctic. In the dialect of northwestern Greeniand's Polar Inuit May is called agpaliarssuit tikarfiat , which means "the dovekies are coming." I was in that part of the world in May of 1971. I stood at the floe edge with Jes Qujaukitsok, an Inuit hunter. We were waiting for seals, and I was also hoping to see narwhal. It was an enchanted night, clear and cold and beautiful; the sea glossy black, the ice deep blue, the light honey yellow on the far mountains. Belugas swam in the distance, their milky white backs arching out of the dark water. We could hear them trill and grunt in the quiet of the night. Eider ducks flew past in great flocks. And then the dovekies came -- great dark clouds in the blue-green sky, hundreds of thousands, all winging north, toward the great breeding slopes of the Siorapaluk-Etah area to keep their date with destiny. Thirty years later I was on South Georgia, a subantarctic island with lush green valleys hemmed by glittering glaciers. On great Salisbury Plain stood nearly half a million king penguins, the most beautiful of all penguins. Each adult bird was nearly three feet (1m) tall, its belly glossy white, its back a shining slate blue, with glowing golden orange patches on nape and bill and bib. In addition to the elegant adults there were groups of thick-downed, solemn hungry chicks. They stood like tubby men in fuzzy cloaks, waiting for their parents to arrive with food. I looked down from a slope and beneath me the neatly spaced birds spread toward the far hills in a marvelous tapestry of life. Many years ago, when the migration routes of caribou were still relatively unknown, a biologist and I followed one large herd by plane, flying high above the animals every day. It was late fall and the caribou were marching southward. During the day, they scattered as they fed but then came together in the afternoon, the haphazard drift becoming a purposeful march. Far beneath us, the many mile-long mass seemed to glide across the tundra, skirting lakes and bunching into tight brown clusters at rivers and narrows. The sun was setting. The land beneath lay somber, its myriad glittering lakes reflecting the copper sky. Over the dark earth snaked the vast throng of migrating caribou, a golden ribbon of life in the sun's slanting rays. Later, in Tanzania, I flew high above the Serengeti, that immense grassy plain that is home to Africa's largest wildlife herds. Most wildebeest had given birth within a two-week period, and now brownish long-legged calves were trotting near their mothers. The herds, consisting of more than a million wildebeest, were marching northward in search of greener pastures, following their age-old migration trails. Some concentrations of animals, such as fur seal colonies, were discovered centuries ago. Others have only recently been discovered. In 1963, National Geographic published an article entitled "Mystery of the Monarch Butterfly." The mystery concerned the whereabouts of the monarch's winter roosting grounds. Twelve years later the mystery had been solved and National Geographic published: "Discovered: The Monarch's Mexican Haven." A few years later I visited this butterfly haven high in the Sierra Madre Mountains, where millions of monarchs covered the branches and trunks of tall oyamel trees. Toward noon when the sun was warm, the butterflies soared, appearing golden against the blue sky; the delicate rustling of a million wings sounded like the soft murmuring of distant surf upon a beach. Over the years my quest for massed animals has taken me to all five continents and to many remote and marvelous islands. On the journeys I made to the Arctic and the upper Amazon, I was accompanied by the photographer Tom Mangelsen, whose work I admire and whose friendship I cherish. However, on most trips my companion was Maud, my wife of 40 years, who shared with me the, beauty of our world, these glimpses of paradise. And for that and the wonders we have seen together I am truly grateful. Excerpted from Glimpses of Paradise: The Marvel of Massed Animals by Fred Bruemmer All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Wildebeest Tanzania, Africa
The last great massing of an animal species in Africa
About one million wildebeest make the great annual migration
Black-Browed Albatross Falkland Islands
One million of these birds nest on one small island, which is the greatest albatross colony in the world
Lesser Flamingo Kenya, Africa
More than one million flamingos feed in the algae-rich Lake Bogoria, in Africa''s immense Rift Valley
Olive Ridley Turtle Costa Rica
Within four days, 250,000 olive ridley turtles march ashore on a small beach in a remote part of Costa Rica to bury their eggs deep in the warm sand
This spectacular phenomenon is known as the arribada, the "arrival." Northern Elephant Seal California, U.S.A
In the 19th century these seals were hunted to the brink of extinction
Less than 100 were left
Now, thanks to conservation policies, they again number 200,000, and thousands of these animals breed on one Californian island
Cape Gannet Europe, Africa, Canada, New Zealand
Intensely gregarious, different species of these birds form dense colonies on four continents
Jersey Tiger Moth Rhodes, Greece
At the beginning of summer, a million moths from across the entire island fly to one deep, cool, moist valley to escape the heat
This magical place is known as the Valley of the Butterflies
Here the massed moths cover tree trunks and rock walls, and appear to form a lovely tapestry
Northern Fur Seat Alaska, U.S.A
Exploited for more than two centuries by Russians, Japanese, Canadians, and Americans, the fur seals were killed by the millions for their marvelous fur
Now protected, they breed on the fog-shrouded Pribilof Islands
Common Murre Newfoundland, Canada
The largest colony of common murres is on the legendary Funk Island, which was once home to the now extinct great auk
The island is flat, and tens of thousands of common murres stand shoulder to shoulder there
Thick-Bitted Murre Arctic Canada
Thick-billed murres nest on narrow ledges of sheer cliffs in the Arctic
Hundreds of thousands cover the soaring cliffs of Digges Island, which lies off the coast of arctic Quebec
Mussels New Zealand
Mussels thrive in the plankton-rich waters of New Zealand and cling to coastal rocks in densely packed groups
At low tide, they close their shells and appear to form a lovely blue-patterned carpet
King Penguin South Georgia Island, Subantarctic
Immense colonies of king penguins breed on this spectacular subantarctic island of shimmering glaciers and verdant valleys
Pacific Walrus Alaska, U.S.A
Most walrus migrate, but large populations of lazy males remain in Alaska''s food-rich Bristol Bay
About 10,000 of the ivory-tusked giants sleep away idle summer days on one of Round Island''s beaches
Whooper Swan Hokkaido Island, Japan
Most whooper swans breed in Siberia
Many winter in Europe
Other flocks fly to Hokkaido Island to spend the winter on the island''s warm thermal lakes
Horseshoe Crab Delaware Bay, New Jersey, U.S.A
Every May, when the moon is full and the tides are high, a million horseshoe crabs emerge from the ocean to lay their eggs in the moist sand of Delaware Bay''s beaches
These crabs are among the most ancient animals on earth
Long before dinosaurs evolved, horseshoe crabs existed
Red Knot Delaware Bay, New Jersey, U.S.A
Red Knots, robin-sized shorebirds, commute between the antipodes
They winter near the tip of South America and breed in the Arctic of North America
They stop each May at Delaware Bay to feast and fatten on horseshoe crab eggs, doubling their weight in two weeks
Ruddy Turnstone Delaware Bay, New Jersey, U.S.A
The horseshoe crabs provide vital food for migrating shorebirds on their flight from South America to their arctic breeding grounds
The birds eat 25 billion horseshoe crab eggs, weighing more than 100 tons
Their spring gathering has been called "the greatest shorebird spectacle in North America." Red-Sided Garter Snake Manitoba, Canada
Hundreds of thousands of Manitoba''s garter snakes hibernate in deep caverns beneath the frostline
In spring, they emerge from their subterranean caverns to mate
They first emerge into limestone pits, where they cover the rocks and appear to form an elegant carpet
This is the largest concentration of snakes in the world
Harp Seal Gulf of St
Lawrence Ice, Canada
Every spring, hundreds of thousands of female harp seals haul out onto the ice to bear their beautiful white-furred pups
The females lie dispersed over miles of ice, but the males occasionally mass in large numbers
Adelie Penguin/Chinstrap Penguin Antarctica
Both these species of penguins breed in immense colonies on the Antarctic continent and on subantarctic islands
These areas are surrounded by food-rich seas, which have enabled the penguins to thrive in colonies that number hundreds of thousands of birds
The fact that the birds are protected by conservation policies has also allowed their numbers to grow
Monarch Butterfly Mexico
In the fall, millions of monarch butterflies from North America migrate to remote mountain ranges in Mexico
There they hibernate in tight clusters that fill treetops and cover tree trunks
Caribou Canadian Arctic
These caribou are the last of North America''s great wildlife herds
In spring and summer they migrate from the northern forests to the vastness of the tundra
they return to the forest in late fall
Dovekie Greenland
These high arctic alcids breed on steep scree slopes
Some dovekie colonies consist of more than a million birds
Some of the birds are eaten by Greenland''s Polar Inuit, the northernmost people on earth
Steller Sea Lion Alaska, U.S.A
This is the largest of the world''s five sea lion species
Adult males weigh up to a ton
Highly gregarious, these sea lions breed in dense colonies on beaches in the Far North
Heermann''s Gull Baja California, Mexico
About 90 percent of the world''s population of Heermann''s gulls nests on one heat-baked chunk of rock, known as Rasa Island
it lies in Mexico''s Sea of Cortez
Rockhopper Penguin Falkland Islands
Small but tough, rockhopper penguins routinely land on wave-lashed rocky coasts to reach their breeding colonies
They often nest with the strikingly-colored king cormorants
King Cormorant Falkland Islands
Hardiest of the world''s 30 cormorant species, king cormorants nest on many subantarctic islands and even on the rim of Antarctica
Some of its largest colonies are on the Falkland Islands
Semipalmated Sandpiper New Brunswick, Canada
The Bay of Fundy has the highest tides in the world
One and a half million shorebirds use the bay as a vital feeding area during their migration
Most numerous are the lovely semipalmated sandpipers
Mexican Free-Tailed Bat Texas, U.S.A
About four million of these bats live in one huge cave
It is a maternity cave, inhabited only by mother bats and their pups, as the young are called
At dusk the adult bats leave the cave in several mass flights, each with about half a million bats
They emerge from the cave in a great cloud and rush up into the evening sky
Greater Snow Goose Quebec, Canada
Every fall, some 200,000 greater snow geese migrate from their a