The Spirit of the River

A Quest for the Kingfisher

By: Declan Murphy


The new book from critically acclaimed writer, Declan Murphy.

‘As I study the birds, animals and plants around me, I cannot help
but see the patterns all living things seem driven to create.’

Declan Murphy’s first encounter with a kingfisher as a young boy was unforgettable. Returning to the rivers years later, he embarks on a quest to study this most brightly-coloured bird during its nesting season, a seemingly straightforward challenge. But the river is slow to reveal the habits and secrets of its residents. Dippers, goosanders, grey wagtails and great spotted woodpeckers all yield their hidden habits to the author’s patient pursuit; yet the kingfisher continues to elude him.

In this work of rare calibre in the mould of the great contemporary nature writers Robert Macfarlane, Helen Macdonald and Tim Robinson, the author’s retreat into the natural world is not simply for the sake of knowledge: nature is his remedy for managing the world around him. Since childhood, nature has provided balance, solace and direction.

As the search for the kingfisher reaches its culmination, these two spheres, the author’s and the others’, suddenly and unexpectedly collide, forcing him to confront how he sees the world and leading to a resolution where balance is restored through the power and intervention of nature. Writing with hallucinatory clarity and singular powers of observation, he brings the beauty and mystery of the animal kingdom to light. His quest becomes the reader’s in the unfolding drama of his search for harmony and knowledge, from mythography to an acute awareness of people’s fragility.


Declan Murphy has ‘birded’ across Ireland, Australia, North America, Asia and Africa. He has worked with BirdWatch Ireland, the country’s largest conservation charity, and has been published extensively in The Irish Wildlife Trust, The Native Woodland Trust, BirdWatch Ireland and The Sherkin Comment.


‘Wonderful and beautifully written. This close observation of
Nature’s abundance and glory has about it the sadness of loss, that
death and destruction lie in wait. Yet the kingfisher leads you to
your quest for harmony and knowledge.’ JOHN BOORMAN

‘We are lulled by the beauty and serenity of the river as much as by
crystalline prose and singular focus.’ ALAN GILSENAN

Article by Declan Murphy for



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Weight 0.5 kg
Dimensions 216 × 133 mm
Publication Date

April 2021

Page Count



Paperback, Softback