Toadstool to host Hancock author Sy Montgomery

  • Sy Montgomery's latest book, 'The Magnificent Migration: On Safari with Africa's Last Great Herds', will be celebrated at the Toadstool in Peterborough on Saturday at 11 a.m. Montgomery wrote the book after a 2016 trip to the Serengeti to witness the migration of the wildebeests. Photos by Roger and Logan Wood—

  • Sy Montgomery's latest book, 'The Magnificent Migration: On Safari with Africa's Last Great Herds', will be celebrated at the Toadstool in Peterborough on Saturday at 11 a.m. Montgomery wrote the book after a 2016 trip to the Serengeti to witness the migration of the wildebeests. Photos by Roger and Logan Wood—

  • Sy Montgomery's latest book, 'The Magnificent Migration: On Safari with Africa's Last Great Herds', will be celebrated at the Toadstool in Peterborough on Saturday at 11 a.m. Montgomery wrote the book after a 2016 trip to the Serengeti to witness the migration of the wildebeests. Photos by Roger and Logan Wood—

  • Sy Montgomery's latest book, 'The Magnificent Migration: On Safari with Africa's Last Great Herds', will be celebrated at the Toadstool in Peterborough on Saturday at 11 a.m. Montgomery wrote the book after a 2016 trip to the Serengeti to witness the migration of the wildebeests. Photos by Roger and Logan Wood—

  • 'The Magnificent Migration' by Sy Montgomery. Courtesy photo—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 7/10/2019 9:25:37 PM
Modified: 7/10/2019 9:25:27 PM

It was a sight that Sy Montgomery wasn’t sure she was actually going to see, but one she just couldn’t miss.

She had traveled halfway around the world to catch a glimpse of Africa’s last great herd and there was no way she could go home without witnessing it – the idea for her book depended on it.

And then, with three days left in her three-week safari trip to the Serengeti, Montgomery and her “dream team” of fellow travelers came across what they had spent days and weeks searching for – the great wildebeest migration.

“It was just amazing; wildebeests as far as the eye can see,” Montgomery said. “But I didn’t realize until we got there, there was a chance we could miss this giant herd.”

The idea for “The Magnificent Migration: On Safari with Africa’s Last Great Herds” came about from her longtime friendship with Dick Estes. She had known Estes for 40 years and was captivated by his knowledge of the wildebeests and its migration. She always thought it would make for a great story, to watch the migration with who she describes as the Guru of Gnu (another name for the wildebeest) and is one of the world’s top experts on the animal.

“I just kept thinking this would be great for a book,” Montgomery said. “And without Dick, we wouldn’t have ever known what we were looking at.”

The book was released on July 1 and will be celebrated with a signing and reading at the Toadstool in Peterborough on Saturday at 11 a.m.

It all started in 2016, when Montgomery, along with Estes, Liz Thomas and the photographer father-son team of Roger and Logan Wood, among others, made the trek to Africa to find the herd that really never stops moving.

“Because they’re constantly on the move, a wildebeest baby can run at seven minutes old,” Montgomery said. “Everything about their body is for the migration.”

There were two opportunities that Estes suggested. The three-week period before the rainy season where hundreds of thousands of babies are born or rutting season when the group is really on the move. They chose the rutting season.

But the thing about the wildebeests is that they’re almost always going somewhere and it depends on the conditions that year as to when the migration begins and where it will be. Luckily they had Estes and some determined guides to help accomplish the goal of seeing the migration.

Montgomery said she wanted to write the book because “there are just so many things going on to threaten this.”

It’s a natural phenomenon that Montgomery felt a need to celebrate and do her part to help protect.

“And most people really don’t know much about it,” Montgomery said.

What Montgomery learned during her research – and from talking with Estes – is that the wildebeests migration has been credited with creating and maintaining the Serengeti ecosystem. She found out that 28 other animals wouldn’t be there if not for the wildebeests, while the animal affects a number of microorganisms throughout its travels.

“It’s defined by the area where the wildebeests migrate,” Montgomery said.

She understands that when people think about Africa, the first thing that comes to mind are lions, but those were just scenery when watching this large herd of animals wander through the Serengeti.

“We had these two lions walk by us like weary commuters,” Montgomery said. “We saw so many lions that Dick got annoyed by them.”

At one point, they were marooned in the middle of nowhere with no cell phone service, hyenas and leopards in the area and a fire approaching. But thanks to the Woods, they were able to fix the car and prevent any real danger.

While the trip was a few years ago and the writing has been done for some time, “The Magnificent Migration” is just now available and will be celebrated on Saturday at the Toadstool Bookshop in Peterborough.

At the reading and signing, Montgomery will be joined by Estes, Thomas and her father-son photography team, and there will be a chance for those in attendance to ask questions.

“It will be amazing to have a reunion like this to celebrate the book,” Montgomery said. “We had this fabulous team of people, ages 18 to 88.”

Montgomery has written close to 30 books, and found this one to be rather enjoyable to put together. Not just because of the experience of seeing the wildebeests migration, but sharing it with close friends and the images that the Woods were able to capture.

For more information about Montgomery’s books and appearances, visit symontgomery.com.




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