From the merlin to the golden eagle, the goshawk to the honey buzzard, James Macdonald Lockhart’s stunning debut is a quest of beak, talon, wing, and sky. On its surface, Raptor is a journey across the British Isles in search of fifteen species of birds of prey, but as Lockhart seeks out these elusive predators, his quest becomes so much more: an incomparably elegant elegy to the beauty of the British landscape and, through the birds, a journey toward understanding an awesome power at the heart of the natural world—a power that is majestic and frightening in its strength, but also fragile.
Taking as his guide the nineteenth-century Scottish naturalist and artist William MacGillivray, Lockhart loosely follows MacGillivray’s historical trail as he ventured from Aberdeen to London, filling his pockets with plants and writing and illustrating the canonical History of British Birds. Linking his journey to that of his muse, Lockhart shares his own encounters with raptors ranging from the scarce osprey to the successfully reintroduced red kite, a species once protected by medieval royal statute, revealing with poetic immediacy the extraordinary behaviors of these birds and the extreme environments they call home.
Creatures both worshiped and reviled, raptors have a talon-hold on the human heart and imagination. With his book, Lockhart unravels these complicated ties in a work by turns reverent and euphoric—an interweaving of history, travel, and nature writing at its best. A hymn to wanderers, to the land and to the sky, and especially to the birds, Raptor soars.