The Pequod Review:
J.A. Baker spent 10 years following peregrines around the Norfolk/Suffolk regions of Eastern England — primarily by bicycle since he couldn't drive — and condensed his observations into this intense, earnest and exact nature memoir. Baker’s writing has a timeless quality, balanced somewhere between prose and poetry:
Always, as one hunts for the hawk, one has an oppressive sense of time contracting inwards like a tightening spring. One hates the movement of the sun, the steady alteration of the light, the increase of hunger, the maddening metronome of the heart-beat. When one says ‘ten o’clock’ or ‘three o’clock,’ this is not the grey and shrunken time of towns; it is the memory of a certain fulmination or declension of light that was unique to that time and that place on that day, a memory as vivid to the hunter as burning magnesium. As soon as the hawk hunter steps from his door he knows the way of the wind, he feels the weight of the air. Far within himself he seems to see the hawk’s day growing steadily towards the light of their first encounter. Time and the weather hold both hawk and watcher between their turning poles. When the hawk is found, the hunter can look lovingly back at all the tedium and misery of searching and waiting that went before. All is transfigured, as though the broken columns of a ruined temple had suddenly resumed their ancient splendour.
Dry leaves wither and shine, green of the oak is fading, elms are barred with luminous gold.
There was fog, but the south wind blew it away. The sunburnt sky grew hot. Damp air moved over dusty earth. The north was a haze of blue, the south bleached white. Larks sang up into the warmth, or flashed along furrows. Gulls and lapwings drifted from plough to plough.
Autumn peregrines come inland from the estuaries to bathe in the stony shallows of brook or river. Between eleven o’clock and one they rest in dead trees to dry their feathers, preen, and sleep. Perching stiff and erect, they look like gnarled and twisted oak. To find them, one must learn the shapes of all the valley trees, till anything added becomes, at once, a bird. Hawks hide in dead trees. They grow out of them like branches.