James Macdonald Lockhart 2016. Raptor. A journey through birds. London: Forth Estate, 376 pp.
A chapter each to the 15 species of raptor that breed in the United Kingdom: Hen Harrier, Merlin, Golden Eagle, Osprey, Sea Eagle, Goshawk, Kestrel, Montagu’s Harrier, Peregrine Falcon, Red Kite, Marsh Harrier, Honey Buzzard, Hobby, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk. The writing is evocative, poetic and all that, but mostly of the landscape, local history, environmental history and people. Beautifully written for someone in the mood for that sort of thing, and no doubt much more enjoyable for those familiar with British environments. But for others (me, anyway) decidedly parochial and more than a smidge frustrating. Someone wanting an informative account of British raptors and where they live should look elsewhere. Some chapters (like the first, on the Hen Harrier) barely mention the bird that is supposedly the subject of the account. William Macgillivray, evidently a favourite of the author, gets many mentions (he was an early Scottish ornithologist and friend of John James Audubon; perhaps I would have learned that during the book, had I persevered). As it is, the focus on Macgillivray and other historical figures in British ornithology makes this book seem stuck in the past. For me that focus never pays off, is never made relevant or interesting.
There is a longish bibliography but it is similarly biased.