Monday, 22 September 2014


I have difficulty in deciding on a position to take on the ethics of falconry, just as I have on some other relationships imposed by humans over animals (I'm very clear on many others, though, such as the relationship between Maltese hunters and migrating birds).

However, a  visit to Dover Castle by Rafael Historic Falconry provided both a spectacular display of the falconer's skill and of the birds' mastery of the air, especially when one of the peregrine falcons was set free to soar over the battlements and swoop across the jousting lawn.

Peregrines can be seen frequently along the White Cliffs but seeing them up close gives a new perspective.

I'd not previously seen a gyrfalcon and this one was a beauty, statuesque in line with its image as a Viking's hawk.

One of my favourite authors when I was younger was TH White, who wrote The Goshawk describing his difficult and less than successful attempt to master a recalcitrant Gos. A new book called H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald has used this as a base for her own more successful story, and usefully points out where White went wrong (driving himself and Gos half-mad with sleep deprivation didn't help).
MacDonald uses more tenderness in place of White's control, but I was reminded of this by the falconer's comment that the bird is not a pet and not a friend; it just uses the human as a source of food.