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Raptor: A Journey Through Birds

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  169 ratings  ·  30 reviews
A stunning debut in the tradition of Robert Macfarlane and Helen Macdonald

Of all the birds of the British Isles, the raptor reigns supreme, sparking the imagination like no other. In this magnificent hymn to these beautiful animals, James Macdonald Lockhart explores all fifteen breeding birds of prey on these shores – from the hen harrier swimming over the land in the dreg
Hardcover, 376 pages
Published February 11th 2016 by Fourth Estate
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4.17  · 
Rating details
 ·  169 ratings  ·  30 reviews

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Aug 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2017
I love watching birds, but I'm not a birdwatcher. If I am out walking and see a bird I'll stop and watch it until it has gone, I don't have the patience to spend the day hiding in a hedge hoping to catch sight of a certain bird, I get restless and end up leaving to explore elsewhere. Lockhart has spent a large amount of his time walking in dire conditions, camping on remote islands for days, stalking wasps and hiding in hedges so that he can catch the briefest glimpse of the various Raptors ment ...more
Jan 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
Raptors have captivated and enthralled man for millennia. Remains of sea eagles have been found in Neolithic tombs and imagery of these magnificent creatures have been discovered all over Europe in art dating back thousands of years. These birds are the pinnacle of the food chain, each having some specialty that makes them super deadly killers. In his debut book, Lockhart uses a chapter to explore each of the 15 species of raptors that live and breed in this country visiting parts of the country ...more
Mar 20, 2018 rated it liked it
Good, but it doesn’t quite live up to back-cover comparisons with J.A. Baker’s The Peregrine or T.H. White’s The Goshawk or even Helen Macdonald’s H is for Hawk. It loses to the first two in its prose (Lockhart’s is often very good but can’t quite match White’s and Baker’s) and for its narrative bloat compared to their compactness.

Lockhart gives Macdonald a run for her money in the prose category but Raptor loses for lack of focus. This is unavoidable to a degree, since Macdonald had a single s
Mark Avery
Sep 05, 2016 rated it liked it
This book was a disappointment.

The basic structure is a chapter by chapter account of 15 species of UK raptor, each described in a different place, stretching from Hen Harriers on Orkney in Chapter 1 to Devon Sparrowhawks in Chapter 15. Wrapped into this structure is a tale of the life, and a previous journey, of William MacGillivray (1796-1852), the Scottish ornithologist and naturalist who wrote important works and contributed much to John James Audubon’s Ornithological Biographies. All this s
Jul 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Sep 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
4.5? This is a magical piece of nature writing.
Olly L-J
Aug 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nearly a 5. This book is a wonderfully personal investigation and account of the 15 different raptors that call the UK home (although some just for the summer). Written in clear, crisp, poetic prose, Lockhart gets up close and intimate with the raptors as he travels the length and breadth of the UK (excluding Northern Ireland).
One criticism is perhaps he didn't detail enough the conflict between estate management (especially grouse moors) and raptor conservation, this is something which is deci
Oct 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is an account of the fifteen species of British raptors drawing parallels from William MacGillivray's 19th century journey from Aberdeen to London. The technique is similar to Helen MacDonald's Hawk where she describes T H White and Rob Macfarlane's Landmarks' account of Nan Shepherd, J A Baker and Roger Deakin. Somehow the technique does not work well for this book as it did for the other two. However there are some wonderful descriptions of both raptors and MacGillivray which makes me wan ...more
Jan 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
A fascinating combination of autobiography, biography (of the almost-unknown Scottish ornithologist and naturalist, William MacGillvray) and study of Britain's raptors.

It's not a detailed technical guide but, in some ways, it's more than that. Lockhart gets inside the minds of the birds, his prose sometimes soaring with the buzzards and kites. He describes each bird against the backdrop of a specific geographical area of Britain - and not always the most obvious location for each bird. While whi
Sep 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
If you want a book that goes into all the technical details of the lives of British raptors then this isn't the book for you.

If you want a book that expresses the wonder and excitement that raptors can bring, then this is the book for you. Add in the glimpse it gives into the varied nature of our island(s) and the brief, tantalising hint of the story of a relatively unknown Scottish ornithologist, William MacGillivray.

Just wish he'd spend a little more time on the birds (which would have made it
Tim Street
Mar 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is one part bird observations, one part travel writing, and one part history lesson about James MacGillivray. The writing throughout is solid, but really shines when Lockhart is describing his bird observations. As an American birder, I was only previously familiar with the Merlin, Kestrel, and Peregrine Falcon -- the other birds Lockhart explores were all new to me, and I enjoyed intimate descriptions.

The history of MacGillivray is wonderful, and though the travel writing strays into
Jan 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a beautifully experienced and written book on the adventure of waiting for and following all so to be watching raptors. The descriptions are so complete that though I am highly unlikely to get to go and see these birds in the manner he has, I feel like I have and the thrill of that. I also love his natural and social observations, and appreciate the objectivity and research behind them. I also am grateful to have learned about William McGillivray, whose books I will now pursue.

I will re
Terri Gorden
May 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: birds, non-fiction
This is a book that I could go back to again and again. I feel like opening it to a random page to read a few sentences, paragraphs, or pages would be like putting on a favorite old sweater. I loved the flow between the story of the birds, his experiences following them, the story of the landscapes, and the biographical information about William McGillivray. I enjoyed reading the Gaelic and Welsh terms for the birds and places. It gave a sense of how long these raptors have belonged to the land. ...more
Nov 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Excellent nonfiction on the raptors of the UK. You feel as if you are traipsing through different corners of Wales, Scotland, and England right along with Lockhart. His prose on birds, on people, on changing landscapes is super vibrant and engaging. I especially appreciated the short but powerful anecdotes on how much WWII affected both bird and human habitats. He also quotes and fanboys over William MacGullivray a lot, lending new appreciation for Victorian ornithology. Excellent book!
Don  Kent
Jan 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Those people, like myself, who are fascinated by Raptors should most definitely not miss this book. Skillfully contrived and beautifully written, it was a joy to read. Access to a British/Scotish dictionary would clarify a good measure of the content, but the author's phrasing is so eloguent that this minor stumbling is a minor impediment.
Mar 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
A lovely mix of history and natural history. It introduces William MacGillivray, the underrated ornithologist ,to those of us who have never heard of him. James MacDonald Lockhart writes a lot about the spaces in between, and his has to fit his raptor watching into the spaces of his own life. It is also a heartbreaking story of absences and persecution, both historic and ongoing.
Aug 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
A beautifully written and fascinating journey into the behaviour and biography of UK raptors linked historically through the changing landscape of the British Isles. Dispersed within is the story of the life of Victorian ornithologist and botanist, William MacGillivray.
Elaine Ground
Feb 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful prose.

Such a carefully crafted work. Great imagery so I could almost see each bird. The book was,cleverly structured too. A fine balance between interesting fact and poetic description.
Alex Large
Mar 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I adored this book. His prose is just magical and whilst the myriad of referees to William MacGillivray were occasionally too much for me, there is no doubt the writer has researched his topic meticulously. He has a fabulous eye for detail. The final chapter , on the sparrowhawk , was my favourite.
Jenny Glover
Sep 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Review to come.
Carol Peters
Jan 08, 2019 rated it liked it
Best part of this book is learning about Wm MacGillivray, who helped Audubon produce his Ornithological Biographies.
Apr 11, 2018 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
A journey that takes in the length and breadth of the UK to discover the fifteen different birds of prey in all their glory and their landscapes. Within the pages of Raptor: A Journey Through Birds is an adventure as well as a discovery. A journey of discovery that opens with chapter one in the Orkney with the Hen Harrier and ends with the Sparrowhawk in Devon.

For someone like me who has spent a lifetime studying our birdlife in the British Isles and like James Macdonald Lockhart I have travell
Diane Warrington
This is a beautiful book. James Macdonald Lockhart has woven his story in with that of William MacGillivray, an ornithologist who made a similar journey in 1819. There are 15 chapters in all from the Hen Harrier in the Orkneys to the Sparrowhawk found near Lockhart’s home. In each chapter he describes the land he is in and the birds with prose that is quite lyrical in places. Lockhart also details the history of the area he is in. In the Orkneys he talks Gaelic dialects. Following the Merlin thr ...more
Nov 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
'Raptor: A Journey Through Birds' is a lyrical, poetic, and occasionally superfluous endeavour in nature writing; James Macdonald Lockhart writes with the ease and finesse of a weathered pro. Admittedly, his prose is sometimes overbearingly flamboyant but it's difficult not to see why he romanticises the raptors he discusses so ardently - his enthusiasm is infectious.

Another aspect of the book I liked, to my surprise, was its evolving binary structure. As Lockhart 'journeys' from Orkney to Devon
Sam Worby
Aug 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
An adoration of raptors. And a celebration of the under appreciated British ornithologist William MacGillivray.

This small book presents 15 birds of prey set against 15 places in Britain from Orkney to Devon and follows the Victorian MacGillivray as he walked from Aberdeen to London.

An interesting book, especially so if you know very little about raptors but love the sight of them - as I do. It may be less absorbing for those with a deep pre-existing knowledge. The information on the birds is sl
Feb 06, 2017 rated it liked it
I would rate this a 3.5 really. Its interesting and informative. I definitely learned something about our native raptors with this book but It wasnt quite as gripping or capturing as I had maybe hoped.
Jun 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a beautiful book. Much like the author's journey the narrative meanders through natural and social history. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the British Countryside.
rated it really liked it
Aug 21, 2017
Arno Burgers
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Sep 26, 2017
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Goodreads Librari...: Combine Editions - Same Book 2 187 Jul 02, 2017 04:17AM  
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James Macdonald Lockhart is a literary agent with Antony Harwood Limited as well as an associate editor with and regular contributor to Archipelago magazine. Raptor is his first book and the recipient of the Royal Society of Literature Jerwood Aware for Non-Fiction. He lives in Whichford, United Kingdom.