Peregrine Spring: A Master Falconer's Extraordinary Life with Birds of Prey

Peregrine Spring: A Master Falconer's Extraordinary Life with Birds of Prey

by Nancy Cowan, Sy Montgomery, Elizabeth Marshall Thomas
     
 

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Peregrine Spring, Nancy Cowan’s memoir of her thirty years living intimately with raptors, gives us a new perspective on the relationship between humans and the natural world. Cowan shares her experiences running a world-famous falconry school, and the lessons she's learned from her birds. From retrieving her falcon from the local police “lock up,&rdquo

Overview

Peregrine Spring, Nancy Cowan’s memoir of her thirty years living intimately with raptors, gives us a new perspective on the relationship between humans and the natural world. Cowan shares her experiences running a world-famous falconry school, and the lessons she's learned from her birds. From retrieving her falcon from the local police “lock up,” to finding her husband in bed with a gyrfalcon, to a heart-breaking race to save her young peregrine from attack by a wild hawk, Cowan’s life is a constant, ever-changing adventure. Cowan’s birds have immersed her so much into their world that she has found herself courted by a Goshawk and bossed about by a Harris’ Hawk. The book carries her readers along, so they, too, meet hawks and falcons in ways they never imagined possible.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Peregrine Spring is “a roller coaster ride of experiences . . . an exquisite, moving, important and surprising book. . . . When the tempo does slow, it is a respite that gives the reader a chance to savor descriptions of incredibly beautiful birds which carry the reader along on their spectacular flights.” —Sy Montgomery, author of The Good Good Pig

“Peregrine Spring must be told. It is important that this book be published. People need to read this.” —Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, author of The Hidden Life of Dogs

“Nancy Cowan's Peregrine Spring is the best narrative of a modern falconer's life I know. It’s not a how-to, though you can learn plenty from it. Nor does Nancy pose as an all-knowing 'Master,' though she is a master—or mistress—of our ancient practice. What she does give us is a falconry pilgrim’s progress, from beginner to teacher, with all the thrills and delights and sometimes horrors that accompany the journey. I plan to give this book to every person who approaches me and wishes to become a falconer. It’s essential.” —Steve Bodio, author of A Rage for Falcons and Eagle Dreams

“Peregrine Spring is a wonderful and often poignant account of Nancy Cowan’s relationship with a host of raptors; their lives, personalities, and species-related abilities. This book is for those interested in human-animal relationships and future falconers alike.” —Ben Kilham, author of Out on a Limb: What Black Bears Have Taught Me about Intelligence and Intuition

“Cowan gives us striking insights into the inner workings of the relationships between raptors and their handlers, as only someone who has dedicated her life to these birds could do.” –Irene Pepperberg, author of Alex & Me: How a Scientist and a Parrot Discovered a Hidden World of Animal Intelligence—and Formed a Deep Bond in the Process

“Of all the working partnerships between humans and animals, the most intriguing and unfathomable must be the one between falconers and their birds. In this beguiling memoir, Nancy Cowan describes the knife’s edge on which she and her fellow falconers balance—studying everything from medieval techniques to modern medicine, doing their best to understand the kinds of birds who think, but not the way we do; who accept their jesses and hoods, but don’t lose their essential wildness; and who, when released into the sky, can at any time disappear and never return. Filled with information, beautiful descriptions, and stories both heartwarming and hair-raising, this is a book that will fascinate readers of all kinds.” —Suzie Gilbert, author of Flyaway: How a Wild Bird Rehabber Sought Adventure and Found Her Wings

“Since time immemorial, humans have looked to the skies and marveled at the flying skills and hunting prowess of falcons and hawks. We have craved the freedom of flight and the vicarious thrill of the kill. For thousands of years, falconry has allowed that thrill to manifest in the close union of bird and human. It’s an uneasy alliance that requires patience, skill and care, and Nancy Cowan is one in a small number of practicing falconers today who share their passion and avocation with a wide audience. . . .Through Peregrine Spring we can all sail on the wind with Nancy’s birds and take a glimpse into her life: a life devoted to an ancient art with a modern twist.” –Iain MacLeod, executive director, Squam Lakes Natural Science Center

“Not only does Nancy share the technical aspects of training and hunting a raptor, she brings to life the critical bond between falconer and falcon. A great read for anyone who wants to get a close look at what lies behind the curtain of falconry.” –Michael J. Bartlett, president, New Hampshire Audubon

“'How could anyone relate to a creature as cold and emotionless as a bird of prey?' asks Nancy Cowan in this marvelous book. She answers in stories steeped in admiration, learning and love. 'I have to do this right,' she tells herself about falconry. And she does. She gets her wordsmithing right, too, showing us the hearts of hunters in clean, feather-elegant prose that borders on poetry. Thank you, Nancy. My library is enriched by Peregrine Spring."—Kim Heacox, author of The Only Kayak and Rhythm of the Wild

Archives
Falconers will find many similarities to their own experiences in the recounting of Nancy’s life. . . . Falconers, especially East Coast ones, will be able to identify many of our fellow falconers whom Nancy only identifies by their first names. It makes you feel like an insider and adds to the enjoyment of Nancy's story.
Peter Barry Devers
Falconers will find many similarities to their own experiences in the recounting of Nancy’s life. . . . Falconers, especially East Coast ones, will be able to identify many of our fellow falconers whom Nancy only identifies by their first names. It makes you feel like an insider and adds to the enjoyment of Nancy's story.
Kirkus Reviews
2015-12-08
Wildlife rehabilitator and master falconer Cowan chronicles 30 years immersed in the sport of falconry, conveying the challenges, triumphs, and occasional heartbreaks of an activity requiring hard-won skill and a willingness to see nature from a different perspective. The author certainly educates, providing minute detail that will be fascinating to fellow falconers. Others may be less enthused, however: for all their nuances, Cowan's accounts of her relationships with various hawks and falcons begin to get repetitious after a time. Raptors in the wild are beautiful and inspiring. In captivity, these creatures are more, and less. Rescuing abandoned raptors and rehabilitating injured ones is admirable and may, as Cowan asserts, benefit wild populations. Helping others appreciate the behaviors and ecological niches of these predators also may help ensure their survival. But the sport of falconry is primarily a sport for human diversion. This does not make it wrong, but it does cast some of the author's "romantic" notions, anthropomorphisms, and questionable assertions in a more realistic light. Still, Cowan does explode myths about the benign existence of the wild and shows how the reintroduction of rehabbed raptors to freedom may do more to imperil than save them. The author and her falconer husband's dedication to the varying species and to training and teaching is undeniably impressive. Yet the narrative is filled with eye-rolling passages—e.g., "we often function in complete unity; my mind is her mind, her body is my body. The bond between us is mystical." Working with raptors may make a wider world visible to humans, yet the author so inundates us with terms (a glossary would have been useful) that the text sometimes feels more confusing than clear. Falconry sets Cowan's heart free to fly, but many readers may feel moored to the perch.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781493017706
Publisher:
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Publication date:
03/01/2016
Pages:
296
Sales rank:
502,044
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
Peregrine Spring as “a roller coaster ride of experiences . . . an exquisite, moving, important and surprising book. . . . When the tempo does slow, it is a respite that gives the reader a chance to savor descriptions of incredibly beautiful birds which carry the reader along on their spectacular flights.” —Sy Montgomery

“Peregrine Spring must be told. It is important that this book be published. People need to read this.” —Elizabeth Marshall Thomas

Meet the Author

Nancy Cowan is a master falconer, wildlife rescue expert, sled-dog sportswriter and historian, popular speaker, and award-winning writer. After spearheading a years-long campaign to win legalization for falconry in the state of New Hampshire, she and her husband founded the internationally-known New Hampshire School of Falconry. A licensed wildlife rehabilitator, Nancy has worked with a variety of hawk and falcon species which have been injured or orphaned and frequently is consulted by local wildlife rehab centers and New Hampshire Audubon Society on the care and rehabilitation of injured birds. The school website can be found at www.nhschooloffalconry.com. Cowan’s writing has appeared in DogWorld, Yankee Magazine, DOGFANCY, and Down East magazines as well as club and breed publications.

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