For all his impatience, Tennant is a studious man who knows many things. He writes knowledgeably of the once-wet American prairie that was forever flattened and permanently dried by modern farm machinery and therefore needs constant irrigation. When he flies over the fossil beds of Hell Creek, Mont., Tennant tells us of the claws of Deinonychus, the human-sized raptors of Jurassic Park, and how they are duplicated precisely by the talons of modern birds of prey. But his best aside is a story of a red-tail hawk named Cherokee that lost a wing as a baby bird but still spent 12 years stubbornly climbing a tree every day to launch itself in flight, if only for a few seconds. This is all good stuff.
The New York Times
The conceit of the journey in search of animals, whether a particular species or an entire menagerie, has informed much of the best nature writing of our time: Peter Matthiessen's The Snow Leopard, Robert Michael Pyle's Chasing Monarchs, Kenn Kaufman's Kingbird Highway, Doug Peacock's Grizzly Years, to name just a few. On the Wing fits neatly on the shelf next to these noteworthy books. It should hold up just as well as they in the coming years, even if all of us should hope for a happier ending than what, Tennant hints, really awaits our birds of prey -- and with them the rest of our world.
The Washington Post
Naturalist Tennant (The Guadalupe Mountains of Texas) describes his efforts to trail peregrine falcons on their epic migratory flights from the Caribbean to the Arctic in a detailed, impassioned account that's part nature study and part gonzo travelogue. After radio-tagging a young peregrine off the coast of Texas, Tennant teams up with George Vose, a former WWII combat flight instructor, to follow the bird on its spring migration north. Plenty of excitement run-ins with Canadian Mounties, trouble with Vose's battered plane follows as the men track their "guiding angel," the bird they name Amelia. After a trip to the peregrine's Alaskan breeding grounds, Tennant and Vose follow three new peregrines on the fall migration down the coast of Mexico and Central America, where their adventures include going into a free-fall over the Caribbean Ocean and being mistaken for DEA agents. Tennant pauses to consider nearly every creature he encounters along the way, from polar bear to insect, describing its connection to the land, and, in the inevitable bittersweet turn, revealing the environmental degradation that threatens its survival. With a nature-lover's deep concern rather than an ideologue's rhetoric, Tennant emphasizes the connection between man and beast, reflecting as well on his own need for migration and adventure. 8-page color insert not seen by PW. Agent, David McCormick. (Sept.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Attempting to radio-track the migratory patterns of the Arctic Peregrine Falcon, Tennant (Snakes of North America) and his pilot, George Vose, trail by beat-up Cessna a young female falcon's springtime journey "home" to the far North; in the second half of the book, they attempt to follow three falcons south to their winter range in Central America. The human behavior exhibited here is only slightly less entertaining than the avian. Tennant and Vose will do anything to get the story, including traveling into Canadian airspace sans landing permits, donning fake highway patrol uniforms to fool the Mexican authorities, and using false research institute credentials to get necessary radio equipment. By turns comic and frightening, the book is also ultimately sad, set as it is "within the larger context of disaster"--the myriad threats to the recovering yet still vulnerable peregrine population and the declining numbers of its prey birds. Read this book for a deeper appreciation of this majestic bird; read it to become indeed "part of the continent's ancient river of migration." Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/04.]--Robert Eagan, Windsor P.L., Ont. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
A naturalist's intrepid quest to track the movements of a peregrine falcon to its summer and winter grounds, fueled by hungry curiosity and a rickety old Cessna. It was during the late 1980s that Tennant (The Guadalupe Mountains of Texas, not reviewed, etc.) caught the peregrine bug. Banding birds on the barrier islands off the Texas coast, the author had been moved by the "mortal intensity" of a falcon suddenly turning north, headed for the coal-shale crags of upper Canada and Alaska. He wanted to follow the bird to its summer haunts in the Arctic. In the company of ex-barnstormer and wartime flight instructor George, who had enough "long-distance, light-plane aviation hours" to make him seem an extension of his craft, Tennant (who cheerfully admits that he "wasn't competent at one single thing pertaining to this endeavor") set out after a bird that had been radio-tagged, borrowing some US Army equipment that would soon get him into trouble. The duo had some fairly wild adventures: near crashes, confrontations with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Mexico's Polic'a Militar, running from a man with a .45-caliber pistol when they inadvertently landed on a smuggler's airstrip, steering clear of polar bears and pit vipers, but tasting the wind of a hurricane. Amazingly, they managed to follow the various birds for quite some time, and Tennant also took measure from the ground of the birds' final harbors. As a bonus, he draws a rich portrait of his comrade, a man who could summon a Down East patrician demeanor on a whistle, then casually recommend Little Friskies Kitten Morsels as a light snack. The author leaves readers with a gloomy picture of the peregrines' future: chemical usethroughout its range remains pervasive, as do the honk and nonsense and violence of the humans who share its environment. Tennant keeps both the excitement and the natural history flowing freely and breezily. (8 pp. color photos, not seen)First printing of 75,000. Agent: David McCormick/Collins McCormick
“On the Wing reads like an avian version of On the Road...Tennant is a dreamer, a watcher, and a chaser.” —Dallas Morning News
“Reads as if Hunter S. Thompson decided to pursue a passion for endangered birds. . . . Tennant is a gifted naturalist.” —Science News
“Moves with the action of a four star movie. . . . [On the Wing] will keep you rapt to the very end.” —Natural History
“On the Wing reveals the true nature of our planet. Tennant's parable encourages us to find the strength and courage to place ourselves in the context of the world as it really is.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Tennant buckles us into a rattletrap Cessna flown by a septuagenarian stunt pilot and flings us aloft to share an obsessive, madcap, death-defying and often illegal adventure attempting to radio-track the transcontinental migrations of these majestic, endangered birds. . . . An exhilarating, hilarious and cautionary tale.” —Los Angeles Times