On the Wing: To the Edge of the Earth with the Peregrine Falcon Hardcover – 3 Feb 2005
Enter your mobile number below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
Getting the download link through email is temporarily not available. Please check back later.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
"'Packs a powerful punch...Wistful...lyrical'" (Guardian)
"'Resembles a buddy movie crossed with a nature documentary'" (Financial Times)
"'An ornithologist's On the Road...A curiously affecting book'" (Glasgow Herald) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
An epic story about birds of prey, the American landscape, and man's dreams of flight. The New York Times Bestseller. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.See all Product Description
What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
This is no simple Audubon Society-style study. Blend Jack Kerouac's "On the Road" and Ché Guevera's "The Motorcycle Diaries", cross-breed them with "Winged Migration", and you get some sense of the spell this book casts. Of course, Tennant has a cantankerous sidekick, George Vose, a septuagenarian World War II flight instructor who trusts his instincts more than his flight instruments. Clearly he provides the yang to Tennant's yin. They have life-endangering adventures, astounding views of North America from far above and naturally, the strong pull of male bonding to make it through their journey. Tennant has obviously picked up a lot of information on falconry, which he shares generously, but he also has a true gift of describing the soaring epiphanies that he and Vose experienced flying in their aged Cessna. Just like being in the cockpit with Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan, the reader gets transported to a contained world where exhilaration mixes unexpectedly with dread. The result is a breathtaking book, a needed panacea for anyone who is tiring of the political, election-timed tomes filling the shelves of your bookstore.
The book opens in the mid-1980s when Tennant was watching falcons on the barrier islands of Texas. He wanted to go with them. He hooked up with George Vose, a World War II flight instructor who has experience in tracking birds but no particular love of it. Vose plays Tennant's Sancho Panza, an irritable septuagenarian pilot with a rickety Cessna who loves flying. Tennant hated flying (and given the scrapes and scares that Vose's plane gave him, with good reason). The two adventurers don't get much of a chance actually to see their falcons. They are following just radio blips; losing the blips is a disaster fraught with worry, and regaining them, sometimes after days or weeks of silence, is a joy. There is plenty of wildlife in Tennant's book, but it is a pleasure to read about how these two became friends. In contrast, Tennant writes just as clearly and movingly about how his obsession ruins his relationship with his smart and sensible girlfriend Jennifer.
The adventures of Tennant and Vose chasing radio beacons take them back and forth across America into Canada for the summer trek and into Mexico and Belize for the winter. Every bit of bad weather the intrepid birds go through has to be endured by the pilots as well. There is plenty to learn about how evolution has shaped birds in different ways for success. In contrast to the falcons, for instance, hawks cannot feed on birds on the wing since they hunt mice, frogs, and insects. This means that they have to economize on their migrations, and stick to flying over land, where they can catch free rides on thermals, a tactic falcons do not use. Tennant and Vose have to negotiate with Canadian customs to cross into Canadian airspace, but because they would lose their falcon while they waited for clearance, Tennant lies to Vose and says their request was granted. They track the falcon successfully, but their illegal entry gets them into trouble with the Mounties later. Almost everywhere they go, they are assumed to be running drugs; it is a far more credible explanation than can be provided when Tennant insists he is engaged in the foolery of hunting falcon radio beacons. They are more than once intimidated by men with guns who are convinced they are drug-runners or spies with electronic surveillance gear. The inimical forces of nature are just as problematic, from mosquitoes to bears. Along the way, the genial guide Tennant gets to write about such things as mammoths and the memorial at the crash site of Will Rogers and Wiley Post. Tennant reflects, a little sadly, that as eccentric as their quest might have been, it would now be even more unnecessary; falcons are tracked by satellite. None of those researchers with their eyes on their satellite monitors, however, is ever going to be able to produce as romantic and entertaining a volume as this one.
"On the Wing" details this unforgettable experience, as a grizzled WWII veteran and an eager scientist team up in the unlikeliest of pairings. The men board a frighteningly "experienced" Cessna and track the falcons they tag. A string of adventures follows that will no doubt make readers wonder if the author dipped into fiction from time to time.
Along with the excitement, author Tennant takes time to teach lessons in Biology, Botany and Zoology. At times, the text appears to be a science textbook masquerading as a story. Lessons are not just given on the falcons. In each location they visit, the life cycle of all the plants and animals important to the story are given. Readers will hear about such intriguing facts from nature as the complexity of food chain, the unexplainable drive some animals have to return home and the toll mankind is playing in tainting the magic of the natural world.
It is this last issue that may be the book's legacy. Tennant attempts to awaken his readers to the horrors of pollution, pesticides and humans meddling in the workings of nature. But the book offers so much more. Rare is the literary experience that gives readers adventure, knowledge and a new perspective on an important issue. "On the Wing" soars in its accomplishment of all three.
I learned lots about peregrine falcons, but I kept my bird book handy and learned a lot about other birds too - including those amazing hummingbirds.
The sections describing the intense fear of the falcons in the bird population attested to their hunting prowess and keen vision and speed.
I am in awe of the birds and of the author's dedication and sense of adventure in trying to learn where they go and what they do on the way. As he says, satellites can tell where they go but not how or transmit the incredibleness of it all.
Look for similar items by category
- Books > Science & Nature > Biological Sciences > Animal Sciences > Birds
- Books > Science & Nature > Nature > Wild Animals > Birds
- Books > Scientific, Technical & Medical > Biology > Animal Sciences
- Books > Sports, Hobbies & Games > Fishing, Birdwatching & Other Outdoor Pursuits > Birdwatching
- Books > Travel & Holiday > Travel Writing