A Karearea (New Zealand falcon), trained by the Marlborough Falcon Trust, has been successful in scaring away pigeons that were making a nasty mess at the University of Canterbury campus. Coincidentally I’ve just been reading “H is for Hawk”, by Helen Macdonald, the true story of a woman who found solace from her father’s death when she adopted and trained a goshawk.
Helen called her hawk Mabel, from amabilis meaning loveable or dear. Mabel was my Grandmother’s name, and I hadn’t known its meaning before. The book tells of keeping a freezer full of day-old cockerel chicks as food for the hawk. This reminded me of when I visited a friend’s farm on the Coromandel. I admired a flock of tiny quail walking past the house and she told me she considered them pests, shot them, and had a freezer full of quail.
Throughout the book the author refers to the writing of T H White, author of ‘The Once and Future King” series about Arthur, who also trained a goshawk. She contrasts the way White trained his in the 1930s, with the way she trains hers. I was intrigued by her assertion that hawks are in a sense immortal. There are no breeds or varieties because hawks were never domesticated. The birds that are flown today are identical to those of five thousand years ago. Discussing loss, Helen talks of things that were there and are no longer. “You have to grow around and between the gaps, though you can put your hand out to where things were and feel that tense, shining dullness of the space where the memories are.” This is something those of us in Christchurch are very familiar with.
This is an intriguing and engaging book, which manifests the author’s love of the English countryside and its history.
“She writes of more than just the bird
with many a well-chosen word.”