An acknowledged classic of narrative nature-writing, Donald Watson's The Hen Harrier was the culmination of a lifetime's study of this beautiful upland bird.
A gentle, warm and wonderfully written book, The Hen Harrier stems from an age of 'amateur' conservation, from the pen of a man who cared deeply about birds and their habitats, especially of the Scottish borders where he conducted much of his research and painting. The book was among the last of a dying breed; it would be thirty years or more before writing on our natural history would again reach the heights of accessibility to nature-lovers exemplified by Donald Watson and his peers.
The Hen Harrier starts with Watson setting down more or less everything known about harriers – which at that time often consisted of information sent by letter to the author, rather than published in a journal – before moving on to the story of Watson's years studying nests in the south-west of Scotland. With a foreword by conservation champion Mark Avery, this edition of Watson's greatest work is particularly timely. The conflict between grouse-shooting interests, which has overseen the virtual extinction of the harrier as a breeding bird in England through illegal persecution, and an increasingly vocal conservationist lobby is the number one conservation issue in Britain today. Donald Watson's narrative soars like a sky-dancing harrier throughout The Hen Harrier. Read it, and be taken back to a simpler age of nature conservation by a true master of the art.
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