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  • Research adventures

    Adventures in falconry

    Last Saturday, I went on an adventure with Kiya, my long-time friend and editor. We drove out to western Massachusetts (about a two hour drive from where I live) for a session with New England Falconry.

    Why? Writing research, of course!

    A Harris's hawk on a perch, head forward and back arched, seeing something it's not sure about.
    A Harris’s hawk on a perch, seeing something he’s not sure about.

    Falconry, Carillon, and upcoming delights

    Lord Geoffrey Carillon is a great many things, but among them, he is a falconer. As mentioned in On The Bias, he used to fly a Eurasian eagle-owl, named Theodora (who also appears in that book). However, the sniper wound he got during the Great War (in his left shoulder joint) means that he can’t hold that much weight on his extended left hand for very long.

    (Eurasian eagle-owls are about 8 pounds for females. Extremely sizeable birds.)

    Since the early 1920s, he’s instead flown a merlin named Helena. Merlins are a vastly smaller bird – about 8 ounces or half a pound. (They also carry a number of different social implications.)

    Then I wrote the draft of Best Foot Forward (out in November 2022) and – there is more falconry. It’s set in 1935, when Carillon is fully settled into his current life, but collaboration with Alexander Landry brings about a new set of challenges. Alexander also has a certain number of opinions about hawks and falcons, as it turns out, though largely on a more metaphorical level. Or at least less immediately physical. There’s also a scene set in the mews at Ytene.

    And then there’s Ancient Trust, which is about Carillon inheriting the title in 1922 and returning to Albion and figuring out how to rearrange his life. Which of course includes a certain amount of falconry, though mostly off-screen.

    All of that meant more research about falconry was in order as both those titles go into editing. And of course, the one thing that’s hard to get from books or video or other second hand sources is what the experience actually feels like. I especially wanted to get a sense of what it felt like to have a bird on the end of my arm.

    Which is why we went out to western Massachusetts.

    Read on for more, including plenty of great pictures!