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Full EpisodeH is for Hawk: A New Chapter

Helen Macdonald’s best-selling book H Is for Hawk told the saga of a grieving daughter who found healing in training a goshawk. Now she digs deeper into the world of these raptors by following a family in the wild and raising a goshawk of her own.

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♪♪ [ Wind rushing ] MACDONALD: Do you remember when you were a kid, the day before your birthday, you couldn't sleep because you knew something special was coming?

It's a little bit like that, crossed with the thought that maybe, you know, tomorrow there'll be a hurricane, you know, the weather's going to change, and things are going to get really serious.

Because you just know that life's going to change when the goshawk arrives.

♪♪ 10 years ago, my father died suddenly.

♪♪ Stricken with grief, I fled from humanity.

I ran towards things of death and difficulty -- spooky, pale-eyed feathered ghosts that lived and killed in woodland thickets.

♪♪ I ran towards goshawks.

♪♪ The story of how I trained my goshawk Mabel became a best-selling book -- 'H Is for Hawk.'

Oh, my God, she's amazing and so beautiful.

Hello.

But this fiery bird with light-splashed feathers isn't Mabel.

I'm training a new goshawk, and the prospect is terrifying.

This is the raging, wild challenge of my future -- a hawk that won't be a solution to grief, but my wings to somewhere new.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ MACDONALD: Wow.

She's, um -- She's amazing.

She's huge. She's like twice the size of Mabel.

And is doing that goshawk magic thing already.

She's, um -- She's transforming this room into something very unlike a domestic sphere.

She's -- She's making it feel wild.

It's like you've stepped into another world in here now.

♪♪ She's, you know, half dragon, half leopard, something very old and prehistoric.

♪♪ She has this very light hood on, which just makes her think it's nighttime, so she's sort of sleepy, as well, and I'm not going to challenge her today by taking that hood off.

What I might do is sit with her and just talk to her and try and get across that this voice is not something to be feared.

The journey begins, I guess.

Here we go.

♪♪ ♪♪ Training another hawk was inevitable.

But I didn't know it.

♪♪ I didn't know that it would be the outcome of a journey that began earlier that year when I set out to watch goshawks in the wild.

[ Birds chirping ] To me, goshawks are among the most beautiful things the world has ever made.

♪♪ Their predatory grace is bewitching.

♪♪ They are big, bloody, deadly, scary, and very, very hard to see.

[ Birds chirping ] Wild goshawks are magnificent phantoms.

You might spend a week in a forest full of them and never see one... ...just traces of their presence.

A sudden hush followed by the calls of terrified woodland birds and a sense of something moving just beyond vision.

♪♪ I was desperate to see this most secretive of hawks in the wild.

I knew they would be difficult to find.

But then, everything about goshawks is difficult.

♪♪ Looking for goshawks is like looking for grace.

It comes but not often.

And you don't get to say when or how.

♪♪ That spring, I could have counted on one hand the number of times I'd ever seen them in the wild.

But I remembered one morning a decade ago, on a clear March day at the beginning of their breeding season, when suddenly, there they were.

They had left their secret world under the trees to court each other, dancing in the open sky.

♪♪ ♪♪ I remembered them so clearly because my memory of the hawks' graceful flight became caught up in a terrible moment.

A few weeks later, my mum called me and told me that my father had died.

♪♪ Dad was one of the best photojournalists of his time.

He took this photo of me.

I still remember how itchy that sweater was, how still I had to sit.

♪♪ His unexpected death shattered all the stories I'd told myself about my life.

Grief broke me.

I didn't know who I was anymore.

I found myself falling back into old ways of looking at the world.

And my old childhood obsession started to return.

♪♪ For as long as I can remember, I've loved birds.

I used to rear orphaned fledglings, like my crow Albert.

But hawks were my favorite.

When I was small, I loved them so much, I tried to sleep with my arms crossed at my back like wings.

I even said prayers to the ancient Egyptian falcon god, Horus.

♪♪ I went on a falconry course when I was 13, and this is me with a Harris hawk.

And I don't know. I look joyous.

I mean, I was. It was an amazing experience.

And this is a bird-of-prey center that I used to work at, and they taught me, really, how to handle birds, and then they gave me my first kestrel.

And this is -- this is the one who used to sleep in my bedroom bookcase at night.

My parents were unbelievably chilled out about this falconry business.

I think twice my mother told me, you know, 'Are you sure you wouldn't rather be a lawyer than a falconer?'

♪♪ It's really weird when you look at childhood pictures and you feel there's no continuity between you.

They sort of punctuate. This is one person.

This is different person.

But in all the ones where I have hawks on my hands, you know, I remember those hawks.

I remember those moments.

And I feel like I'm the same person.

♪♪ You'll copy your parents. It's kind of who you are.

I guess what photography does is, when you're in a scary situation, you can put the camera to your eye and you look through the viewfinder, and it distances you from what you're seeing.

♪♪ My father said that was the way to be safe is that you just look at it as a picture.

You look through the lens. And I think with falconry -- You know, when my dad died and my whole family was bereft, living with a hawk let me experience the world, in my imagination anyway, through -- through her eyes.

She was a little bit like a camera, a little bit like a viewfinder, and the hawk sees the world differently, too, so it's kind of an escape from your own vision, I think, in both cases, yeah.

When Dad died, I started dreaming of hawks all the time.

I wanted to fly with a hawk to salve my grief, cross from this world into another, wilder one.

♪♪ Mabel was my first goshawk.

I'd trained a lot of birds of prey in my life.

I never wanted to train a goshawk.

I knew they were very highly strung, very hard to train.

And then my dad died, and I wanted a goshawk.

♪♪ When something bad happens, when you lose a loved one, you're often driven by, you know, almost unconscious motivations.

I was driven to get this goshawk.

The hawk had caught me.

It was never the other way around.

Writing about Mabel was one of the ways I later tried to make sense of it all.

♪♪ MAN: And the winner of the 2014 Costa Book of the Year is... 'H Is for Hawk' by Helen Macdonald.

WOMAN: So I am happy to announce that Helen Macdonald is the winner of the Samuel Johnson Prize 2014 with 'H Is for Hawk.'

MACDONALD: The book I wrote did really well.

I didn't expect that.

It's been quite exciting and a bit of a shock.

The person that's in the book isn't really me anymore.

I think what happens after a big bereavement is that you -- you know, you fall apart, and you have to remake yourself as someone else, someone new, and that's who I am now, and that person in the book isn't really me anymore.

♪♪ Just before I finished writing the book, Mabel died.

A sudden, untreatable infection with aspergillosis, a deadly airborne fungal disease, carried her from her aviary to the dark woods where dwell the lost and the dead.

♪♪ [ Birds chirping ] Eight years on, I felt compelled to bring goshawks back into my life.

So I turned to Rob, a friend of a friend and my wild goshawk guru.

[ Indistinct conversation ] ROB: I like the fact that for most the year, they're very secret birds, and you can't really see them.

And there's only one short window in the year that you can actually get close to them and observe them.

MACDONALD: Right, which is when they're breeding.

ROB: When they're breeding. MACDONALD: Yeah.

ROB: And the rest of the year, they just seem to disappear, and for such a large bird, that's quite a trick.

MACDONALD: No, it is. It's almost supernatural, isn't it, that sort of ghostly way that they -- they vanish.

ROB: I just say they're magical birds, really.

MACDONALD: They are, they are.

♪♪ Years ago, Rob had taken me to see a nest right at the edge of England just before it tips into Wales, a land of wet forest and wild goshawks.

And now I'd asked him to find me another... ♪♪ ...one I could visit over the spring and summer to get a personal view of Britain's most elusive bird of prey.

♪♪ Wild goshawks are breeding again in Britain after over a century of extinction, and this forest is one of their strongholds.

Their presence here reminds me that the wild does not have to be a thing untouched by human hearts and hands.

♪♪ The wild can be human work.

♪♪ Because in the '60s and '70s, British falconers worked out that for the cost of importing a European goshawk for falconry, you could bring in a second bird and release it.

Buy one, set one free.

♪♪ Reintroduction isn't hard with a bird as self-reliant and predatory as a goshawk.

♪♪ After all, everything about these hawks is tuned to hunt and kill.

♪♪ Falconers brought goshawks back to life.

And now I realized it was time to bring one back into mine.

♪♪ The strange thing was that the hawk I'd train this summer would be, in one sense, immortal.

For while individual goshawks die, their species has remained unchanged.

They have no fancy varieties because they were always taken from the wild to be trained.

♪♪ The birds falconers fly today are identical to those of 5,000 years ago.

Civilizations rise and fall, but the hawks stay the same.

♪♪ Today, British falconers only use aviary-bred birds.

And goshawks are fiendishly difficult to breed.

♪♪ [ Birds squawking ] [ Teakettle whistling ] It's not for the fainthearted.

Even in the wild, there's a fine line between goshawk romance and terrible, mortal violence.

[ Liquid pouring ] You can't just put a couple of goshawks in an aviary and leave them to it.

More often than not, the female will kill her mate.

[ Birds chirping ] Instead you put them in separate, adjoining aviaries and monitor their behavior closely.

Only when you think the female is ready -- a piece of fine judgment that does not admit error -- do you let the male into her chamber.

ANDY: He's going to copulate. Lookit.

MAN: Yeah. ANDY: Oh, there we are.

Come on, lad.

They're doing it right now.

There you are.

MAN: That's it. ANDY: One copulation.

MAN #2: Hopefully she'll lay soon and it'll be fertile.

♪♪ MACDONALD: Wayne, Dave, Andy are goshawk breeders.

♪♪ During the mating season, they stare obsessively at screens showing live footage from their aviaries.

♪♪ This is the best television ever.

Forget American cop shows.

I want to watch goshawks all day.

ANDY: The goshawk on the monitor, Helen, that's the mother to the goshawk you'll be having.

MACDONALD: Ah, look at her. ANDY: She's sat on eggs now.

MACDONALD: Hello, you.

When I got Mabel, I never saw the parents of the bird, and it's kind of lovely to see -- to see the actual -- ANDY: Must be great for you having a bird and you're actually seeing the parents to the bird.

MACDONALD: Yeah, it's amazing.

ANDY: It's got to give you a buzz, that, anyway, to just see this.

MACDONALD: It's made me feel quite soppy, actually.

You know this is one of the things about goshawks that, you know, I sort of love is that everyone thinks of them as being a bit like feathered shotguns, but actually, they make people feel quite soppy, as well.

[ Laughs ] There would be a goshawk for me to train.

And I'd asked, if possible, for a female like Mabel.

[ Birds chirping ] ♪♪ As spring edged towards summer, the forest shone with new-spilled beauty.

♪♪ In the nest that Rob found for me, the chicks had hatched.

♪♪ Three small bundles of dense cotton wool waiting to be fed.

[ Chirping ] A new goshawk family, descended from birds released by falconers, was being raised.

♪♪ Wild, spectacular, utterly at home, the presence of these British goshawks fills me with joy.

♪♪ ♪♪ For weeks, I waited anxiously, getting updates from Rob.

♪♪ And then, after almost a month, I went to see them for myself.

[ Birds chirping ] I'm 50 foot up in the air staring at a nest of baby goshawks, which is pretty extraordinary.

They're at this really ludicrous stage where they look like moth-eaten eagles.

And they can hear me, I think, 'cause they're giving me evils through the foliage.

It's amazing seeing them here.

I never thought I'd see a goshawk nest at this level.

I feel like kind of a bit of a spy.

[ Birds chirping ] [ Gasps ] She's on the nest.

Oh, my gosh.

Oh, she's spectacular.

It's impossible to look at them without grinning.

It's just so great.

There's a whole bunch of things these birds are doing which make my heart kind of ache a little because they're so familiar.

And there are some great falconry terms.

So when the young birds extend one wing to stretch and sort of drag it over their tail, it's called mantling.

They do this thing, too, where they put both wings above their back and really, really, really, really stretch them, and that's called warbling.

It's really evocative of my time with Mabel, and, yeah, it's great.

A goshawk is a goshawk, I guess.

On birding trips with my dad as a child, I remember him teaching me about this abstract thing called patience.

The word makes me think of one of my father's photographs.

♪♪ The sparrow is caught mid-hop at the exact moment it picks a crumb from a street sweeper's fingers.

The expression on his face is beautiful.

To me, he looks like an angel.

It took a lifetime's patience to capture that perfect moment.

♪♪ It's strange to look at these little scraps of life up there and know that in an aviary quite a long way from here is, you know, a chick that I'm going to get to know, and it'll be just as wild as these birds, you know.

I'm gonna become acquainted with one just like this pretty soon.

It's very exciting.

♪♪ [ Birds chirping ] ♪♪ For the breeders, the waiting and watching continues for about another nine weeks after the chicks hatch.

♪♪ Only then will a parent-reared bird be ready to train.

♪♪ ♪♪ I still have more than two months to wait.

♪♪ [ Birds chirping ] On a thick, gloamy summer's evening, I returned to the nest.

The forest was dim and vaulted green.

It felt like an underwater cathedral.

♪♪ An old friend, Jimmie, was climbing to the nest.

With a BASE jumper's adrenaline-wired demeanor, he looped the rope around the tree and began to climb as Rob and I watched.

♪♪ We had to work as quickly as possible.

♪♪ It's quite tense watching him climb, isn't it?

ROB: It is, yeah.

♪♪ ♪♪ MACDONALD: There aren't that many wild goshawks in Britain -- around 450 pairs.

♪♪ Fitting chicks with numbered rings helps track the population.

And that's why Jimmie and Rob were here.

Precious cargo.

ROB: We'll get them all out together, Helen.

♪♪ MACDONALD: Oh, she's huge.

ROB: Okay. MACDONALD: Yep. There we go.

And they're giving us the evils.

Two females and one male... carefully assessed by Rob.

♪♪ Would it stress her out if I just quickly held her for a second?

ROB: No, no. That's fine. That's fine.

MACDONALD: Come on, then, missus.

She's a sweetie.

Look at her.

I just love at this point, you know, they haven't quite got their feathers yet and they've got these fuzzy heads like little snowmen and these wonderfully milky, kind of bluey-gray eyes.

They're really gorgeous. Like little reptiles.

I'm going to smell it first 'cause goshawks smell amazing.

Hang on.

Ohh. Oh. Nostalgia.

That reminds me so much of Mabel.

It's this weird smell. [ Sniffs ] They should bottle it and put it in perfume bottles.

But I think we should definitely get them back in the nest now.

They've have their moment of contact with humanity.

It's time to return them.

Okay, so she's in safe.

Ringing gives us scientific data to help preserve birds like these.

But there's more to this than science.

Off you go, little ones.

These chicks will probably never be held by human hands again.

Might not even be seen again.

But for a few moments, we had been allowed to touch the lives of creatures far wilder than ourselves.

And I will never forget it.

♪♪ ♪♪ When I was small, the countryside was in crisis.

Pesticides were wiping out hawks.

Otters were gone.

Dead elm trees were being burned.

Rivers were dying.

Everything was sick.

And we'd be next.

We lived in the shadow of nuclear war.

I clung to hope as hard as I could, prayed that life would go on, in spite of my fears.

But then I grew up, always expecting loss.

♪♪ ♪♪ I did this in July 1977, so I was 6 years old.

And it's a male kestrel, and it's sitting on a glove.

And you have this -- I don't know.

It makes my kind of heart go weird.

I'm really obsessed with its attachment to the glove, so the things that are tying it to the glove are really carefully drawn, and there's a dot on the glove that I've gone 'round and 'round with a pencil.

It can't leave. It can't leave me.

It has to stay here.

I had a twin brother who died just after I was born, and I didn't know about this, and it was this real tragedy, and yet here I am summoning something -- summoning something that could fly away and making sure it can't, making sure it's with me.

It's a really, really weird thing to look at now.

And I think that's kind of what it's all about.

Falconry's about things that can fly away choosing to come back to you.

It's all about returning, things returning that could go.

[ Birds chirping ] ♪♪ On a dark summer's day, I returned to the forest.

♪♪ It would be six more weeks till the hawk I'd train left her parents.

But the wild chicks were older.

♪♪ The male had already left the nest.

And soon his sisters would, too.

♪♪ I've got a bit of a pang in my heart.

This is probably the last time I'm going to see this particular year's family of goshawks before they go.

♪♪ It's really weird at this point when they've left the nest.

There's a lovely falconry term for it -- branches, which means they're kind of scrambling around branches around the nest, and they're making little flights.

They're not really cued into hunting yet.

You know, they're much more interested in carrion and the things that their parents have brought.

So she's kind of watching all the birds around with kind of interest, but she hasn't got that kind of predatory fire yet.

But, you know, this whole wood is animated by that bird being there.

It make everything feel really quite exciting and special.

[ Squawking ] And these birds are going to start to slowly disperse and move away from this wood.

They might come back, visit, but this is kind of it.

And it's the absolutely normal, slow dissolution of goshawk family life for another year.

I kind of want to salute her, you know, and wish her luck.

[ Birds chirping ] Everything's different now from all those years ago when I trained Mabel.

I'm in a house that doesn't have a garden really suitable for keeping a goshawk in, and I'm a different person.

I think I'm a lot softer these days.

I guess I've kind of worked out that death waits for us all, and it's made me kind of love the world more and love people, too, more, and I don't really want that solitary withdrawal from the world to train a hawk.

I want to kind of do it more sociably.

♪♪ And so I went up to the Pennines to meet the hawk that I would train.

This is where she'll live, with Kirsty, her new owner, my friend and a fellow falconer.

She's going to be trained differently.

She's going to be trained in that old-school way.

Getting it used to people, hanging out with Kirsty and her goshawk, just making it a much, much less sort of miserable and lonely thing.

I'm really looking forward to it.

I think it's going to be a really extraordinary experience but very different one from before.

♪♪ I am -- Yeah, how can I put this without swearing?

I'm pretty scared.

I haven't really trained a hawk since Mabel, and that was, you know, 10 years ago now.

Mabel was super chilled out from the word go.

This bird could be a complete nightmare.

So I don't know whether, you know, the box will open and this kind of avenging angel will come out, desperate to sort of slay and stress me out beyond the limits of human tolerance.

We'll just, you know, play it by ear, little by little, patience, positive reinforcement, calmness, watchwords of training a hawk.

♪♪ ♪♪ People have trained hawks for thousands of years.

A hawk must always be tamed from scratch, and the first step is gaining their trust.

♪♪ I want her to take food from my hand.

But the strangeness of my presence scares her.

She tries to get away, which is hard, because it's the opposite of everything I desire.

♪♪ I concentrate very hard on trying to be invisible... pretending not to be there, an ancient falconers' trick.

This new hawk is bewildered.

She stares and stares.

Seconds slow and tick past.

[ Clock ticking ] She's not happy with this unfamiliar situation.

[ Screeching ] Her wings are dropped low.

She is crouched, ready for flight.

But she looks at the food beneath her feet.

♪♪ It's been a long time since I've done this, but it's amazing.

As soon as the world shrinks to just you and the bird, all those kind of old knowledges just come back like it was yesterday.

[ Screeching ] That's it.

I know it didn't look like it, but she was phenomenally calm.

And there's a moment when you take the hood off a fresh bird where -- this is going to sound very New Age, but you kind of feel their spirit.

And, yeah, I am in love.

She's amazing. She's really, really steady.

That was way more than I expected.

I'm kind of a bit freaked out, actually.

♪♪ I think, you know, crossing fingers, she's going to be a really cool hawk.

That was amazing.

♪♪ Compared to Mabel, this bird is solid.

Not just bigger, but she's kind of strong.

She's got a really calm center.

She's immensely likable and has already surprised the hell out of me.

♪♪ [ Birds chirping ] ♪♪ ♪♪ Everything this bird sees now is strange.

She can see out the window there are ash tree leaves kind of being buffeted in the sunlight.

There are swallows bombing around.

There are shadows, this kind of polarized light up there.

Everything must be pretty mind-blowing, actually, so the fact that she's so calm and is treating this with such reasonable equanimity is a kind of miracle, really.

♪♪ The secret to taming a hawk is to take things slowly.

[ Clock ticking ] To move gradually from darkness into light.

Go on, have a bite to eat.

You'll feel better when you've had some dinner.

I think I am going to call her Lupin.

It's one of those nice names.

It sort of means the flower, but it also means wolf.

[ Animal squawking ] There's a great tradition in falconry that you don't give birds of prey, particularly goshawks, scary names.

So you don't call your goshawk, you know, Slayer or Vulcan or something like that because sort of superstition says that if you give a bird a name like that, it'll just sit on a fence post and squeak at you and do nothing.

You give them cutesy names, and then they become proficient hunters.

So, yeah, I have a friend with a goshawk called Bunty.

So I think Lupin kind of fits that.

We'll just pretend it's the flower name so she'll become a proficient hunter.

♪♪ Everything fascinates her.

[ Bird chirping ] Lupin can see with fierce clarity things I can't possibly resolve from the generalized blur.

[ Squawks ] ♪♪ But this new world of Kirsty and her birds unnerves her, too.

KIRSTY: Step up. Good girl.

Good girl.

♪♪ And so we sit quietly at a distance so she can see these things are not a threat.

♪♪ ♪♪ Days pass, and we move through the intricate process of training.

Next, I want her to jump to my fist for food.

♪♪ You cannot menace or punish a hawk.

You must wait for them to choose to come to you.

♪♪ ♪♪ The space between the fear and the food is a vast, vast gulf, and you have to cross it together.

♪♪ ♪♪ She did it.

There was no half-heartedness about that.

She -- She was incredible.

I'm really pleased with her.

I'm really delighted with how that went.

Couldn't have asked for better.

♪♪ [ Thudding ] Come on, then, Lupin. Let's see what you weigh today.

Birds in falconry have a flying weight.

I guess it's a bit like boxers have a fighting weight.

Basically if a hawk's full of food, it's 'fed up.'

It's not going to want to fly at all, let alone fly towards you for food, so you have to monitor the bird's weight very, very carefully, and you do that by weighing the bird every day, sometimes twice a day.

KIRSTY: She's doing so well.

MACDONALD: She is, isn't she? It's phenomenal.

[ Birds chirping ] ♪♪ The bird's been amazing, but it's kind of been hard, too.

I, uh, had a sleepless night last night and woke up in the morning very early and had a bit of a weep, which I didn't expect, and I feel a bit like a truck's hit me.

And I guess it's that combination of the raw stress and responsibility that it takes to look after a new bird like this and make sure you're doing everything right and not messing it up.

Also, you know, I haven't sat with an untrained goshawk on my hand since the year my father died, and it's kind of brought it all back.

You know, I dreamt about him last night, dreamt about Mabel, the hawk I had back then.

Bit of weird time travel going on.

And it's kind of hard.

I'm going to have to process some stuff again.

♪♪ After Dad's death, my grief-spurred dreams were filled with wings.

But now I was dreaming of Mabel.

I dreamed of the hawk that had been my refuge.

There was no regret or mourning in her.

No past nor future.

She lived in the present moment only, and that was my escape.

Watching her hunt felt like gambling, though the stakes were bloodier.

You put all your skill, your very soul into training the hawk, then step back and relinquish control.

That's the gambler's hook.

Once the dice roll, once the hawk leaves the fist, you open yourself to fate, and you cannot control the outcome.

♪♪ I had hunted with hawks for years before I lost my father.

I never considered it cruel.

Wild hawks hunted. So did mine.

It's what hawks do.

It's what they're made of.

♪♪ Training a goshawk and not letting it hunt still seems to me like raising a child and not letting it play.

♪♪ ♪♪ What's really got to me is that you can still see on the leather here the little tiny nicks and cuts that were made by Mabel's talons.

That's really strange how history kind of inheres in material objects.

It's kind of a bit of a dizzying sense, really, that she's still here.

She's still here in the marks on this glove.

♪♪ [ Fire roaring ] ♪♪ Mabel was the fire I used to burn my hurts away.

She was my way of escaping human contact.

Training Lupin with Kirsty is different.

I'm accepting help.

We're doing it together.

When I trained Mabel, I really bought into that idea that falconry was all about solitude and sort of monkish seclusion -- just you and your bird, and you know what?

I mean, the early days, you do need to do that, but, you know, I've been sitting with Kirsty and her goshawk, and we've been manning them, taming them together and chatting about everything.

You know, I've just realized that that's how falconry is and it has been, you know, for centuries all over the world.

You know, people train hawks together.

It doesn't have to be this dark kind of pursuit that it was after my father died.

It can be something much more full of joy, much more full of company, and that's a nice thought.

♪♪ ♪♪ Time runs forward, and Lupin scarcely misses a step of our intricate training dance.

♪♪ Lupin is currently 2 pounds, 10 ounces.

You know, she's responding really well to that weight.

She's very, very attentive. She's feeding on the fist.

She's, you know, completely in the right zone.

♪♪ Before a hawk flies free, a falconry bell the size and shape of an acorn is fixed onto its topmost pair of tail feathers next to a tiny radio transmitter mount.

These help us find the hawk if it flies out of sight.

[ Bell jingling ] All right. I know you're a bit noisy now, but... First, though, I fly Lupin on a long line of braided cotton called a creance.

♪♪ It is both a literal line of attachment and something more than material reassurance.

♪♪ [ Whistles ] ♪♪ [ Bell jingling ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ That went brilliantly.

She's in a ferociously good mood right now.

And so am I.

I mean, I sort of think she's ready to fly free.

There was no real hesitation there.

She didn't try and veer off.

She just -- In fact, at one point, she was so desperate to come, she didn't let me walk away, so, you know, she completely trusts me.

She wants to come to me for food.

She isn't thinking about flying away.

I think we're there.

♪♪ ♪♪ I'll be really happy to see this bird fly free.

I mean, it's the summation of it all, isn't it?

All those bonds and lines of trust that you've created over the weeks suddenly are tested.

Yeah, you sort of have a sort of sleepless night before you fly a bird free for the first time.

Every single time this happens.

Let's hope it works.

Now everything is accelerating towards that crucial point... point in the sense of time... point in the sense of aim... point in the sense of something so sharp, it hurts.

Letting the hawk fly free.

♪♪ ♪♪ [ Birds chirping ] Well, this is typical.

The day that I planned to fly Lupin free, the whole valley is buried in fog.

The problem is that if -- if she veered away from the fist and disappeared into a tree or kept going, we wouldn't be able to find each another.

You know, even though she's wearing a transmitter, it's going to be very hard to sort of catch up with her, and I'm not going to risk that, so I'm just praying that the fog will lift.

♪♪ Slowly, the fog seeps away.

♪♪ Okay, let's do it. Step up.

And we decide to call Lupin to the fist once on the creance before flying her free.

♪♪ ♪♪ [ Bell jingling ] ♪♪ Didn't quite work. She's not quite ready.

She's at the right flying weight.

She should really -- As soon as the hood's off, she should be flying towards me.

It should be an instant response.

And she just sort of sat there and had a look around, like, you know, hmm.

And Kirsty and I both decided it wasn't going to happen today.

So tomorrow -- tomorrow's the day.

Sorry about that, Lupes, but all's fair in love, war, and falconry.

♪♪ ♪♪ [ Beep ] It's always scary.

You're always frightened it's not going to work and she might fly away, but I feel pretty good about it today.

I think she's -- she's the right weight.

She's obviously quite eager to fly, so all being well, we should get the hawk back at the end of the day, and that's -- that's what you want.

Right, you.

You know, falconry is, in many ways, deep down about conjuring presence and absence.

It's about having this wild creature that has decided that it wants to come back to you.

I think we might be all right. Shall we do it?

Blood pressure goes up. Heart rate goes up.

This is the moment.

♪♪ ♪♪ We have lift-off.

Big surge of adrenaline here.

Well done, you.

♪♪ ♪♪ That just happened.

She -- She flew free for the first time.

I'm super, super proud of her.

Yeah, really, really happy.

♪♪ [ Wind rushing ] [ Bell jingling ] We've reached that wonderful point where Lupin is what's called in falconry a made hawk.

She's flying free.

And now what we have to do is transform her life from that of basically just flying backwards and forwards to my gloved hand into something much more like that of a wild hawk.

So teaching her about wind and flying into trees and learning about quarry and -- and the whole kind of wider landscape.

♪♪ ♪♪ It's been a really fascinating and amazing few months.

I guess a lot of things have changed.

What wild goshawks mean to me has subtly changed.

And what trained ones mean, it's really interesting.

You know, I never thought I'd get another bird after Mabel.

Mabel was the goshawk of my life, and, of course, what I've forgotten is Mabel was the goshawk of the life I had then.

She was the bird who belonged to a different person.

And now I've got Lupin.

She's a very different character from Mabel, and I love her to bits.

It's really great to share life with her.

♪♪ I'm going to fly Lupin as much as I can over the season.

The idea that my life is going to be punctuated with flickering beauty of a goshawk's wings, is, um -- just makes me -- It's going to sound really -- really cheesy, but it makes me feel like a whole person again.

♪♪ Goshawks are always going to be part of who I am, and I'm really glad about that.

♪♪ ♪♪ NARRATOR: In Zimbabwe, an unusual bond is forming.

WOLHUTER: I was filming, and the cubs came right up to me.

And that was how the whole thing started.

NARRATOR: Now we can follow this wild cheetah family extremely close-up.

WOLHUTER: It wasn't long and I was walking with them, sleeping with them, and even following them on the hunt.

NARRATOR: Witness firsthand the heartbreaks and triumphs a cheetah mother faces raising the next generation.

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