H Is for Hawk: A New Chapter

About

After the unexpected death of her photojournalist father, Helen Macdonald overcame her grief by training an adult goshawk, one of nature’s most notoriously wild and free-spirited birds of prey. As she explains in the film, “I ran towards things of death and difficulty:  spooky, pale-eyed feathered ghosts that lived and killed in woodland thickets. I ran towards goshawks.” She had trained birds before, but never this raptor which she named Mabel. Macdonald found healing in that cathartic experience which became the basis for her 2014 international best-selling memoir H Is for Hawk.

Now, 10 years after she trained Mabel (who died of untreatable infection just before the author finished writing her book), Macdonald is ready to take on the challenge again, prompted by watching how a pair of wild goshawks reared their chicks in an English forest. This Nature film accompanies her on visits to the pair’s nest to observe the latest developments and follows Macdonald’s emotional and intimate journey as she adopts a young goshawk and attempts to raise it as her own:  feeding, nurturing, and training her new charge in the hopes the months of preparation will culminate in a successful first free flight.

In this first-person account, Macdonald makes a point of distinguishing between her solitary withdrawal from the world while working with Mabel a decade ago and her desire now to share her new training experience with others. Not having a yard suitable for raising a goshawk, Macdonald turns to her friend and fellow falconer, Kirsty Allen, who lives in the Pennine Hills in the north of England. Allen is the goshawk’s new owner, but Macdonald would be there to train the female bird she calls Lupin.

The film charts Macdonald’s progress:  from time spent watching goshawks during breeding season on monitors at the aviary where Lupin was born; taking the first steps to tame the hawk by gaining her trust; patiently waiting for the bird to choose to come to her hand to retrieve food; getting Lupin used to Allen and her other goshawk; and training Lupin to fly to Macdonald’s gloved hand across a field while still secured by a long line of braided cotton, called a creance.

In addition to the training sequences, the program features Macdonald reflecting on her childhood obsession with birds illustrated with old home video and photographs. She tells of taking a falconry course at age 13 and working at a bird of prey center where she was given her first kestrel that slept in her bedroom bookcase at night. She credits her parents for being incredibly understanding.

On visits to view the wild goshawk nest in the forest, Macdonald describes these birds as highly secretive, with the spring breeding season being the only time you can observe them. After over a century of extinction, they are making a comeback in Britain due to falconers importing European goshawks in the ‘60s and ‘70s. They typically would keep one for falconry, while setting the other free. She explains this reintroduction went well because the goshawk is such a self-reliant and predatory bird that is tuned to hunt and kill. Today, British falconers only use aviary-bred birds like Lupin.

Macdonald has additional lessons in store for Lupin to help her fly more like a wild hawk, but a powerful bond has been created and she looks forward to where this exhilarating experience takes her next.

Production Credits Print

H IS FOR HAWK: A NEW CHAPTER

PRESENTED BY
HELEN MACDONALD

PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY
MIKE BIRKHEAD

CO-DIRECTOR AND SCRIPT
BETH JONES

FILM EDITOR
NIGEL BUCK

PRINCIPAL PHOTOGRAPHY
GEORGE WOODCOCK

ADDITIONAL PHOTOGRAPHY
JAMES ALDRED
BARRIE BRITTON
JOHN WATERS

SOUND RECORDISTS
EWAN DRYBURGH
BEN TUTTON
RICHARD GOTT
RICH WHITLEY

COMPOSER
CODY WESTHEIMER

BIRD SPECIALISTS AND HANDLERS
LLOYD AND ROSE BUCK

ARCHIVE
ALISDAIR MACDONALD
CHRISTINA MCLEISH
MIRRORPIX
COSTA
THE BAILLIE GIFFORD PRIZE FOR NON-FICTION
THE SAMUEL JOHNSON PRIZE

COLORIST
PAUL INGVARRSON

DUBBING MIXER
GRAHAM WILD

SOUND DESIGN
DAVID YAPP

PRODUCTION ACCOUNTANT
ANNIE MCGEOCH

PRODUCTION MANAGER
CAROLINE AITZETMULLER

LINE PRODUCER
CHERRY DORRETT

SPECIAL THANKS
GLOUCESTERSHIRE RAPTOR MONITORING GROUP
WOODLAND & COUNTRYSIDE MANAGEMENT LTD
FORESTRY COMMISSION ENGLAND
NATURAL ENGLAND
STEVE WATSON
FRANK WILLIAMS
ROB HUSBANDS
FAYE MONSERRAT
IAN NEWTON
NIGEL WARWICK
STEVE RUSSELL
JAMES MACDONALD
RICHARD HUGHES

INSPIRED BY THE BOOK
H IS FOR HAWK
BY HELEN MACDONALD

FOR THE BBC

PRODUCTION COORDINATORS
CASSY WALKLING
JOANNA MANLEY

PRODUCTION MANAGERS
HELENA BERGLUND
PAULINE GATES

SERIES EDITOR
ROGER WEBB

FOR NATURE

SERIES EDITOR
JANET HESS

SENIOR PRODUCER
LAURA METZGER LYNCH

COORDINATING PRODUCER
JAYNE JUN

ASSOCIATE PRODUCER
JAMES BURKE

LEGAL COUNSEL
BLANCHE ROBERTSON

DIGITAL PRODUCER
ERIC R. OLSON

SOCIAL MEDIA EDITOR
WHITNEY MCGOWAN

SENIOR PUBLICIST
JOHANNA BAKER

BUDGET CONTROLLER
JAYNE LISI

ONLINE EDITOR
STACEY DOUGLASS MOVERLEY

RE-RECORDING MIXER
ED CAMPBELL

ORIGINAL FUNDING PROVIDED IN PART BY
THE ARNHOLD FAMILY IN MEMORY OF CLARISSE ARNHOLD
THE HALMI FAMILY IN MEMORY OF ROBERT HALMI, SR.
SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III
KATE W. CASSIDY FOUNDATION
LILLIAN GOLDMAN CHARITABLE TRUST
FILOMEN M. D’AGOSTINO FOUNDATION
ROSALIND P. WALTER
SANDRA ATLAS BASS
KITTY HAWKS
CORPORATION FOR PUBLIC BROADCASTING

SERIES PRODUCER
BILL MURPHY

EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
FRED KAUFMAN

A MIKE BIRKHEAD ASSOCIATES PRODUCTION FOR THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC AND BBC STUDIOS IN ASSOCIATION WITH WNET

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