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Vanishing Peregrines: J. A. Baker, Environmental Crisis and Bird-Centred Cultures of Nature, 1954–73

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 October 2017

SEAN J. NIXON*
Affiliation:
University of Essexsnixon@essex.ac.uk

Abstract

Taking J. A. Baker's celebrated book The Peregrine as its focus, the article seeks to locate Baker's writing within a broader, less elevated field of postwar observation and publication that worked to shape new ways of understanding, apprehending and taking pleasure from the natural environment. This included the recording practices and publications of the national and county naturalist and birdwatching societies that flourished in these years. The article shows how Baker's book was as much the product of this world of organised amateur natural history as it was of the world of high literature. Baker's book also sheds light on the reconfiguring of bird-human relations within competing postwar cultures of nature and the article uses it to explore the relationship between birdwatching and the bird-centred field sport of falconry. As organised birdwatching sought to establish moral authority over other bird-centred countryside pursuits in its understanding of natural relations, it cast field sports and other countryside practices as atavistic and archaic relics of older cultures of nature. Baker's The Peregrine allows us to see the convergences between the close attention to birds of prey and an intimacy with them that was shared by birdwatchers like Baker and falconers, even as Baker's narrative also sheds light on the differences between the two practices.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2017 

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References

1. J. A. Baker Archive, Albert Sloman Library Special Collections, University of Essex (hereafter Baker Archive), A3/1.2, Letter from John Moore to Michael Walter, Collins Publishers, 19th October 1966.

2. Baker Archive, A3/1.3, Letter from Viscount Norwich to J. A. Baker, 17th December 1967. For contemporary reviews, see Baker Archive, J1.2, Hugh Barrett Reviews The Peregrine, Woman's Hour, BBC Light Programme, 8th June 1967; Richard Fitter Review, The Times, 24th April 1967, p. 24; Alan Bold, ‘A Demonstration of Summer’, The Times, 28th June 1969, p. 22.

3. Macfarlane, Robert, ‘Introduction’, in Baker, J. A, The Peregrine (New York, 2005 [orig. pub. 1967]), p. viiGoogle Scholar; Cocker, Mark, ‘Introduction’, in The Peregrine/Hill of Summer and Diaries: The Complete Works of J. A. Baker, introduced by Mark Cocker and edited by Fanshawe, John (London, 2011), p. 11 Google Scholar.

4. Cocker, ‘Introduction’, in The Peregrine/Hill of Summer and Diaries, p. 12.

5. Macfarlane ‘Introduction’, J. A Baker, The Peregrine, p. xii.

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7. Access to Baker's private papers, including details of his personal library, confirm these suspicions revealing that Baker owned and was highly likely to have read Melville, T. H. White, Ted Hughes and Ernest Hemingway.

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14. Matless et al. explore this question in relation to wildfowling and otter hunting. See D. Matless, p. Merchant and C. Watkins, ‘Animal landscapes: otters and wildfowl in England, 1945–1970’, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers (2005), 191–205.

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18. For a popular account of the growth of birdwatching in this period, see Moss, Stephen, A Bird in the Bush: A Social History of Birdwatching (London, 2004)Google Scholar.

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21. Ibid., pp. 43, 50, 148. An adaptation of this use of aircraft was employed in the 1940s when the extensive wartime practice flights of RAF coastal command were used to photograph the seabird colonies on remote islands like St Kilda, Sula Sgur and Aisla Craig. Nicholson, E. M., ‘Origins and Early Days’, in Hickley, R., ed., Enjoying Ornithology (London, 1983), p. 25 Google Scholar.

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23. Ibid., pp. 29–30.

24. Ibid., p. 97.

25. Ibid., p. 19.

26. Ibid., p. 177.

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28. Hickley, ed., Enjoying Ornithology, p. 18.

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33. Nicholson, The Art of Bird-Watching, p. 132.

34. Marren, The New Naturalists, pp. 15–16; Matless, Landscape and Englishness, p. 259.

35. Marren, The New Naturalists, p. 69.

36. Matless, Landscape and Englishness, p. 258; Toogood, ‘Modern observersations’, 351; Macdonald, ‘“What makes you a scientist”’, p. 56.

37. Matless, Landscape and Englishness, p. 258.

38. S. Davis, ‘Britain an Island Again: Nature, the Military and Popular Views on the British Countryside, c. 1930–1965’ (unpublished PhD thesis, University of Cambridge, 2010).

39. Hickley, ed., Enjoying Ornithology, p. 30.

40. Ibid., p. 39.

41. Essex Birdwatching and Preservation Society, Essex Bird Report, 1955–1969.

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43. Ibid., 173.

44. G. Smith, ‘A History of Bradwell Bird Observatory’, in Essex Bird Report (2004), p. 150.

45. Essex Newsman, 19th December 1950, p. 8.

46. Cox, S., A New Guide to the Birds of Essex (Chelmsford, 1984), p. 8 Google Scholar.

47. Ibid., p. 13.

48. J. A. Baker, ‘The Peregrine in Essex’, in Essex Bird Report (1967), pp. 54–5.

49. Ibid., p. 54.

50. Christy, The Birds of Essex, pp. 47–71.

51. Baker, The Peregrine, pp. 31–2.

52. Worpole, K. and Orton, J., 350 Miles: An Essex Journey (Chelmsford, 2005)Google Scholar; Shoard, M.The Lure of the Moors’, in Burgess, J. and Gold, J., Valued Environments (London, 1982), pp. 117 Google Scholar.

53. J. A. Baker, ‘The Diaries’, in The Peregrine/Hill of Summer and Diaries, p. 356.

54. Ibid., pp. 359–60.

55. Ibid., p. 283.

56. Ibid., p. 315.

57. Ibid., p. 341.

58. Baker, ‘The Diaries’, in The Peregrine/Hill of Summer and Diaries, p. 77.

59. Baker, The Peregrine, p. 105.

60. Ibid., p. 168.

61. Ibid., pp. 32–2.

62. Country Life, 18th October 1962, p. 897.

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64. Ibid., p. 73.

65. Ibid., p. 76.

66. Carson, R., Silent Spring (London, 1963 [orig. pub. 1962]), pp. 11–12Google Scholar.

67. Bird Notes, autumn (1960), 91.

68. Bird Notes, 29:8 (1962), 223; Carson, Silent Spring, p. 12.

69. Bird Notes, spring (1963), p. 166.

70. Carson, Silent Spring, p. 100.

71. Ibid., p. 11.

72. Ibid., p. 13.

73. Ratcliffe, D. A., The Peregrine Falcon (London, 1993), pp. 117–19Google Scholar.

74. Bird Notes, 30:7, summer (1963), p. 207.

75. Ibid., p. 219.

76. Ibid., p. 208.

77. P. Conder, ‘Comment’, Birds (November–December 1970), p. 124.

78. Ibid.

79. Benton, T., Natural Relations: Ecology, Animal Rights and Social Justice (London, 1993), p. 70 Google Scholar.

80. The Times, 2nd April 1973, p. 3.

81. Macdonald, Falcon, p. 99.

82. W. Kenneth Richmond, ‘Training the Yeoman's Hawk’, Country Life, p. 586.

83. Ibid.

84. I. Neill, ‘Goshawks for a Yeomen’, Country Life, 17th September 1970, p. 678.

85. J. Stevenson, ‘Grouse Hunting in Caithness’, Country Life, 26th September 1963, p. 724.

86. Ibid., p. 726.

87. Automobile Association, AA Book of the British Countryside (London, 1973), p. 159 Google Scholar.

88. Prestt, I., British Birds: Lifestyles and Habits (London, 1982), p. 40 Google Scholar.

89. Baker, The Peregrine, p. 29.

90. Ibid., p. 30.

91. Ibid., p. 31.

92. Ibid., p. 92.

93. Ibid., p. 41.

94. Ibid., p. 31.

95. Ibid., pp. 33–4.

96. Ibid., p. 30.

97. Ibid., p. 124.

98. Ibid., p. 124-5.

99. J. A. Baker Archive, Albert Sloman Library Special Collections, University of Essex, A6.36.D, Cooper letter to Baker, 7th March 1976.

100. A6.9, Mrs. Whitfield Vye letter to Baker, 15th February 1968.

101. A6.22, R. Berry letter to Baker, 13th December 1971.

102. A6.16, K. Morrison letter to Baker, 26th November 1969.

103. A6.29, N. Wheale letter to Baker, 21st May 1974; See also A6.22, R. Berry letter to Baker, 13th December 1971; A6.24, C. McKelvie letter to Baker, 21st March 1972.

104. A6.16, K. Morrison letter to Baker, 26th November 1969; A6.28, D. Smith letter to Baker, 19th March 1974.

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