Cover Image: Goshawk Summer

Goshawk Summer

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Member Reviews

James Aldred, an Emmy award-winning nature photographer, has captured the beauty of an English forest and it's inhabitants in the middle of a pandemic lockdown in his stunning new book. From a platform fifty feet high in the woods of  the New Forest, Aldred observes a family of goshawks from dawn to dusk on his remote perch. Goshawks are raptors who rely on hearing and vision while hunting and are "supreme ambush predators" in the densely forested habitat. The narrative begins in April and continues each day as the goshawks raise their chicks in the quiet woods, where birds call to each other and other animals (including Aldred) enjoy the peace and quiet of England's lockdown. Descriptive scenes of the deep forest and his surroundings put the reader right in the middle of this remarkable story, which describes the history of the area and the wildlife encountered. A gifted photographer and writer, Aldred transports you into another world to experience and appreciate the beauty of nature through his eyes and the animals who make the New Forest such a treasure. If you are a fan of Helen Macdonald's classic book "H is for Hawk", you will fall in love with goshawks all over again in "Goshawk Summer" and appreciate the effort to bring back this majestic raptor from extinction.

My sincere thank you to Elliott & Thompson and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Brilliant and beautiful, this book chronicles Aldred's summer of 2020 filming a breeding pair of goshawks in the UK's New Forest.  Along the way, he also checks in on curlews who are near to extinction in this forest (of 46 breeding pair laying 4 eggs each, only three young fledged), and a family of foxes.  Aldred discusses finding a balance between engaging the public enough that they want to keep the wild areas, but also discouraging them from "enjoying" the land (and the wildlife) to death as happened after the first lockdown was lifted and thousands descended on the national park.
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In Goshawk Summer, wildlife cameraman James Aldred shares his experiences of the spring and summer of 2020  predominantly spent filming a breeding pair of Goshawks deep in the New Forest for a television documentary. 

I found this book to be fascinating and enjoyed reading it very much. The pages are packed not only with a myriad of interesting facts about the Goshawk (a very rare raptor within the UK, less so in other areas of the world), but the author also writes about a number of other species, including curlews, pine martins, foxes and more. The prose is both descriptive and visceral and really draws you in to the New Forest setting. The author’s account of the effect on nature of the first UK lock down and its subsequent easing were extremely thought provoking.

Thoroughly recommended to nature lovers everywhere.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers, Elliott & Thompson, for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Goshawk Summer is about the author's experience monitoring and documenting breeding goshawks during the pandemic. The experience is unique because of the absence of people as they quarantine. The author, along with people assisting him, gets permission to be out monitoring for the goshawks while most people are stuck at home. As readers, we get to see what that entailed and how enviable this endeavor was as the author gets to enjoy nature without all the human interference and noise that would normally be happening. A very descriptive account of searching for goshawk nests in the forest in Britain and then setting up a blind and camera to watch an active nest, and documenting other goshawks in the area. Readers are bound to learn a think or two about this elusive species.
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In spring 2020, while we were locked down for the first time in our lives due to Covid 19, James Aldred was roaming the New Forest filming a goshawk family and other wildlife. After finding a nesting goshawk he set up a hide in a neighbouring tree and filmed her and her mate until the eggs hatched and the chicks finally fledged. During this time he also flitted back and forth to different sites to film the other wildlife around him including a fox family, nesting lapwings, curlews, dragonflies and semaphore flies and inadvertently a pine marten.

Not only did he film these encounters, but, lucky for us, he wrote about them too and added further information about wildlife such as the plight of the curlew, goshawk and lapwing. What’s more he considered how we have fared as stewards of the earth in relation to the demise and reintroduction of different species of wildlife. What resulted from this work was a beautiful account of a season in parts of the mysterious world of the New Forest, in which the author's genuine love and respect for nature shone forth - truly magical and a delight to read.
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(On Twitter)
Many of us have for the better become more aware of nature restricted to our immediate environment. ‘Goshawk Summer’ by @jraldred is a diary of nature, history, rural politics and so much more in the New Forest April2020-Feb2021. @eandtbooks
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Goshawk Summer by James Aldred is a stunning and wonderful nature diary and account of one man’s journey documenting and exploring more about the fascinating Goshawk. 

This book is for anyone that loves nature, birds, exploring, and preserving what is illustrious and precious within our surroundings.

I have always had a special place in my heart for birds, birdwatching, and learning as much about avian species as possible, and boy is there a lifetime of learning involved. 

To be able to get a glimpse into the workings and existence of this fabulous and fascinating predictor was just breathtaking. This is a secretive bird that is harder to visualize and study just by its own behavior, habitat, and nature. I loved being able to take a glimpse into this complex and beautiful bird. 

I also loved the author’s ability to include the reader within his entries and descriptions. I really felt as if I was there as well along for the ride. 

Try wonderful.

5/5 stars 

Thank you NG and Elliott & Thompson for this wonderful arc and in return I am submitting my unbiased and voluntary review and opinion.

I am posting this review to my GR and Bookbub accounts immediately (as of 7/19/21 no BB listing has been created) and will post it to my Amazon, Instagram, and Waterstones accounts upon publication.
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Reading this filled me with so many different emotions. Envy, happiness, sadness, and joy, to name just a few. Envy because while basically under house arrest for sixteen months, the author had access to the great outdoors. Happiness because at least somebody was enjoying freedom denied to many of us. Sadness because of losing my mother in very similar circumstances to the author.
During the many highs and lows that flowed through the passages of the book, you could literally feel the tension, anxiety and joy of his experiences with this beautiful creature.
The timeline gives the reader a marvellous insight into the habits of this beautiful bird, and the authors' diary is an excellent read. 
It is not all about the Goshawk as there is plenty of the natural world in there also.
Despite the envy, the author has written an excellent book. All the effort from himself and all those that assisted him in his endeavours should be applauded. 
The other emotion I mentioned at the start of the review was joy. Joy, because it was a joy to read such a well written and well-documented account of one of Britains rarest predators.
Goshawk Summer is not just a book for bird watchers. A New Forest Season Unlike Any Other is something that all lovers of nature should read.
My biggest disappointment was that there were no pictures or drawings. (copyrights from the film producers I suppose).
Thank you, NetGalley and Elliott & Thompson for the ADC of the book.
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Goshawk Summer: A New Forest Season Unlike Any Other is a fascinating and stunningly observed book based primarily upon field diaries Aldred kept while filming for a Smithsonian wildlife documentary. It begins in Spring 2020 when the wildlife cameraman was readying himself to film the lives of a family of Goshawks in the New Forest, one of the most spectacular birds of prey in the UK. Then lockdown unexpectedly struck. And there was nobody left in the Goshawk woods – except James. New Forest, England, his writings begin on 6 April 2020, just as new life awakens and seeds begin to sprout, signalling the annual evolution of the ecological and the rich beginnings of mother nature’s glorious annual bounty. A loud call shatters the peace. Not the blunt mewing of a buzzard, but the piercing cry of something infinitely more predatory: a wild goshawk. It echoes through the dense woodland. Strident, commanding, forceful. A regal sound for a regal bird. Aldred can’t see her but know she’s flying towards him through the trees. She’s coming in fast and there’s only seconds before she explodes into frame. 

Rolling the camera just in time to catch her landing on the nest. Powerful legs held out in front; a squirrel’s limp body clenched in her yellow fist. The chicks clamour for food and a heartbeat later they’re rewarded with morsels of flesh plucked from the warm carcass. The goshawk. Steel grey, the colour of chainmail. Sharp as a sword. A medieval bird for a medieval forest. A timeless scene. The wood holds its breath, the only sound the begging of the chicks and the gentle breeze sieving through trees. The forest hasn’t been this peaceful for a thousand years. Aldred grew up here. Made friends, climbed trees, slept rough on the heath and camped in the woods, but he’s never known it like this. There isn’t another soul around and while Covid grips the outside world, the New Forest blossoms in a spring like no other. Nature’s been given the space to unfurl her wings and they are. There are many terrible things to remember about the spring and summer of 2020, but Aldred was not only one of the lucky ones to watch a high-speed hunter effortlessly weave its way through its forest home, but he also got to explore many other aspects of nature, too. The narrative flows seamlessly, is laced with interesting scientific tidbits and Aldred exudes enthusiasm for his subjects, which he describes in richly evocative language.

With permission to film in the New Forest, lockdown gave him a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to observe the wildlife of a unique place in a unique moment never to be repeated. This is a tale of reawakened passions for a familiar childhood landscape now struggling to cope with the pressures of the modern world. A portrait in time, as seen through the eyes of the wild creatures relying on it for their survival. Above all, it’s the story of how one family of goshawks living in a timeless corner of England shone like fire through one of our darkest times and how, for the author, they became a symbol of hope for the future. Filled with the ups and downs of an unprecedented time, Aldred recalls his precious time spent observing these beautiful specimens in their own habitat and writes in exquisitely lyrical prose - rich and colourful - evoking the sights, scents and sounds of the forest. Documenting how when humanity shifted to indoor living, nature came alive and began to thrive spectacularly highlights just how big an impact our behaviour has on our ability to be symbiotic with the natural world and just how much immersing ourselves in nature can replenish us and create both hope and healing and therefore optimism for the journey ahead. I cannot recommend this highly enough.
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Photographer James Aldred was hired to film goshwaks in the New Forest in the summer of 1920 when Covid 19 hit and the world shut down. Suddenly, the earth fell silent as humans disappeared from the landscape and a miraculous change began to take place. When humans retreated, nature began to thrive; humanity may have been fighting a deadly pandemic, but the natural world was waking up, coming back to a place it hadn’t been for hundreds of years. Not only was Aldred able to get an unprecedented look at the lives of these magnificent birds, he was able to view all of nature as a sort of Eden. This is an incredibly beautiful story of healing and hope, one that shows us all that no matter what happens to humans, the natural world will still go on and most likely thrive
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I really enjoyed Aldred's last book, 'The Man Who Climbs Trees', so I jumped at the chance to read his second. Interestingly, Aldred's prose didn't stand out to me all that much the last time around, whereas I found it astounding and assured in 'Goshawk Summer'. 

Aldred is a person who really sees the natural world. His myriad observations were both original and beautiful; like the way he finds that the colour of a fox cub's coat subtly shifts with the seasons. As for the goshawks, you continually feel the author's marvel emanating off the pages. 

The book, as you might expect, has a pretty single-minded focus. Yet there are plenty of asides into other topics like the history of the New Forest, or the population fluxes of different bird species, which I found myself relishing and appreciating. Aldred teaches the reader by stealth, and the science he slips in is never overwhelming. The narrative flows effortlessly. 

Absolutely one of my favourite nature books of the year.

(With thanks to Elliott & Thompson and NetGalley for this ebook in exchange for an honest review)
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