In this extraordinary naturalist adventure saga, Alan Tennant, a passionate student of wildlife and of the peregrine falcon in particular, endeavours to radio-track the bird's transcontinental migration - something no one before him had ever attempted. At the time of his flight, in the mid-1980s, researchers were still unsure of the peregrine's transcontinental path: chicks hatched in the Arctic have hardly been taught how to fly and kill their food when they make their first migration, alone, following some mysterious internal call to go south.
On The Wing, which begins on the windswept flats of the Texas barrier islands, ferries us across multiple continents, and is loaded with historical and scientific lore and rich characters. Chief among them is George Vose, the septugenarian Second World War vet and former stunt pilot who becomes Tennant's partner in falcon-chasing when they borrow some US Army radio-tracking equipment and set off after a bird Alan has managed to trap and tag with a feather-mounted transmitter. George, who trusts his instincts more than his instruments, is as obsessed with the mystery of flight as Tennant is and the book charts the story of their friendship. As they journey to the Arctic, following their first bird, and then way down South, through Mexico and into Belize, nearly losing their lives, running foul of the law (and, at times, at each other's throats) in the race to keep their birds in view and their rattletrap Cessna gassed up and running.
But the falcons dominate this odyssey, these majestic birds - the icons of pharaohs, oriental emperors, and European nobility - whose fierce mien, speed at the kill and solitary habits have fired the human imagination for centuries. In this mesmerising narrative Alan Tennant offers us an unforgettable and moving tale that speaks to all our dreams of flight.