Living in buzzard country, I should have been looking for a book that would fill the many gaps in my knowledge of these avian next-door neighbours. In fact, I was simply searching for the best writing on birds when I came across J. A. Baker’s The Peregrine (1967) – a book that isn’t so much the ‘best’ as the only writing of its kind on the subject. An account of the tracking of peregrines across a small patch of country in eastern England, its prose is really poetry of the most intense kind; experience compressed into a language that has been honed to the keenest of edges. Baker wields it fiercely, dispensing almost immediately with convention (‘Detailed descriptions of landscape are tedious’), slicing early paragraphs of information into staccato sentences and cutting and splicing verbs, nouns and adjectives so that the reader cannot help but see all anew, through Baker’s passionate eye.