A friend, T, had a birthday in January, but I didn’t know what to give her. From some discussion we had I thought she would like a day’s experience as a falconer, at the Hawk Conservancy but that was too expensive, so instead I gave her a voucher – looking something like this:
This voucher entitles
to a day out at
The Hawk Conservancy
with entrance fee payed
Her name was filled in at the top. I then had to redeem it! We decided we had to have a decent day and when they were running the summer programme but before there were hoards of children there, so we decided on the day after the May day bank holiday.
We took another friend, D, who needed a day out but she was a little slow getting ready to go (fell asleep again!) so with that and having to go back for the forgotten cigarettes (!) we arrived a bit later than we hoped. After getting our tickets the first priority was coffee so by the time that was finished we had missed the beginning of the Wings of Africa flying display, so had to wait at a distance until the fish eagle had finished collecting his fish. We were then let into the seats.
The highlights of the display included:
……..who demonstrated “killing” a (rubber) snake by stamping on it and again when it was a “cobra” and rearing up.
There were then vultures (now much endangered) showing their flight.
And for the finale they had yellow billed kites (or were they vultures?) flying over smoke where they usually catch insects (too fast to photograph) and then water and then sacred ibis and storks and (right at the back, on the rocks) were meerkats.
After the end of the display it was time to go and “Meet an owl”. This was Troy, a tawny owl, who had been picked up and looked after before being passed on to the conservancy, so had been “imprinted” and thinks he is a human (or that humans are his parents?). He can’t be released as can’t fend for himself and is forever like a teenager. We were later told he had no head for heights and had to be trained to go into trees by one of the keepers climbing trees to encourage him! My friend, T, decided he was her favourite of the day!
As most people then went to the restaurant we waited a bit and looked at some of the birds and then went for lunch when the queue had gone. I had a very nice sausage baguette!
It was then time to go and see the “Valley of the Eagles flying display”, which started with a merlin, the smallest British bird of prey, I believe, flying to the lure. He had to swoop down lots of times before he was allowed to catch and eat it.
We had vultures flying above our heads – except Butch Cassidy who was around our feet looking for food! Butch had discovered that visitors had sandwiches etc. and being a scavenger, like all vultures, would go looking. We were warned about him before they came. Sundance Kid and their two friends were much better behaved.
Another larger bird of prey (not British) was then flown to the lure…….
……but didn’t have to fly so many times before…..
A very large eagle was then flown from some distance. They told us where it was, but I have to say I didn’t see it until it arrived.
The black kites flew for us for a finale – but they were much too fast to photograph. Even better, two of the local, wild red kites came to join them and one was really joining in and catching some of the meat thrown up for the kites to catch. I assume they have learned where and at what time to get an easier meal. It was a brilliant display – lovely to watch.
We then had a chance to “fly” a Harris Hawk – well, let it land on our gloved arm. There were not many adults wanting to do this so T had two goes.
D was too shaky and unsteady (unwell at the moment) to try but I had a go. I gave T the camera to hold……
After this it was time to go to see the Woodland Owls Flying Display. We met Troy, again and another eagle owl called Cinnamon.
One of the larger owls displayed flying between two people, with a gap between them less than its wing span and they demonstrated how they enabled Troy to overcome his fear of heights!
My favourites were the barn owls, who were released from the tower of a pretend chapel. The male was very well behaved and did what was hoped, but the female was around for a short time and then went off hunting for herself!
I just love the way they float silently across the woodland. It is no wonder they were considered ghosts.
After the owls we had another look at some of the birds and then went for a cup of tea before going home.
So was it a good day? Yes, definitely and the good weather (just look at the photos) really helped. And we will probably go again as T wants a “Day with Birds of Prey” experience for her birthday next year. We might go again anyway as she so loved the owls! Taking photos of birds is hard though – they don’t stay still.