Wednesday, 9 June 2010

The Second Highlight Of My Holidays

I spent a fabulous sunny day at Predator Experience with my nephew. He's due to start an Animal Management degree course in the autumn, so they tailored the day to cover aspects of falconry care as well as experience of handling and flying. It was fascinating! They're not a standard-issue falconry centre, they work by appointment only, so you get the undivided attention of the very experienced and knowledgeable falconers. My nephew asked questions ALL DAY and they didn't seem fazed or irritated, in fact they welcomed all our questions, even the ones which must seem really dozy to them. The only drawback was that the weather was so hot and sunny that some of the birds didn't want to fly - but then none of them fly in the rain, and they have such a variety of birds that there are always some which will fly in any dry conditions. I'd recommend them highly for anyone who fancies having a go: it's not cheap, but it really is an astonishing way to spend a day. So here are some pictures of hot birds for your enjoyment!

Me and Johnny the Caracara

Can't remember this one's name or type, but she was an old bird (don't say 'which one?', cheeky!) and very friendly. To either side of us you can see two baths, put out for the harrier hawks on the adjacent perches.

It's not every day you get to run a bath for an arthritic steppe eagle called Gorby.

And this is Ben, the golden eagle, taking a day-old chick from my glove. I needed support from the falconer because the eagle glove alone weighs a pound, then the eagle with his six-foot wingspan adds another eight pounds to that, which is a lot to hold on your outstretched wrist when you're not used to it.

What an amazing day that was! I shall never forget it.

18 comments:

JJ Beattie said...

Wow. The curve on Ben's wing is so beautiful... What an interesting experience.

Queenie said...

JJ, it made me understand why Alice Oswald is so obsessed with the wing bone.

Lane said...

That looks completely glorious. What a privilege to be so close them.

And the countryside looks stunning.

Talli Roland said...

What a great experience! The birds are beautiful (including you!) :)

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

Amazing experience! That golden eagle is just stunning to look at at. And those calws--holy catfish, they're huge and look like it would be painful to get ensnared in those. But it looks like you had a beautiful day for your adventure.

Beleaguered Squirrel said...

Wow, how ace.

Was the day-old chick still alive? I think I would have found that a bit weird, even though I know that's how nature works and all that.

Coincidentally we saw a falconry display in York just over a week ago. And they had eagles and stuff too. Amazing creatures. Enormous, too!

Queenie said...

Lane, spot on, and it was - Cumbria at its best.

Talli, *mwah* to you for that!

Carolina, hello and welcome, yes, that's why you have to wear a thick and heavy glove. When we weren't flying the eagle he was mostly hooded for safety. But the falconers were so skilled that I never felt afraid for a moment.

Queenie said...

BS, you snuck in there! No, quite dead. And yes, the eagles are HUGE.

Debs said...

I'd love to be able to do that, although I can't imagine not being able to duck when they fly towards you.

Carol said...

Blimey...that looks incredible!! What an honour is must have been to have the opportunity to get up close and personal with such beautiful birds!! I can completely understand why that was a highlight :-)

C x

Bernadette said...

That's looks like a fab day.
I bought my husband a falcon training day for his birthday which we're going on in July and I'm really looking forward to it.

Beleaguered Squirrel said...

I wonder what the statistics are on trainers and/or punters being injured by the birds? They are wild creatures at the end of the day, after all. I know some wild creatures are dodgier to work with than others. I think I'd be a bit terrified!

Queenie said...

Debs, they land so gently.

Carol, exactly.

Bernadette, I bet you'll both have a fab day.

BS, the trainers both have a network of scratch scars on their forearms, and one told us of a disturbed bird that had clung to the backs of her legs and caused wounds through her jeans when she first had it. But Google searching reveals nothing about falconry-related injury. Perhaps this is partly because it's illegal to keep one without a qualification - and all kept birds are microchipped etc such that if one is stolen, there is no possible benefit to the thief (plus it would be likely to die quite quickly if not properly cared for, which is a complicated business). From the research I've done tonight, it seems that pet dogs are much MUCH more dangerous than kept birds of prey (not your dog, though, obv!!).

Debi said...

Ha! Photos! And gab ones at that ...

Queenie said...

Debi, 'gab ones'? As in 'gift of', or as in 'typo for fab'? (I know - I'm coming out, slowly. Bet I don't look anywhere near as regal as most of my readers had been led to expect ;-))

Pat said...

You've come out! Does that mean I can use the photo of the two of us?

Queenie said...

Oh go on then!!!

Debi said...

Ah, yes, gab indeed. Or possibly fab ... No, definitely fab