Saturday, 12 April 2014

A Mini Adventure with Birds of Prey

As hinted at in yesterday's post, I had a mini excursion which I had booked earlier in the year as part of my one little word - Adventure.

There's a bit of a history to it. Many, many years ago when Nick & I first knew each other, he bought me an "experience" for my Birthday. It was for a day having birds of prey, especially falcons, land on an outstretched arm etc. Back then, I certainly didn't relish the idea. Horrid big birds flapping around my face? No thank you! So the gift was exchanged for a pair of good quality and much-worn and loved walking boots.

Cut to the present day and I open my email to discover that there's a deal on offer for a local Hawk Walk. Remembering the kind but nevertheless spurned gift back then and my resolve to have adventures this year, I went ahead and booked it.

The place: Stockley Farm Birds of Prey Centre. And we couldn't have picked a better day to go. We have been so lucky this year. Again, we were blessed with sunshine, blue skies and fluffy white clouds.

I must admit, I'm still not keen on giant Birds of Prey landing on my arm and though that's what we all had turns with, I was happy to let Nick have the pleasure. Me? I was there for the owls.

Now isn't this Tawny Owl  - Darwin - an absolute sweetie? I could have happily tucked him into my coat and taken him home.

Oh and the best part? When I stroked his head and back. The feathers are unbelievably soft. It's like nothing I've felt before. It's what you imagine clouds should feel like. Soft, fluffy and delicate.

Yes I did have this handsome chap land on my arm and boy can it swoop down hard and fast. But you're not seeing those photos. My face is not as relaxed and composed as Nick's was.

After we had fun taking photos of the birds on our arms, we set off on the walk with a juvenile hawk, Stan (who names a hawk Stan?). He'd only been on two other walks so was fairly new to the experience. To everyones surprise, not least our falconer, Gary, our young feathered friend who was joining us on our stroll, instead of swooping down from the trees and onto our gloved hands, dove straight into a hedge in front of us and before our eyes, caught and devoured a live field mouse. And the speed he did it was astounding. Gary managed to call him back but no sooner had we got the hawk out of the hedges, he swooped and nearly caught another. And that rather spoilt him lol. The scrawny scraps of chicken we were tempting him with weren't nearly as exciting as the juicy fat mice in the hedgerows.

But we did get a rare glimpse at the hawks' behaviour in the wild and how they gruesomely capture and feed from their prey. Again, we have photos but you'll be thankful I'm not sharing those either.

It was a wonderful experience and I'd happily do it again and again. Looking after these magnificent birds must be a dream job. Especially if you can go into work everyday and stroke a tawny owl. Ahhhhh.


Michelle said...

What a great story! I'm so glad you got to finally experience this, after "chickening out" when first offered the opportunity. ;-) I think I'd like to see the photo of you with the hawk, I imagine your expression is priceless.

cockney blonde said...

Seems like you had a lovely day out and I quite agree that Owl is beautiful. DH and I keep meaning to do something like this...Note to Self....Do It Soon, x

janine said...

awesome story & photos!! what a wonderful adventure!!

JoZart said...

Oh! I remember Dave & I going last Autumn, it was wonderful and we had the same falconer Gary (with Pam) but he was based at Bridgemere over the Winter.
I was exhilarated and overwhelmed by the experience. I bet you soon got over your inhibitions.
Here's my link Nov 12th post
I want to go again very soon.
Jo x

alexa said...

Oh Paul, these photos are just lovely! I have not associated you with wildlife (!) and it is just so delightful to see you adventuring with owls :). I do admire the way you make your word/motif for the year so visible.

Lindsay Mason said...

Oooohh, Paul...what an absolute treat! I'm with you on the owls, though I love all the other birds of prey too and having a large Eagle land on your arm is something you don't forget in a hurry! Looks like you had a great treat and the photos are terrific. One thing though...Darwin...he's definitely a Barn Owl!
Glad you had such a lovely treat. xxx

Cath Wilson said...

Ooh, I bet that was so much fun! I love birds, though hawks aren't my favourites, for obvious reasons - great experience, though. Well done, you! What an adventure :-D

mark gould said...

I love birds of prey. Glad you finally got round to doing it. Forward to more adventures.

Monika Reeck said...

Just wanna leave you some love here...great Photos and we have easter holiday here also see you next week my friend...hugs, Monika

Richard Pettitt said...

Great photos Paul, and lovely to hear how soft the owl's feathers were and how the hawk caught a mouse in front of you. You won't forget that in a hurry. I agree; great job if birds of prey are your passion.

Andrea Ewen said...

Wow! How exhilarating Paul! Your post reminds me of a 'message from the Universe' I received's so apropos for your read "When fear speaks, Andrea, it's always wrong." So happy for you that you and Nick took this opportunity to do something you previously declined...the feeling is, well, exhilarating...and enlightening! I'm enjoying living vicariously through you! :)

J. Anthony Stubblefield said...

My, I am behind on your posts. What an exciting adventure. Love the Tawny Owl, in the states we calls those Barn Owls. I love their big flat moon faces.