A few months back, I read Catherine Gaskin’s A Falcon for a Queen. It must have set a spark.
When I saw the Cotswold’s Falconry Centre on Google maps, I kept clicking through till I found a Flying Start for Two and signed my husband and I up. He’s an adventurous sort and an easy accomplice to many a scheme.
It was one of the best and most memorable experiences we’ve shared. If you get the chance, I highly recommend you meet some of these glorious birds. It was an honour and privilege to hold and fly them.
We first met a peregrine falcon: small, with a distinctive beak and nostrils. It was such a thrill to have such an elegant creature perched on my arm.
Next was a common buzzard, Ivy, that we later took on a training flight. A length of rope was attached to her leg. We held food out to her in a gloved hand and she would fly from a post to your arm to eat the food.
We held Thumper, a large European Eagle Owl. He was lighter than he looked, puffed up by so many fluffy feathers. While I was holding her, an eagle in the flying display just over the fence made a spectacular dive that whistled through the air. Both the owl and I jumped, wide-eyed.
The main flight we had was with Kaiser, a stunningly beautiful owl. She would fly in low to the ground and swoop up onto your arm at the last minute. She was very blind at short distances and couldn’t see your hand in front of her face, so you had to stand still for her.
We stayed around afterwards for the final flying show of the day when the vultures were let out. They were incredible. Large and majestic. I loved how they squabbled with each other for food or the best place in the sun.
It was fascinating to learn so much about all these birds, their feathers, their sight, their preferred methods of flying and hunting. It was touching to see the interaction between them and their handlers. They were well cared for and each had personalities of their own.
One of the biggest takeaways though, was the endangered nature of some of these birds, especially the vultures. Poaching, baiting and other human practices have had a devastating effect on some of these species. Read more about it here.
Do you want to see a bird of prey fly?