My youngest decided that for his birthday he'd like to have a bird of prey experience so I took him for an owl and hawk morning at the English School of Falconry centre just South of Bedford (although the website is titled birds of prey centre). As they had an offer on th course it seemed rude to indulge myself too.
It's an easy to find place that moved no so long ago from just down the road near the Shuttlworth collection.
We arrived a little before time and once we'd signed in we we free to either stop at the café or head for a cheeky look round the birds. I turned to my son to see what he wanted to do and he wasn't there, he was heading for the birds.
Whilst I was happy to see whatever birds came our way but I found myself drawn to the indigenous species both on show and part of our morning. One of my favourite raptors (that I'm blessed with over my house) is part of this experience which I do fancy doing in the future.
The peregrine (above) was posed this way because he'd just been given a hose pipe shower while we were there!
OK, it's not a species that you find on our shores bit the bald eagle must be one of the most photogenic, iconic and easy to snap birds around.
Time seemed to fly looking around the raptors and we headed to our meeting point where all those attending the different experiences went and waited for our falconer. Our particular falconer was a young chap called Graham who sat us down with a tea or coffee whilst running through the itinerary, dos and don'ts and so on. After that it was a session handling the birds.
We had four native and non-native birds passed around and all behaved impeccably whilst we examined them up close and had pictures taken with Graham on hand to swop them around and answer questions.
From a natural history point of view I was interested to hear any facts offered up about the birds, and from a Scouter point of view I was interested to see that Graham tied the falconers knot with an extra overhand knot around the standing end when securing the birds.
We weren't hurried and once we'd all had a decent session we headed out to the display area to fly some birds. When my son was much younger he'd been offered a harris hawk to hold at a show, and this poor bird soon found itself at an angle as the weigh of it was dragging his arm down! He was still a little unsure but still did well and I was rather pleased with these two shots I got of another harris hawk and an eagle owl alighting.
I also got a few really decent shots of the eagle owl in flight. A quite magnificent bird. Weather wise this July day had been a Autumnal like day of showery rain and high winds and I told Graham that he did well to fit in the flying before the owl display (because it wasn't always suitable for smaller birds).
The experience was finished off with an owl flying display that all visitors saw which involved a lot of birds and falconers and again, native and non-native species. My only 'disappointment' was to have it confirmed that owls are portrayed as wise but are actually a bit dense due to their small brains being largely taken up with processing sight.
I'd promised my son a MacDonalds for dinner (the middle of the day sustenance that you may mistakenly call lunch) and I know there was one close by on the edge of Bedford...Funnily enough it was just around the corner from this place. Well, rude not to when in the area and I was pleased to see one of the paracord how to sheets I did them still going strong!