First, I wanted to say thank you to Smonk for the wonderful BBQ – very good food, great company. :)
Phil gave me his special birthday present today – a whole day at a falconry centre!!! It was incredible. In the morning they had a “meet the birds” display, where we learned a lot about birds of prey in general, and each type of bird in particular, as we were all given gloves and the birds were flown to and from us. Owls, falcons, Harris hawks, red tailed hawks. Amazing. Back at the centre we all were allowed to hold an enormous eagle (hooded for safety – evidently their dispositions are rather agressive). It weighed over a stone! Then lunch (very good, Italian lamb), and then the rest of the afternoon was spent walking for miles through the woods with a pair of Harris hawks. It was so incredible. As soon as we reached the wood where they were to be flown, the female that I was holding was onto a baby rabbit. (Horrible scream!) The falconer had to place his game bag over the rabbit and try to entice her away with scraps of meat. Their claws have a ratchet system, and they lock – it was difficult to get her to release it. Then she was off, and within ten minutes had killed another rabbit. Harris hawks are one of the few birds of prey that will hunt pack-style, and work together. The female is the boss, and directs the male to flush out the prey, or help her to run it enough to tire it out so that they can safely take it. Evidently hawks are vulnerable to being hurt by animals even as small as a rabbit, and are careful to not get their wings hurt or feathers broken. These two have a fondness for squirrels, and have the scars to prove it – the male was missing a toe claw, a squirrel having bitten it off. It was an amazing experience.
I want to go back next month, with Phil this time. I wanted him to be there, but we couldn’t afford for us both to do it. :( I’ve always been fascinated by falconry, ever since I was a little kid. I’ll never have the type of lifestyle that will allow me to keep a hawk, but I would love to go and take lessons, or even apprentice with someone.
Perfect, wonderful day. :)