Monday, July 28, 2014

Falcons! Yay!

I did it!

That, right there, is me looking eye to eye with a lovely little female bald eagle.  (She's young -- her head hasn't turned white yet.)  Very exciting.

So, back to the start, which was a train trip (followed by a taxi) out to the Birds of Prey Centre (which had been so very helpful with all those scheduling emails).  I got there about a half hour early (my timing getting anywhere abroad is not an exact science, and I wanted to make sure I got there on time).  This was cool; they told me to just roam around the aviaries while I was waiting.

So many owls!  (And a mature bald eagle.)  Falcons, too, naturally (but I didn't get a good pic of them).

At 12:30, I returned to the office as directed, and met up with Jamie, who was my guide for the day.  And, as it turned out, he was my very own private guide for the first hour and a half, which was all kinds of awesome.  We walked back to the aviaries and I got to meet some of the birds.  Jamie slipped a worn leather glove on my hand (I noticed a tear in it, and tried not to concern myself with whether that had been caused by a claw or talons) and then plopped a little owl on it.  We then worked our way up through successively larger birds.  (Around the second one, I asked Jamie to take pictures.)

The birds are really amazing.  They're quite beautiful up close, and the feathers look oh so soft.  (Because I am not a complete idiot, I asked if I could stroke them -- I could not.)  But when they're on your wrist, you could get really crazy close.  Do not get into a staring contest with an owl.
This guy (named Levi) was the most docile bird in the place.  I was told I could touch his feet.  They look like they'd be rubbery -- like he's wearing little yellow rubber shoes.  But my first thought about the feel of them is that they were, well, alive.  I mean the surface of them -- it's a skin of some sort, and it reacts.  Nifty.
And there's the bad eagle again.  She's about 10 pounds of bird, so she started to weigh down my arm.  (And, yes, I'm talking baby talk to the bald eagle.  "Are you the symbol of my country?  Yes, you are.  You ARE the symbol of my country.")

After I'd held a bunch of birds, we went out to the ring, and Jamie flew a couple of the birds to me.  He set them out on a perch, had me stand a distance away holding out my arm (like a branch) and (with a certain incentive of food), the birds flew right over.  One, a very well-trained owl, flew over knowing that, once she landed, she'd get food.  The other, a rather more independent-minded red-tailed... (I'm gonna say hawk?) didn't want to come until he actually saw the food.  Jamie ended up draping several small pieces of chicken on my glove, before Sniper decided the deal was worth it.

The last half hour of falconry was watching the falconry show.  (Indeed, people had been gathering for the show when Sniper was flying to me, so I had an audience.)  The professionals flew a bunch of the birds -- some of them right over the audience, which was pretty cool.

I had signed up for a package including some outdoor sports as well as falconry.  (It was called "Raptor and Reload.")  Now, they'd offered for me to do the package from 2:00 - 5:00, but that time didn't work for me, so they let me do it from 12:30 - 3:30.  What was really cool about this is that I was the only one doing it from 12:30.  Once we finished with the birds at 2:00, Jamie and I were joined by the other 10 or so people doing "Raptor and Reload" -- I did the shooting with them, and then, once we were done with that, I left and Jamie took all of them to do the falconry as a group.  I gotta say, it was totally wonderful to have a private introduction to the birds -- Jamie answered all my questions, I learned a ton (in truth, owls are not all that smart), and I got to hold all of the birds I wanted!

The Reload part was some target shooting with break barrel air rifles and pistols, followed by some archery with traditional bow and crossbow.  I'll spare you the details, but I am a particularly crappy shot with bow and arrow, and fairly acceptable with the air rifle, air pistol, and crossbow.  (What's surprising about it, really, is that I have a small (but, really, any is surprising) amount of intuition when it comes to aiming.  I only got to fire off two crossbow bolts.  The first shot, I instinctively wanted to aim higher than the sight was telling me, but I went with the sight and missed low.  Second shot, I aimed where I wanted to, and hit the red ring on the target.)

Came back to London in time to meet my parents -- who had been off at Highclere Castle (getting their Downton Abbey on) -- for dinner.

ANYWAY, thank you Jamie, for being such a great tour guide and introducing me to all of the wonderful birds.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

" 'Are you the symbol of my country? Yes, you are. You ARE the symbol of my country.'"

Laughing so hard!

What a cool day! Glad the skies cooperated and you got to have this adventure.