An Afternoon with Birds of Prey

As you may have seen if you follow me on Twitter or indeed Instagram, I recently took part in an afternoon session of birding fun with the English School of Falconry at Herrings Green Farm in Bedfordshire and thought I would share some of the pictures here on the blog today.

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Herrings Green Farm.

Herrings Green Farm.

We took part in the introduction and 1/2 day activity day after getting a very good deal purchasing a voucher with Time Out Magazine.

This 1/2 day experience allowed us time handling a various selection of beautiful Owls (my absolute favourites) before getting the opportunity to fly (supervised) a number of birds including a Harris Hawk and a beautiful Barn Owl. Thereafter we also got to hold a magnificent (and very heavy!) bald headed Eagle named McCoy.

The English School of Falconry.

The English School of Falconry.

What a great sunny afternoon in Bedfordshire this was. I wasn't even sure if I might be too nervous to hold the birds having never been up close and personal with any Birds of Prey before! Yet I had a great time and instantly fell in love with them all - especially a noisy young fellow named Earl - pictured below.

Hanging out with Earl!

Hanging out with Earl!

We were lucky to be nose to beak with some rare and delicate beauties and were all given ample time to hold each of the birds in turn. 

The first 1.5 hours of the 3 hour session was spent handling the variety of different Owls and learning all about them. 

The instructors were full of information and able to answer any question - they had a lot of time for everyone and no question was too much for them to handle.

We learned not to stroke the birds (hard for me as some of them had such soft looking beautiful feathers) as this would mess with the natural oils present in their feathers, oils that can take a long time to build back up and that are vital to keeping the bird healthy.  

All of the birds were healthy, wonderful little, and large, creatures! It's certainly a lovely half day experience well worth undertaking. As already noted the instructors really were so enthusiastic and knowledgable with such a clear love for the birds and their job in training and caring for them.

Flying the birds was fantastic, the swoop of their wings and the lightness with which they land is awe inspiring and so graceful. Quite an experience and one well worth taking part in if you never have before.

In flight ...

In flight ...

Many of the species to hand were extremely rare and so very beautiful and delicate. 

Holding the Bald Headed Eagle - all eight pounds of him - was quite a challenge especially on one arm. What a majestic bird, piercing eyes, pretty nerve racking when he stares straight back at you. Especially as you're constantly being reminded to hide your other arm so he doesn't try and take it from you! Awesome and awe inspiring indeed.

Overall it was such a great experience. Much better in fact than I had anticipated.  If you haven't tried such a day before and fancy giving it a go then I highly recommend these guys, I think you'll have a great time and will truly learn something new about our fabulous feathered friends.

The Real McCoy.

The Real McCoy.