a-birding in Hampshire

Bird of Prey Experience 2014-09-04 158

I do invite you to-morrow morning

to my house to breakfast;

after, we’ll a-birding together.

I have a fine hawk for the bush

So on Friday after breakfast I went a-birding Bird of Prey Experience 2014-09-04 144at the Hawk Conservancy at Weyhill, near Andover. Been a member for at least 5 years and have only just got round to this!  Why oh why did I leave it so long, it was an incredible day.  

There were six of us on Friday, our day’s experience a present from a partner and all looking incredibly excited about the prospect.  Our host falconers for the day were Ria and Hannah, who were just fabulous (and so young!).  With their help we each got to fly 11 birds, a couple – namely Oscar the Boobook Owl and Sirius the Striated CaraCara – weren’t too keen on flying on Friday but the other 9 (2 Hooded Vultures, Tawny Owl, Milky Eagle Owl, Black Kite, 3 Harris’ Hawks and an American Bald Eagle) flew beautifully for us six amateurs thanks to the advice and support from Ria and Hannah.  

Oscar, BooBook Owl

Oscar, BooBook Owl

We also learnt lots about the raptors, including flying weights, behaviours and history as well as learning a little bit more about the Trust and their work.  One of the things that struck me was around conservation and in particular SAVE – which exists to co-ordinate and drive forward the international conservation effort to save three species of Gyps vulture. Bird of Prey Experience 2014-09-04 005Without it Asia’s vultures face extinction.  One of the main problems in Asia has been the use of a drug called diclofenac.  It is an anti-inflammatory drugs which is highly toxic to vultures.  It is not being given to vultures, but they are being poisoned when they feed on carcasses of animals that have been treated with the drug.  It therefore beggars beliefs that the drug has been authorised for veterinary use within the European Union. This represents a grave threat to Europe’s vulture populations, many of which have only recently recovered from historic lows.  There is an urgent petition to stop the same happening in Europe. Please sign it.  It is not just vultures who will face a real danger from this drug, but eagles too.  

I don’t think I stopped smiling all day, ok well there were a couple of occasions when the smile disappeared but only because the flying weight of the bird was a bit of a shock! Bird of Prey Experience 2014-09-04 212 Bird of Prey Experience 2014-09-04 011The flying weight of Orion is just over 7lbs hence my rather amusing expression, goodness knows what I would have looked like if Sheridan, the larger female, was used for us first time falconers.  I also seem to be grimacing when Fagin arrived, but have no idea why.   I really enjoyed flying the Hooded Vultures, they have so much character.  And the tops of their heads just look so soft!  

Do I have a favourite from the day? Not sure I do . .  . every bird was different but also amazing to fly.  I did really enjoy our time with the Harris Hawks because then we got to do everything, and I would love to experience a follow up day.  If you live within an hour of Andover I would certainly recommend spending the day here, and if you are able to convince someone to spend a few extra pennies on you then definitely book an experience!