Archive for February, 2015

Falconry displays end of February 2015.

Well I seem particularly verbal at the beginning of 2015! Actually I am waiting to go out and do a display later so I thought I would take this opportunity to jump on the band wagon and talk about  the book ‘H is for Hawk’ by Helen Macdonald.

I was aware of the launch of this book last year in Ross on Wye and the odd thing was the name Helen did ring a distant bell.

I had done a short spell at the National birds of prey centre in 1997/98 and had worked  briefly alongside a lady of that name. Anyway I will get to the punch line – I got the book for Christmas and there is an account of the release of a wild Goshawk back into Newent Woods. I remember that! which confirmed to me that it was the same Helen. I do recall her telling us about her experience in the middle east breeding falcons and something about Cambridge University.  So let me in I know her!

Actually the book seems to have gained its own momentum and is widely recognised as a modern classic.

I really enjoyed it having read some of  falconry related books that Helen mentions. She does distill well the contrast of her modern tutored way of training a hawk to that of T H White who was floundering using methods gleamed from old falconry books that he did not  fully understand and are now redundant anyway.

It was a great read I enjoyed it. I leave you with a picture of a Goshawk – not mine it was at the Falconry Centre back in the 1970s – the photo by Leigh Jauncey. Goshawks are not really suitable for display work – too nervous – so best left for falconers to fly in the field.Gos3


February – falconry displays update 2015.

Well things have been quiet here – weatherwise with cold days and nights but with the feeling that we are  gently heading towards spring with increased light at the end of lengthening days.

It is the  first time this winter that the cold has brought the wild birds closer to home having both greater spotted and green woodpeckers in the field we use for flying along with  migratory thrushes and starlings. The cold makes them tamer and more visible.

There are hundreds of wood pigeons feeding on the rape. J A Baker described woodpigeons as being like cattle for peregrines and indeed I was amused to see lets say in  J A Baker style ‘ five hundred wood pigeons ‘ feeding on rape with a peregrine watching from a nearby pylon. She watched as they dispersed and flew over me and the dog before turning and drifing down to another pylon and then drifted away downwind. She was not interested in the pigeons as J A baker would say because she had already killed early in the morning and she would not  hunt again until night fall. Another explanation was that she was a townie peregrine and only interested in feral pigeons but who knows. I prefer the previous Baker explanation.

Several things occured to me first how cold it must have been perched a couple of hundred feet up on a cold metal pylon in a cold sub zero wind. How wonderful she looked long winged and tailed and she flew over suggesting she could have been a first year bird – they lack the compactness of the adults. She did not bother about us as she was at a height which had no relation to us on the ground – she was in her own space.

Every three of four years we see a merlin and I was thrilled to see one the other day – probably it had come up on the wind from  the severn estuary where they regularly winter . A lightweight agile falcon that I could see craning its neck as it flew over looking for birds to chase.

It was a real red letter sighting . Often they will hang around for few days but I have not yet seen it again. Other notable moments have been flushing a snipe and seeing a couple of red kites flying over with is rare to see where we are. I imagine they are flying from Wales to Oxford or the other way around.

Our own birds are flying well – ticking over as I say. Our second Eagle Owl ‘Lulu’ is such a stunning bird – a golden white as she is a light phase bird and she is flying well too. There is a long way to go with her but I think we are heading in the right  direction.

I  leave you with a  photo of ‘Bo; our 27year old Eagle owl flying last year at Blenheim Palace. Photo by Ben Micklem.Bo 2