Archive for February, 2017

news – end of February 2017.

We have been hunkered down all day with Storm ‘Doris’ raging outside – so no flying just too windy. This would have been the last official day at the community centre using the adjacent field to fly our birds something I have been doing for the past 30 years or so. It is to be used for the new Doctors Surgery. So mixed feelings – naturally – for the greater good I guess is my feeling but also sadness.

It is undoubtedly a great loss as it has been ideal for what we do –  a busy environment with lots of people around to keep the birds tame. We have other places that I use but the community centre field has always been Michael Davie HQ as it were. I will include a picture of me and Sprite the Peregrine with all the colour drained out to give that ‘set in time feel’ with the community centre field in the background.

Bookings are now coming in and it is always uplifting when we have plenty of inquiries – of course I am always on hand for display requests at Thornbury Castle. This effectively means the birds of prey are flown everyday of the year weather permitting in readiness.

On my daily walks no further peregrine sightings but lots of skylarks on the stubbles that remain unploughed – this is a real treat and just shows the influence agricultural practice/crop rotation has on birdlife. It is a reminder of my youth when they were common along with other birds such as lapwings. I have also seen a couple of Red Kites recently always appearing to be travelling from the Oxford direction westerly towards Wales – or the other way – possible to pick up a husband or wife. Thankfully Buzzards and sparrowhawks are often seen along with Kestrels – though the latter less often. Tomorrow hopefully will be less windy.

Sprite our Peregrine doing well!

Good news is that Sprite is flying well – plenty of pace and fitness improving and not yet chasing pigeons! I am having a lot of fun flying him. Peregrines are not mainstay demonstration birds due to the above but it is such a privilege to be able to fly one.

Peregrines are always newsworthy and like many other places in the UK we have wild Peregrines living around here. At certain times I see them everyday – notably after the grain harvest when they hunt pigeons that feed on the stubbles before ploughing and replanting brings it to an end – and then nothing for weeks or even months.

I call them pylon peregrines – this is there chosen vantage point to rest and then when hungry hunt. When there are no pigeons there are no peregrines or only rarely. Since Christmas I have seen only one peregrine up on their traditionally favorite  pylon. This was a female or falcon and she did not stay  long but flew back towards Gloucester.

I was not sure if she was chasing prey and then gave up or pursuing another falcon maybe her mate – it was just a moment obscured by trees before she broke off and flew to the pylon. Pylon height is the operational height for hunting peregrines – as if they were made for them.

Before the peregrine on Friday the last one we saw was on Boxing Day at Thornbury Castle. It was hunting in virtual darkness. We were packing up after our display. Anyway it was great the see the Peregrine here again.

If I was like J A Baker I would be cycling many miles to discover where the peregrine spends the rest of its time – its other vantage points – probably over looking fields of rape waiting for the large flocks of roaming woodpigeons to come and feed. We do not have rape in our local fields at the moment so no pigeons. As Baker said Peregrines view pigeons as we view Cattle. I leave you with a picture taken recently of Sprite our Peregrine Falcon or tiercel as he is know in falconry parlance.

‘Pete’ the Kestrel.

I have been struggling to get another photo of ‘Pete’ our 2015 male Kestrel. So I include a picture of him set against the Laurel hedge. He is a game little hawk and is flying really well. He is not afraid of vertical stoops and does this wonderful parachute stoop, down to to the lure on the ground. He is more likely to do this on a windy day – he drops down  as if on a spiders web – wild kestrels do this frequently.

He has not hovered yet – not properly – when he does I will reward him and hopefully this will encourage him to it again. Guests really like him and appreciate holding him on their falconry gloved hand after he has flown- they all feel like a later day Billy Casper from the book ”Kestrel for a Knave’ written by Barry Hines. I should mention that it was his brother Richard who was the inspiration of the book. He was the falconer and indeed trained the 3 Kestrels used in the film ‘Kes’ directed by Ken Loach. Richard Hines recently published autobiography ‘No Way But Gentlenesse’ is a great read and gives him the recognition he deserves – thank you Richard. He was an also an early reader of the ‘The Peregrine’ by J A Baker. I flew ‘Pete’ at an event yesterday he was just great – so were the the other birds but I leave you as promised with a picture of  him taken recently.