Archive for September, 2017

Wet start to the day – waiting for it to stop before flying the birds of prey.

Well a wet morning to start the day but we are still hopeful of getting out and flying the birds. We have an event tomorrow – a wedding display between the ceremony and reception – which is something we do quite a lot. It is a new venue for us and so correct preparation is really important. On a general point we do fly in light rain although it is quite natural for wild birds of prey to delay hunting if the weather is poor. For the young wild raptor good autumn weather can critical as they learn to hunt – a long period of wet and windy weather can be a real problem – loss of condition, loss of confidence and so on – a lucky kill can be so important at this stage. On a wet day the falconer feeds the trained falcon and gives the bird a day off.

That kestrel I talked about in my last blog is back – it is has returned after been chased off by a buzzard. It was hovering again over the Knowle – really great to see. I also saw the Peregrine again this time it flew in a curious fashion rather slowly and then stooped and made connection with a wood pigeon  – they merged briefly into one. The falcon did not bind – as if it was playful – and she carried on to the pylon. She flew right over the dog and I but at a height where we were irrelevant. The rain has stopped! here is a happy photo!

first frost of autumn 2017

We had our first frost this morning which has been followed by a lovely bright morning. I tend to take the dog out first thing before flying the birds to give adequate space between her two walks which is harder to do when the days shorten. We tend to bump into wildlife either waking up or going to sleep and this week I saw a barn owl – which is only the second one I have seen in Churchdown for 25 years or so. It was a female  – she came to ground briefly mobbed by magpies and then disappeared in to a thicket.  I hope we may see her again but I suspect she was just passing through – it that time of year – dispersal for many birds and animals .

We have had a Kestrel on the grassy Knowle for about a week – a really beautiful little falcon – spending its day hovering over the grassland looking for prey. I saw it got chased off by one of our resident buzzards – which was a shame and I suspect this a reason why we are seeing less Kestrels over all. But they are tough little birds and probably he has moved to another part of his territory and will be back. I also saw a wild peregrine try to catch a woodpigeon with three hammer blow stoops at incredible speed – so exciting. The pigeon survived – narrowly and the peregrine having lost speed flew heavily up to the pylon. I turned away briefly looked back and it was gone.

We have moved over to our autumn display set up – to offer all year round displays.We are always reviewing our static display – it importantly allows us to look after the birds in the show environment while waiting to fly them in the arena. We will not offer events just a static display because the fun in birds of prey is flying them – and the justification.

I am going to live you with a picture of Sprite our peregrine with a ‘falconry centre’ or Phillip Glasier type hood on which is cross between a syrian and dutch hood. The pattern is taken from his book.  These hoods are sewn inside out and then soaked in water and turned and then left to dry on a hood block shaped closely to that of a falcons head. Then the hood is cut to length, the beak opening added, a plume put on top to hold the hood and braces added at the back to open and close the hood. These hoods fitted correctly are comfortable for the falcon and long lasting if cared for.

You can buy hoods that are beautifully made and relatively inexpensive but it is fun to make your own if you have that feeling it is something you would like to try. Phillip would to add gold leaf trim just to add a little bit extra bling. At one time he was making a great number of them as they were often given away as gifts – and so became an expert hood maker. It is nice to bring them back to life again from the pages of his book.

The hood is a very useful device. The idea is to get a young falcon used to the hood when it is more afraid of you than the hood and as the bird tames it just becomes part of it daily routine. Hooding the bird for a short time each day just before flying is a good way of keeping a falcon ‘good to the hood’ as it knows something nice is about to happen – flying and food!

The hood is an important item – if you can use it without fuss you can protect a falcon from being upset or stressed – a strange dog bounding up or a tractor suddenly appearing for example – if you can quickly hood the bird – it cannot see and so is not frightened. It means you can control the environment – if you want the bird to get used to something have it in the background while you distract the bird while feeding. This is basis of manning – or taming the bird to new sights and sounds. Use of the hood can prevent a long term problems – having to avoid tractors for the next 20 years! This is where the word to hoodwink comes from – by putting the bird into darkness you are tricking it into thinking it is night time and therefore should roost.  Anyway I leave you with the photo.


September falconry displays update – summer ending

We have finished our six jousting days at Blenheim and I include our setup from our last visit which proved particularly windy – unfortunately my colleague Ray drew the blunt of it and so I decided on the following days to use the t-pee system for our static display. It is simple and robust particularly when excessively windy and I include a photo of the setup. We use the system for afternoon events like village shows and fetes  when the full static is not required and for corporate days. The photo was taken just before  visitors wander over and settle and encamp on the grass to picnic and watch the days activities in the jousting arena. It is a real family event. You can see the palace in the background.

So September is here and we continue – less shows now but of course we provide flying displays year round including over the Christmas period at local Country Hotels – in fact any event where there is space for a birds of prey flying display.