Archive for April, 2018

Warm weather to come!

I have almost forgotten how to spell the word ‘warm’ but we are told to expect warm weather over the next couple of days – well from tomorrow actually. In terms of our activities we are ‘up and running’ for the season ahead with all our birds of prey flying in readiness for our display season ahead. ‘Sprite’ our Peregrine is out of his aviary and I took him down to the field today and reintroduced him to lure – he knew what it was all about. They have incredible memories and after a lay off it takes just a little effort to get then in the air again – returning to the falconer I mean!

He is a lovely falcon and I am hoping we can do more events with him this year – apart from Thornbury Castle. Peregrine’s are difficult falcons to maintain for educational displays because they are so highly geared to go chasing – and are easily lost particularly pursuing pigeons! but with careful flying – making the sessions varied and fun – this can be to an extent be overcome or the behaviour delayed. If it starts happening – which after all is natural behaviour it is better to pass the falcon on to a falconer who wants to fly it as a falconry bird.

Guests like to see a Peregrine fly particularly students because they are such iconic creatures – a speedster with a world renown dive. It has a global presence which is important too and it has benefited from a successful reintroduction program in North America after the devastating effect of now banned pesticides like DDT.  So its value to the understanding of  conservation is immeasurable. We do our best but it is not always possible to have a Peregrine. Hence we rely on a similar falcon the Lanner Falcon with its more pragmatic view on life – but also a wonderful flyer – for our birds of prey display work – in the falcon department anyway. I will leave you with a picture of Sprite. 

Kestrel Flying

The weather and various factors have slowed us down but our male Kestrel ‘Pete’ is flying again. We put some new jesses on him and bell – plus a transmitter just before flying – and went for it. He is a wonderful little bird and flew well – flying a bird free is just great! Brian our Lanneret despite a couple of hiccups is also flying again and as I have said before he is an exciting falcon too.

We saw our first swallows yesterday (7/4/18)  on an evening walk and again today – not so late actually maybe about a week later from our usual first sighting. I saw a lovely wild Peregrine on my way to Oxford on Friday – just fantastic. She had had some altercation with a crow and I could see her beautiful underside markings as she banked away and up – in rather a low speed and clumsy fashion. In fact our local pylon Peregrine has been back – I look out for it everyday – which is great to see.

We have had a week of turmoil with our email settings and apologies to any one who has been inconvenienced. We used to run ‘Michael Davie falconry displays’ by word of mouth and leaflets and some rudimentary advertising. Indeed word of mouth is still vital but we are so reliant on websites, email and internet to such an extent that even a minor problem is disruptive. Hopefully that is an end to it!

I will end this blog with a picture of ‘Pete’ our Kestrel – 

April update

Today has felt a little warmer than almost any day since last autumn and it felt quite uplifting. Not so uplifting is the wetness of the ground which has necessitated cancellation of at least one event but apart from this disappointment we are now in the process of getting our whole team of birds of prey flying in readiness for the season ahead. This includes Brian our exceptional Lanneret, Pete the Kestrel with Sprite our Peregrine soon to follow – from their winter lofting aviaries. They join our winter team who will continue flying everyday although ‘Leah’ our older Lanner Falcon will just fly at Thornbury Castle and Blenheim Palace along with her daily exercise at home.

We made time just before Easter and went down to Stroud to find the grave of Major Charles Hawkins Fisher the noted Stroud falconer who family home a fine looking property called the Castle on Castle Street. He died in 1901 and I remember as a school boy in Stroud visiting the local museum to look at a few of his artefacts – some stuffed falcons including a merlin, a photograph of him, plus various bits and pieces of falconry furniture that had at some point had been donated to the museum.

He was a remarkable character – a victorian gentleman – who was Champion archer of England 3 times! and was a noted and brilliant falconer who left one of the best books on falconer ever written called ‘Reminiscences Of A Falconer’ an anecdotal book of his falconry experiences, thoughts and observations. It is a timeless historical document.

He died in October 1901 ‘Fisher’s long time falconer, James Rutford attended his master for the last time. a hooded falcon on his fist, at the Stroud graveside’ (from Roger Upton’s intorduction to the reprint 1997).

I did some research and visited what I thought would be the graveyard where he was mostly likely to be buried.We were most surprised to find not only his grave but it also happened to his family grave – as they were a well known family. It was a great moment an we felt a real sense of history.

I will sign off with a couple of pictures  where he used to live  ‘The Castle’, Stroud, Gloucetershire