June.

With such a long winter we are still nervous that it may come back! so these long sunny days are days that we treasure but of course they present an extra challenge to those of us who provide falconry and birds of prey displays at events. It is very important that the training in terms of conditioning is absolutely spot on or falcons can suddenly drift up and wander off on thermals. Wonderful for the falcon to climb to cooler air and so doubt for some peaceful solitude but this contrasts strongly with the anxious falconer far down below in the arena waiting or I should say hoping for his falcon to reappear in a spectacular stoop – when its temporary absence is instantly forgiven.

In times of old when events were less commercial one could wait for a thermalling falcon to reappear but these days with follow on acts ‘waiting their turn’ in the arena there is no time. My old falcons Peggy and Duke were high flyers and just wonderful – the summers during their early years were warm and so encouraged this behaviour. We did not worry too much confident of their return. Of our present falcons ‘leah’ will thermal and stoop back into the arena but the others have not.

Imagine my dismay when our young lanneret ‘Brian’ suddenly started to gain height at alarming speed at a recent event – what should I do?

Part of the training of a falcon is to teach it the ‘ho!’ shout. This shout guarantees food for the falcon should it return immediately. We practise this at home just in case.I often use it for effect in the arena – a notable way to end the flight with a shout. Of this occasion it was for real! so I shouted ‘ho’ over the pa sound system. Thankfully Brian responded immediately and stooped back into the arena and bound to the lure. That was close!

He was wearing a radio transmitter on his leg but potentially he could have travelled miles if he had caught a breeze at altitude.

I have done demos now for over 30 years but that taught me a valuable lesson in terms of preparation for an event – and I will heed it! I leave you with a stylised 35mm B/W photo of ‘Sprite’ our Peregrine.

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