March 2017 – falconry displays update.

Well we have made it to March! and there are signs of Spring – certainly our local birds of pairing up. We have a good number of skylarks on the local field left to stubble over the winter and good flocks of mixed finches – actually really nice to see.  As I have said previously management practice in terms of farming can have an almost immediate effect on wildlife. I have not seen so many skylarks on farmland for years.

We are up to full speed now in preparation for the season to come – with Leah our 14 year old Lanner falcon flying quite beautifully again. ‘Sprite’ our peregrine is going well – everyday is an adventure with him! he is a clever flier and is really good at out smarting me as I swing the lure – like a lanner actually. I swing the lure now like a Dad dancing at a wedding. I really am going out to practice again after all the years – I need it!

Our Harris Hawk ‘Arizona’ flies so well – circling back and really looking lovely. It is easier to forget what absolutely stand out raptors Harris Hawks are – they are unique and probably the only hawk than can match any falconry bird ever trained.  It is easier to forget what an impact this intelligent ubiquitous raptor from the deserts of the Americas have had on modern falconry. I will get another photo of him for a future blog. I am going to end this blog with a picture of ‘Sprite’ sitting drying after a bath on the back lawn. Peregrines just love water and typically cannot wait for the bath to filled and jump just straight in! In warm weather they like a bath everyday.

 

 

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.

News of Sprite our Peregrine.

Well Sprite is flying again! and well but as anybody will tell you flying Peregrines as always a high risk business as they are dedicated chasers of pigeons – but so far so good.

My last blog covered our stay in Essex in the autumn of 2015 and I included a picture by my late father from the ‘Darent Suite’  which I am fond of. It evokes a similarity of emotion  to the way I feel about Baker, light and landscape. 20161002_112817Even more so as my father bought me the book ‘ The Peregrine’ in about 1970. So I am early reader of the work. I will talk more about Baker in future blogs. I leave you with a further picture of ‘Sprite’ and the good news that he flying again.

J A Baker – The Peregrine and John Davie – The Darent Suite

In the autumn of 2015 we had a holiday in Essex mainly to have a look around the area that J A Baker used to cycle and watch wildlife – mainly birds – notably his pursuit of wintering peregrine falcons in his area of Chelmsford. We had a wonderful few days in the area staying at Longwick Farm. We walked along the Blackwater estuary to Tollesbury passing Gore Saltings and other notable Baker places. Unfortunately we did not see a peregrine sitting far out on a post in the saltings as described by Baker – I would have loved that. We did see a Marsh Harrier flying low over the seawall hunting the small ponds which run along beside it which was great and also a great many skylarks and other small birds. We went down to the ford on Hurrell’s lane where peregrines often came to bathe. See the photo I  include but firstly a painting by my late father John Davie RCA  from the Darent Suite – his very large painting is much better viewed in person to get the real splendor of it but I include it to make the comparison. For reference the Darent Suite is based on a journey from the river’s source to the Thames estuary see  www.johndavieartist.com/darent_suite.html

painting 1 or 5again

We went down to the Ford which is thought is the ford Baker mentions in his book. It did have a magical feel to it and we walked the area hoping to see a peregrine. We did however see a Merlin near the Ford which was a great and a rarer sight nowadays than a peregrine. We also walked part of Grace’s walk and then drove over to Hanningfield reservoir south of Chelmsford – often visited by Baker where we saw a Peregrine! mobbed by a couple of crows. Of course they are more frequent sighting now than they were back in the late 1950s and  1960s. There is a lot of controversy about Baker ‘The Peregrine’ – regarding its authenticity. For birders authenticity is important but I say do not be afraid to read and enjoy the work. Back to me now all our birds are flying well – Pete the Kestrel is flying really well! we also saw a Kestrel down by the Ford and also sitting on an overhead wire near Longwick Farm.

This is lovely picture of the ford that crosses Hurrell’s lane near Little Baddow.

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birds of prey displays 2017 looking head with Michael Davie.

Well Happy New Year! we are looking forward to the season ahead.

I was out with our dog a few days ago and I was thinking about last year and things in general regarding falconry displays. Of course the interest in falconry has never being higher which is reflected in the popularity of the ‘falconry experience’ as an activity at a range of establishments.

I cannot claim to have been at the start of providing events falconry displays as a business in itself – probably the late Chris Tuffrey has more of a claim for this position – but anyhow from the lat 1980’s it happened, developed and expanded to what it is today. Of course with the high level of falconry exposure one could argue that falconry has lost its special appeal.

I was thinking actually that this is not true – nothing can beat the thrill of hiring a falconry display for your own event. To have the display on your village field.

It is wonderful to see your local patch set up with a marquee – for the flower show or for live musc, space allocated for a myriad of  stands and of course the arena set up with rope and stakes maybe with chair suround creates the anticipation of the event to come.- I love bring a falconry display into this is environment where actually it is most appreciated – to have a falcon circling the entire show ground or the Eagle owl flying over people in the arena is just GREAT!

I live you with a picture of of  ‘Bo’ flying at Blenheim.bo-duck

Christmas displays 2016 – update

Our festive displays went well – Christmas Day morning at Stanbrook Abbey was windy, dry and incredibly mild – and the display went well. Our Boxing Day displays went well too – firstly at the Cotswold house – thanks to Nathan for his excellent dummy rabbit work and then onto Thornbury Castle for our traditional Boxing Day afternoon display. Weather was good – bright and cold. Our Kestrel ‘Pete’ flew really well at both Stanbrook and Thornbury – he is a star with such a big personality.

Of course I have to mention ‘Bo’ the Eagle Owl, ‘Arizona’ the Harris Hawk, ‘Pippa’ the Lanner Falcon and ‘Sprite’ our Peregrine – they were all great.

I leave you with a picture of ‘Sprite’ taken a couple of months ago.20161002_112455

 

Happy Christmas! from Michael Davie falconry displays.

This is my e card for Christmas 2016 a picture of ‘Pippa’ flying at Blenheim Palace. She is, and I will say it again a lovely falcon. Hope to have news on the Peregrine in the new year – but he will be present at our lanner-5Christmas falconry displays over the festive season

Michael Davie -Birds of Prey Displays 2017

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Well it is December! and I would like to thank all those shows, corporate entertainment companies, clients and guests who have booked one form or another of my falconry displays over the last year. So thank you and happy Christmas and all the best for the New Year.

I have a number of displays over Christmas and that is what I am working towards with the daily flying of our birds of prey – of course I am hoping for good weather for guests as well as birds – I want to fly them! but  sometimes that is not possible so we head indoors to concentrate on handling. ‘Bo’ our Eagle Owl always flies well inside – she is so popular and if you have a nice indoor venue like a Tudor Hall  it is quite special.

We are beginning to take bookings for 2017 and no doubt we will return to many venues again – regular booking if you like and of course I always look forward to new events and the opportunity to meet new people and present my falconry and birds of prey flying displays. I will leave you with a picture of ‘leah’ one of our lovely Lanner Falcons flying at Blenheim Palace.