|Cadbury and Belle|
We found the Centre which is actually in a lovely, large house set in a huge and very beautiful garden with the River Kirtle running at its foot. We were warmly greeted by Gary Swainson, the falconer, and his two dogs, a black spaniel with one white paw called Belle and a gorgeous chocolate coloured mini smooth dachshund called Cadbury
Gary invited us inside and made us a cup of tea and we all sat and chatted in the kitchen which had a gorgeous view over the large lawn to the river. Gary is a very friendly, open person and we felt very relaxed and at home. He also is very talkative, and told us of his plans to go to India soon to work with disadvantaged children for six months. You've got to admire people who do things like that. He got into falconry at the age of 15 and his knowledge amazing and enthusiasm infectious.
|Bungle the Bateleur Eagle|
We saw owls, including the gorgeous Molly who'll I'll write about later, falcons, a turkey vulture and hawks.
|Me and the Harris Hawk|
After this we spent some time with two young owls. Gary explained that they were still learning and it was interesting to see that they were at different stages of learning. They are supposed to sit on posts and then fly to you when you offer the bait, one was getting the gist, but the other found the world soooo interesting that she became preoccupied with everything that was happening around her and was easily distracted.
|Molly in Action, Just Landing on Janet's Hand|
Gary told commented on the myths about owls. No they can't turn their heads 360 degrees, though they can manage 180 degrees. Not all owls are nocturnal, approximately 50% are diurnal, usually, if an owl has orange eyes they are diurnal, and brown eyes for nocturnal . All Gary's owls had orange eyes and were definitely wide awake!
|Molly and Belle, it Shows How Big the Owl is|
Finally I handled a beautiful Gyr Falcon and Janet a handsome Peregrine Falcon. They weren't flown, but just sat on our hands as Gary gave them whole dead day old chicks. I was amazed at how much my relatively small bird ate - three whole chicks. His crop gradually got bigger, they must have amazing digestive systems!
And that was it, we went back into the house for a cup of tea and more chat. We felt privileged to have been able to get so close to such magnificent birds. It was worth every single penny and Gary was a wonderful host, AND he has a dachshund! I'd definitely recommend it for a special day out, you can get info about all the different activity days here.
|Me with the Gyr Falcon|