A couple of weeks ago we held a special "Bird Of Prey Day" at the Sanctuary as an event to give the general public an insight into the art of falconry, a subject often raised by visitors who - inspired by the sight of many of the birds in action at the centre - would like to know more about this fascinating topic.
Where's The Birdie? "It's behind you!" - albeit just a mere speck in the sky as the falcon was preparing to stoop back to the flying arena and wow the audience with his speed and ariel dexterity.
To the enlightenment of many, falconry is not a sport as such but is part of a culture which has important connections with both the practice of wildlife conservation and an awareness of the importance of maintaining a balance of biodiversity.
In the demonstration arena the day consisted of three flying displays, a fantastic gun dog display put on by our good friend Frank Walker and a demonstration by our colleagues from “The Warren Hill Raptor Project” who brought along “Shelby” the Bald Eagle.
Nigel King from Barleylands came with his Striated Cara Cara to demonstrate how these fascinating birds scavenge for food in their native country, the Falkland Isles, where they act rather like a common magpie as they pinch washing off the clothes line and rummage in the bins for food.
The South East Falconry Group put on a great show of birds and we were lucky enough to be joined in the arena by them flying some of their falcons.
Away from the field we were joined by a variety of specialists and clubs who provided a wealth of expert knowledge on 'best practice' when it comes to contemplating keeping a bird of prey privately. We also owe a debt of thanks to Roger and Kevin from our partners the Thornham Owl Project, who had an array of interesting literature and information on providing, erecting and managing nest boxes plus other hints and tips for those passionate about conserving our native wild owl and other bird of prey species. Also on hand were those who make and sell falconry furniture (accessories) and equipment.
All in all it was a very successful day where experts, novices and those that were just interested in falconry were able to share in the experience.