As part of Heidi’s birthday present and in lieu of a trip to Harry Potter World, I bought Heidi and I a three-hour falconry experience at Feathers and Fur Falconry Centre near Maidenhead.
Typically, I am very skeptical of anything that involves handing over money to interact with animals. The abject cruelty of places like Seaworld and anywhere with captive dolphins repulses me. So when I considered a falconry centre, I did a bit of research.
One of my first concerns was that the garden centre where the centre is located is also shared by a pet shop which has been at the centre of endless protests about the fact they sell farmed puppies, but the falconry centre is entirely separate. My research led me to believe the falconry centre was likely to be an ethical and responsible concern, so off we trotted.
(If you need to convince yourself, have a quick read of THIS blog post)
The 3-hour experience consists of a maximum of six participants who can also bring people to watch. The bird handling and flying happens in a private field away from the view of the public. We start with a very informal briefing before heading to the field – this experience only happens when it isn’t raining because it turns out these big scary raptors are not waterproof…
Sadie runs the centre and is downright passionate about her birds. She has hand reared or rescued most of them and their loyalty to her is impressive. We start with a barn owl, pretty but not the brightest! Then a long eared own followed by the mammoth European Eagle Owl. When you learn they can crush deer skulls with their talons, you gain respect…
On the field, the birds fly from guest to guest picking up bits of dead things on the way. You get to spend a lot of time with each bird on your hand, great for photo opportunities and to get a real appreciation of the beauty of these things.
A quick cup of coffee with biscuits, a chance to pet the dogs and then it’s back to the field for the non-owl species. First is the Harris hawk, certainly the most eager flier and a fantastic bird.
This is followed by the beautiful Lanner – Peregrine cross. Very different, it doesn’t waste time flying from glove to glove but rather hunts on the wing. This was a rescue bird which had been badly treated and Sadie went to great lengths to rescue it.
My motivation for writing a falconry blog on my bike site was to provide a recommendation to anyone who thinks they might enjoy this experience – I can’t imagine anyone not loving these three hours with some spectacular animals and their highly entertaining owner. Put asides any concern over the care of these birds – let’s face it, they can fly off whenever they like. But through the three hours you will learn the passion that Sadie has for these birds and as for value for money – definitely worth it.