We very nearly did not visit the The Cotswold Falconry Centre, because when reading the description I thought “eh, birds.” But noticing that the Centre would close for the winter we decided to give it a try on its last open weekend in November. What an amazing treat. We left informed and amazed (astounded!) by the demonstrations, and probably make ourselves boring talking about the experience. “Oh, you think that owl is cool? You should have seen the one at the Falconry Centre!”
No, seriously, you should have seen him:
The Centre is in a gorgeous area of the Cotswolds (all areas of the Cotwolds are gorgeous) and next to Batsford Arboretum and Garden Centre, which attracts huge crowds. They take their garden centers seriously here.
The entrance to the Falconry Centre is off to the side of the arboretum, and looks very low key.
There’s a small gift shop full of owl knick-knacks and an even smaller cafe where you can get a very civilized hot chocolate or coffee to sip as you wander the enclosures. Where you will find Big Crazy, the European Gray Owl above, as well as …
Amazing and unsettling to be so close to an American Bald Eagle. On one hand, wanted to set him free and shout “USA! USA!” as he soared off in to the sky. On the other hand, did not want him to eat.my.face.
There are hundreds of birds at the Centre — I won’t sit you through all the photos. The world’s smallest owls; desert owls; owls that look like pandas; darling fierce kestrels, massive terrifying vultures — if it flies and eats things, they have it.
The falconry demonstration is leisured, informative, and watching the interaction between the master falconer and the birds was as fascinating as watching the free flying. Point of language: this is (properly speaking) a ‘falconry demonstration’ — a demonstration of the art of flying and keeping birds of prey. A birds of prey demonstration would (properly speaking) include birds actually catching, killing, and consuming prey. So, don’t you feel better informed?
How about …
This is a juvenile vulture. Yes, juvenile … just a year old. He’s snacking on a chick. The kids mimicked his lurching, hulking walking style for weeks. As he snacked on chicks, his mother and father (massive) rattled the aviary behind us. It was … dramatic.
Also check out this gorgeous, gorgeous falcon:
And then there’s
Now that’s an eagle. He pulled himself to the tops of trees and covered the earth with his wings, and when he plummeted down I wondered if he’d make off with my five year old. Impressive.
We ended the falconry demonstration with the flight of two kites.
This was a hugely satisfying day out, that has stuck with us and better informed our understanding of the birds native to this area and falconry in general. If you ever have the opportunity to go to the Cotswold Falconry Centre, I can promise you’ll find much more than “eh, birds.”
Let’s end with a view again of those lovely kites, and the gorgeous countryside behind them: