Day out: Cotswold Falconry Centre

2 Jan

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:

He is the size of a car.  He has psychic powers.  He will eat.your.face.

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 …

This is a Peregrin Falcon in isolation — part of the breeding program.

A Secretary Bird … they crush animals and reptiles with their feet.  Just like real secretaries.

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?

Wow.

Quite an engaging personality on both these fellows.

Yes, I wanted to bring him home.  Fine, we’ll move on to another bird …

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:

I could hardly catch him in flight, he was so fast.

And then there’s

HOLY CRAP THERE’S A DRAGON ON YOUR ARM!

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.

They can fly in large groups  — this is a pair, of a non-native black kite species, not the native red kite, which is still endangered in Britain.

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:

Advertisements

5 Responses to “Day out: Cotswold Falconry Centre”

  1. Zazzy January 2, 2012 at 2:57 pm #

    I really love the big birds of prey. One of the best things about living where I do is that the bald eagles nest down here. The last couple years, they’ve stayed around the whole summer, too. It gets dangerous to drive because I’m busy watching the eagles glide above me. Probably much safer when I sit out on the back deck and watch them do circles around the lake.

    • Monique January 3, 2012 at 10:56 am #

      We saw eagles around our part of the Chesapeake Bay back home as well — stunning. Driving around here we see more owls and falcons than eagles but I’ve had those moments on the road too, trying to look *up* instead of looking ahead at the road. 😉 Back deck sounds much safer.

  2. Andrea January 4, 2012 at 2:46 pm #

    Who needs a guide book, when I have you?

    • Monique January 5, 2012 at 11:11 am #

      Ha! Half our outing ideas come from you, anyway. I’m going to start plotting trips to Puzzlewood and Sudeley Castle …

  3. krisgal February 1, 2012 at 1:05 pm #

    wowsie, now these are birds! And they are impressive! Thank you dear lady for contributing to the photo club over on my blog. That’s a really great photo you shared.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: