As part of my birthday present last month, D surprised me with a rather unusual afternoon out – and owl and hawk experience!
We arrived at Rutland Falconry and Owl Centre not entirely knowing what to expect, especially after a rather brusque reception from the owner – a real character!
After joining our group of fellow centre visitors, we were given an introduction to what the centre does and how we should behave with the birds, we were asked ‘hawk or owl?’
We decided to get one of each – D had a harrier hawk called Hurr (who has a brother called Ben!) and I had a beautiful snowy owl called Isis (see top photo)
The centre volunteers encouraged to talk to the birds for five minutes – which felt a little odd! But it was important for them to get used to us before we tried the next step of stroking their breast feathers (Isis took a good 45 minutes until she allowed me to stroke her without going in for a nibble!)
The group set out in convoy through the beautiful bluebell woodland to the flying field, where we were given an informative presentation on the centre, each of the birds and their conservation and we could ask any questions
Most of the birds are either unwanted pets (apparently Harry Potter has a lot to answer for!) or wild birds who’ve been rescued after being injured
One of the hawks – Blunkett – has been blind since birth and, although he can’t be flown, seemed perfectly happy to be carried around!
Following a walk back to the entrance, we said goodbye to our birds and went as a group to another clearing where we each were given the opportunity to hold out a piece of chicken to tempt a snowy owl to fly to and land on our hand – incredibly gentle!
We finished with a circuit of the bird displays – there’s a huge variety of birds of prey – from huge turkey vultures to scruffy little owls
Although it’s a little odd to see them tethered up, the volunteers said they were unlikely to survive in the wild and they were clearly passionate about the birds
Overall a lovely afternoon out – very calming and fascinating to get up so close to such beautiful animals