David, one of our Corporate Administrators, found himself in the countryside of Kent recently, where he got acquainted with some majestic birds of prey. Here’s his account of a day at Eagle Heights.
“My arrival at Eagle Heights was warm and receptive. After a welcoming cup of coffee I met fellow bird handlers for the day and we spent the morning in the centre’s lecture room learning about the biology and history of a variety of birds.
We were introduced to falcons, hawks, owls, eagles and vultures and importantly, were shown carefully how to handle the birds, their habits were explained and we learned about the environmental and circumstantial threats that endanger the welfare of some of these species. Inside the lecture room some of the birds demonstrated their flight skills in exchange for tasty delicacies from the handlers bag. After lunch during which we were free to view the other animals kept at Eagle Heights (including meerkats, arctic foxes, a vast range of birds and a number of cheetahs!), we were ready for our outdoor adventure.
Each participant was equipped with a delightful bag of chickens feet, which hung loosely over one shoulder. Not a great look but the birds seemed to like it! We embarked on a cross country walk with a trio of tough and entertaining birds, during which time we were shown how to handle, fly and call the birds, so that before long, each of us felt confident in our handling of the creatures. The birds were magnificent in flight, playful and independent enough to want to show off and enjoy their moments of freedom.
At this point they were free to hunt and make kills of their own and the sometimes violent practices of nature meant we got to watch each of them jealously guarding their fresh prey as they dispatched it – nature in action, not always pretty but fascinating to watch!It was easy to imagine lords of ancient Saxon and Viking kingdoms practising this art a thousand years before.
I can’t thank the helpful, friendly staff (and birds!) at Eagle Heights enough for giving me a great day out, and one that I would love to repeat. So instructor Marissa, get the coffee and biscuits ready for me, I will be back!”
Have you ever had a close encounter with a bird of prey?