We were given magnificent but stinky gauntlets to wear. They had magnificent tassels: I'm not sure why. Possibly they were decorative. There were only 2 other people there, so we got lots of time to handle and admire the birds and ask questions.
First we met a barn owl called Delilah. He (long story) had to be flown on a long string in case he flew off into a bush and got eaten. Apparently, everything eats barnowls.
Then we met an eagle owl called Merlin. We were told he was very stupid, but he was also full of personality:
He preferred to walk back to the fence rather than do all that messy flying. This made him look like Winnie the Pooh. He walked with his wings out, in a very comical manner.
However, we couldn't forget that he had great big enormous claws, his natural prey is small deer and he was retired from giving public displays after 'an unfortunate incident with a dachshund'.
At this point the handler cheerfully pointed out that Merlin could put his claws through the gauntlets as if they were made of paper, if he wanted to:
Then we met a hawk owl from Australia: a Boobook Owl. His name was Biscuit and he was 13 years old but still keen for chicken legs!
After this, we were introduced to a very angry kestrel. She was one grumpy little bird and tried hard to remove her handler's fingers when he tried to take her radio tranmitter thing off after we'd had a go at flying her. I thought of HodgesAargh.
The Gyrfalcons were too big and fierce for us to handle them, but gave an amazing display. Apparently they are the world's fastest birds, even faster than peregrines. There was some concern that one of the falcons might take off after a distant flock of rooks, but fortunately she decided not to. The male gyrfalcon went and sat on top of the house for a bit though, causing us to wonder what would happen if he decided not to come back. Luckily, after a bit, he decided that the fake crow the falconer was whirling was worth investigating.
Sadly, the photo I took of the gyrfalcon hitting the lure and almost crashing into a pointer dog on the ground below came out too dark for anything much to be visible. Alas.
Finally we went for a walk with the hawks. Harris hawks are remarkable in the usually antagonistic world of birds of prey in that they hunt cooperatively. We walked with three happy pointers, one spaniel and 2 hawks all whirling around us. It was amazing. The falconer said that when he goes out on his own he sometimes takes all 6 of his Harris hawks with him at once, although he feels it's too risky to do that when he has paying customers who might react erratically there.
Me, trying not to be erratic, with (I think) Gareth. The other one was Gaheris.