Friday, September 25, 2009

I could get into this ................

For my birthday last year (a notable one) Kay bought me, well us, a day doing something I'd always fancied - falconry. This week we finally got to go - waited for the weather to settle again you see -and I wasn't disappointed. We went to the Welsh Hawking Centre at Barry, and had a really enjoyable and relaxed day. In the morning a chance to see some of the birds, ask loads of questions, tie one handed falconer's knots, etc. After a good lunch we watched one of the two displays they do each day and then had a go ourselves.

At first it has to be said Kay was a bit apprehensive - this was one of the more relaxed looking shots! -
but by the end of the day she wasn't phased at all.
In fact not only did she get used to the birds she even held bits of chick over my camera while I was trying for some flight shots of ................ well let's not get ahead of ourselves.
The eagle owl was a beauty. Big enough to photograph easily in flight
and who could resist those eyes.
Next up for the display was a young Harris Hawk - not even in mature plumage yet (compare it to the adult shown above and later), and displaying after only a few weeks of training. I guess it helps to know what you are doing.
The highlight of the display was the superb flying skills of the member of staff, Chris, with his radio controlled plane (what..............?)
and the peregrine that Griff sent after the lure it was towing. This could only work with a skilled pilot, but it was breathtaking to watch. I didn't manage to get any good enough shots of the one stoop it made, but it was much nearer for views of the planned level flight 'hit' - the lure was on a release mechanism and small parachute. In the second and third shots the bird looks as though it's surfing!
It landed right in front of me and immediately reacted to protect it's prize. Griff then tempted it onto something more edible.
Back to the centre to rest
and then a bath.
Finally our turn. Over lunch we had been talking barn owls, so when we were offered the chance to fly one I didn't hesitate. He was gorgeous
but so much slighter than you might think.

In flight he just glided, buffeted a bit by the wind but so graceful. Kay's kind mashed chick holding helped to get this shot, but more practice is needed here on my part. The bird knew what to do though, and kept landing on the camera.
Onto Griff junior's glove for a feed
after a bit of a detour. Brilliant. Loved it. Want one.
[A rare shot - I'm in it - perhaps even a first for the blog? Look - my six pack has migrated forwards 6"!]
To finish we went for a walk with a Harris Hawk. Bit like walking a dog! It flitted through the trees and bushes, coming over now and again for some tidbits. Again great fun.
When it was being fed at the end it showed very well the 'mantling' pose they learn as youngsters to guard their food from their siblings. Possibly more exaggerated in this Harris Hawk as they hunt in groups in the wild.
As he relaxed his table manners left a bit to be desired though!

So there we are. If you've ever thought of giving it a go I'd say go for it. I really don't think you'd regret it.

As always bigger and better views in the web album HERE

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Make up your own!

A combination of painting the house and 'gardening' (a bit slash and burn in truth!) has limited time in the field recently, but did have the advantage of getting the garden birds more used to our presence. The following shots were taken standing in full view of one of our feeders. The light was a bit tricky, but a few worked enough to post.

Friday, September 11, 2009

I'm no oil painting but ..........

News of another black redstart - a female this time - on the local shoreline had me down at Caldicot Pill last weekend. I knew roughly where to look, and sure enough after walking up and down a few times she appeared and proceeded to 'show well' as the birders say.
At first glance in these blog-sized pictures she's fairly cute looking, but if you click HERE and look at the larger versions you will see that a) she's mid-moult and pretty dishevelled and b) this is my third bird this year with a crossed bill. Like the others (robin and mockingbird) there was no indication she was failing to thrive, but it has to be said she is not the prettiest specimen!

I was playing around on the interweb trying to find an angle for this post - for example looking at definitions to see if anything came up:

Ugly: Offensive to the sight; contrary to beauty; being of disagreeable or loathsome aspect; unsightly; repulsive; deformed. [1913 Webster]
when I found this website about bizarre looking creatures These aren't deformed animals but, as the website says, as nature or their owners intended. It's worth a look. As an example the video on this particular post caught my eye.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Spots 'n stripes

Recent pictures seem to be stripey .......

Sedge warbler
or, the 'star' of the show - spotty.

Spotted crake at Greylake RSPB reserve.
The crake was a tricky one to snap, not just because of the reeds and the backlighting, but because (like my efforts at photographing brambling) the head just never seems quite sharp.

As always better quality, and a few more, pictures
in the 'latest pictures' web album HERE