My first falconry experience… (Day 13)

Today I decided the check out the University Falconry Club, my only previous experience has been with rescue birds in rehab and playing host to Ben Long who gave a talk to my old society last year.

Anyway the UVM Falconry Club was set up about a year ago, and in addition to owning a few birds and training also acts as a rescue and rehab center for wild birds in Slovakia. Something I did find out which suprised me a little was that the government would cover the food costs for birds that are successfully rehabiliated and released back into the wild here. In fact there recently was a Eagle in for rehab that had flown into power lines, and the power company actually donated 500 Euros to the club for the care taken of the bird.

Before I get too distracted back to Sunday, so its after lunch and I have headed down with 16 others to check out the club. Starting with a demonstrating on how to approach and glove (take a bird from perch to glove) a bird with Forrest. Now I believe forest needs an introduction; Forrest is a saker falcon that was rescued by the uni vet clinic when his owner accidently broke his wing leaving him unable to fly so wanted him put down. He is the clubs training bird as he can’t fly (though apparently he can still move pretty fast along the ground) so perfect for people that have no experience as his escape is limited.

Anyways the talk then went onto kit, baiting (the bird trying to flying off), the feeding routines and how the club worked before looking at learning the falconers knot. I had a slight advantage here with my climbing background so found the knot pretty easy, and because of this when a volunteer was requested to be the first to hold Forrest it ended up being me. Now I’d never held a bird of prey standing on my hand before so gloving up I was slightly nervous however really excited at the same time with a bit of curiousity as to how heavy he would be.

Now Forrest weighs 800+grams however 10 minutes later it felt closer to 2Kg with a slightly tired arm. Being up so close and able to see the find detail of the feathers and contours of the body and beak was pretty amazing. As well as learning how the jesse’s and lead works, Forrest was calm throughout and I was really happy when he which meant that he was happy.

Now placing Forrest back onto the perch was the moment of truth with the falconers knot, I was ok tying it onto a metal loop however it was onto a cord loop on this perch which was a little different as both sides of the knot could move… In addition I ran into something I had totally not expected, where I had fed forrest some raw meat my fingers were a little bit slippery! This also complicated it a bit more however I managed to get the knot tied with just a little bit of difficulty pulling it tight.

The rest of the evening turned into revision for Histology staining methods.