We spent a fantastic afternoon at the Phoenix Falconry Centre just outside Gleneagles yesterday.
I had first seen what I thought was a stuffed owl when shopping at the Gyle in Edinburgh. I only realised it was real when it's head turned round to look at me! After meeting one of the residents of the Centre there I booked a half-day experience and duly set off yesterday morning.
The Centre is new and offers a great introduction to the fascinating world of birds of prey. Despite the name it isn't just Falcons which are at the Centre, but also a variety of Hawks, Owls and Eagles. Sadly I can't remember all the different names (apart from the unforgettable Edna) so the pictures will have to remain unlabelled.
The best thing about the Centre is that the birds aren't just exhibits to be looked at through a window or netting. They are living creatures who enjoy the freedom of flight and in the process get some of their food.
Before the tour starts there is a talk by Adrian Hallgarth who is a veritable font of knowledge when it comes to the birds, their habitats and their needs. Then you are taken through the breeding section, before going outdoors to see the birds that you will be meeting more closely later.
There is a large arena where the birds are flown and you aren't just a spectator, although you can be if you prefer. We were split into two groups at either end of the arena which allowed the birds to be flown between, each person taking a turn at having the bird land on the outstretched gauntlet. Of course they were more interested in the morsels of food awaiting them than meeting new people. They have no fear of people as they are 'imprinted' which basically means they don't realise there is a difference between them and us.
The weather wasn't the best but seeing the birds in their natural element more than made up for that. The final bird of the day was the Bald Eagle, a truly massive and majestic bird who was only interested in getting his dinner. Everyone had to be ready for his return quickly as he was stopping for no man, or woman!
I'm looking forward to a return visit in the near future, and would recommend it to anyone.
If you'd like more details just click here www.falconry-in-scotland.co.uk