Anna and I try to get to the Hawk Conservancy near Andover, every year if we can.
Its a wonderful place full of many species of Hawks, Buzzards, Falcons, Owls and Vultures - run by very knowledgeable and friendly staff (who CLEARLY enjoy their work), and not only provides a valuable conservation service, but also an excellent hands-on educational service to boot.
Just as a paying day visitor one can have a Harris Hawk fly to your fist, or have a Barn Owl sit on your gauntlet-clad fist, and watch some fantastic flying demonstrations.
Ashley, Gary, Cedric and staff clearly know their stuff, and its always a pleasure to visit.
We hope to take part in one of their falconry days next time, or maybe a photography day, or even "Owls by moonlight" evening...
Above are a few of the 90 photographs I took whilst we were there yesterday, (3 on this post, 3 on the next).
The first is a close up of a Harris Hawk - a bird widely used by Professional Falconers here in the UK (even though its not native to these shores), as its a reliable "all-rounder".
Strictly speaking its no Hawk, nor Buzzard, as its scientific generic name suggests "Parabuteo" -part Buzzard.
The second is a portrait of a female Barn Owl.
The third photo shows a large Milky Eagle Owl (named after its milk-coloured eyelids) flying low over the gathered crowd at the Woodland Owls display.
The fourth photo (on the next post, above) shows a Saker Falcon (with attached radio transmitter in case it buggers off - I'm told they often do!) over our heads in a hunting flight demonstration.
The Fifth photo on that post shows the same bird before flying, shaking his feathers. The pre-flight checks if you will.
Finally, the sixth photo (the next post above this one), shows an old stalwart of the trust, catching his prey in mid air in a demonstration. This is Frodo, a 24 year old Tawny Eagle, who I first saw at the trust 22 years ago with my family. Its grand to know he's been well looked after, obviously!
I personally would like the trust to show off more British birds - the last time we went, we were treated to flying Peregrines and Tawny Owls - which I always find more interesting than African Sea Eagles or Turkey Vultures.
That is a small whinge though, I understand why they can't do that more often, and both Anna and I look forward to our next trip down there...
NB. You can visit the trust's comprehensive website by clicking on the "Hawk Conservancy" link in the links section of BG.
Click any of the photographs to enlarge them slightly...