My advice to all my students, and youngsters who come through my falconry training, is whatever you do in life make sure it makes your heart sing! If its hard, and there is no enjoyment in what you are doing then your doing the wrong thing. Today my heart was singing operas, and here's why.....
Since the lockdown began I have been flying my birds of prey every day to keep them fit and continue life for them as normal as possible. Pre-lockdown my birds were flown by members of the public 6 days per week so I never really got that me-time with them...until we got back home. However, lockdown has given me one very large treat - to fly my own birds just for myself every day, just for me and them. AND what a treat! Today really was the icing on the cake, and I'm not sure what was going on, but the field and woodland where we fly was even more magical today, the sky bluer than ever before.....all my senses seemed really heightened.
I took 6 birds up to the farm with me today, and each one just made me laugh, smile from ear to ear and cry with sheer joy and here's why:
First up to fly was Kalil, my rescued Gyr/Saker falcon. Not the greatest flyer due to his keel deformity but today he just made me laugh and cry all at the same time. I always just let him fly, do his own thing, and today was no different. I placed him on a post on the edge of the field and before I could walk away from him he used my head as a jumping post to get airborne. Then off he flew. Rising high above the trees, around the great oaks and ash trees coming in with speed, chupping all the time with excitement. Shaking his tail in flight as he whizzed past me, then off over into the next field to gain height before dive bombing me again with such excitement. I rescued this bird when he was just 9 months old - no wing feathers or tail feathers as he had been kept on a concrete floor, and intensive keel damage from hitting the concrete. Vets told me to put him to sleep, he was so badly damaged, but I persevered and I am so glad I found the right vet who saw his potential. To see this bird today, flying high with such gusto and excitement just made be burst into tears...tears of pure joy that he is so happy and loves to fly!! So that was opera number 1.
Next up was Khan, another rescued Gyr/Saker falcon who hits 20 this year. An absolute dream to fly in all weather. Today he decided to chase the crows but only tease them. Several times he would go around the back of the same oak tree only to push the corvids out into the open, then dive through them and quickly turn to get height, then dive bomb me! Great lure work today from him once he stopped chasing corvids. When he came down to the ground he stopped eating for a couple of seconds and started to make his warning call....a peregrine was flying high above. We both sat and watched the wild peregrine soar above us, taking us both in, probably wondering what on earth another falcon was doing in their territory and with a human, indeed! Peregrine flew over and he finished his meal. Back on the glove and I always clean my falcons beak with my fingers and offer them whatever I have scooped off....sorry, but this is falconry. He then spends 5 minutes gently cleaning every finger on my right hand and inspecting my hand for any more titbits. So, so gentle and I love him so much. Opera number 2!
Next up Eela, my female Harris Hawk. So pleased to get out of the box and get going. Eela always makes me laugh and smile whenever she is on the glove. We have this constant chatter between us....to anyone else it sounds like she's grunting, but its something that she only does with me. Off we go into the woods and I decide to put my sunglasses on the top of my head. Meanwhile Eela is in an Oak tree surveying her territory, looking mainly for squirrel! I walk off only to have my glasses pinched from the top of my head and whisked into a tree...really!! But I had to laugh.....she couldn't sit properly on the branch due to the glasses arms sticking under her wings. Try to imagine what a Harris Hawk would look like doing a Scottish jig, well thats what she was doing! Hilarious. Finally glasses dropped down below and I managed to retrieve them and she continued flying next to me through the woods. Amazing flights today too. She went off chasing a squirrel, I whistled to see her doing a big turnaround in the air (almost 360 degrees), and flew straight back. Wasn't that interesting then. Then we get to the main field on the way back to the van. Lots of Buttercups in the field and yes she decided to land in amongst the Buttercups and pluck their heads off! I just couldn't stop laughing. She is such an amazing bird....opera number 3!
Next up was Artemis my Buzzard, flying free on the edge of the woodland today. I have always had a soft spot for Buzzards. I grew up in SW Scotland with their haunting call constantly around me, and have rescued and rehabilitated so many wild Buzzards too. This one I have a real soft spot for.....she is bonkers though! Today we were doing work on her 'following on' properly as sometimes she gets side-tracked....normally involves sticks and pine cones (don't ask!). Today we were doing really well. Even to the point I was pointing to a fence post to get her to fly to it (trying to do it without food and shouting come on) and, no joking, she dipped her head as if in acknowledgement and flew to that post. Every time!! I then walked on shouted come on, nothing, turned around saw her dip her head again in acknowledgement and off she went to the fence post. AND then we had the best part. Up she went into a tree for, lets call it, Buzzard play time. I know at this point watching her antics that I may as well just sit and watch the free entertainment. She didn't let me down. She decided to play with moss and sticks on the tree branch. One minute we had a mouthful of moss, threw it at me, jumped in the air, turned around and then started throwing sticks in the air. Constantly talking to herself and looking down at me. Finally I called her to the fist, instant, and dinner was served. Oh how I love this bird. Opera number 4!
Inca my Kestrel was next up, and I decided today to just fly her to the glove. We've been doing a lot of lure work and getting her to hover which she has done brilliantly. Decided today we would have an easy day.....okay easy for her obviously. I started off placing her on the field gate near the van and started walking around the field. Within seconds she was on my shoulder, so placed her back on the gate. For those of you who know 'weights' in birds she was top end of her flying weight. Back she flew, straight back onto my shoulder....so thats how we walked around the field. Me giggling and laughing at the fact I was carrying the next best thing to a parrot on my shoulder and her having a whale of a time. I did manage to get her to do some flying on the way back. She was so relaxed and quite happy for me to take her around the farm. Opera number 5!
Last, but not least, George my Barn Owl was flown. On weight so flying free like everyone else now so really enjoying his flying. His colours today against the blue sky were so amazing, so vibrant...and yip I cried! Opera number 6!
So lots of tissues today, but I feel really lucky that I get to do the one thing that really makes my heart sing. A whole morning with my feathered friends really set me up for the day. Back home they were all showered and rested....now happily tucked up fast asleep ready for the joys of tomorrow. And me, well I have the best job in the world!
What makes your heart sing?