Expert Interview – Falconry Experiences
1) Please explain your journey as ‘Falconry Experiences’ so far.
I started as a professional falconer in 1999 and have worked with birds of prey in several different ways, from doing shows to doing pest control. I went on to do all kinds of other exotic animal training, but always had birds of prey along the way. I love the art and history of falconry, but I work with my birds in a more modern way, using what I have learned from working with other animals.
It was always my dream to work with animals, and it’s provided me with plenty of fun over the years. What I have found throughout my career is that sharing that with other people is one of the most rewarding parts of my job. That’s why when I went into business for myself I wanted do something that gave other people the opportunity to have maximum contact with the animals. The birds I work with are very sociable and so ideal giving people a really up close and personal experience.
2) What has been the biggest or most memorable event you’ve provided?
In my previous job I’ve done shows in some exotic locations, provided animals for films, and met some big stars. But what I do now gives me much more satisfying memories. The hawks are constantly learning, doing things for the first time and surprising me. The other day I was out with some guests and my youngest hawk, Alan, found a thermal and began to soar. It was the first time he’d done it, he’d learned to do it without any training from me, and he looked absolutely spectacular. It was such a treat to watch him, but what made it extra special was that I had someone there to enjoy it with me. And when Alan had finished playing so high up, he swooped down and landed on my guest’s glove. Sorry, if that’s not a very good answer, but I’ve been telling everybody about it!
3) Is there any inside information you can give us?
My methods are a little unorthodox, not really traditional falconry. I spend a lot of time bonding with my birds, building up a special level of trust. Then when we work, I try to lose control a little bit, give the birds a chance to do what they please. That way, they continue to surprise us because they are continuing to learn and display all kinds of natural behaviour, which we can enjoy watching. As I say to my guests to begin with, I never really know what will happen during a session. For example, if we pass a stream, the hawks might jump in and have a bath. But because of the bond we share, we can enjoy these behaviours close up, and still have them return to us throughout the session. For another example, most falconers would be too cautious to fly their birds if there’s a strong wind, but I insist on taking mine out when it’s blowing a gale, that way they’ve learned how to fly in it and can provide us with some excellent sights. They love to play in the wind, and though they may get blown three fields away, they know how to fly against it to work their way back to us.
4) Do you have any exciting plans for the future that you’d like to tell us about?
I only started working for myself last year, so the business is still growing. I do try to do different things with the birds, like taking them to weddings or fund raising events. But I’m determined to keep the private experiences and the core of the business, because it’s that one on one time spent with the birds that people get so much from. It was a long time ago when a bird first flew to me, but every time I take guests out I get the thrill of it for the first time through them. If I could do it everyday for the rest of my life, I’d be very happy, because although it’s the same thing over and over, it’s always different.
5) What would you say is your most frequently asked question?
At the beginning of a session, when the guests first meet the birds, they often ask if I’m able to let the birds fly free and then have them return. Of course, they soon discover that that’s exactly what we do! Probably the most frequently asked question is “do the birds ever fly away and not come back?” So far my answer has always been “Not yet!”
The most common feedback back that I get, from almost every guest in fact, is that they have enjoyed it, and got so much more out of the experience than they expected. I think it’s just very hard to describe the experience to people before they’ve tried it.
See also: Private Falconry Experience, North Wales