The English School of Falconry, based at Herrings Green Farm near Bedford, house and rear a selection of birds of prey. By visiting the school, you can learn all about the birds, their eating habits and characteristics, and watch them in flight. By far the best part, though, is getting the chance to handle them yourself!
The falconers are on hand to teach visitors about their wide selection of American bald eagles, African fish eagles, falcons, hawks, and owls. As each bird is brought out, the individual characteristics and distinct personalities become more apparent. Look into the wide eyes of a guileless owl, or the sharp glare of an eagle, watch a bird slowly dozing off, or snatching a piece of raw chicken from a gloved handler and you start to see how unique each one really is. One fluffy bundle will lazily perch on your arm, whilst another small prickly creature will snap you with their wings. The sheer weight of the American bald eagle is mind-blowing. And all the while the handlers share incredible facts about the abilities of these birds. Did you know their claws can break a human hand with ease? Or that an owl can hear a mouse's heartbeat from twenty metres away?
Watching the birds in flight is extraordinary. A perfect example is Dexter the owl, whose graceful swoops and precise landings were glorious to watch. He would take off, having spotted his target from yards away, and then simply glide, cutting the grass as he went, whispering past the gathered crowd by mere millimetres, before landing calmly and blinking at us with his golden eyes.
Getting the chance to handle, feed, and fly these beautiful creatures is a rare and eye-opening opportunity. The English School of Falconry is a great way to spend an afternoon and I will be going back very soon.