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Tuesday, 28 August 2012

A Day to remember

If you are ever struggling for a special gift for someone or if you just want to do something amazing, then I have just the thing...

I went to the International Centre for Birds of Prey (ICBP) just before the bank holiday, a great place to go anyway, but I went along for a unique experience with my extended family (all adults). Five of us went to enjoy a Falconry Experience Day. We had such an amazing and memorable time I just wanted to share it with you.

The day started at 10am, we were met in the shop and introduced to the falconer Mark, and volunteer Natascha, who would be with us for the day. after  obtaining gloves to fit and getting a brief overview on the day ahead, we wasted no time and were taken straight away to the flying area where we were introduced to the first bird of the day...

The really great thing about the Falconry Experience Day is that you learn so much about these wonderful creatures. It's not simply a day where you stick your arm out and are allowed to handle birds of prey on a whim – this is a day of fun education. You are taught how and why to do things, the theory behind it and the practical application. You don't need any prior knowledge of birds of prey, just an interest.

After a full morning of learning about and handling a range of birds, we ate a delicious lunch (included) with Mark and then after lunch were given a brief respite to look around the Centre and take in a display if we wanted, we all opted for the display (well worth it).

We learned about feathers, flight, birds training techniques, captive breeding, flying birds of prey, weight management and so on.... it was done in such a way that we learned almost without noticing. Being allowed to have birds fly to the fist or simply be observed on close quarters, while having all of our questions answered, well, we all felt very privileged.

The day was fun, active, incredibly interesting and we are all keen to go back again. The team were so knowledgeable and helpful, there wasn't a single question that went unanswered, we felt like we were in the best hands possible.

Now I know there are a million and one Falconry Centres out there and probably many offer a similar thing, but to be honest, as Jemima Parry Jones is THE name in Falconry circles and conservation, and the ICBP is the oldest dedicated centre for Birds of Prey in the world, I would recommend that if you are going to do it, go there. They also offer more in depth experience days, courses and qualifications, so if you find your interest grows, you can take it much further with the assurance that you are dealing with the right people from the word go.

I'll be honest, its not a cheap day, but it's an amazing day and well worth every penny. Forego a few meals out for dinner and you will have the cost of this remarkable day - go on do it! Should be on the list of 100 things to do before you die.

You can check out the ICBP's website here..> and the experience days page is here..>

Some Random information – you never know you might learn something...

• The Stellers Eagle weighs over 12 pounds (imagine flying that!)
• A normal falconry glove has two layers of buckskin. An eagle glove has a further 5 layers of buckskin with leather padding between the layers of buckskin, that's a lot of padding!
• The name of Subbuteo, the tabletop football game, is derived from the latin name for the Hobby (Bird of prey), which is falco subbutteo. It was originally going to be called 'hobby football'.


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