Now I know domestic cats have a reputation for hunting birds, but you’d have to be a very brave cat to go after these magnificent birds of prey. The photos of these brilliant birds were taken when John and I visited the Hawk Conservancy in Hampshire last week.
These beautiful birds feed on insects, other birds and small animals and rely on their keen senses, acute hearing, powerful talons and strong beaks. We strolled around the grounds looking in the large aviaries and across the grassland area and viewed the local wild birds from the hides and saw some spectacular flying demonstrations.
One such display was part of a re-enactment of medieval village life which saw staff and visitors dress up in costumes to play a variety of roles including beekeeper, hay-turner, washerwoman and ploughman. Everyone was enthusiastic and looked up in awe as the birds glided, circling overhead, before swooping down towards us. The vultures came so close to me that I felt the breeze from their huge wings brush against my whiskers as they soared past. I swear they were targeting me, possibly due to my sweet feline scent, apparently vultures have a keen sense of smell. Its a good job I’m generously proportioned – any smaller and I might have been grabbed as a juicy snack!
The Hawk Conservancy do much more than look after birds and entertain the visitors. They fight for the birds who cannot speak for themselves, especially as many of them are in decline and at risk of disappearing from the countryside altogether due to habitat loss and peculiar humans who want to trap and kill them. The charity works in conservation, education, rehabilitation and the research of birds of prey as well as breeding and environmental enrichment projects. It was a remarkable day and hats off to the keepers and handlers who train the birds and work in perfect harmony with them. The skies were blue with a few puffy clouds so as not to be too bright, and the winds were gentle, ideal for flying. This experience has given me a renewed sense of respect for my flying friends (except perhaps the pigeon that taunts me from the tree at the bottom of my garden)!