Birthday trip – Cheshire Falconry, Northwich Review

An idea for this month, is that this year where possible I want to gift experiences, over ‘stuff’. After all, memories are not made by our possessions but by the things we do, the places we visit and the people we meet.

It was my brother’s birthday today, and when planning a present I remembered how much he had loved going and flying birds, from being really quite small, to being a teenager, and I knew he hadn’t been for a long time.

After having a look at Trip Advisor reviews, I picked the Cheshire Falconry to buy a there-hour ‘Meet the birds’ experience (for Alex) with an additional spectator pass (for me). This is usually £75 + £20 for a spectator but there is a special offer on for bookings before the end of September for £60 + £20 for a spectator.

We arrived at 9am, for a 9.30am start and got a warm welcome, and a chance to wander around the aviaries and see the birds. There were some amazing species, I loved the Sea Eagles (behind Alex in the picture below) but haven’t shown up on camera! They were enormous, there are a few in the wild still and they are the largest bird of prey in the UK.

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Andy, was our guide for the day. At 9.30 we walked down to the flying pitch and started the experience. Andy was brilliant, he had loads of stories and anecdotes about all the different birds that we saw. I had thought that as a spectator, I would have to sit behind a fence somewhere and watch from a distance. However, I got to go on the field where the birds were flown too, and watch them close up. As such, I think I got as much out of the day as my brother did.

Sprite – Barn Owl

The first bird we met was Sprite, a young hand-reared Barn Owl, that was small, excitable and noisy, and also speedy. He was a great bird for people to start with as very light, which gave the four people flying birds time to get used to having a bird land on their arm!

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Andy and Sprite

Freddie – Ashy-Faced Owl 

Freddie was up to a spot of mischief, and was quite keen to fly in the barn, the trees, and pretty much anywhere other than where he was supposed to be going 🙂 . Andy explained how sometimes there can be days when the birds see something that unsettles them, or they can just have an off day.

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Freddie

Jacks – Harris Hawk

We then met Jacks (or Jax?) not sure how you spell his name, who is a Harris Hawk.

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Jacks

This breed is fascinating as we were told they have learnt to work together and hunt in packs. I had no idea any type of bird of prey did this. They take it in turns to chase their prey and wear it out, which gives them time to rest in between bursts of chasing the prey. Then they share the food, this has given them the nickname of the ‘Wolves of the Sky’.

Horace – the Hybrid Falcon 

Horace is a falcon hybrid of two breeds. Andy demonstrated a technique of flying Horace with a leather pad attached to a rope. This simulates a hunting situation for him, as he explained this type of bird catches its prey at speed. It was quite incredible to watch just how fast this particular bird goes, and the ‘whoosh’ sounds his wings make as he speeds by you, remarkable!

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Horace 

After, watching the flying display, we went back to the cafe for hot drinks, a break, and a chat with the other guests.

George – the Eagle Owl

The Eagle Owl we found is the largest species of owl, and George is a small for his breed (but still huge!). He was beautiful and had the most stunning eyes. Andy, told us lots of myths and stories about owls. I was pleased to finally find out how they can turn their heads so far round behind themselves (vertebrae / blood vessel set up allows this).

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George

Apollo – Buzzard

After spotting a Buzzard, complete with a freshly caught young wood pigeon in our back garden on Saturday, it was interesting to see a Buzzard close up. These are the most common birds of prey in the UK, and we seem to have a number close to where we live as they are now moving into more suburban areas.

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Apollo

Savannah – Battle Eagle

Out of all the birds, I think I liked Savannah the best. She was very striking with a distinct evolutionary design, to enable her to kill snakes. She had large powerful feet, as they stamp on their prey. What was interesting though, is a trait they have of fluffing the feather up at the back of their neck so a snake if it strikes will bite the feathers and think it has got the bird. They then go floppy and ‘play dead’ only to spring to life and get the snake.

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Savannah

Overall, it was a wonderful trip, not just if you were flying the birds but also if you were a spectator (and photographer) like me. It comes highly recommended.

Cock @ Budworth

We finished our day with a late lunch at the Cock @ Budworth. Lovely food and warm hospitality. Couldn’t have asked for a nicer day.

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Until next time, Hayley x

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