Wednesday 13 November 2019

Chester Cathedral Falconry

Every year I make a list of 10 places I’ve never visited but would love to go. Last year I managed to tick off 9 of these incredibly, only missing out on the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic. This year I’m doing considerably worse with my list, not because I’ve not made it to some amazing place, but because they are getting more obscure and further afield making them harder to achieve logistically.

So, I made a concerted effort for my birthday weekend and even though going back to my beloved Oxford was hugely tempting I resisted and chose new ground from my list; Chester.

This historic city is certainly very pretty, even on a cold and rainy weekend. The huge array of Tudor fronted buildings give the impression many buildings are actually far older than they really are, as most are in fact Victorian. But one ancient building hiding behind a Victorian facade is Chester Cathedral, which was truly a wonder to behold (but that's another story for another blog). Nestled behind this medieval marvel, sandwiched between Georgian grandeur and Roman walls is Chester Cathedral Falconry.

As a crazy bird lady it was only natural that this would be on my hit list, especially given my obsession with birds of prey. Strangely its made me realise I've never actually been to a dedicated falconry centre before! And I cant figure out why not!
As a child we had all sorts of birds from a Myna bird called Slade to various Parrots and one of my favourite birds (which has stayed with me as a life long love); Barn Owls (named; Barney, Betty and Pebbles by me). So every Barn Owl I see I have a particular affection for, and Boj was no exception! Falconer Kieran was kind enough to let us watch Boj feed, always a fascinating experience!

We timed arrival well for the next display, managing to fit in a quick observation of the birds, watch a few feeds and also for me to slightly fall in love with Tinks the vulture a little bit before it began!
Kay and Kieran treated us to lots of interesting facts and information while we marveled at the birds and their own unique adaptations and hunting styles. As a bird of prey obsessive I was in my element!

First up Tinks the Vulture was absolutely charming. I was pleased as punch to see him outside his aviary and strutting his stuff. Of all the birds we saw Tinks definitely had the biggest personality. His comical ambling walking style and minimal effort for food certainly gave him a humorous humanesque personality. Thinking with his stomach and loyal for food, I know plenty of people that fit this description! Tinks provided smiles all around as he repeatedly attacked peoples shoes, having a pop at mine several times and almost succeeding in untying my laces a few times.

Up next was a Harris Hawk who showed us skills at catching prey on the move, and saw off a few pigeons and a squirrel in the process. The home made fake rabbit on the move using a Dewalt drill and wire was an impressive use of creativity I have to say!

Indian Eagle Owl Munch was the biggest owl we saw during our visit, and I was lucky enough to don the gauntlet and support his impressive presence.We had a little chat and I told him how gorgeous he was (he already knew of course) while occasionally buffeting me with his massive wing span. Kay also showed how silent his flight is and how precise Munch is by getting him to fly over a few peoples heads (I have a hilarious photo of one couple recoiling in horror, the sheer terror on the woman's face is priceless, but I thought I better not share those!)

Id be lying if I said I didn't find the final bird of the afternoon Peanut the Red Footed Falcon utterly adorable. I just wanted to scoop him up in my jacket pocket and cuddle him. But, don't let his size fool you. I wouldn't mess with this guy for one second. His in air hunting skills were fantastic and while hes used to hunting things such as insects, I wouldn't fancy my chances against this tenacious little guy!

In all I had a wonderful time at Chester Cathedral Falconry. The passion of the handlers/trainers was simply infectious. All the birds were beautiful, fascinating and clearly so loved by the team. If you get chance to pay these guys a visit don't hesitate. A wonderful afternoon with some wonderful feathered folk, and their devoted humans! Thanks to all the team at Chester Cathedral Falconry for making my birthday weekend a great one!


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