WEEKDAY WANDERINGS with Janet Gover
Welcome to WEEKDAY WANDERINGS
where we talk about what we’ve done, what we’ve seen, and where we’ve been
Today, Janet Gover takes a hawk for a walk
Taking a Hawk for a walk.
Have you ever watched those wonderful old Hollywood movies set in Medieval times? With our handsome hero, a knight in shining armour of course, riding a big black horse and holding a hawk or falcon on his clenched fist? I watched lots of them with my mother as a child, and it left me with a long-held dream to fly a hawk myself.
Last weekend, I got to do it at a stately home here in England.
It rained (this IS Autumn in England after all) but if the birds were willing to fly in the rain, I was more than willing to go with them.
Like many of us, I’ve seen birds of prey in bird parks and sanctuaries and seen them fly to other people. But nothing… nothing is the same as watching a Hawk fly to your own wrist.
My first reaction… it was the lightest landing. Having seen hawks grab a meal in mid-air, I always thought they would land hard and fast. And that I’d feel their claws even through the leather gauntlet. But I didn’t. The Harris Hawk was elegant and gentle and took the little piece I meat I was holding quite neatly.
According to the trainer, Harris Hawks are basically just dogs with feathers and he set out to prove it. We went for a walk in the woods with the hawk called Handsome Boy. He was too. Very handsome indeed. As we walked down the path, he followed us, flitting from tree to tree, and popping down whenever someone extended a gauntlet, just to see if there was a snack in the offing. There always was.
I did not know that hawks hunt in packs, and one will sometimes land next to where a rabbit is hiding and chase it out on foot for his friends to grab. Handsome Boy was very at home on the ground.. trotting along with us. A dog with feathers.. yeah. I tried not to laugh- that might have offended his dignity.
I didn’t get to fly a falcon. To quote the trainer, they are just crazy mad and difficult. Owls, however, are a different thing.
The smallest of the owls I met was Smudge. He is a Little Owl. And not just in name. He was ever so sweet and was the only one of the birds I was allowed to stroke. He liked being stroked under his chin and closed his eyes with pleasure as I did it.
At the other end of the scale – this Siberian Eagle Owl – the second biggest owl in the world. This fearsome beast was called… wait for it… Huggy. Because whenever he went back to his owner, he snuggled in under his chin looking for a pat. Only from his owner though. The rest of us he glared at.
And look at his feet. I did feel those claws through the gauntlet. And that beak. If he didn’t want to be patted, I wasn’t going to argue. But apparently Huggy, is very lazy. Flying is hard work when you’re that big. His wingspan is nearly two meters, and he won’t fly unless he has to. He’d rather sit there and be admired, knowing that at the end of the day, he has a warm dry place to sleep, and dinner waiting.
It was a wonderful day and has left me wanting to do it again. There are breeding boxes for wild owls in need of sponsors. What a good excuse to meet my new friends again.
If you get an opportunity to do this, go for it. You won’t regret it. I promise.
And… by the way… I knew you were going to ask. The biggest owl is the Fish Owl that is found only in very limited areas of northern Europe and Asia.
Award Winning Author
Australian fiction and more
Read more about Janet Gover and her latest Australian fiction novel
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