The first day of a week’s holiday, and I am knackered. It was No1 grandchild’s birthday and she wanted to re-visit the Hawk Conservancy at Andover, Hampshire.

Low flying vulture

Low flying vulture

As a charity the Hawk Conservancy Trust is dedicated to conserve and protect birds of  prey. Visit their website for a full description of their aims.

Today was our third visit. It is probably the best value for money day out we’ve had. We arrived in time to watch the vultures being fed. This is accompanied by a talk by one of the keepers. He described their plight as the most rapidly declining species due to the drugs administered to cattle in their native habitat.

Next came a flying demonstration with a caracara foraging for food and Dave the secretary bird using his martial arts to kill a snake. There were flights by owls and eagles as well.

A picnic in the grounds was finished in good time for the ‘Valley of the Eagles’ flying display.  The visitors sat in awe as an African fish eagle swooped down from a tall tree to pluck his lunch from the surface of the lake. We all had to duck to avoid the low flying antics of a group of six vultures trained to skim the heads of the audience. Other birds demonstrated their skills and the demonstration was rounded off with the flying in of two American bald eagles, from the other side of the valley. These huge birds reacted to a signal from their handler, nearly two miles away from where they were circling, near the Thruxton Race Circuit, and returned to the arena. There they landed on the arm and collected their reward with the characteristic screech of their breed.

Later there was a display of woodland birds flying in and around a small copse, showing off their ability to manoeuvre between the branches. It was here we met the famous ‘Troy’, an owl that refused to fly higher than his keeper’s head. He was featured in many newspapers, on television and local radio – visit the Conservancy’s web site to read more about this celebrity among birds.

With all of these events and ferret racing and feeding the kites and herons the day was filled and we left around 5.30.

I recommend a visit, if you are in the area – it’s a great photo opportunity and don’t forget to ‘Gift Aid’ your entry fee, then they get extra value for their charity.

A day of rest tomorrow, then who knows what will happen for the rest of the week.