The Hawk Conservancy Trust

As yesterday’s readers will know, we visited this charitable body dedicated to the preservation of birds of prey in a natural environment, but that I had insufficient time to produce the pictures.

The trust’s own website will give details of this marvellous resource.

During the day there are three different public displays, this first of which we missed because we were so late, and the third I missed because I needed to take a rest. Before the 2 p.m. presentation we wandered around the lengthy rows of aviaries for individual species.

Little burrowing owls were the first I encountered.

Bald eagles came next. One, preening, looked warm, fluffy and much less fierce.

There were other eagles;

Harris and harrier hawks;

palm nut vultures;

preening eagle owls splendidly camouflaged.

white headed preening vultures looking rather ragged;

others on steps;

a bateleur eagle turning its back on

a blinking secretary bird.

In the ancient wildflower meadow groups of visitors were given the thrill of dressing up and providing a living tableau of medieval residents. Two young girls pulled a plough; boys ran around with butterfly nets; a goose girl was led by her charges; a royal party engaged in a progress; bee keepers tended their hives and a pair of miniature donkeys were taken to work.

A barn owl was released to perch on a log.

Ben, who began his career in the trust as a ten year old volunteer, was at home with his vulture.

Mike, the Sarson’s falconer, displayed his skills, from releasing the bird to calling it up to replace its hood, the purpose of which is to calm the falcon. I imagine this is like a small child covering its own eyes so you can’t see it. The square frame in the first two pictures is known as a cadge, on which the hooded creature is carried to the field.

We were entertained by exhibitions of flying kites and vultures.

Speeding over the heads of the rows of spectators these birds both delighted and terrified assembled children.

As the event came to a close, the threatening clouds overlooking the final aerobatics released their load and we fled for cover.

At one point we wondered whether Nugget had arrived before us. Then we realised that the row of robins on the sleepers were it fact metal sculptures.


  1. Splendid photos, Derrick! How interesting that someone would begin as a volunteer at age 10 and then continue working there. We often see hawks–and even more so, vultures–flying about in this area.

  2. That would be a wonderful place to visit! And to take Poppy when she is a little older <3 The owl has made a beautiful photo and I always laugh when I see Secretary birds – what is it about them that is so humorous? When I lived in the eastern hills of Lower Hutt (in Wellington) I would often see a hawk or two swooping about looking for lunch, it was such a beautiful sight.

    1. Thanks very much, Pauline. In the first display they have a secretary bird stamping a rubber snake to death. It is then only fair that it gets fed. Poppy really wanted to be chosen to have a vulture speeding past her, but she wasn’t tall enough.

  3. Fantastic array of photos. I doubt Nugget would appreciate the raptors. Another place that may be of interest to you is the International Centre for Birds of Prey in Newent. The director, Jemima Parry-Jones, has written several books, including “Training Birds of Prey.” Some of your pics would look right at home in her book.

  4. Fantastic photos, Derrick! None of these birds looked to me particularly fierce, but rather proud. Still, the courage and skill to become a falconer deserves accolades, I am sure. Definitely an experience to be envied; thank you for sharing it.

  5. Thanks to the Harry Potter franchise, owls are the most sought after birds in my household. As a matter of fact, I was stopped from acquiring one as a pet merely by the improbability of the act, I am not sure about the legality though. Those eagles are a graceful thing. The indomitable spirit, ability to stay afloat for hours and needle-sharp vision of these birds are already a legend. But trust the humans to edit and maul the delicately balanced cycles of nature.

  6. Loved your visit to the β€˜ Birds of Prey’ . We regularly have Red Kites flying overhead and I’ve witnessed the odd Sparrow Hawk catching prey. Last week we spotted another large bird of prey with a noisy youngster but it wasn’t close enough for us to identify the markings.

  7. Wow! What magnificent photos of those magnificent birds! Wonderful, Derrick! Thank you for sharing with us!
    What an important place doing such good work! Thank you for their link!
    We see owl, hawks, ravens, crows, falcons, etc., in our neighborhood.
    But we have to drive a bit away from town to see the eagles and other large birds. They are an honor to see!
    I have to say…those little owls are like the little donkeys to me…I’m in love! <3
    Ha! Your comment about Nugget made me snort-laugh! Looks like a robin reunion! πŸ˜€
    HUGS for you and Jackie! πŸ™‚
    Tweets for Nugget! πŸ™‚
    PS…I think the secretary bird needs a coffee break! πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜›

  8. I never tire of birds such as these and have much admiration for those who fly them. I pass Weyhill regularly on the A303 – I think a diversion is in order before too long!

  9. Phew! I thought today’s ‘Where’s Nugget’ was way too easy – or he’d invited all his relatives for a housewarming! πŸ™‚

    (Mostly) beautiful birds! The vultures are a bit scruffy looking. πŸ™‚

    I visited a raptor centre in our South West and got to handle a Falcon! They are big birds but quite literally light as a feather. When the handler handed him over to me i was expecting something that weighed about the same as a turkey. It was so light i nearly threw it up in the air as i tried incorrectly to compensate for it’s imagined weight!

  10. I know that conservation often requires birds and animals to be caged and trusts do a wonderful job so it was great to see those final shots of the birds flying so freely before the rains came.

  11. It’s an excellent place for a day out. We’ve been a few times at different times of the year when the flying displays are altered. The feeding of the vultures is a particular favourite. Such an under rated bird!
    Great pictures Derrick.

  12. What a great day. The photos are so beautiful. The Eagle Owls are very like our Great Horned Owls here in the U.S., but larger and with a darker coloration. I love the vultures.

  13. What a great visit. I have warm memories of our visit to a similar place on Kangaroo Island. Also, I read H is for Hawk recently, and am now enamoured of Goshawks. Here in our complex we have little hobby hawks, a small swift falcon. They perch on windowsills while checking out their prey.

  14. As always, excellent quality of photos. Such a variety of birds at the conservancy. I am glad for all the centers that work to preserve these birds. Raptors have always been my favourites.

      1. I do have a few raptors circling my place day to day, but I enjoy going to centres like these so much because you get to see such a variety and you can see them up close. And I appreciate the education and awareness that bird conservancies bring to us.

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