One of the many advantages of gardening around here is the sheer variety of bird life – whether that’s being accompanied by robins and jackdaws as we garden, or hearing a high screech and looking up to see a buzzard being mobbed, the anchor shape of a peregrine hurtling down over the hills, or the elegant flight of a red kite.
We are fortunate in having falconers living nearby, and last Monday they came to talk to us – and they also brought along three of their birds: a kestrel, a peregrine and a little owl.
Benjie – whose passion for birds of prey started when he was 14, found an injured buzzard and nursed it back to health before releasing it back into the wild – and Mev Williams gave us a most interesting and often amusing talk.
Benjie bought his first bird 32 years ago, when he married Mev, and hasn’t looked back. They currently run Airborne Warriors, a bird and pest control company, and prefer, if at all possible, to work through the medium of falconry. Many of us have heard of birds of prey being used at airports, but Benjie and Mev work on other things too – for instance, landfill sites and power stations – where seagulls and pests can be very destructive or downright dangerous. Their birds are doing what they would normally do, of course.
Benjie took us through the birds of prey we are likely to see around here. His descriptions often made us laugh – describing buzzards as ‘lazy’, for instance – and were often pithy and to the point: saying that the sparrowhawk ‘kills because it can and not because it is hungry’ is a good example. Many of us have experienced exactly that, seeing a sparrowhawk zoom down on an occupied feeder or birdbath…
Finally, did you know that the term ‘fed up’ comes from falconry? It refers to a bird which has a full crop after feeding. Now you know!
There are some more photographs – of the birds actually working as opposed to entertaining us – on Airborne Warriors’ website, here. Many thanks to Benjie and Mev, and to the beautiful birds they brought along.