Training owls; but next time we train ourselves

K. and I went to the Hawk Conservancy Trust last weekend, just west of Andover. It was a marvellous experience: the slightly understated nature of the birds in their enclosures is completely offset by the incredibly well choreographed displays: choreographed by the humans, that is; the animals are to some extent displaying natural behaviours. Especially the bald eagle, which descends from – but I don’t want to give away one of the best bits.

The Hawk Conservancy Trust’s occupants are not solely hawks: there are many other birds of pray, including vultures, falcons, bustards, sea eagles, a secretary bird, Indian runner ducks, a retired farm horse… and owls. So many owls. Eagle owls. Snowy owls. A burrowing owl that doesn’t know how to burrow, and a tawny owl that’s afraid of heights. Don’t laugh at the back there: it’s a refuge for injured animals; what were you expecting – best in class? Don’t judge until you’ve experienced the short, gleeful hit of joy at watching a trainee burrowing owl successfully totter through a proffered pipe. Or carried a scops owl on your hand.

This was the climax of a bank holiday spent in a camp site near the New Forest, visited as it was on the journey home. Sadly, the site wasn’t near enough to said forest for us to have much of a chance to actually enjoy any of it; it wasn’t even near enough to things it was meant to be near to (like the local town) for us to visit them on foot. But we did some walking, and visited the “local” pub (some fifty minutes away), and read the newspaper, and had lots of food cooked on Trangia and gas stove, which is always far more fun than you expect.

My only real regret is that I seem to have once again tricked myself into driving somewhere because it’s far away from where we are, in the hope that it’ll be near enough to other places not to need the car when we get there. It would probably have been difficult to get to the Hawk Conservancy Trust without it, of course: driver privilege saturates everything, especially Hampshire. But a big misunderstanding on the way down (over precisely which site we had finally booked at the start of my week away at a conference) led to a big, stressful detour. The journey across the country to Andover was stressful too. In fact, much as part of me does love good, solid, calm driving… real-world driving is always anything but.

Next trip away somewhere nice: we make it by train. And bus. And taxi, if need be. Anything else always feels like a false economy, so the next time will be no different. I know, because an owl called Nigel told me.

This entry was posted in cars, diary, entertainment, environment, experience, far_away, holiday, journeys, location, made_our_own_fun, nature, occupation, tourism, transport. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Training owls; but next time we train ourselves

  1. looby says:

    And credit to them, they do have public transport information on their website (whilst assuming the private car as the default method).

    • smallbeds says:

      Yes, it could be worse; although they might at least put that it’s the Number 5 bus from Andover train station. It’s unlikely to change as often as some of the other details on the site.

      Mind you, there’s a far worse example of social engineering when it comes to public transport to an apparently environmentally conscious wildlife venue. A blogpost is brewing about it right now.

  2. We had a similarly lovely time at the Raptor Foundation near (the Cambridgeshire) St Ives in February. We didn’t get to handle the birds (I think that costs extra) but some of them did come and sit on the bench beside us, which was rather fun.

    • smallbeds says:

      How lovely! Most of the birds at Andover, you couldn’t touch. There were just three owls that they let you anywhere near (not including vultures flying so low over your head that you did actually have to duck). Even then, you were warned not to actually “touch” them with anything other than the gloved hand they gripped onto with their talons, as they treated any approach by naked fingers as an offer of tasty snacks.

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