One of the things my boyfriend had wanted to do most since moving to the UK was to visit a falconry centre. There are a few to choose from in the Lakes and the Dales, so I set about finding one for a day out as a birthday surprise. Turns out you often have to book a few weeks in advance, so it ended up being in July, but it was definitely a great experience. I had found a Groupon for The Hawk Garden, a falconry experience offered at historic Leighton Hall in Carnforth, and bought and booked it. (The groupon was a fraction of the price of the entire experience, and they had good reviews on Tripadvisor).
We got to see several kinds of birds, some hawks and a cara cara who ran around on the ground like crazy. It was a small group of 6 plus the instructor, and we all got a chance to try on the glove and hold the reward (some sort of raw bird leg) while the birds circled over the manor and came to land on the it. The falconer even played dramatic music as the birds circled overhead. It was interesting to learn about the culture and history of falconry, and that the summer is actually the off season, the real hunting comes in the fall. We also learned that some birds are entirely raised by humans, which means it takes them much longer to learn to fly, as they are only allowed out under direct supervision, as opposed to birds in the wild who must learn quickly to survive. In some countries, mostly in North America, birds must be captured from the wild, not bred in captivity, trained, and then released after a few years. This may seem inefficient, but the birds can already fly and hunt, and training them, according to our instructor takes several weeks which isn’t terribly long.
The day culminated with a walk through the woods with a falcon who hopped from tree to glove and ground, at one point circling around a field, and I really thought he was going to come back with a baby rabbit. Fortunately for me, he didn’t. Overall, a great day out and definitely something different to try!