The boyfriend has always been a big fan of birds of prey, so for Christmas I got him a Half Day Birds of Prey Experience voucher at Thirsk Birds of Prey Centre. However, we waited until the weather cheered up to actually use it, and then I got distracted with the hectic life of a teacher on the run up to exams and forgot to post about it!
The day started with a tour of the centre and meeting the various birds that would be on show that morning. We were lucky to only be sharing our experience with one other couple so the boyfriend got lots of time with the birds, which he loved. Since it was his thing, I was left holding the bags and camera, and did have to pay for my own entry separately. I was initially a little miffed at this but it turned out to be an enjoyable experience for me too so I didn’t mind too much by the end.
The staff then showed how to handle the birds and allowed James to fly a few of them- my particular favourite was Spike the barn owl who was born the runt and was tiny and so cute, but Zimba the Makinders Owl was beautiful too! The staff were really knowledgeable and talked about how the birds were cared for and how to keep them properly- it was nice to see that the owner (a young girl I can’t remember the name of) had grown up working there and eventually taken it on as she loved it so much.
We then headed over to find out about the different equipment used in falconry with a beautiful Eurasian Owl called Mr Baggot (who turned out to be a girl after they named her!) and who absolutely adored her keeper and definitely saw him as her mate, poor confused thing! By this point I was getting a little chilly, but with a cup of tea on the house I soon cheered up.
Finally, we headed out on a Hawk Walk (you can get this experience just on its own) with Dylan the Harris Hawk where he was allowed to fly freely and only occasionally called back to the glove. This was fab to see him in a more natural setting, and he showed what a fearsome hunter he was by catching two worms… they really are spoilt at the centre with such a nice life that they haven’t really learnt to hunt for food so this was a big thing for Dylan, but rather disgusting for us.
The experience ends just in time for the show where several different birds are brought out and show off their tricks, such as getting food out of barrels, spotting the red sock and flying some of the huge eagles over the park land. This was certainly good fun, and I think there are 2 or 3 of these a day, and free to watch once you are in.
Overall, it was a very interesting and enjoyable (if very cold) day out. The staff were fab in providing cups of tea as well as their enthusiasm and the boyfriend is already asking to go back again next year! Although not cheap, it was a fantastic gift for anyone who likes animals and birds.