Wow! What an amazing experience I had on Saturday.
Let me set the scene first. A bunch of us, most of whom had never met each other and some of whom only knew each other by their Twitter names had all descended on Udders farm shop in North Dorset. Not to buy food (although it does sell some tastebud tantalising items!). No, we were there for coffee!
Actually, the Coffee was an aside as we all chatted away, waiting for the call to move out. Soon enough, we were off – and a mile or so later we were all stood around in a field as Sharon from Sharandys Birds of Prey set up the stands for her raptors!
Nibbly the black plumaged Barn Owl was first to get some attention as Cherry had brought him along to give him a taster of meeting an odd few individuals (I know – can’t get much odder than me!) Nibbly seemed quite at home sat on his perch, though he wasn’t prepared to eat his lunch as we all snapped away..
Whilst we had been concentrating on Nibbly, Sharon had been getting the other birds out of her van. I wasn’t really prepared for the sight, as I turned around to see an adult Golden Eagle only a few yards away!
Wow – what an impressive specimen! It didn’t stop there – it was a photography experience like no other. 4 Owls (if you include Nibbly), 3 hawks and the eagle were there – all ready and willing to pose for the camera. Brilliant!!
We were treated to the Eagle Owl and the Tawny Owl posing in amongst the hazel at the bottom of the field, as we all went for the natural look.
A little bit sureal, trying to make an Eagle Owl look natural in a hazel hedge -when I was just awestruck by even seeing such a bird, never mind the surroundings!
Next, it was onto birds in flight. Never easy, and for a bird as small and nimble as the American Kestrel it proved a real challenge to get a flight photo.
Definitely a case of continuous shutter all the way, trying to keep the bird in the centre of the frame, and hoping that the autofocus servo could keep track!
Fortunately, Sharon also flew the Barn Owl. Easier to follow, but still a bit of a challenge.
At one point, I simply watched rather than take pictures as the bird gracefully glided across the field.
Finally, the time had arrived. “Anyone want to handle any of the birds?” said Sharon. “Too right! I’ll have a go with the big man!” I replied. A matter of minutes later and it was happening, as I stood in a Dorset field, with a 5 year old adult male Golden Eagle perched on my (gloved!)arm.
It was only after the session that I found out that Sharon has a venture whereby she takes these fantastic birds out to terminally ill children, for them to be able to experience seeing the birds at close quarters. She does this free of charge, and dedicates 4 days a month to it. What a great gesture – Sharon, I take my hat off to you. If you want to know more about it, go to the Flight of Dreams facebook page.
It really was a fantastic few hours – thanks to Cherry for organising it, to Sharon and Helen for coming along with the birds and to Jane, Angie, Chris and all the others who shared the experience.
Now, why can’t those Marsh Harriers from my last post be as obliging? 😉