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Bird of Prey experience


In our ‘We Tried That’ feature we send our reporter Steph Woolvin to try local sporty, adventurous or unusual experiences that are on our doorstep. This time she went to Ipplepen to get up close and personal with some magnificent birds of prey...


G


olden eagles are such strong and determined creatures they can catch a small fox or


roe deer, and here I am literally nose to beak with one! Galahad is a huge enigmatic character with a six-foot wingspan, which means he is wider than I am tall! He’s just one of the 42 birds here at The Devon Bird of Prey Centre in Ipplepen. Many of the birds have been hand-reared by owner and falconer Karen Andriunas who takes them into her home for their first few months. The centre has been on this site for 15 years and has an impressive collection of birds from Harris hawks to snowy owls. Karen says they all have personalities: “There’s Pebbles, a striated caracara who loves to play with mobile phones! He is attracted to them because of the noise and lights. We also have a barn owl called Angel and a tawny owl called Astrix who are totally in love and snuggle up at night. They wouldn’t normally get along in the wild, in fact they would probably fight!” The centre is open all year round for visitors


to come and see the birds but if you want to try something a bit special the team offer hands-on experiences starting at £35. All experiences give visitors an opportunity to glimpse behind the scenes and find out what’s involved in handling, training and flying birds of prey. You can do a full keeper day, which includes general husbandry like weighing


“We especially see it in children, many are so used to having phones, tablets or gaming machines in their hands, when they hold these amazing creatures their eyes light up and they have so many questions.”


and feeding and helping falconers to train and fly the birds. Or, as I am doing today, a one-hour session where you get to meet a selection of birds face to face. On a fine wind-free day you would also get to fly them too, but as the wind speed is over 40mph we decided they were safer down on the ground! Julie is helping me today; she has been a volunteer with the centre for 15 years. She says we will start small and work our way up. First to make an appearance is a very cute little lady called Cherub, a white faced Scops owl. She waits patiently while I put


Steph with Galahad


my glove on; they are all left-handed gloves because historically falconers would go out on their horses, holding


the reigns with their right hand and the bird on their left. I offer her my glove and without a moment’s hesitation she lightly hops on, ob- viously well versed in the routine. Julie puts Cherub’s jesses under my thumb or ‘under the thumb’ which is apparently where the phrase originates from. She has beautiful large eyes but Julie says they come at a cost – an owl’s huge eyes take


Oracle the Barn owl


We tried that...


Cherub, a white faced Scops owl


Galahad the Golden Eagle


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