Our day at Dunrobin Castle didn't end with just a tour of the castle and gardens. We were there in time for a falconry display.
If you look in this photo, you'll see rows of benches about midway down the right side. The long stretch of open garden before those benches is where the display was held. And it was awesome!
The falconer introduced us to three different birds, (two falcons and a hawk) one at a time, extolling their virtues and sending them soaring over our heads.
Did you know a gyrfalcon can catch his prey on a straight course, flying at 90 mph or at dives approaching 200 mph? Or that the Peregrine falcon strikes its prey with the force of diving speeds clocked in excess of 240 mph? And pulling 25Gs? (FWIW, 9Gs is the human limit. Let that sink in a moment)
When each magnificent bird was brought out, and again while it sat patiently on the sidelines, it wore its hood. The handler explained the birds were very excited and loved to hunt, and he didn't want them haring off before he got them settled. The hood was a way to calm them, and from the easy way each bird accepted the hood, they were quite used to it.
The exhibit was amazing! The birds were very tuned in to their handler, and the Peregrine was quite playful (in a predator sort of way). He'd hide in a tree or on the wall and wait until the handler's back was turned, then swoop past him with a rush of wings, veering away at the last possible second.
All three birds chased a lure (the way birds have been trained to hunt for centuries), and the pattern of hunting often took the bird winging very low over the audience's collective heads. I think the birds enjoyed the gasps from the crowd. Our presence certainly didn't appear to bother the birds. We were, perhaps, beneath their notice when the hunt was on.
The falconer (sorry I didn't catch his name) said he hunts the surrounding forests (he has permission) with the birds, and the birds were largely fed wild-caught prey. It was quite fun to imagine stalking the glens and woodlands with a falcon, hunting for your next meal. You'll see a merlin falcon in my next book!
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This is where I talk about things in my life outside of writing. Mostly gardening and dogs.
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