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Issue 41 - Where to try Falconry

Scotland Magazine Issue 41
October 2008


This article is 10 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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Where to try Falconry

In a new series we explain how best to enjoy one of Scotland's top attractions. First up we look at birds of prey.

It’s a moment of suspense and silence.

A moment when all is still, anticipation mixes with anxiety, and the whole world seems to be on hold.

The bird is poised a few hundred metres away and you can see her clearly high in the trees. She waits and observes and you know that the moment you raise your hand she’ll lift herself effortlessly and gracefully, come silently, menacingly, through the air, straight towards you.

Then the moment comes, she gathers herself and rises up, an awesome mix of strength, stamina and serenity, and she’s there, effortlessly landing on your glove and claiming her reward. You feel a surge of elation, a short adrenalin rush and a sense of success, a primitive rush of dominance.

You have controlled her.

Except of course you haven’t. Like all the great feral predators, from sharks to big cats, birds of prey are never truly mastered, never truly under control. Look into her eyes and you’ll see nothing, an indifference to you that goes no further than whether you’re going to produce another piece of raw meat.

It’s probably this coldness, this remoteness, that has distanced the big hunting birds from generation after generation of humankind. Sure, people and birds have worked in uneasy alliance during the centuries, and nobles have courted them as accessories.

Some have claimed to have grown close to their birds, attempted to bestow them with character. But mostly their aloofness has created fear, myths have been foisted upon them, and for generations they have been persecuted by farmers and game-keepers as a threat to livestock.

Cruelly and consistently they have been poisoned, shot or trapped in a manner that is nothing short of criminal.

Now, though, the tide is turning and Scotland is playing its part in their rehabilitation. Across the country a new generation is being introduced to the majesty of falconry, the sheer magnificence of birds such as osprey and eagles in all their natural glory. In centres populated by bird lovers to the wilds of coastal Scotland the big birds are flourishing. Where once the sight of a golden eagle in flight was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, now guides can take you to observation points in the knowledge that a sighting is a daily occurrence. Ospreys are nesting across Scotland, and a range of other great birds are thriving under the watchful eye of their protectors.

The experience of a bird landing gracefully on your glove is one that will stay with you forever, and can spark a love of falconry that may ignite a lifetime hobby.

Children particularly can marvel at a bird’s magnificence and fall in love with something that is as wonderful as it is wild. So how can you go about having such an experience?

There are a large number of places offering falconry lessons and experiences, or even comprehensive courses, many of them linked to some of Scotland’s best known and most prestigious hotels.

If you want to see large birds including ospreys, sea eagles and golden eagles then you can either head for the better known viewing spots or join an organised tour.

There’s always the chance you’ll see nothing of note, though guides will dramatically reduce the odds.

There are a number of websites dedicated to spotting birds of prey, including hawks and kites, and VisitScotland the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds both have dedicated space on their sites. But if you’re travelling to pretty much any region of Scotland contact the nearest wildlife centre or Forestry Commission site for an update of where the birds are.

Alternatively there are a number of nesting sites linked up to closed circuit television camera where detailed logs are kept of bird movements. Many raptors mate for life and return to the same site year after year. Indeed, osprey pairs or ‘widows’ in search of new mates have often formed the basis of a sort of natural reality television show, making local news programmes for night after night.

Such has been the success of the programmes to bring large birds back into their natural habitat that sighting one is a distinct possibility. And should you be lucky enough to see a one, it will certainly make your holiday.

Where to see osprey The Loch of Lowes Wiildlife Reserve Glentress Forest and Kailzie Gardens Tweed Valles, Peebles www.kailziegardens/osprey Abernethy Forest Reserve Loch Garten Where to see golden eagles Ardnamurchan Natural History Centre Glenmore, Acharade Tel: +44 (0)1972 500 209 ‘Eagle island’ Arla Tir Aros, Isle of Mull Tel: +44 (0)1680 300 441 Highland Adventure Safaris By Aberfeldy Tel: +44 (0)1887 820 071 Glenshee West Perthshire near Comrie and Loch Erin Where to fly birds of prey or do falconry courses Dalhousie Falconry Dalhousie Castle Hotel, Bonnyrigg, Elizabeth Tel: +44 (0)1875 825 728 Phoenix Falconry Braco Castle Estate, Braco, Perth Tel: +44 (0)1786 880 539 Raptor World Parkhill House, Blairgowrie, Perthshire Tel: +44 (0)7876 227 699 Elite Falconry Cluny Mains Farm, Cluny near Kirkculdy, Fife Tel: +44 (0)1592 722 143 The Gleneagles Falconry School Gleneagles Hotel, Auchterarder UK only: 0800 38937337 Toll free 1-866-881 9525 Trigony Country House Hotel Thornhiull, Dumfries & Galloway Tel: +44 (0)1848 331 211 Dundas Castle South Queensferry, Edinburgh Tel: +44 (0)131 319 2039

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