A Day with a Lady Falconer
Hunting with a hawk has a long and distinguished history going back some three thousand years and is still practised as an art form, not only in this country but also across Europe and in many parts of the world. The world of falconry has always been held in the highest of respect, plus today, falcon experience days and falconry demonstrations are as popular as ever. So, imagine my delight when I was invited to spend a day with Amy Coldron, a lady falconer, who now flies birds from her small native Kestrel to a massive Bald Eagle to both hunt and offer one-to-one experience days.
As we arrived in our remote spot, on a recently harvested stubble field, Amy admitted that to hunt with birds of prey is possibly the most thrilling to watch. ‘To see a falcon in flight hunting has to be respected, it is the original artform of falconry, plus the advantage that the quarry will help feed the birds, who need a ready supply of quality fresh meat’.
Then came the moment I had waited for, Amy put on her leather glove opened the transit box to a gentle squawk as Blair hopped onto her wrist. Blair is a five-year-old, near white, Gyrfalcon, a species that originates in Greenland. As we walked a short distance across the stubble it was easy to see why Blair was so popular on demonstrations and experience days.
It was soon time for me to meet another of the birds, this was a moment I had especially look forward to as Peanut, jumped onto her glove. He is a four-year-old Kestrel, as I looked at Peanut, I was taken back to my school day’s English lessons when I studied ‘A Kestrel for a Knave’ the book written by Barry Hines and the subsequent film, Kes.
Watching Peanut and noting his size, I think I understood better the quotation from the book of Saint Albans. The book, printed in 1486, is a compilation of matters relating to the interests of a gentleman at the time. The book pairs appropriate birds with social ranks; from an Eagle for an Emperor, a Gyrfalcon for a King, a Peregrine for a Prince, a Saker for a Knight, a Merlin for a Lady; a Goshawk for a Yeoman, a Sparrowhawk for a Priest, a Musket for a Holy water Clerk and a Kestrel for a Knave – here a Knave is a servant or a man of humble birth or position; not the rogue or scoundrel so often associated with the modern world.
Looking the part Peanut stretched his wings and scanned the length of the stubble field for any prey, Amy explained that he was bred from a young chick, in falconry terms he was an imprint, referring to a falconry bird reared from hatching by humans.
I am delighted to see more ladies, like Amy, literally picking up the gauntlet as falconers, which can only help our native birds of prey and preserve them for future generations. We must remember, if we want to see birds of prey in the future then it is the actions and hard work of the responsible modern falconer that will achieve this, as they ensure future generations enjoy the experience of a falcon or hawk doing what comes naturally to them, hunting.