Today was a chance to get reacquainted with Mother Nature and her wildlife. Mission accomplished in a big way, thanks to Trevor Roche at Dublin Falconry! While it was yet another day requiring the use of both sunglasses and raincoat at the same time, hail and gale force winds also made a reappearance to round out the four seasons in one day. Astonishingly, I barely noticed, as I was deeply engrossed in watching the majestic flight of a falcon. Trevor has partnered with Xtreme.ie to launch his own falconry business, which I got to preview, as it does not yet officially open to the public for another two weeks. If you have not had the pleasure of visiting this site just north of Dublin, you have not experienced the likes of Irish paintball, rock wall climbing, zip lining, trout fishing, abseiling, and shooting range all together in one place. Needless to say, the testosterone was palpable.
Upon finding the still under development falconry venue up on the hill, I was warmly greeted by Trevor’s two adorable mother and daughter dogs, Tess and Stella, as well as a very welcoming steaming cup of tea.
I was then briefed on the basics of hawk and falcon handling, including the all-important arm and body position (note to self: do not let arm down to far, or bird starts climbing up towards your head – eek!). That was enough prep for the first adventure, which was the Hawk Walk. This consisted of having an impressively large hawk named Thelma (sadly, Louise offed herself a few years back by flying into a fence), fly and land on your outreached arm, and eat the food being offered (I won’t go into details in case you have a queasy stomach, but consider it a natural food source that is part of the circle of life – best not to dwell on that bit). The bird is very majestic and well-trained. I felt comfortable with Thelma immediately. That’s her on my glove, doing her best hawk eye.
Next up was the Falcon Lure Display. The falcon lets Trevor put what for the life of me looks like a miniature leather S&M mask on him. I was trying not to laugh, so I can’t quite recall its exact purpose, but I suppose it calms the bird enough to let Trevor change its tethering to prepare it for its flight.
We venture out, and I learn how a falcon’s talons are not nearly as large or as strong as a hawk’s, who kill their prey by crushing them in their iron-clad grasp, whereas a falcon knocks out its victim in mid-air and then swoops by afterward to collect its prize. It’s incredible how fast it flies. I am mesmerized. The lure is food tied to a type of stick on a rope that Trevor swings around to try and bait the falcon, who plays along nicely, flying around and swooping in to get at it. Cue the hail. Even the falcon suddenly seems a bit anxious for all of this to be over to get out of the freakish storm. What can I say, but it was an amazing experience. Two big claws up.
In completely unrelated irony, this sign in Ringsend made me giggle – enjoy: