A desire to spend quality time with raptors turned into a lesson from falconry. This desire was fueled some time ago when the wonderful Jacqui of J&J Systems organised an event at Mount Ephraim Gardens.

On that occasion, a busy diary and a complex and unexpected series of events caused me to be running late on a rainy day. I arrived part way through the event run by Joe’s Bows, but did arrive to spend a little time with the birds of prey they were able to display.

I have promised myself a return visit to properly experience time with the magnificent birds ever since and, as I have a interest in Japanese Gardens, Mount Ephraim is always a great destination to set.

Finally I got round to booking a Sunday morning Falconry display this December and spent the week before avidly watching the weather forecast, praying for the rain to stay away.

Sunday morning arrived, the rain had fallen through the night and morning brought clearing skies and gusts of wind. There was a chill in the air, that freshness that a good winter’s day bestows.

Tom from Joe’s Bow’s was there to greet us and after signing a waiver form; yes I was OK if Gandalf sent Gwaihir to swoop down and carry me off on an adventure; that may not have been the actual content of the waiver but as an indication of my excitement, that was the thought running through my mind as I put pen to paper.

I’m going to add some photos to this post below, to give you a flavour of the morning, two and a half hours of delight and learning. Owl’s, buzzard, falcons, hawk, all magnificent creatures, one on the endangered species list, they were the stars of the show. Getting to wander around the delightful grounds of Mount Ephraim, choosing different places to fly, having a Harris Hawk follow you as you walk, it all adds to the moment.

Tom from Joe’s bows displayed a love of his charges that is heart warming, a respect for them and a knowledge of them that added to the experience. It was one that wasn’t just about being near the birds; having them land on your glove or swoop at breakneck speed past you is amazing, coming away with knowledge and an understanding of how falconry has shaped our every day language, that rounded out a very special morning.

Each bird has its own character, personality, each adapted for a specific lifestyle, to suit a niche in the natural world. Seeing them up close, watching them get caught on a gust and rise at breakneck speed into the sky, seeing a falcon stoop and plunge right above you, feeling the ethereal brush of a barn owls feather upon your cheek, they are treasured experiences and ones that help to remind us and reinforce how precious the natural world is, how fragile in many ways and that we must always work to preserve a place in the world for these magnificent creatures that share our planet.

We were very lucky and got to spend time with six different feathered companions. I will return and do this again because different days, different times of year, the stars of the show will change and I’d like to meet more of them.

These creatures are at or near the top of their ecosystem, a complex one that is multi faceted. I love that I see and hear so much that is good, so many people choosing to support and sustain the environment, making choices that preserve the natural order so, all around the world, magnificent creatures such as these stand a chance of surviving. Keep up the good work everyone.

Discover more about Joe’s Bows and arrange your experience here.

Mount Ephraim Country House and Gardens

A huge thank you to Jacqui at J&J Systems for organising the event that brought me to do this.



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