Young Falconers Course takes flight

Taiga, the Great Grey, flies to the fist of an aspiring young falconer

In the news this week at SOS is the launch of our Young Falconer's Course.

If you are a regular reader of our blog pages, then you will no doubt be aware that over the last couple of months we have been preparing to run a new falconry programme specifically for teenagers. The course has been devised to address the many requests we have had to run such a course, due to the fact all our adult falconry courses are for those aged 16 & upwards.

We have divided the course up into six individual sessions which collectively aim to give a solid grounding on the essentials of the correct keeping and handling of birds of prey.

Just as we'd hoped, all six of the first applicants turned up on time and eager to get started, and I have to say that all the staff at SOS were incredibly impressed with the knowledge and commitment the children brought on the day. 

We started by finding out what experience they already had, and what they wished to achieve from the course.

Then we talked briefly about the origins of falconry and why such an ancient pastime has survived into the modern age.  We also discussed why falconry is still relevant in 2008 and how centres such as S.O.S. contribute to raptor conservation initiatives both nationally and internationally.

The next step was to delve into the costs and, particularly, the commitment levels involved in owning a own bird of prey, stressing that doing so is not to be entered into lightly. Then, in order to give a good introductory overview, we looked briefly at falconry equipment (to which we will return later) and went behind the scenes to see how the feeding and weighing regimes we operate are of utmost importance with regard to the correct care of any raptor.

I think it safe to say that by this point, most of the course candidates had begun to be impressed by the enormous amounts of knowledge required when planning to undertake falconry seriously.

Falconer Dean introduces a Falcon to the team

At this point it was time to take a well earned break from the classroom, so we watched at close quarters several of the SOS Flying Squad being put through their paces by Dean in preparation for our daily flying demonstrations which run throughout the summer. This gave the students the opportunity to see exactly what handling a bird in flight is all about and what they might one day get to achieve if they pursue their ambitions with a passion. This session culminated when Taiga, our Great Grey Owl, flew to the fist of each of the group, allowing them all to experience this magical moment for the first time - an experience they all agreed was the part of the day they will never forget!  

The day ended with a session learning how to tie the infamous Falconer's Knot, a fundamental practice when it comes to raptor husbandry. The knot itself is quite tricky to learn but all the youngsters did extremely well and most managed to grasp the basic principal without difficulty.

Getting to grips with the falconer's knot

All in all, the first day of the course proved a complete success and all of the students said they couldn't wait to return to continue their studies at each of the fortnightly Saturday sessions that follow. If you know of any child that would like to participate in the Young Falconers Course, then please click here for more details.