Over the Easter weekend we took a little vacation down to the Omni Homestead resort in Hot Springs VA. We planned on staying a couple of nights and had so much fun we stayed an extra day. One of the adventures they offered was the chance to go and play with their falcons. We enjoyed it so much last summer in Ireland, that we wanted the opportunity again. Thanks to American insurance laws it was a very different experience, but still quite thrilling. In Ireland, we had a short lesson, and then got to take the birds flying through the woods. Here, they require a preliminary training class first, and then you can take a second one and actually “fly” the birds yourself. We certainly would have, but couldn’t fit it into our busy schedule of relaxing. Luckily we can go back and go on from there. First, let me say that these aren’t actually falcons. Falcons can be fairly ill-tempered and with the number of children these birds interact with, probably not a great idea. These birds, just like in Ireland, are actually Harris hawks. Our bird’s name was Remington.
Linda, the falconer was very proud of her birds and did a great job connecting with the fairly large group, including kids to the history and habits of the birds, hunting and the challenges of keeping them healthy. One of her best points was that these birds are not her friends; they just see her as the easiest path to reliably get food. It was clear though that she respected them and knew what they were thinking before they did. You can see they share common expressions and are sharply focused.
You did get to sign waivers before you took the course. One of the neatest parts of her demonstration was showing just how food focused and agile the hawks are. She stood this couple together a few inches apart and held out the food down low.
Remington had no problem, folding back her wings and making it through the gap. At the end of the flying demo, she got a nice treat.
After she was pretty full, she went through the crowd allowing all the brave people to perch Remington on their hands. Sarah is getting to be very comfortable.
Just for perspective, here was the first really brave adventurer.
I gave Sarah my camera and she managed to get one in focus shot of me. I like the fact that my nose is just slightly bigger than Remington’s—at least from this angle. It is difficult to describe just how impressive these hunters are when seen up close. They are still wild and very fierce and that is exactly how it should be.