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Hawk Conservancy Trust - a Day with the Birds

The XYL and I try to visit the Hawk Conservancy Trust once or twice a year, it's only an hour away from us, near Andover. This time we took a couple of friends who hadn't visited before. Here is an abridged version of the visit, down from 350 photos.

This lady actually appears late in the day - I have placed her here to whet your appetite.

The entrance is unassuming but it opens up inside to a sales area with very high quality bird-related objects on sale, for all ages.

Having bought your entrance ticket you can wander round looking at the birds behind wire, all helpfully labelled. For those I can't name, like this one, my excuse is that I'm using the camera!

Spectacled owl. These first five owl photos were taken through wire.


Being daytime the owls take absolutely no notice of what is going on.

This King Vulture did a bit of flashing though.

If you time your arrival and tour correctly, you can view the feeding of the vultures at 11.30 and listen to details of how the population of these birds has declined by 90% in recent years.

The first flying demonstration is at 11.45, starting with one of my favourite birds, the Barn Owl.

They flew two. The seating is arranged so that birds fly past, across, in front of and through the spectators.

This little Burrowing Owl was a real favourite among the visitors.

He had to be taught his burrowing skills at the Conservancy and demonstrated them through wooden tunnels and then through a tunnel in an earth mound, too far away for me to get a shot.

Molly is a Great Grey Owl who flies completely noiselessly over and almost touching our heads. She is known affectionately as 'a flying duvet' as her bulk is all feathers.

Now a Lanner Falcon. She was brought on hooded (hoodwinked); when this was removed she shook herself (roused) and then flew, at speeds, well, up to 100mph, we think.

At the end of her unphotographable display (by me at any rate) she was allowed to catch her lure; this slightly distant shot adds another word to our vocabulary from Falconry - she is 'mantling' over her prey, from which we get 'mantlepiece' - the cover over the fireplace.

Now a display by vultures - in this case a Turkey Vulture.

They are wonderful fliers and give the ordinary photographer a chance to catch them in the air.

And again,

..and again,

Visitors are instructed to keep their heads down and be prepared to duck! They pass over the seating area at nil altitude!

And they get this close!

A dummy carcase was brought out to demonstrate how vultures eat, and why they have no feathers on their head!

Imagine the yuk that would accumulate on feathers!

I got several shots like this.

As we walked up to the eagle flying area we passed an enclosure containing four Great Bustards, here to recover from injury - they are much bigger than I had imagined - turkey sized. They are being re-introduced on Salisbury Plain.

The 2pm flying demonstration up on the wildflower meadow is a wonderful experience, with red kites, black kites, Bald Eagles and today a Peregrine Falcon.

The commentary takes a break and the flight of kites is accompanied by music -

- and kites demonstrate their dexterity by catching food pellets in mid air and transferring them from talons to beak. There is a pellet at top centre of this shot.

Added later: title, "On Finals"

Two bald eagles are released several miles away and return to the fist. This bird weighs 9 lb and several ounces.

This is why you wouldn't want to receive an eagle without a thick leather glove.

This peregrine falcon was doing over 100 mph at the end of a stoop so I was very pleased to get this......

.... and this.

After that flying demonstration we made our way back down to the arena where a Harris Hawk was made available for visitors to hold and fly. On the way we passed this show-off.

The Harris Hawk makes you blink as it comes to the glove,

.... but is more flap than impact.

At 3.30 there is a demonstration of flying owls in a wooded area. I managed to catch this White Faced Owl from Africa sitting still.

- but not many more worth looking at. They flitted through the trees, perched on stumps and occasionally gave one a view of what the last seconds of life of a small furry animal look like.

At the end of the flying visitors can hold an owl - in this case the White Faced Owl..

And finally, at 4.30, up on the wild flower meadow a bucket of food is emptied on the ground for whatever chooses to appear. Quite a few herons turned up; to finish I choose this black and white shot of herons on a dead tree.

That's about it, unless I can doctor a few more of my less successful shots. I recommend a visit to this place to anyone with evan half a liking for birds.  The Hawk Conservancy Trust does a lot for the conservation of rare species, membership is not that expensive if you live near enough and it's a really interesting day out and a challenge for anyone with a camera! And it's closed only two days a year.

Thank you for looking.

13 people like this.

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Date Fri, 16/09/2011 - 22:35

Great Blog Steve and some great shots

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Date Fri, 16/09/2011 - 23:11

Wow. The birds in flight shots are outstanding, particularly the Vulture. Facinating stuff.

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Date Sat, 17/09/2011 - 04:34

A great blog, Steve. Your first shot was a judicious choice--and I love the last one of the herons, too.  The flight shots are impressive, but I like the owl portraits even more--you got some good feather detail.



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Date Sat, 17/09/2011 - 04:41

Fantastic pictures, great blog!

Mark in Bonnybridge, Scotland.

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Date Sat, 17/09/2011 - 06:59

smashing blog Steve looks like you had a great day out Smile



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Date Sat, 17/09/2011 - 08:14

Morning Steve

At first, I thought these were taken in your back garden....I know you get a great variety since you put up the feeding stations!!! Lol  You wish.

A smashing photoblog Steve and I think that some of these are about the best I have seen for a while.  The in-flight shots are particularly brilliant. The getting closer Vulture is an absolute cracker.

Your panning skills show with the Peregrine shots, I know how fast they fly.  My favourite shot of this set of stunners is the White-Faced Owl.  A stunning looking bird.

Thanks for putting these together Steve, we are about to go off on hols for 10 days now.  You be good whilst we are away.!!!

Cheers M8


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Date Sat, 17/09/2011 - 09:14

Fantastic photo's and blog, I would definately visit if I lived closer I have always been facinated by birds of prey

Really well done for catching them in flight - so hard to do and get a good photo at the end

love the owl in flight in the woods, very atmospheric

Don't judge life by the amount of breathes we take, but by the amount of things that take our breath away.

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Date Sat, 17/09/2011 - 09:18

 Thanks for putting this blog together Steve. Some great photos. It's quite a while since we visited our nearest attraction, that is in  Newent. Will have to visit again soon. The Vultures are so ugly they almost look prehistoric poor things. Glad you enjoyed your day.

Regards  Christine

Christine :)    Bokeh  entry


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Date Sat, 17/09/2011 - 10:03

Great blog Steve I love being there and the staff make it fun and interesting ,when I went I was trying out my new camera and one of the Bald Eagles was enjoying it's self so much it didn't return at the end of the display . Great photo's thanks for sharing

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Date Sat, 17/09/2011 - 10:16

Fantastic blog and very enjoyable, birds of Prey are always such wonderful creatures and you have captured that spirit well.

thank you for sharing


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Date Sat, 17/09/2011 - 10:23

Hi Steve what a super Photoblog you must have had a brilliant day at this Conservancy Trust the one that caught my eye was the Kite. We used to have one very simular to where I live but it closed a few years ago so we have nothing now in the area. Once again Steve a fantastic set of Pictures and always a pleasure to see them thanks for sharing Bob. P/S Many thanks for your lovely comments its so incouraging regards BoB.

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Date Sat, 17/09/2011 - 10:43

Some great pictures Steve good job catching the birds in flight but my favorite has to be the last shot of the Herons a super picture well done


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Date Sat, 17/09/2011 - 11:32

A wonderful blog Steve with really fantastic shots, both in flight and portrait shots. All too good to pick a favorite. Thank heavens for digital, especially when you are taking ove 350 shots. Great peice of work.

Thanks for putting this together and allowing us the pleasue of viewing.


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Date Sat, 17/09/2011 - 12:09

A great educational blog! I love looking at the different owls - they are so lovely and have wonderful expressions on their faces! I keep hoping to find an owl on our walks, but no such luck. The Bald Eagles are amazing birds, aren't they? We have been following a pair this summer on the outskirts of our town, but not able to get very close at all. Thank you for sharing this wonderful blog....

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Date Sat, 17/09/2011 - 14:40

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Date Sat, 17/09/2011 - 20:50

Steve I am really jealous that you have this fab place so close to you. An absolutely brilliant blog with some cracking "flight" shots - really well done and thanks for sharing Smile

gallery ;


still checking on you all every now and again !!!


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Date Sun, 18/09/2011 - 01:31

Super blog! Cracking set of pics.  Loved the one of the Lanner Falcon at hand.  Excellent.  Thanks for taking the trouble to compile and post.

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Date Sun, 18/09/2011 - 08:09

Great blog with some stunning birds in flight shots. Enjoyed this very much.

Thank you for sharing.

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Date Sun, 18/09/2011 - 16:35

 Great blog. I am learning how to keep pace with time at any age from you.Shots in flight are amazing.Thanks for sharing.

This time will pass.

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Date Mon, 19/09/2011 - 10:47

Tremendous photography with very interesting narrative.  I didn't know that about Vultures heads!

Jen xx

I wish I was a Glow Worm, a Glow Worm's never glum, 'cause how can you be grumpy, when the sun shines out your bum?

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Date Mon, 19/09/2011 - 13:04

Good blog!!

A set of great photos and an interesting narrative - i like it.

What a pity to see so much wire mesh with these beautiful creatures but perhaps we have to accept that some animals just have no chance to survive without human support...

Mögen alle Lebewesen wohlauf und glücklich sein
Verehrung Ihm, dem Erhabenen, Heiligen, völlig Erwachten!

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Date Mon, 19/09/2011 - 14:52

Stunning blog Steve, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The first shot is excellent but overall, the close up shot of the vulture in flight is amazing, just superb because the composition is totally original and unusual - I love it Smile

What an amazing day out - thanks for sharing.

Alison xx

Give a stranger one of your smiles, it might be the only sunshine he see's all day.

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Date Mon, 19/09/2011 - 21:03

Absolutely brilliant.  I love all the photos and hope I can get some good ones when I take my grandchildren there during Oct half term.  Probably won't get any decent ones of the birds flying unless I am quick

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Date Tue, 20/09/2011 - 13:04

Shame it's so far away! Good blog with fantastic photo's to go with it.

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Date Wed, 21/09/2011 - 20:05

Brilliant blog Steve with some outstanding photos...well done.

For anybody thats interested there is a similar centre at Gigglewick in the Yorkshire Dales.

Thanks for taking the trouble of putting this together.



'Bokeh' Competition entry:-

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Date Mon, 26/09/2011 - 13:34

 Wonderful photoblog Steve. Brilliant photography capturing all those fabulous shots. Not easy with wires, fencing and folk in front of the lens to distract plus the low level flying of the birds. A very interesting informative narrative and well presented. Thanks for compiling and sharing. Looked a great day out. Smile

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Date Thu, 20/10/2011 - 14:03

 Thank you for your comment on my blog this is appreciated.

This is what i call a blog, and has taught me some lessons ! I need more variety from start to finish for a complete story.

Loved the flight and the static shots very high quality and thanks for sharing.

I see we took a similar amount of shots, a lot of my flight shots were of a lower quality and or out of focus. Also i did not take a lot of static shots as my main purpose was birds in flight. I had planned to do static as well but due to the timing of my arrival(getting lost) and the flying times, i did not have the time but i will return !

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Date Thu, 20/10/2011 - 22:46

Hi Steve.

Your center certainly has a good display going with lots of opportunities.

You did well to get any type of falcon within shot as they are doing 125mph in a dive.

It's a very similar set up to Eagle Heights near Dartford Kent but the displays seem more extensive.

Nice set of shots showing off the center well.


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Date Sat, 24/12/2011 - 09:32

Great Blog and fab photos especially the birds in flight. Will definitely be visiting the centre in the future.


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Date Sun, 04/03/2012 - 20:49

Super b shots in this blog, commetary very good too. The flying vulture and peregrine shots are particular favourites of mine.

Thanks for sharing.

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Date Mon, 05/03/2012 - 01:23

great blog steve fantastic bird in flight pics and some lovely clear bird shots i have been struggling latley to get the whit balance and the clear image in macro,but slowly getting better, ive yet to get the fliying shots and hope to get near your standard one day cheers again i will post some eagle pics for you to check please on my next blog again thanks for some inspiring photos.,TIM.

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