November Hawk Walk

By Kristine Bagdassarian

The 30th November Hawk Walk probably isn’t the kind of thing that you’d normally associate with the GCP. It was inspired by one of my random wanderings through town where I saw Phil (the guy in charge of the Durham Falconry experience) display his owl as part of some event campaign. He gave me a business card, and it sat on my desk for a good year, and then finally it was time to brainstorm some GCP ideas, and the card sort of sprouted a pair of tiny legs and merrily skipped into my hands while I was sitting with my face in my palms, despairing, woe is me, etc.

Voila! Light bulb moment. The day is saved!

…Okay, so if you’ve somehow ended up on the Ustinovian blog, I bet the last thing you want to do is read about what an epic time a bunch of people had at an event you didn’t attend. But did you actually miss out? Did you??

Yes, you did. You really did. And for full understanding of the miss-out coefficient associated with last Saturday’s activity, please refer to the trailer-style video material edited and produced by our very own Giorgio Manzoni (you might know him as the guy from the Café Sci poster from last year who points a finger at you).

By the way, if you were one of the 18 lucky people who did come along, then you know how great (and kind of cold) it was and I hope you made all your friends jealous afterwards, and if not, then oh my god why not?!

The Houghall farm where the event was taking place is about 25 minute walk from Palatine, which naturally meant there was high possibility to lose attending elements (people) on the journey to and fro. Regardless, the team of enthusiasts were all delivered successfully to the final destination and Giorgio was able to document the process step by step. We were only about 5 minutes late (courtesy of great planning from yours truly, thank you, thank you). To everyone’s delight, the birds were already deposited on their special little pillars outside the farm, two majestic hawks (Jasper and Lady) who had no idea what a population of excitable postgraduate was going to be like– and a tiny barn owl (Bobby) that kind of looked like an ice cream cone and instantly grabbed everybody’s attention. Phil and his assistant were incredibly accommodating and engaging, despite the noise and chaos we immediately started to produce. They gathered us up, and quieted us down, and we all stood patiently like good boys and girls to have a short educational introduction to the birds and what the day was going to be like. Immediately after, we each got to feel awesome while holding a hawk and getting tons of pictures taken. Once we all got our turn, the group was split into two, and we set off to try and fly the hawks in the area around the farm.

This went quite well, with some of it revolving around the hawks letting us know that they will be flown specifically if they so chose and under no other circumstances. Lady was particularly cheeky as she had figured out a way to double her yield of treats by demanding she got a piece on the ground first before she actually agreed to perch on your gloved hand to collect her second piece. Enter a fake rabbit, the new favourite thing for all the children, who were then very enthusiastic to drag the ‘prey’ around on a string and get the hawks to descend from the trees for a tackle and a reward. A few lucky volunteers got the chance to carry Jasper or Lady back to the original meeting spot (yep, I was one of them, ha-ha!). There, we finally met up properly with Bobby and got to pet her and hold her. Again, lots and lots of photos were taken as well as some great videos of the owl flying.

By the end of the day people seemed to leave in a good mood, with many saying the time had passed quicker than they thought. I personally finished my Saturday with a nice hot cup of mulled wine at the Christmas market and a bag-full festive purchases, contemplating an interesting winter weekend.

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