May 8am, 2009 - Falconry at Ashford
Morning #3 in Ireland begins at Ashford Castle.
We head to the Falconry for a private lesson.
They're bloody serious with the birds.
They make sure only the ones at their fighting weight are flown. Being off by even 2 ounces will impact performance.
They hand Jill her bird, a male Harris Hawk named Visce.
I get a girl - Milly.
Visce gets a bit rattled when we leave the gates, but nothing serious.
Jill and I listen to the instructor attentively.
We're so excited to be doing this!
Here Jill goes, about to launch her hawk.
There he goes!
It flies to a tree a few hundred feet away,
then comes back
and lands delicately on Jill's glove.
He she goes...
"Seriously. What do you want?"
The reward: <1oz of raw beef.
The odd thing is that they are so docile.
The trainer rubs his bare hands against her beak and she doesn't move. He also doesn't get scratched.
The only rules: be a good 'tree' and don't take their food.
The walk was right about an hour throughout the castle grounds, mostly on wooded trails.
Milly perches as high as she can to get a good view.
Milly likes Jill. She switched to her most of the time, probably because the trainers put the reward on Jill's glove first. Being bigger than Visce, Milly gets her choice.
Jill walking with her hawk.
They fly to a tree. If you keep walking and get about 100' away, they'll fly after you. If you don't have your hand out to land on, they'll pass you by and watch you. When you get about 100' ahead again, they'll sweep by again. You keep doing this and they just keep 'walking' with you.
Jill enjoys it even more than she thought.
(This is Milly again.)
Done with our walk and back at the Falconry, we're shown other hunting aids.
Ferrets (he calls these 'white ferrets,' apparently not noticing how dirty they've gotten from living outside) are sent down holes to flush out rabbits.
The birds wait above to get the rabbits.
Harris hawks have figured out what the ferrets are for and consider them a part of the team.
Most other birds, like falcons, eagles, and other hawks, don't really get that the ferret is their meal ticket; they often think the ferrets are the meal.
Now that the morning's activity is at an end, we get our day on...
Click here for a copy of the day's itinerary.