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Sunday, 10 August 2014

Children's Summer activities and Falconry Display at Charlecote Park

Walking into Charlecote Park this week, I was excited about seeing the Falconry display, even more so about photographing it. It is not often you get the chance to get this close to such amazing birds as you see at these events and it is quite an experience. One experience often never forgotten for many children and adults alike. If you follow my blogs, you will know that from time to time I go out with the local volunteer Ornithologists at Charlecote Park and that has been an amazing experience. I was out with them when they ringed the first set of barn owls and I can tell you it is something I will never forget. Unfortunately the adults were too quick for me and off they went before I could take a photograph which is why I was so pleased to see an adult Barn Owl at this event and what a beautiful bird it was. Don't forget you can click on the images to make them bigger.

I have always been one of those people who have been in two minds about animals in captivity but I also understand that some animals in this world need protecting and I was amazed to find out that these birds will probably live twice as long with someone like Jan from JRCS, who cares for them as he does than out in the wild. That is quite a difference when you think that these birds of prey live long lives compared with some other wildlife.

Jan the main handler does not train the birds. Through years of care he gets to know them and they get to know him. I had to smile at how all the birds knew their names. Jan casually talks to them all as he walks between them, calling each by their name and they all turn their heads in response. It was lovely to see as it is not something you think about until you actually see it. They look up to him like a child to a parent and respond in the same way. The Barn Owl did a beautiful display of flying high, then low just above peoples heads which absolutely thrilled the children and the adults as I saw lots of smiles and laughter. As I don't like to put photos of other peoples children who can be identified in my blogs, I can't show you that so you will have to come to Charlecote Park next time they are visiting. I will link you to their webpage at the bottom of this blog if you can't wait that long.

Jan and his assistant with the Barn Owl.

 Ready for take off.

 I loved the way they got the children involved.

It was funny when the Barn Owl landed on a lady's hat. I had to add this photo, the lady's face says it all :)

As I said before, these birds are not trained which is why after the Barn Owl had done its bit, it decided it would take a break in a nearby tree and watch all the people instead! This gave many visitors the opportunity to take some more natural photos of the Owl, including me and it did make a lovely picture.

Isn't it a beautiful bird? It did seem to be very popular amongst the children and added to the excitement by being up the tree.

 Do you know that Barn Owl's do not hoot like other Owls, they make a screeching sound. Barn Owls also mate for life very much like Swans do. They hunt at night and even though they have great eyesight, they rely on their hearing which is also excellent to catch their dinner. For more information on this beautiful bird, here is a link to the 'Barn Owl Trust'

 I could not decide which picture I liked the best to share so you have a few :)

As Jan spoke to the crowd you could hear the love for these birds in his voice. He spoke about each bird that flew.

I think this is one of the Falcons but I am not 100% sure which one.

 I also watched his assistant as he constantly talked to the birds. This is the Harris Hawk.

The Harris Hawk display also included children again. One child would play the rabbit running around dragging a pouch with some meat in it while this bird gave chase. Both children who did this really enjoyed it as did everyone who watched.

The Harris Hawk stood on the grass waiting for the pretend Rabbit to come rushing by before giving chase.

It catches it's prey.

One of my favourite birds at the display had to be the 'Eurasian Owl'. It is an amazing creature and so beautiful with it's big orange fiery eyes. It is also known as the 'Bubo bubo' or the 'European Eagle Owl' . Due to space and other wildlife within the park, the larger birds could not be flown but were still there for you to view.

These Eurasian Eagle Owls are the biggest species of Owl in the World and prefers mountains and forests to live and hunt in. Often nesting in rocks and cliff edges. They can lay up to six eggs and will look after their young until they are around 5 months old which is a lot older than many birds. This bird has a few different calls depending on what is happening.

Another very popular Owl amongst the children was the 'Little Owl' which was as it's name implies, a small very cute Owl.

This bird liked to hide inside one of the tree stumps.

The 'Little Owl' was introduced to the UK in 1842 by Thomas Powys who was the 4th Baron Lilford. Tomas Powys was not only an aristocrat but also an Ornithologist and was one of the eight founders of the British Ornithologists Union and it's president from 1867 until his death. Originally this Owl was found in the warmer parts of the World including southern Europe, Asia and North Africa. The 'Little Owl'  is one of the few Owls you might see in the daytime. If you see one and it's head is bobbing up and down, it is because it is alarmed. Maybe it thinks a predator is nearby or thinks that you are one.

                                                  A beautiful bird.

Another owl which is the same size as the Little Owl was the 'White Faced Scops Owl'. These birds originally come from south Africa across to the Sahara. They normally lay around three eggs and live to around 30 years of age.

                                       Another Owl with big orange eyes.

The Kestrel is a beautiful  bird, a lot lighter and more delicately coloured than most other birds.

 The Kestrel is one of the most common birds of prey and one of the first I knew about as a child but that is probably down to watching a very old film in my youth called 'Kes'. The film is about the relationship between a young 15 year old boy and a Kestrel. Many of you might have seen it also.
I think the next photo looks like a statue but I promise you it is a real bird.

Unfortunate the Kestrels numbers have declined in Britain in the last few years.

Kestrels are able to hover for a length of time before swooping down to catch their prey. They can also fly when there is no moving air. They are not afraid of busy areas so can be seen near main roads.

The Merlin is one of Britain's smallest bird of prey. In winter the UK population increases as migrating birds from the North arrive. Like the Falcon, this bird is also on the Amber list as it's numbers are decreasing in the last few years.

   The Merlin and the Kestrel are very alike in appearance, just different colours.

Next we have the hooded Vulture which is a bird man has grown to fear but all they have ever really done is cleaned up for us really. They don't really circle dying animals and people, that is just in films. I think people fear them as they were always a sign of death but they are scavenger birds who feed on dead animals rather than catching them. They also feed on waste people leave behind. Vultures are not afraid of people in general and have also earned a nick name as the 'rubbish collectors' as they can be seen in some countries going through the garbage left outside. 

 These birds are now on the red list for being in danger of extinction which even though they are not a pretty bird need to be protected as they have lived on this earth for a very long time.

The Falcons.
The Lanner Falcon with it's red/brown head  and the Peregrine Falcon with a darker grey head. Do you know that there are 37 different species of Falcon? I have to admit I didn't know until I researched them!

The Peregrine Falcon have been recorded diving at around 200 miles an hour!!! Wow that is fast! This makes them the fastest creature on the planet. 

                                             The Lanner Falcon

                                              A few other photos from that day.

For more information about JRCS Falconry and their lovely collection of birds here is the link.

Next Thursday (14th of August) see's the start of 'The Cheeky Charlies children's club' at Charlecote Park which runs from 12.30pm to 4.30pm every Thursday until the end of the month. Children will get the chance to make and fly a kite, see how grass grows by making a grass head, make Owls out of egg boxes which look similar to the Owls on this page but I think somehow they will be more colourful knowing children as I do :) 

There are also lots of other things to do including lots of art and craft activities but also some outdoor activities like finding their way around with a map and compass. There will be a few more things ticked off on the National Trusts '50 things to do list'  

The Cheeky Charlies flying their Kite.

For the other days of the week there are the new areas for children to explore as well as the rest of the park. There is also Fawn spotting in West Park if you fancy a nice walk through the avenue where you can also check out the growing lambs which are growing very fast! This is one of my favourite places to walk. If you take a walk through West Park, keep an eye out for Charlecote Parks very own Barn Owls and other wildlife birds of which there are many. A camera with a zoom lens or a pair of binoculars can come in handy.
Oh and don't forget a favourite activity for children, cooking in the Victorian Kitchen. I love the cooking smells as you walk in that room.

Then there is always  rolling down hills, playing Pooh sticks and if you bring a picnic... 'A Picnic in the Park'. 

This was the first time in a long time my daughter has been out the house. I knew she couldn't walk far so I took a picnic and we sat by the river for a while before moving up to the Orangery where they enjoyed playing games. Ok so my children are not little any more but who put an age on having fun?

For more information on the Cheeky Charlies Childrens' club, here is a link to Charlecote Park's Facebook page and twitter account.

Last but not least I am very proud of my daughter who for those who don't know, struggles every day to do what most people take for granted. Not only does she have Autism and a list of other things, she has also been home full time for nearly two years now due to CFS/ME. Between trying to study for her GCSE's, one of the main things she likes to do is draw and she has created a few characters for me to use in my blog, starting with my new profile picture. I think she did a brilliant job of it! I love it :) So for all future illustrations on my blog, they are copyright of my beautiful daughter Daniella Eastwood.

Photos copyright Jana Eastwood

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