Last weekend, I had the pleasure of enjoying my birthday present! I know many of you reading this will realise that my birthday is on Christmas Day, (I may have mentioned it once or twice over the years!) but last Christmas my birthday gift from Tracey was a 'Raptor Experience'.
So armed with my cameras, I popped down to West Sussex and met Sally Buckland who runs West Sussex Falconry.
As you'll gather from my blogs, I am very much an animal lover and I've always been fascinated by all animals. I have worked in stables and with elephants, for nothing more than just wanting to be with such amazing animals.
I once brought home a snake, much to Mum's horror! I suppose I must have been around 11, I was walking past the local pet shop in my home town, I saw a van full of pet supplies and exotic animals.
The van driver was making a delivery to the pet shop and I asked him what he had in the van. He asked me how much I had to spend (I honestly can't remember my reply but it wouldn't have been much), I remember he said the only thing I could afford was an Italian sand snake.
I had kept lizards once and of course leapt at the opportunity to own my own snake! I rushed home to get my money and a glass bowl to house him in (I know – I was very young!) I handed my money over and rushed home with my new exotic pet.
Well the bowl was way too small and mum said he couldn't stay in the house. So, I converted an old wooden box into his new home – he stayed exactly two nights before he escaped and ate all the goldfish in next door's pond.
I re-captured him a week or so later but he escaped again, back into the pond where he stayed for quite a while. (I never managed to re-capture him ) It turned out that the 'man in the van' was a relative of 'Del Boy' and had sold me a grass snake" not an Italian sand snake!
Of course such a sale is illegal now and it probably was then! Thankfully he lived out his days as every Grass Snake should – so a happy ending for the snake but not for the heart broken 11 year old with an empty box and a relieved Mum. Absolutely true story!
So, back to falconry – myself and a group of like minded folk were treated to a wonderful experience, getting up close and handling a variety of owls, hawks and falcons all lovingly cared for and trained by their owner Sally Buckland.
(Pictured addressing the group whilst I get a real close-up of Chris, one of her stunning barn owls).
I had worked a late shift the night before and had an early start to get down to Sussex for 10am – but it was worth every lost hour of beauty sleep and I would very happily do it again.
I expect it was a shock for the others in the group, when I turned up looking like an extra from Twilight.
But it was a privilege to handle these beautiful birds and I spent a wonderful three hours in the glorious West Sussex Downs, with wonderful company, the other guests were lovely too! Sally even baked a cake to start off proceedings. As Pa Larkin would say: "Perfick"!
Until next time, stay safe and watch out for any men selling snakes from a van!