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Falconry through the camera lens

My introduction to falconry started 16 years ago, with a surprise birthday trip to my local bird of prey centre. Off I went with my camera in hand feeling very excited about the day. The moment I saw my first flying demonstration I was immediately hooked. I decided I wanted to get my own bird so bought a few books to read, but quickly discovered that owning my own bird wouldn’t be a good idea.

My wife had cancer and still has 16 years on, so with hospital appointment and chemotherapy it soon became apparent to me that I could not commit any time to a bird. Not deterred by this I set about enjoying falconry another way, with my camera. I visited my local centre as often as possible and becoming a member. Sitting quietly and photographing the birds gave me enormous pleasure. I soon got to know some of the falconers at the centre who would spend time with me explaining about various birds and their unique, funny little habits.

First of all I would concentrate on bird portraits constantly trying to improve like a falconer who is just starting out with their first bird. I would never try to photograph a flying demo as I was too mesmerised by the display and didn’t want to miss a thing!

Eventually I had watched so many demos that I thought it was about time I tried my hand at birds in flight, and boy oh boy was I in for a challenge. The eagles and large owls are easy to photograph as they graciously glide across the flying field in a direct, predictable line but try a peregrine falcon chasing a lure and that’s a completely different challenge!

With my wife’s cancer I don’t mind admitting came my depression. Over the years, several bouts - each and every time it was falconry and the friends I’ve made that have been my salvation, for which I’m extremely grateful. As well as photographing beautiful birds of prey I also attend falconry fairs and also take great pleasure in sponsoring a peregrine falcon.

Although I’m not a falconer, the friends that I’ve made over the years make me very welcome in the falconry community. I now, very happily, get to experience falconry through my camera lens.

It is as exciting for me know that I’ve nailed a shot of a peregrine in a stoop, as it is for the falconer to watch it happen. One day I hope to be able to go out on a hunting day and photography the excitement of the chase.

I might not fly a bird, but I certainly enjoy watching, learning and recording as much as it is possible with my camera.