In the Beginning

I started Beaks and Talons to bring the knowledge and history of falconry to everyone! It was my vision to tie the fascinating information about our relationship with raptors over the centuries and how it differed between cultures with current topics to make it relatable. My first two years were pretty successful with us delivering a number of fantastic classroom talks, taking part in science weeks in schools and performing for Womens Institute and Scout groups in the evenings.

I’ve always had a love of animals, and have always marvelled at birds and their mastery of flight so I suppose it was only natural that through my studies of Zoology at university I would come to gain experience volunteering at a falconry centre.

My first days were taken learning to prepare food, and dutifully following, watching and learning. As ones first task, learning the ‘falconers knot’ is of great importance. This knot, done one handed, tightens when pulled from the birds end meaning that it can not be undone by the bird attempting to pull away from you. I began holding the birds in between displays, then assisting in the displays and finally taking over them myself. When it came time to move away from this place I knew in my heart this was not the last time I would ‘fly’, and less than a year later had arranged to purchase a male Harris hawk, whom I named Harley Davidson.

Harley and I had many wonderful adventures but sadly he passed away in an accident at the end of 2019. It wasn’t too long after that I found a hawk in need of rescue, and headed off on another adventure to meet this new friend. When I met the bird I would name Hoss his feathers were dishevelled, the skin near his beak torn from hitting it on mesh and one of his toes was broken rather severely…..he looked a state. In the coming weeks I saw trauma related behaviours which saddened me. But I cheered at the fact he was free from whatever he had been stuck in before.

Over the last year of what ended up being a lockdown for the UK due to the Corona Virus pandemic Hoss and I have begun to build a bond of trust. We had some great flying days, and even managed a few birthday parties when lockdown lifted temporarily. Every day has been taken spending time together, discovering new things and generally enjoying each others company.

We will continue to work together daily , working towards soothing Hoss’ fears and helping him be more comfortable with every situation possible.

Television & Film

Harley and I were once asked to take a role in an independant film, when the producer and director spotted us flying off the hillside of Treak Cliff Cavern, in Castleton, back in 2014. They invited us for 2 days of filming which was a novel experience, with a hilarious ending!

The biggest challenge to overcome with this task, as far as I saw, was the new locations. The first was a densely wooded area which was also a very popular bridle path and dog walker route so every few minutes Harley would flinch or shriek at something walking past.

Whilst waiting for our turn to film and trying to be quiet this was not great and earned me a good few evil looks from the filming crew. Once it was our turn it all worked out in Harley’s favour.

The next scene was to film Harley coming in to land onto the gauntlet of the ‘evil wizard Aberthol’ (which you saw in the trailer). This was rather tricky because I hadn’t really done that much training flying Harley between two gloves. He was used to either flying to my glove from a perch, or away from my glove where he could choose to land. He found this surprisingly tricky and didn’t like flying towards the wizard at all. After ten minutes of gentle persuasion he flew the 20ft to the actor brilliantly. Unfortunately, in the film business one take is not enough, so we had to do it again.

After the fourth time Harley decided he’d had enough and flew off, landing at the top of a massive tree. He then began to unceremoniously remove his ‘costume’ for the day which had been thin strips of fabric loosely wrapped to cover his un-removable ID rings and digital tracker. Once he had removed the fabric from one leg he flew back down to me (to my relief). It was a very definite message that he was done with that scene.

The rest of the day was taken up with stills of Harley on his perch just relaxing, and some footage of the same. It was absolutely fantastic to be involved in and such a great experience for us both.

I am working on desensitising Hoss to cameras and video equipment gradually so that we may should we ever get an opportunity like this again he will be well prepared.