To celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary, we joined friends on a fantastic trip to Ireland in June of this year. We were captivated by the spectacular scenery, charming towns and villages, incredible golf and the warm and welcoming people of the “Emerald Isle”. Among many highlights of the trip, our morning walk through the woods of the Ashford Castle property in County Mayo with Harris Hawks on our arms was truly a breathtaking experience.
The History of the Ancient Art of Falconry.
The Ireland School of Falconry provides visitors with the opportunity to learn the history of the ancient art of flying hunting hawks and falcons and accompanied by an experienced handler, actually fly these magnificent birds, un-tethered on a “Hawk Walk” through the idyllic grounds of one of Irelands most spectacular castles.
Falconry is the ancient art of hunting wild quarry with birds of prey. The art of Falconry dates back to as early as the third Millenium B.C., with first recorded history in the Far East. The earliest presence of Falconry in the British Isles dates back to the 800’s A.D.
Our “Hawk Walk” with “Chewie” and “Yoda”.
We met our guide and handler, Tom, for a quick introduction to the art and sport of flying birds of prey and were quickly on our way through the woods with two Harris Hawks named “Chewie” and “Yoda” on our gloved arms, named after the popular Star Wars characters. Both birds were among several recently raised as young chicks at the Falconry School. They have over thirty birds of prey including other falcons and owls.
We learned on our walk that with a simple lift of our arm, the birds would fly off into the branches of nearby trees and wait for the signal to come back for a tasty treat of raw beef or chicken placed in the palm of the gloves. Raising our arms again was the signal for the trained birds to fly back and land on the glove for their food.
Watching these beautiful birds fly gracefully through the branches of these dense woods was an incredible experience. We were told their vision and hearing is so acute, they can locate prey as small as mice in dense cover. The small meat tidbits in our gloved hands were clearly the preferred source of food for the birds and they came back quickly when summoned by our raised fists. Staring at these large birds, eye to eye just inches away, was initially a bit intimidating, but we soon learned they were only interested in their next meal and were no threat to our safety.
You can learn more about the art of Falconry and taking your own “Hawk Walk” at the website for Ireland’s School of Falconry at http://www.falconry.ie/.