Any day you get shat on and don't even care...that's a good day.
M and I had our Falknerstunde the other day at the Garuda Falknerei near Stuttgart. I'd arranged this as a birthday present near the end of last year, and we'd randomly selected an afternoon in March, hoping the temperature would at least be reasonable (it was).
This was the latest step in our near-obsession with Steinkäuze and other gorgeous owls, and we'll surely do it again. At the Falknerstunde it was just the Falknerin, M, and me - no other guests - so we had her undivided attention, and she had ours! We learned plenty, some of which I'd read in my various books about owls and new information as well.
When our hour began, the Falknerin (Vanessa Müller)* asked if we had any specific wishes. Since I didn't want to admit that I would love to spend the entire hour hanging out with her Steinkäuze, I said we are open to everything but very interested in owls. We began, then, with the lovely Schneeeulen (snowy owls).
*The link to this TV program about her might not work for you if you're not in Germany.
|Bijuu, the Schneeeule|
|You can't hear the sound she's making, but this is her body language|
when she's begging for food.
|Baldur, being rewarded for putting up with our visit|
|Joschi in the cold at the Weihnachtsmarkt (Dec. 2017).|
Right about the same time, her brother, who'd been making pleasant conversation with M and Vanessa when he wasn't trying to flutter up to M's shoulder while tethered to his wrist, shat on his camera. Anyone who gets unnerved by such things probably shouldn't spend time around wild or semi-wild animals. Getting to hold and stroke a grumpy Steinkauz is totally worth a little owl poo.
Notice his orange eyes - when does he hunt?
After Tweety came the Harris Hawks, Jake and Merlin. They are allowed to fly free (as is Tweety; the Steinkäuze prefer not to fly anyway, and would be in danger from the wild buzzards, hawks, and magpies flying about), and during demonstrations they swoop close to the heads of onlookers, judging exactly how close they can get to both stay safe and uninjured, and freak out the guests. We took these two chaps on walkabout down the road and back (Gassi gehen mit Vögeln) while they flew from post to tree to cornice, keeping their eyes on Vanessa the whole time. She explained that in the world of falconry, we humans were playing the part of trackers. When we see our prey (a plump rabbit, for instance), the hawks need to be nearby and alert to go get the wee beast. If they're off sight-seeing, miss our cue, and the rabbit gets away, that would be very embarrassing (for the hawk). So they stay close and wait for cues. Now and then she called them back for an Eintagskükenkeule, which they seemed to appreciate.
|Jake (or Merlin?)|
There are many Falknereien in Germany, and during the warmer months they do demonstrations of their beautiful birds and owls at various festivals and castles. We've seen shows at Hohenneuffen, Hohenzollern, and Hohennagold, as well as at the Weihnachtsmärkte in Horb and Esslingen. I highly recommend going to a show (and leaving a donation if the Eintritt is free), though we really liked the one-on-one learning at the Falknerstunde. The Garuda Falknerei has a Tag der offenen Tür (an open house) on May 1st every year, and we are determined to go this year.
I would guess there are falconries in the US as well, but it was not something I had any exposure to and I didn't find much when I googled falconries in Wisconsin. There's a falconers association, but that's for specialists and falconers, not for demonstrations for the general public. In Germany all you need to do to find the nearest Falknerei is google your town or city name and add "Falknerei." That's how I found Vanessa.
For more on my
Just as an update, Alfred's Steinkauzhaus has been built. More on that another time.