11.00am Heron and Red Kite feed
This was in a set of hides at one end of the site. The hide overlooks a meadow. I got there a bit early so I had free choice of where to go. The routine was fixed. A keeper would go and put food out in the field, and on the way back would ring a hand bell. Which attracted... nothing. I think a crow took a look, but not much happened. Herons actually flew around before the feed but didn't get close. No kites to be seen at all. I hung around a bit longer to see if anything happened, but still nothing. These are wild birds, so nothing is guaranteed.
11.30am Vulture Restaurant and keepers' talk
Waiting at the hides meant I got to the vultures moments before it started, and already the numbers of people were building up already. The vultures were in a mesh fence enclosure, but there were sections which folded down so that would help on taking photos. While trying to snipe past some people at the fence, they noticed me and kindly moved over to give me space to get closer. The vultures were fed and moved around quite a bit. I didn't hang around too long, as I wanted to get a good seat for the flying display next.
11.45am World of Birds of Prey flying demonstration
This was near the vulture feed, and got a seat near the middle in the front. This was certainly an experience. Assorted birds were bought out, and not only were they flown over the display area, they were also flown over the audience. Right at the end, they did a runner duck race, and then bought out a barn owl which anyone could hold. The web site says its is for children only, but I guess since there weren't many people there, they let anyone have a go who wanted to. Since there was a long gap until the next event, I stuck around to have a go and ended up with penultimate position in the queue. I volunteered another person who was around to take a snap of me doing that... looks ok except for bird brain. That's me, not the owl
Since I had the late breakfast I wasn't quite ready for lunch yet, so I walked around the enclosures. Most were behind mesh fences so not that great for photos, but the harris hawks and assorted eagles were tied down in the open, behind a bit of a fence. This gave a good chance for some serious close up shots.
I did give in and get lunch. There was a nice looking quiche which I think was made up from the breakfast leftovers, but it filled a hole nicely. With that inside I moved to the next flying display.
2.00pm Valley of the Eagles flying demonstration
This was held in the open. We were back at the same meadow the morning feed was held at, but instead of going in the hides, there was a large seating area nearby. This was similar to the earlier flying display, but there were many more birds, and they flew lower and faster than before! It really was quite an experience and as a single event this was the highlight for me.
3.00pm opportunity for adults to fly a Harris Hawk
There wasn't much of a gap from the end of the flying, so I went straight down to the place where you get to "fly" a hawk. There was a couple there when I got there, and it didn't take long for a bunch of others to arrive. While waiting, two donkeys walked over so much awww-ing took place. Any vague attempts at queueing had long disintegrated by this point so the order was more or less whoever's in front got the next go. The flying part wasn't exactly much. You got to put on the glove, and the hawk landed on it. In seconds it was over.
3.30pm Woodland Owls and Hawks demonstration
This was the last flying display of the day. This was held in a wooded area. Combined with the fading light and shade, this was a bit of a photographic nightmare. I need more light! The first bird they took out had suffered from this before. Apparently in the past someone used a flash in the face and since then the bird has developed a phobia of cameras. So all had to be hidden from sight for that first one. The rest had no such fears but the combination of low lighting and dodging trees made it rather difficult.
With some time left before the final event, I took this chance to visit the shop and signed up for membership. Yup, I like it that much!
4.30pm Heron and Red Kite feed
Back to the hides where we started in the morning. Same routine. Food was put out. Bell was rung. This time, a... what's the collective noun for a group of herons? Well, a whatever that is of them appeared and started feasting. It didn't take that long for most of the food to go, so many of them left. Some hung around for a bit, and so did I. I was the last to leave the hides.
By now it was around 5pm and not far off kicking out time. They did threaten that anyone staying after closing time would be fed to the vultures. I wouldn't mind that actually, the vultures were cute in their own way.
Just before the drive home, I did poke around the gift shop and picked up a barn owl to take home... this one may become extinct shortly though...
As usual, pics of everything will be posted in due course. I shot raw today due to the harsh sunlight, but still managed ~1400 shots and that's after deleting the really bad ones while I was there... when birds are flying, my shutter finger definitely gets a work out.
Of the places I went to in the last week, this is definitely the best by far. There's no good reason to go to Slimbridge WWT unless you're a hardcore twitcher. Noah's Ark Zoo... wasn't bad, but lacking any wow factor to make the effort for. Basically unless you happen to live next to it, I don't think it really worth making a major trip to. I think I'm travelled out with this, so I'm not planning on going anywhere far soon. I might do something local.
Please see also my stock account at LydiardWildlife