Duck! Amazing Birds Incoming!
Beware this blog post is NOT about ducks! No disrespect to ducks of course but this is about our adventure meeting some other amazing feathery creatures and the people looking after them and training them...
As you will have gathered from previous adventures I am a planner and researcher by nature so there aren't many places of interest that escape my attention. Although I seem to have a bit of a blind spot on the bird front - as some of you may remember a year ago or so I found Caerlaverock Wetland Centre by pure accident and via a leaflet in a Motorway Service station.
The National Centre for Birds of Prey in Helmsley, North Yorkshire was again not on my initial list of places to see, but once it had popped up on a website about things to do in the area I knew we had to go. Birds of Prey always fascinated me and of course in the far north-west of the Scottish Highlands we are blessed with regular sightings of Golden Eagles and plenty of buzzards and there are owls on the croft too - although we never really get to see them.
Situated at Duncombe Park just outside Helmsley we decided to make this a car free day and take the hourly bus that connects Scarborough with Helmsley instead. The excitement of a winding Yorkshire road - from the top deck of double-decker bus - well that's another story. We finally arrived at our destination and strolled up to the Centre through the beautiful parkland - admission to the parkland walks are included in the admission price and you can pop in and out of between your Birds of Prey explorations to go on some walks.
Our visit was late in March and before the Easter holidays so it was rather quiet and apart from two or three other small groups we had the whole Centre to ourselves. We had arrived about half an hour before the 2pm flying demonstration, which gave us some time to go and see the various birds in the aviaries.
Various owls are the first birds you see and you can't help but go awwwwwwwwwwww!! straight away. There is plenty of information on each aviary so it's easy to find out about the various birds' habitats and other interesting facts and figures.
Then there was an area called Hawk walk where you can see the aviaries of the birds involved in the flying demonstrations - and some birds also sitting outside them on a perch (well secured!). It's a lovely opportunity to get closer to the birds of prey you will later see flying.
After those two areas, we did a quick walk around the area to get our bearings and to get the stamps Corwin needed for his stamp card (a lovely idea to keep kids engaged whilst exploring the whole area and all that there is to see). But we were very anxious about not missing the first flight demonstration so took our place in the little outdoor arena when 2pm was approaching.
The demonstration started promptly and we were immediately drawn into the stories of the birds we saw flying - the first was a buzzard and then came some owls. It was an amazing experience to observe them with their trainers who were really active and engaged in telling us all about the birds they were showing - their history and what made them special.
The conditions weren't great - it was cold and rather still but the team did their best to make the birds excel. As you can see from the images the whole experience is not something where you sit back and see something happening in the far distance. Much to the contrary you are right in the middle of the action - with birds flying left - right - centre and in between gaps between people. Absolutely stunning!
In each flying demonstration there are four different birds and at each of the three daily demonstrations the birds are different. So if you saw all three in the summer (or 2 in winter) you would see a total of 12 or 8 birds of prey ranging from very small to impressively HUGE!
We had originally not intended to stay for more than one flying demonstration but as soon as the first one had finished we knew we had to stay for the last one of the day too. Corwin did not have a very difficult job persuading us. The cafe was not yet open at the end of March but we had a short break in the gift shop where there’s a coffee machine and fridge for cold drinks.
Then we were out again to spend another hour going round the aviaries to meet more of the birds and learn about their habitats. The time flew - really it did - no pun intended and we realised we were the only people still around for the 4.15 presentation.
So we got our very own private show! It gave us the chance to ask more questions and learn a bit more about the story of the Centre and it's staff and birds. We thoroughly enjoyed the second flying demonstration and left happy and excited!
We would thoroughly recommend a visit - an amazing day out in Yorkshire!
About the Author
About Me & Mine
Monika (an Austrian in Scotland), Stewart (a true Highlander) and Corwin (8), plus 2 dogs and 5 cats. We live on a woodland croft in the parish of Assynt, in the far North West Highlands of Scotland.
Favourite place in the world:
Home - we are lucky to have mountains and beaches on our doorstep and Scotland generally; but we also love the mountains in my native Austria and have a soft spot for California, where we spent our honeymoon.
Favourite things to do outdoors:
Explovering (our personal term for exploring and discovering) mountains, lochs and beaches, camping, foraging, star gazing, Geocaching, developing our already wonderful woodlands into a magic place to share with family, friends and neighbours and fishing.