Caracara With Plenty Of Character!

Sparky The Caracara

Caracara With Plenty Of Character!

Meet Sparky, a wonderful caracara who has more character than one image alone can express! We watched in awe as Sparky performed to the crowds at RHS Wisley Gardens, with Martin Ballam and Peter Warne from Xtreme Falconry, on Saturday afternoon. The caracara is an unusual bird of prey from the Falkland Islands. You can look up more about the caracara here, but I shall hint at why they are so unusual by telling you that there aren’t any trees for them to roost in or hunt from! I love Sparky so much that I’m sharing this as my Fotospeed challenge entry this week and adding a little video I made of the show on Saturday. I hope you all enjoy it as much as we did 😀


Dark Angel

Dark Angel

Dark Angel

I was so entranced by beautiful Robyn, the Hooded Vulture, that I was inspired to create this piece of digital art AND write a new poem! The plight of these incredible birds is not one that makes the headlines. They’re not as cute and fluffy as some other critically endangered species! You can read more about this in my earlier Blue Monday post. To raise awareness of the decline of the Hooded Vulture, I’m sharing this image for Wex Mondays this week.

Dark Angels

Dark angels
Navigating stormy skies
Scanning the vast landscape
With steely eyes
Seeking out the
Earthly remains
Of departed souls
Laid out upon the plains

Angels descend
A winged canopy
Encloses the carcass
Last rites in ancient ceremony
Feathered funeral cortege
Gathers without
Regret or remorse
Guardians of the dead
Carry away the corpse

Angels ascend
Rising on broad wings
Circling above the expanse
The wind sings
Of their passing
Above the clouds
Dark and heavy with rain
That shrouds
Their dispersal amongst
The heavens


Blue Monday: The Eye Of The Beholder

Robyn the Hooded Vulture

Blue Monday: The Eye Of The Beholder

This is Robyn, a beautiful hooded vulture belonging to the fantastic Xtreme Falconry team from Dorset. Xtreme have been putting on Bird Of Prey events at RHS Wisley Gardens for many years now and always draw a crowd. Many, like myself, return time after time to see these wonderful birds! This is my Blue Monday post for that startling ring of blue around Robyn’s eye that is distinctive of this species. Hooded vultures come from Africa where they are currently declining in numbers at an alarming rate. They are now listed as a critically endangered species. Much of the decline is from poisoning. Trappers, hunters, poachers and misinformed farmers are all gunning for these shy carrion birds. This is tragic in more ways than the obvious! Vultures are not the only creatures that will be drawn to a carcass that has been poisoned. Lions, hyenas, leopard, cheetah and hunting dogs will all feed on carrion if they are hungry and haven’t got a fresh catch. Not only that, vultures and other carrion feeders are responsible for clearing away the dead animals that when left can rot and spread disease among both local animal and human populations. There is so very much to love about vultures, if you didn’t already find them beautiful and fascinating, I hope you do now!


Too Cute?

Too Cute?

Whatever kind of weekend you’re having it can only be improved with a bit of cuteness! After Xtreme Falconry‘s display at RHS Wisley Gardens today, Martin and Pete brought out their two Great Grey Owl chicks.


The chicks are only four weeks old but are already really stretching their wings. Not actually flying but performing some wonderful practice hops as they investigated the horde of people gathered to photograph them, showing their admiration with a multitude of oooohs and ahhhhhs!

These two beauties will be moving on to new homes soon as part of international breeding and conservation programs. Their distinctive facial markings that make the adult birds so popular with photographers will be the last feathers to come in but you can already see much of their beautiful yet ghostly plumage beneath the downy fuzz.


Weekly Photo Challenge: Threshold

Weekly Photo Challenge: Threshold

Weekly Photo Challenge: Threshold

Threshold: the starting point of an experience, event, or venture

Krista Stevens set the challenge this week and she shares her thoughts on the theme “A threshold is a point of entering; that point just before a new beginning — that split-second moment in time, full of anticipation. All the hard work is over; relief is palpable.”

Five month old Bert, the Bengal Eagle Owl, is on the threshold of his career with Xtreme Falconry as he performed his first public flight this weekend at RHS Wisley Gardens!

He was rather distracted by the sight and sounds of all the people and the garden birds. Not surprising for such a young owl! Bert certainly made us laugh with his antics of procrastination! He really took his time but with some persuasion from Martin, he finally spread those glorious wings. I’m so glad that we stayed to watch this magic moment despite the chill weather.

Seeing this Bengal (or Indian) Eagle Owl brought back some special childhood memories of my first close encounters with birds of prey. I’ve found some old slides, taken by my dad, of fellow artist, photographer and falconer, David, myself and a fluffy Bengal owlet called Sammy 🙂

Bert’s fabulous flight has also inspired a new poem. Watching or flying birds of prey is a truly wonderful experience! The supreme speed of the falcons, the soaring long-wings, hovering kestrels, pack-hunting hawks and the silence of the owls.


Perfectly poised
On the very brink
The threshold of flight
Feathered sails soar
On unseen air currents
Slicing swift and silent
Ghosting a path
Through the fading light
The shadow of a scimitar
Haunting the skies
Searching, seeking out
Where your mark lies
Unaware, unable to detect
The soundless spectre
This noble hunter
Resolute in purpose
Your objective set
Great golden orbs
Aglow with intelligence
Tubular eyes fixed
Firmly upon the quarry
The very sustenance
Upon which your grace
And power depends
The target is locked
Armament deployed
Scything spurs extend
The axe falls


Beauty Of The Beast

Beauty Of The Beast

Daily Prompt: Moved to Tears

Describe the last time you were moved to tears by something beautiful.

Photographers, artists, poets: show us BEAUTY.

Moved to tears? Today! RHS Wisley Gardens regularly hold Birds of Prey displays and they are always mesmerising. Watching this true beauty, a Bateleur Eagle called Talisman, interacting with her owner, Martin, and in flight was a joy to behold.

She is now 44yrs old and Martin, from Xtreme Falconry, is hopeful she’ll live perhaps another 15yrs. Bateleurs in the wild would not live this long.

She has quite a history! Originally brought to the UK from Africa, she was soon rescued by a leading Birds of Prey expert but was labelled as totally untrainable!

Martin took her on and they have such a close bond you’d be quite fooled as to her attitude problems! No one else can get near her though. Even other Xtreme handlers are given the trademark Bateleur “keep your distance” display.

We loved watching and learning about her and all the other birds. They are all extraordinary and uniquely beautiful!




Konnie is a 13yr old Tawny Eagle owned and flown by Martin Ballam at Xtreme Falconry in Dorset.

This weekend they made one of their regular and very popular trips to RHS Wisley Gardens to entertain and educate the hundreds of visitors who come along to one of the four shows they hold.

This afternoon we were treated to a fabulous display from Konnie, Mabel and Mack the Harris Hawks, Turnip the Kestrel and Jack the Gyr x Saker Falcon.

Konnie’s a bit of a madam but highly entertaining. Some of the loudest “oohs” and “aahs” from the audience came when Jack was speeding above our heads, diving for the lure at up to 150mph!

Follow these links for Xtreme Falconry and RHS Wisley for lots more information.

I’ll have a full set of photos up on my Facebook page soon!