(Me and Zulu)
Birds are flyin' south for winter.
Here's the Weird-Bird headin' north,
Wings a-flappin', beak a-chatterin',
Cold head bobbin' back 'n' forth.
He says, "It's not that I like ice
Or freezin' winds and snowy ground.
It's just sometimes it's kind of nice
To be the only bird in town."
Tuesday Nov. 1st. 2011 to darkest Cumbernauld with the boss to visit a place called "World of Wings" a bird sanctuary with a difference, these birds are 'raptors' or to give them their other name 'birds of prey' I have always been a lover of wildlife (leave the jokes out) when younger we would travel all over the Scottish Highlands as a family observing creatures native to this part of the world. My greatest memory of those days was seeing magnificent Golden Eagles in the Cairngorms as well as Ospreys fishing and many other creatures. I have been up close and handled some of these birds and I have a picture of me standing with a full grown Russian Eagle perched on my arm, her name was Princess: she weighed 8 pounds and her mighty beak and mesmerising stare were inches from my face. Strangely enough I didn't feel scared but I have never felt as insignificant as she stared at me without any movement in a rather condescending way, she was very regal and she seemed to know it, a fantastic experience.
I have been saying for longer than I care to remember that I would love to fly a bird of prey and now I have; a life's ambition realized; I don't know how often I have wondered what it would be like to have a large bird of prey fly at you and land on your arm and take the prey on offer from your hand and I was not disappointed.
Our young enthusiastic and very knowledgeable guide took us round the place and we got up very close to a stunning Bald Eagle, various Hawks, owls and vultures who always get a bad rap but they are actually beautiful and very clever. There are even some local birds like magpies and crows which have been rescued as well as some huge multi coloured parrots and macaws who seem to have the run of the place, one of them greets visitors with a roar and goes off and fetches his dinner bowl in the hope that you might be carrying food.
The highlight was meeting my now great friend 'Zulu' the angriest and toughest looking bird I have ever seen she held your gaze with a ferocious look and an angry call. She is an African Snake Eagle and is all black except for her piercing eyes and her scary large bright red beak, the guide said she was in fact quite formidable and then said looks were deceptive as he told us too watch as he went in next to her and she raised her head to be stroked by him much to her delight. She is 4lbs. Of menace in the wild and kills and eats venomous snakes by using her massive wings to let the snake bite her thick feathers until it is exhausted and she then removes it's head with a beak that has 400 pounds per square inch of power and eats the rest. Evolution has taught her that the snake's head is where all the venom and poison is so it's not for eating, mind boggling stuff.
We moved with 'Zulu' to the flying area and she obviously knew what was coming next, grub and flying as she perked up. The field had roosting posts around it and he set her away and she flew to one about 50 yards away and perched looking at us, she can see a rabbit's ear shiver from 4 miles away and she snapped to attention a she saw me raise my gauntleted arm with a lump of rabbit in my hand. She left the roost and out came the massive wings as she sped right at me with her eyes trained on me, very scary and, at a distance of about 12 feet she stops flying and glides the rest with her fierce talons out to land on me I thought it would be painful but she lands like a sparrow and takes the prey, a magical experience, the place was quiet so I got to fly her about 15 times and I would still be there flying her yet if I could have worked out a way of doing so.
Anyone reading this and especially those with children should think about a visit it's very educational and great fun, in fact it is absolutely thrilling.