So during Mrs. Airmotive and my holiday here in Ireland, we decided to visit the Ireland School of Falconry near Ashford Castle in County Mayo. I was expecting a lot of holding out my arm and letting big birds perch…and there was a lot of that. But the 90 minute “Hawk Walk” was so very much more. It was a hunting trip with your own raptors through game-filled woods and fields. However…first: instruction. We were each issued a Harris Hawk. Mine: a 3 year old male; wifey’s: a 5 year old female. Each had small jingle bells tied to their legs to aid in tracking them during the hunt. The Harris Hawk is unique among the bird world in that they hunt in packs, like wolves. And we, the handlers, were quickly adopted as part of the hunting pack. Actually, we were little more than dumb bird dogs for the hawks…as they followed us from the tree tops, waiting for us to kick up game for them to kill. Occasionally swooping down and flying right between us at great speed and zipping inches above the ground in pursuit of a careless crow or mockingbird. Along the way, we would have to continuously retrieve our birds to arm and feed them small amounts. This was the key to falconry. A raptor won’t hunt if it’s not hungry, but if it’s too hungry, it will go into energy-conserving scavenger mode and not actively roam the skies looking for prey. So it’s important to maintain our birds hunting weight during the entire hunt. We do this by feeding small amounts of food every ten or fifteen minutes. (Plus, it’s great fun extending your arm while having no idea where you bird is then suddenly, WHAM, he hits you from out of nowhere and snags the little morsel you’re holding in your palm). Caught some great GoPro video. No wonder field mice always act so nervous. In the end, we made no kills. But we also got the chance to exercise a great owl…and these are the only photos I currently have uploaded. Perhaps a few more pics or a video once we get back in the states. We learned it takes roughly two years to become fully licensed as a falconer. Beginning as an apprentice with beginner birds such as our Harris Hawks or Red Tails, then slowly graduating to more advanced birds with more challenging traits. Eventually, a master falconer can engage in commercial bird control at airports or instructing. All in all, much more to it than I ever imagined...and a lot of fun.