A falconry experience in Ireland is not to be missed. During our stay at Mount Falcon we had the opportunity to join Jason Deasey, the owner of the Falconry at Mount Falcon, and his adorable Hungarian Vizsla, Chili, on a hawk walk.
The mews at Mount Falcon are located in the circle of Woodland Lodges in and behind the stone tower that once held water for the estate. We arrived a bit early and (understandably) excited for our session with the birds of prey. While we could hear the birds, we didn't see anyone else. Not really sure where we were to meet, I set off for the manor, leaving Doug and the girls at the mews in case someone arrived.
Approaching the manor I could see a large group of guests clustered around a man quite dapperly dressed in green tweed. As I watched he raised his arm and loosed his bird. Arching a bit of rope in a ‘figure 8' pattern, meat attached to the end and the bird gracefully swooping in pursuit, I listened as he answered a barrage of questions.
I had found our falconer.
Falconry – “The Traditional Sport of Kings”
I'm still not sure I can put in to words just how thrilling, how incredible, and how much fun, our hawk walk at Mount Falcon was.
Jason welcomed us into the mews as he prepared the Harris Hawks, Arizona and Nevada, for their flights. As he worked Jason explained to us that falconry has been practiced in Ireland for about 4500 years (since appx. 3000BC). As the land around Mount Falcon is wooded, we would be using hawks – forest fliers who prefer short bursts of activity as opposed to falcons who are open land, distance fliers.
Placing the heavy leather gloves on the girls' hands, Jason stressed that you always keep your hand down because as soon as you raise it, the falcons will come to land. With that in mind, we set out into the forest.
Arizona and Nevada guided us into the trees, their sharp eyes in search of small prey hiding in the brush. Though Chili worked hard to flush out rodents or small game, hunting was sparse.
Soon Jason pulled bits of raw meat from his pouch and, placing it in our gloved hands, instructed us to close our fists and raise our arms.
As a hawk flies directly toward you, black eyes focused, you have a small idea how the unsuspecting prey feels when it knows it has been trapped. Adrenaline flows. And then they land, nearly weightless, on your arm, intent on the treat you hold tightly in your fist. As you slowly loosen your grip she (all hunting hawks are female as they are larger than the male) greedily grabs a piece of meat, gobbling it down and dipping her head for more, until you open your hand to show her that it is empty. Content, she may wait peacefully a few minutes before raising her mighty wings and lightly lifting off your arm in search of a high perch to watch for her next meal.
We spent just over an hour with Jason, Chili, and the hawks. Somehow time seemed to stand still and yet, fly by.
Walking back to the mews with Jason I completely understood his passion for the birds, and his deep love of falconry. Though called ‘The Sport of Kings” I would argue that the true majesty here are the birds, and those who are able to join them are the lucky ones.
Join us on our Hawk Walk with Jason and an impromptu interview below!