Weekly Eagle Journal

August 4th, 2009 Posted in Festival of Falconry 2009

Festival of Falconry 2009

If you have never heard of the Festival of Falconry it may be because this was only the second one ever held, the first one in 2007. Plus the Festivals were held in the UK so, living over here in the US, one could easily not have heard about them. Basically, the Festival is a gathering place for all things falconry from all around the world. Fifty plus nations were represented, all with their native dress and falconry equipment on display.
There must have been at least 100 tents with falconry equipment, wildlife art, you name it. And in the middle of all this was an arena where flying displays and displays of falconry from horseback were held. One in particular was very cool — three riders on horseback each stooping a falcon to the lure at the same time very nice.

People looking on from the lake :
Falconry Festival 2009 086

At each day’s conclusion all the nations gathered for the Parade of Nations, each group carrying their nation’s flag and marching into the ring in front of huge crowds with most participants holding the kind of bird they would fly in their native country. All the birds were on loan from UK falconers as it is not allowed to bring your own birds into the UK. I was holding a beautiful male golden eagle on loan to me from my friend Andrew Knowles-Brown, famed eagle breeder and eagle falconer from Scotland.
Andrew is seen here holding his gorgeous young female African Crown Eagle: Falconry Festival 2009 081

The Festival, in my opinion, was too large to see in two days. Each tent was loaded with things to see and learn about falconry in other nations.there just was not enough time. The fellowship between falconers from so many different places was heart warming. Regardless of where you come from falconers share a common bond and that was the point of the Festival — to drop all else and enjoy our love for the sport of falconry.

I couldn’t help wondering if we could put on a Festival of Falconry in the US and, I must say, I don’t think so, the most obvious reason being that there are only a few thousand falconers in the US as compared to tens of thousands in Europe. Another factor is that I just don’t think American falconers would loan out their game hawks to complete strangers to carry and handle — some would, but the vast majority, I believe, would not and, truthfully, I couldn’t blame them. A perfect example is my 13 year old hybrid, Blackie. The only time he gets handled is during hunting season so when I pick him up he thinks he’s going hunting. I guarantee he would not be a happy camper if he was put on display or carried around. In Europe falconers do way more flight show demonstrations and fairs than we do over here and so their birds are used to those kinds of situations.
Another factor is that falconry in Europe is looked upon differently than here in the States. In Europe there are many professional falconers that make their livelihood from falconry, something we cannot do here. And there are many falconry schools where one can learn to handle raptors and ultimately become falconers. All of this has put falconry in the public eye and made it a more accepted sport than in the US. And probably the single largest present day reason for Europe having so many falconers is that there is no sort of license or permit required to own a raptor. If you have the money you can buy the bird, including a golden eagle! This is good and bad and that is a subject for another day. Back to the festival..

The Festival of Falconry showed me just how much history and tradition there is in the sport of falconry worldwide. We don’t have that here in the States, at least not to the degree there is in the rest of the world. In many places falconry is a way of feeding your family and has been for hundreds of years. Training techniques and the way people handle and hunt their birds definitely differ from country to country. Each falconer adapting to the game there is to hunt, the environment to fly the bird in, and the birds that are available, all shape the style of falconry in each part of the world. And after seeing my fair share of falconry here in the US and in Europe I have realized that, in general, the European falconer shows much more respect for the game and the land they hunt their birds on, much more so than we do here. That is something that, I think, needs to change in our country.

For me the Festival of Falconry was like going to Disneyland where, instead of the rides or large mice running around, there was only falconry related stuff. Like I said, there was a parade each day just like in the Magic Kingdom but, again, no Donald Duck or Goofy, just people proudly carrying their nation’s flag and proudly displaying falconry in their land. There is some talk about not having another Festival — I truly hope that is not the case. The Festival of Falconry was spectacular in every sense and something all falconers should see.

Photo gallery: 

Cordi getting a temporary henna tattoo in the United Arab Emirates tent village.

The Festival, in my opinion, was too large to see in two days. Each tent was loaded with things to see and learn about falconry in other nations.there just was not enough time. The fellowship between falconers from so many different places was heart warming. Regardless of where you come from falconers share a common bond and that was the point of the Festival — to drop all else and enjoy our love for the sport of falconry.

I couldn’t help wondering if we could put on a Festival of Falconry in the US and, I must say, I don’t think so, the most obvious reason being that there are only a few thousand falconers in the US as compared to tens of thousands in Europe. Another factor is that I just don’t think American falconers would loan out their game hawks to complete strangers to carry and handle — some would, but the vast majority, I believe, would not and, truthfully, I couldn’t blame them. A perfect example is my 13 year old hybrid, Blackie. The only time he gets handled is during hunting season so when I pick him up he thinks he’s going hunting. I guarantee he would not be a happy camper if he was put on display or carried around. In Europe falconers do way more flight show demonstrations and fairs than we do over here and so their birds are used to those kinds of situations.
Another factor is that falconry in Europe is looked upon differently than here in the States. In Europe there are many professional falconers that make their livelihood from falconry, something we cannot do here. And there are many falconry schools where one can learn to handle raptors and ultimately become falconers. All of this has put falconry in the public eye and made it a more accepted sport than in the US. And probably the single largest present day reason for Europe having so many falconers is that there is no sort of license or permit required to own a raptor. If you have the money you can buy the bird, including a golden eagle! This is good and bad and that is a subject for another day. Back to the festival..

The Festival of Falconry showed me just how much history and tradition there is in the sport of falconry worldwide. We don’t have that here in the States, at least not to the degree there is in the rest of the world. In many places falconry is a way of feeding your family and has been for hundreds of years. Training techniques and the way people handle and hunt their birds definitely differ from country to country. Each falconer adapting to the game there is to hunt, the environment to fly the bird in, and the birds that are available, all shape the style of falconry in each part of the world. And after seeing my fair share of falconry here in the US and in Europe I have realized that, in general, the European falconer shows much more respect for the game and the land they hunt their birds on, much more so than we do here. That is something that, I think, needs to change in our country.

For me the Festival of Falconry was like going to Disneyland where, instead of the rides or large mice running around, there was only falconry related stuff. Like I said, there was a parade each day just like in the Magic Kingdom but, again, no Donald Duck or Goofy, just people proudly carrying their nation’s flag and proudly displaying falconry in their land. There is some talk about not having another Festival — I truly hope that is not the case. The Festival of Falconry was spectacular in every sense and something all falconers should see.

Photo gallery:

Falconry Festival 2009 093
Gathering the nations for the parade.

Falconry Festival 2009 078Two proud American falconers myself and my friend Shawn Hayes.

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