04 August 2014

Feathers, Flight and an Amazing Experience

On Saturday I got up close and personal with some feathered friends. My friend was cashing in on an old birthday gift voucher for flying birds of prey and was nice enough to take me along.

Just outside of Reading (pronounced red-ing) hidden behind a garden centre is Feathers and Fur, a place where I came up close and personal with 5 birds of prey over three hours. We met Sadie, the owner, and two other people in our group for introductions and safety before meeting our first bird of the day.

Meet Bert the barn owl - Barn owls are perfectly silent when they fly. I swear I could not hear a single rustled feather when I flew him. Naturally, when you hunt in the dark using your hearing only, it really wouldn't help if your feathers made noise. This guy was a cheeky bugger, and loved attention and even let us pat him!

This dude is Ash. He is a Tawny owl and had eyelids that looked like he'd used purple eyeliner! He was super friendly and chatty and happy to sit on our fists instead of flying off. He was an instant favourite in the group and was just so chilled! Wouldn't want to take him to dinner though, saw him swallow a small chick whole...not pretty!

Say hi to this little guy, Bourne (at least I think that was his name...). He is a Kestral (Falcon) and finds his prey by seeing their pee in ultraviolet - weird, but whatever works right? I mean, Bert had a comb on his claw, but you gotta love em anyway.

Why call a bird Mouse? No idea. But thats his name. He is a common Buzzard, but an impressive fellow to see in flight. The chattiest of the birds we flew that day, but also very smart, he totally knew when you were talking to him as opposed to having a general conversation. He'd be squaking away and the minute you directed your talk to him he'd go quiet, tilt his head and stare intently at you.

Billie Jean. My dear Billie Jean. She was SUCH a queen! Loved her. For all the other birds, Sadie would go into their cages and carry them out, for Billie, she just opened the door and she sauntered out and then hopped up on to the fence to survey her audience. Billie is a European Eagle Owl. She is BIG and heavy! She weighs 5 pounds! She prefers being on the ground and would only hop on our fists to grab some food before hopping off. I can tell you, seeing her flying at you is quite the sight, and trying to keep your arm strong to support her was quite the effort!

One I didn't get to fly but absolutely fell in love with anyway was Meg, a Great Grey Owl. Sadie calls her, her marmite owl, because people either love her or hate her. I loved her. She was beautiful, and had a very regal personality, she was curious about everyone and each time we came by she would give a soft hoot of greeting. At one point I noticed her tilt her head when I tilted mine while looking at her. So cute! The amazing thing about a Great Grey is that they can hear her prey beneath 2 feet of snow!

There were other furry creatures on the site, ferrets, guinea pigs and two of the largest rabbits I've ever seen in my life! Two other furry butts on the premises, who made us feel very welcome, were affection tarts Lady and Beth, Sadie's pet Cocker and gentle giant Labrador dogs. They sucked up to our small group of four for pats, cuddles and loads of attention. I loved every minute of it! It really went a long way to make me feel less pet-less and I had to resist the strong urge to dog-nap these friendly pooches.

Acer - A Peregrin Falcon

It was a great morning and I would do it again in a wing beat. In fact, Sadie runs a photography workshop I'd love to try. I learnt a lot about the birds and their care without losing a finger (I kid of course, these bird were in no way hostile and Sadie was an impeccable handler).Thank you Sadie for an amazing experience!

If you are interested in meeting these feathery friends, here are the details:
  1. Feathers and Fur website for all the info on sessions & prices etc.
  2. How to get there - Your two options are driving or train then taxi. If you travel into Twyford, a taxi from there is cheaper than one from Reading. Once at the Ladds Garden centre, you will need to go through it to the back - if you get lost, just ask someone to point you there.
  3. Dont forget your camera - or forget it and just enjoy the day ;)
 What animals have you come up close and personal with?



  1. I like it very much it is an amazing experience like you said. You've made me want to do it. Thank you.

    1. Thank you. I hope you get the chance to do it too :)

  2. Lol...love this! So cool. Wouldn't mind holding the eagle....yes I mean mr mouse.

    1. Thanks! Yes, Mouse is beautiful to fly, and is happy to talk your ear off too.

  3. Wowsers Sam! What a brilliant post! I really enjoyed learning about each bird and would love to do something like this. I've been up close to several lion cubs but wouldn't do that again because the experience means that the cubs can never again be released in the wild. I've also patted an adult cheetah in a rescue centre. Cheetahs can be tamed and often become like pets when they live in rescue centres. And finally, I became friends with an adult female kudu (a type of large antelope). She was happy to stand there right in front of you and let you admire her but wouldn't let you touch her.

    1. Oh you should! Its really worth it. But goodness, you have been up close and personal with some many amazing animals! Wow! I would looooove to pat a cheetah, absolutely facinating animal. Was this all in South Africa by any chance?

    2. Yes! All in South Africa!

    3. I really need to go to South Africa again!