I grew up in the countryside and was fortunate enough to have a Grampy who was prepared to tromp the fields and woods with me answering lots of "what's that tree, what's that bird, what's that plant" kind of questions, so I think my fascination in wildlife stemmed from him.
Whilst birds of prey have always held me in awe, my interest in falconry only began a couple of years ago.
I used to do photography as a hobby (not very well) and the group I belonged to held a "bird of prey" photography shoot. My photos were pretty rubbish - lots of blades of grass and no bird, but my fascination in birds of prey was re-kindled.
The birds belonged to Horus Birds of Prey. I saw that they did owl experiences, so booked one for my mum's 70th birthday. This was the first time I met Paul Walters from Horus and the beginning of my novice falconry journey. After my mum's birthday I went onto the Horus website and saw that they sometimes take volunteers. So I emailed Paul and Linda, had a chat on the phone and a few weeks later went to meet them and the rest of their team.
I learnt my first falconry lesson that day when Topaz christened my jeans with a poop - always angle the poopy end away from your leg! Since then I have become part of the volunteer team including helping out near Ormskirk where Horus have a regular static display and two daily flying displays.
Whilst I have read a lot on falconry and trawled the minefield of falconry websites, the FB pages can be a muddling and scary place to be a beginner. There are a lot of strong and differing opinions. Having a good mentor has made all the difference. Not only has it enabled me to start to learn the practical side of falconry but also enables me to have someone to ask the beginners questions that need to be asked. I know Paul will answer them honestly and with patience.
Last year Paul agreed to let me use one of his aviaries for a bird of my own and in return for training us both the bird would be part of the Horus demonstration team. In September last year we picked up a 10 week old parent reared male Perlin. I told my dad I was struggling for a name and he jokingly said "Baldrick" but the name stuck! Sadly dad passed away before Baldrick came home.
Paul has been fantastic in training both of us and due to me working full time and odd shifts has done all the hard work with Baldrick who is now flying free and is such a fantastic little dude and so chilled.
I'm not sure what lies in my falconry future but I will certainly have one. My career is fairly full on at the moment but hopefully one day I can reduce my working hours and increase my falconry ones.
My advice to any new falconer is to do your research. It's not all walking in the sun looking elegant whilst swinging a lure! A lot of it involves freezing, praying it won't rain, and smacking yourself in the face with a leather pad whilst learning how to swing the lure. A mentor is a must, but it needs to be a good one. Having a bird of prey is a massive responsibility and you need someone who has the experience and knowledge to make sure you do the best for the bird. Being a newcomer is a bit of a minefield and I'm really lucky that I found such a good mentor and friend.