Interview with Joanne Hunter
When did you first realise you wanted to work with birds of prey, and why?
When I was 16 years old I was seriously ill and made a bucket list of what I wanted to achieve. One thing on the list as to learn falconry, so my parents took me to the Yorkshire Dales Falconry Centre at Settle and that was it! Previously I had always kept and ridden three horses, and took part in the hunts in Yorkshire, so it was really a natural progression for me.
As my health improved I used my birthday and Christmas money towards learning falconry. I eventually decided to move to Scotland for a life change, and we moved to Loch Aweside where I met my husband who had a female goshawk and peregrines.
As we built up the birds it was a natural progression to move to working with the birds of prey full time. Our birds are split between pure hunting birds, breeding birds (by artificial insemination & natural pairs), and the display birds for falconry experiences and shows.
You run Kintail Birds of Prey.
What is the most important thing you aim to teach the public about falconry?
At Kintail Birds of Prey I only display native birds of prey to Scotland and the U.K. I want to get the message and interest in the general public of what is on their doorstep and what they could go out and see. Also with the reintroduction of Sea Eagle in Scotland, especially Isle of Mull which is close to us, I like to think I can champion the case for the Golden Eagle which is overlooked as a result.
I also encourage conservation and respect - often the obvious ideas like not poisoning mice. I like to think the public go away having learnt one thing that hopefully they will adopt for the benefit of birds of prey.
You also host meets for the DFO - Deutscher Falkenorden.
Can you tell us a bit more about what this involves?
Since 1972 (actually before I was born) my husband Jock Hunter has attended the Deutche Falkenorden International Meet. Germany is made up of regional states and the international meet is hosted by a different state every two years.
The year in between each meet we welcome members of the DFO to Scotland. Guests hunt grouse and duck with us here on the estate. They often travel to the East Coast of Scotland, and then they head North to Sutherland. With the passport system it is ideal, as they can bring their own hunting dogs and birds over on the ferries.
What has been your most exciting moment hunting with peregrines?
Although I fly many species, there is a special place in my heart for flying homebred peregrines. It is the whole package. We work Brittany dogs. It is a team process - peregrine, dog and me. When it all comes together there is in my opinion nothing better on earth. A pure native species at its best.
This year I had a superb flight with a 2016 Tiercel named 'Whizz' who was bred here. We were hunting mallard ducks and he took one out at 2lb 6oz binding too it.
I absolutely love flying peregrines in high winds, which is just as well when we have a south westerly wind coming right up Loch Awe.
What is the most important thing that working with birds of prey has taught you?
Patience. There are no short cuts - the more you put into birds of prey, the more you get back from them. And respect - for the ultimate predators.
Is there a particular bird you would like to work with in the future? Why?
A Hobby. I can remember writing a project on a Hobby when I was in Primary school. I believe my Mum might still have it. Always loved them, so we'll see!
You can follow more of Joanne's work at Kintail Birds Of Prey here: