Behind the scenes on a Winter Experience with Ben

This year I have had the great honour of being involved with the Behind the Scenes Winter Experiences we offer here at the Hawk Conservancy Trust during the closed period in January. Anyone who knows me well, knows that I am as much of a people person as an animal person, so I jumped at the opportunity to be able to spend the day showing people some of our lovely birds. I enjoy the closed period when we work on all the big maintenance jobs, however I do start to miss our visitors so the winter courses are perfect for me.

My colleague Cedric has been running these days for a few years now, however, he is incredibly busy with the hospital and needs an extra pair of hands to help with them. This is where I came in. Things were slightly different this year, because we had the new Winter Woodland Lights evening event to factor in. We coordinated our days off which allowed us to run a Winter Experience seven days of the week, in between our new Winter Woodland Lights evenings. My days were Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, then Cedric would do the rest of the week. This worked fantastically well.

The general running of the day was very simple, our wonderful guests would arrive for 9:30am and I would meet them for a hot drink and catch up in Feathers Restaurant, then we would head outside to meet the first bird of the day. The most incredible thing about the Winter Experience is that it’s exclusive to two people and with the whole park being closed to general visitors, it gives us the opportunity to have free reign on which birds we could introduce the experience guests to on that day. This meant that we could choose from a team of birds that we were already working with at that time of year, those that maybe prefer a quieter time of the year and birds that we would never normally work with on an experience day. Which meant this really is a VIP Experience.

One of the things I loved most about doing these experiences was the really laid back style of the day. It felt like we had all the time in the world and therefore could spend an endless amount of time with the birds that we were meeting. The whole day would last until 3:30pm and in that time we would have flown and worked with roughly about ten birds and introduced our guests to many more as we would walk around the grounds seeing all the birds in their aviaries.

I love doing experience days here at the Trust because it makes me realise even more how special the majestic birds of prey we have in our care are. When you have a beautiful bird flying to a guest’s fist and the pure joy and elation on their face at that moment for me is just mesmerising. Those are the moments I treasure working at the Trust. I can honestly say that I had those moments everyday doing these Winter Experiences because it was such a unique opportunity to get so close to these magnificent creatures.

We were very lucky with the weather and every single day went extremely smoothly. Many of those taking part in the experiences had been waiting for two years for their day because of the pandemic. This made the days even more special because all of my guests were so grateful that it was finally happening, particularly after such a difficult couple of years.

These experiences are also an important way for us to communicate and gain support for the vital conservation work that we do all over the world. I had a truly wonderful time with these experiences with beautiful birds and perfect people, a great recipe for a fantastic day at the Hawk Conservancy Trust.

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