Ryan’s year in review

“Day to day life as a member of the Bird team and Registrar at the Hawk Conservancy Trust means sometimes the year passes by before you even realise that Christmas is on the doorstep again! Ryan Stephens looks back over the last year.

There have been so many highlights throughout 2022, but I have to put completing my first ever marathon for the Trust right at the top. Running the London Marathon had been a personal dream for many years and it was such an honour to be able to do this whilst raising nearly £12,000 for the National Bird of Prey HospitalTM.  I completed the run in just under 5 hours, and crossing that line was a memory I do not think I will ever forget. The support from the Trust team during the build-up and on the day itself was incredible, and definitely got me across the line. Few people knew that I was laid in bed just a week before the marathon unable to come to work with a back injury, so the mental challenge as well as the physical challenge took a great deal out of me. A special thanks to Alex at Strength Led Fitness in Amesbury for getting me through it all.

I think it is someone else’s turn next time!

Highlights of my work at the Trust, include working closely with Ravenclaw, one of our White-headed Vultures, who has now begun flying in demonstrations alongside one of our juvenile African White-backed Vultures, Simba. I have been working alongside Ravenclaw for a few years now and it is great to see him flying so beautifully.  To see the two vultures together coasting over our audiences’ heads is a very impressive sight. Next year Ravenclaw will ‘graduate’ as such, and start to work with other members of the Bird Team as well as myself. It is a bit like when you drop your kids off at school for the very first time! I am sure he will do fantastically.

Towards the end of the year, myself and fellow Bird Team members Ben Cox and Simon Christer have been working with a very special bird. Diego, our Blue-winged Kookaburra, is starting to make the occasional appearance in our Woodland Owls flying display! Having worked with this bird for many years, it is great to have her back in our shows over the winter. She is such a character and a crowd favourite. However, she is not a huge fan of the rain, so you are more likely to see her fly in our Woodland Arena on a fair weather day!

Working in this industry, you have so many positives but of course, there are the negatives you have to deal with as well. Sadly, in March, we said goodbye to our beloved Secretary Bird, Madeleine. Everyone at the Trust felt his passing, but having worked with this bird for so many years, I must admit it hit me pretty hard. At just over 30 years old, you can look back and see what a remarkable life he had and how much joy he bought to so many. I do not think he will ever be forgotten.

So, this is just a snapshot my year at the Trust. As always, it has been a busy year with lots going on behind the scenes. As we get a little quieter for the winter period it is always a good time to just step back and appreciate the year gone by. I hope to see you all next year and I wish you a Merry Christmas!”

Ryan Stephens, Registrar and Bird Team


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