Our birds have strong personalities, choosing who they work with amongst our members of the Bird Team. Our seasonal Bird Team member, Mark Ison, discovered this when he began work alongside our Bald Eagle, Orion! Keep on reading to find out the incredible dedication and care it takes for our Bird Team to earn our birds’ trust, and how truly special these bonds can be.
“Having a lifelong passion for the natural world and in particular, the conservation birds of prey and their habitats, means I have been visiting the Hawk Conservancy Trust for many years. Following a work experience placement as part of my Ecology and Conservation degree course, I was offered a seasonal position with the Bird Team in 2022. Now in my second season here as part of the team, I am pleased to share my experience with working with one of our most powerful birds.
“As my first season was drawing to a close, I had started to make my first steps in forming a working relationship with Orion, one of our Bald Eagles. As anyone who works with birds of prey will tell you, this is much easier said than done.
“Each bird is completely individual, and each have their own distinct personalities. It is the birds themselves who choose who they will allow to work with them, and huge amounts of time and patience is spent creating a bond. In some cases, a particular bird may decide that they just don’t like you from the outset, and this seemed to be Orion’s feeling towards me!
“Initially when I spent time with him, things seemed to be going well as he flew to my glove. It soon became apparent that this was no match made in heaven, and Orion had decided he wasn’t so sure about me! I decided to give him some space over the winter months with the hopes of spring bringing a change in heart.
“After careful consideration, and support from my colleagues in the Bird Team, we decided in January of this year to give our friendship another go. I worked hard on the basic technical skills that enabled me to work safely and confidently with Orion, with his welfare being my paramount priority.
“We took things at Orion’s pace, and I dedicated time to let him fly to my glove when he wanted to, and spent lots of time together. With his trust earned, he became more relaxed with me. After several weeks, Orion was happy to let me weigh and feed him each day.
“The support and advice offered by my colleagues throughout is a hallmark of the expertise and experience of our team, and mine and Orion’s bond has continued to grow. Orion soon let me work with him in flying sessions, where he would fly between myself and another member of the team in preparation for our busy experience days later in the spring. This really built the foundations of our bond, and I now regularly fly Orion with our guests on our bird of prey experience days.
“We have a great bond now, and I have worked with Orion almost every day since then. Our relationship is going from strength to strength. I know I shouldn’t have favourites, but Orion is definitely a contender – I hope he feels the same about me!”