It’s conker time, remember when you were a nipper flinging bits of wood up into the trees to knock some down? This month I also had some encounters with everyone’s favourite bird the kingfisher though surprisingly few have actually seen anything more than a blue streak. And finally I witness the ancient art of falconry where man and nature work together in perfect harmony.
Strange how every tree in Lincolnshire seems to know the date and almost overnight they all drop their seeds (conkers) to the ground. Of course kids can’t wait for that to happen, at the very first sign of them being ready they fling whatever they can find at them to bring them down. Great exercise and great to see them out in the fresh air. At least they will know what a horse chestnut tree is and be able to identify it from all the other trees. It’s just a small step to understanding the natural world around them but at least it is a step away from that computer and into the real world!
I think it would be rather a nice thing to put a few spare conkers in your kiddie’s pocket and plant them somewhere along your favourite walks. Some will survive to grow and when your children are older this will be a great way to remember those country walks they once had.
I have yet to meet anyone who does not love kingfishers in spite of the fact that surprisingly few people have ever seen more than that electric blue flash as it rockets away downstream. However, there are places where they can be seen but only if you can sit still and be quiet otherwise it’s the blue flash I am afraid. The wildlife trust’s hide at Far Ings at Barton on Humber is one place they can be seen, it’s a waiting game but what a moment when that blue flash is coming ‘towards’ you and lands on a branch overhanging the water! With luck it will stay long enough to dive and come up with a fish or even a shrimp. That moment will live long in the mind. I had one in front of my camera this month and it stayed long enough to get quite a few images. It caught small fish and shrimps and I intend to meet it again as soon as possible.
When man and nature work together it is an inspiring experience to witness. Who hasn’t marvelled at the skills of a shepherd working a good sheepdog or a man working ferrets and even the orientals using cormorants to catch fish?
Once every four years a group of some of the best falconers in the country come to North Lincolnshire to hunt the wide open landscape that is characteristic of our county and perfect for the art of falconry.
The falcon flies from the fist up into the blue sky and awaits its master’s instructions. This one (seen in the blue sky image below) climbed into the sky and saw two circling buzzards that must have been at least a mile away. It circled around them for a few minutes and then came back making wide circles over its handler far below.
The handler; Mike Crowe from Flintshire walks along the dyke with his dogs and flushes a duck from the reeds and as it flies off there are shouts and hoots from the falconers and the falcon dives down to catch the duck but this time, at the very last second the duck dives headlong into the tall reeds and the falcon breaks off the attack to zoom back skywards.
Very few birds are killed, in fact that day the only kill was a partridge. The joy is man working with nature, dogs knowing what is expected of them, that falcon among the clouds knowing that the handler below is about to flush something from the undergrowth and is ready and waiting and suddenly man, dogs and falcon work as one and for a few seconds are bonded together with one single purpose, to hunt, to catch a meal in exactly the same way as has been done since well before the time of Christ.
Unlike those far off days, today’s falcons are fitted with radio transmitters because sometimes the falcon gets carried away by winds or even daydreaming up there and is lost. That small radio transmitter means the falcon is soon found again.
One of the group was using a dog of a kind I had never seen before, a wire haired Vizsla. Its keen nose and its pointing ability was wonderfully demonstrated later on when Mike lost the leather hood that fits over the falcon’s head when it’s not working.
We all searched the field of sprouting oil seed rape for this tiny object but of course it was impossible. The Vizsla was released and within two minutes it was pointing. It had found that small leather hood which was nowhere near where we had all been looking.
I am a great admirer of seeing man working with nature, it’s a heart thing, a subconscious mind thing, some kind of echo from man’s distant past, we get that same feeling when we hear wild geese fly over our houses in the middle of the night, it’s a wild thing.
Some hunt with a falcon, I hunt with a camera but sometimes I could sure do with a vizsla to point out what I have missed!