Friday, July 15, 2011

Birds of Prey at Peyrepertuse

We visited the Cathar stronghold of Peyreptertuse again, which we've posted about two or three times, and this time we were able to take in the Birds of Prey Exhibition. Above is the Caracara, native to Central and South America. They are part of the falcon family but not known to be exceptionally fast flyers, causing them a little trouble in the task of killing their prey, therefore, are often seen on carrion. This bird landed on Nancy's baseball capped head and she said if felt like a very strong set of fingers giving her a massage.

They group has one American Bald Eagle in their possession, named Chapin. It was born into captivity in the Netherlands so U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents need not worry about the legality. We were able to watch it fly a number of times, and due to the rather brisk winds, it seemed to take almost no effort to fly. It merely had to open it's wings and the wind would propel it into the sky. I can tell you it was a thrilling sight to see it soar down through the valley below, disapear, and suddenly reapear behind you at a great height, all the while seldom even flapping it's wings. And then it would gracefullybegin it's descent, legs outstretched, tailfeathers moving like a rudder to guide him to the waiting arm of his handler. There he would receive a reward of a raw chicken leg.

Above, you can see one of the two falcons landing on the arm of his handler.

And again, same thing, different handler. These falcons, perhaps because of the high winds and effortless nature of their flight, did not return as expected. You could see the concern on the faces and in the voices of the handlers. It was "C'est pas normal." They appeared when the eagle was flying, and did not reappear by the end of the show. The handlers indicated that they would just have to go and find them. It looked like to me that each bird had a GPS unit attached and would be able to be tracked down eventually.

Here is one of the falcons plucking a chicken leg out of the lure. We also saw an African vulture, native to Senegal. Seeing the birds made an interesting day even more exciting.

1 comment:

Peggy said...

What a beautiful sight to see those birds soar at the high point of Peyrepertuse. And how neat to see the bald eagle up so close. I'm sure Mimi enjoyed that. Did you all hike up? I keep wondering how Amy's feet are doing.