Tuesday, June 29, 2010

29 June 2010 - Stonehenge, Hawke Recovery Centre


Lyn and Mick at Stonehenge

The Hawk Conservancy centre near Thruxton

Bald Eagle


African Fish Eagle

Today we awoke to a dull wet morning, however the forecast said it was going to clear. We headed off towards Winchester (I feel another song coming on as it has a Cathedral). We left Bradford-on-Avon and travelled to Trowbridge on the A363 then onto the A350 and A36 turning onto the A303 to get to Stonehenge.

When we arrived the weather was very cloudy so the monoliths looked very dull and uninspiring, but then the sun came out and they came alive. The carpark was absolutely chokka block with cars and coaches but no charge to park there. Entry fee for "Seniors" was £5.90 each. We were each given an Ipod type machine which looked like a mobile phone and we were able to listen to a commentary by pressing a number and the play button corresponding to a number on the ground.

Lyn met some Australians on the way round so we didn't see much of it from then on as she kept yacking so we missed half of the views so Mick insisted we walk round again. This was a good idea because the sun came out of the clouds and the pictures look much better. After circling Stonehenge twice we went back to the car to have a coffee. We bought a thermos flask so we don't have to pay 3 quid for a cuppa any more. We did this partly because they have no idea how to make coffee. All the cappuccinos are made from water and come out of a push button machine and are soooo strong. Rubbish.

After an enjoyable visit we left Stonehenge and headed off down the A303 to the the Hawk Conservancy Trust centre near Thruxton which is a few miles out of Andover. We had seen several raptor flying displays before but this one turned out to be something quite different.

The display started with a Fish Eagle flying overhead and diving into a pond to pick up a fish which was thrown into the water. Then they released 4 Buzzards which flew over the heads of the audience skimming the tops of their heads with their wings which sent them ducking for cover. They even landed on the backs of the benches right next to people sitting there and looked them in the eye. Quite confronting but the handler said they were harmless!

They then had a flying display by a Peregrine falcon which is the fastest living animal. They can reach speeds of up to 200mph and this one didn't disappoint as it came screaming out of the sky chasing the lure that the handler was swinging around.
The Bird did this several times.

Next display was free flying by 14 Black Kites which swooped backwards and forwards over the audience. They seemed to enjoy this despite there being no food on offer. The handlers then threw food into the air for them to catch it on the wing. And as a finale fired 2 lots of meat from a catapult several times high into the air for them to catch.

What was interesting was that when they released the birds some of them flew off into the distance and disappeared completely until they were seen again sometimes several minutes later as specks in the sky, miles away and riding the thermals.

When the Bald Eagles (2) were released they flew over the trees into the distance and were also missing for several minutes. The female was first back for her dinner, and while waiting for the male, 2 large grey raptors flew overhead very high up in the sky and the handler was excited to announce that they were 2 Hobbies, one chasing the other out of its territory. After an exciting day we drove down the A303 to the A34 and found B & B at the Running Horse Pub in Littleton. £85 per night including breakfast.

The Running Horse has WIFI 1Mb/s but we have to sit outside in the beer garden which is just outside our door to get a good signal. Lovely barmy evening about 25 degrees. Think we will sit outside and have dinner.

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