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16 October 2014

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A Life with Birds

By Robin Winston-Smith
July 2007, Mid Wales
A digital story from Capture Wales

"I've been with falcons and birds all my life and I started with falconry when I was about 11.

There are more than you'd think of falconers around the country and quite a few around my age.

I've always been interested in birds. I've always been around them. I suppose the more time you spend around them the more attached to them you become.

I've now got a Lanner falcon which I've had since I was 12 and she's now seven.

It's had lots of funny names - dad's made a few jokes about it. One of them being because lanner falcons aren't known for being one of the best quality of birds - so bush chicken. It's just a name that dad come up with and it stuck really. We still call her that now as a joke.

We feed ours on day old chicks and quail. There are other foods - you can feed them rats and mice as well, but we stick to day old chicks and quail. Quail is one of the best foods for them we think.

One of the first things you have to do when you get a bird is to train it to feed on the fist which basically means you get it so it's not nervous of you and it'll trust you enough so it'll eat off your hand.

You have the anklets which go round the bird's ankles then they're linked to the jessers which are two leather straps which come down and they're linked to the swivel and the swivel has a leash passed through that and the leash is what they're tethered down with.

I've lost my bird twice but only very briefly. The first time it flew over a very deep river and I couldn't get to the other side and the second time she chased a partridge over the other side of the river.

I do go hunting in the woods with my bird yes within the season. The game season which is from September onto February and my bird's capable of taking partridges and other smallish or medium sized birds.

I started taxidermy when I was like 13 and it's been something that I always thought would be a great job for me as my dad has done it since he was 11... and it's been his job ever since. My dad's worked on everything from Siberian tigers to other sorts of birds of pray to small birds.

It's very similar to the falconry in a way which is being close to the birds. With taxidermy you can be close to any bird you want to be rather than in the wild you'd hardly ever see one of the wild birds that you can work on. You'd hardly ever get close to a kingfisher or something but when you're working with them in taxidermy you can get very close to them and see every different part of them. I enjoy it very much yeah."

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