This is a guest post about The Hawk Conservancy Trust in Hampshire by Emma of Bavarian Sojourn. Emma is a Mum of three, a recent repatriate to the UK after a lengthy stint abroad, and she last visited the Hawk Conservancy when she was around 11 years old (and she’s not going to tell you how long ago that was!)…
Emma and her family were guests of the Hawk Conservancy for the day.
The Hawk Conservancy (just off the A303 in Weyhill near Andover) started life as Weyhill Zoo in 1966. Between 1980-1981 the decision was made to specialise in birds alone. It’s now home to a large collection of raptors, with many having been rehabilitated. It has a focus on European birds in particular, but there are many from further afield too.
Our visit took place in the first week of the Easter holidays before the spell of beautiful warm weather. The grey drizzly day meant that The Hawk Conservancy was possibly less busy than it might have been, but the weather didn’t detract from our visit at all.
My last visit (my parents ran a village pub nearby) was quite a long time ago now, so to see how it’s expanded in terms of size and of influence in conservation fields was really wonderful.
We were given children’s activity sheets on arrival, and these helped keep our three-year-old occupied throughout the day (with a prize at the end!). He made his first port of call the bird-themed play area, which gave me plenty of time to take pictures of a few feathered residents.
Throughout the day there demonstrations and talks aplenty. We learned all about Vultures and why they are so important (whilst they enjoyed brunch!). The fact that they are disappearing due to poisoning and other factors is sad, and worrying for the ecosystem, and the Hawk Conservancy is instrumental in trying to change people’s opinions on these misunderstood birds (and helping to rescue those that have been poisoned). We definitely came away with different views on these hilarious characters.
We then went on to watch them in the Wings of Africa Flying Display, where we might have imagined ourselves in the midst of some African plain if it hadn’t been for the weather. Talking of water, take care of where you sit and take heed of the splash zone warnings if you don’t want to get wet! We didn’t really mind, the owl almost brushing the top of our heads more than made up for that!
The secretary bird was also a huge hit with all three children, his super fierce snake “killing” demonstration was actually very sweet (just don’t tell him that, I would hate to hurt his feelings!)…
Then it was time for the real highlight of our visit – meeting the Burrowers. Not the tiny people who lived secretly in the doors and walls of an English house, but a family of tiny Burrowing Owls hailing from North and South America, and quite possibly the cutest birds I have ever seen. Whilst you have to pay extra in addition to the entrance costs for this VIP Encounter, it’s honestly well worth it in our opinion as you get a decent amount of time with them inside their enclosure, and as there’s a limited number of people allowed in each session, it’s a truly unique experience.
We were entranced by these tiny owls who were perfectly free to stay in their tunnels if they felt like it, but instead inspected us as much as we inspected them as they ran between our feet, hopped on our laps and perched on our hands. Whilst the three-year-old was too young to meet them (the minimum age is 6), my 12-year old and 14-year old were utterly captivated and even managed to get a selfie or two with their new friends. It’s not every day you get to do something like that!
After a good hearty lunch at Feathers Restaurant (they also do cream teas here that looked really great!), we headed over to watch the Valley of the Eagles flying display (which was also watched by a few wild raptors on the outskirts!). The grand finale was the flight of an American Eagle who had started his journey a good few miles away in a demonstration on how fast he can fly. The Three-Year-old was starting to flag at this point, but we were able to blackmail him with the promise of a tractor ride on the cowslip covered meadow dedicated to the Hawk Conservancy Founder – Reg Smith. A great end to the day!
The Hawk Conservancy is open all year round with the exception of Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and a short period of time at the beginning of each year when essential maintenance takes place. We thought it to be very accessible for pushchair/wheelchair users, and family friendly.
It’s really not your average day out, the conservation, rescue, research and rehabilitation work the Hawk Conservancy do both for birds in the UK and across the world is really humbling, and we found it to be a really inspiring family day out. Plus, where else can you get to meet a Burrowing Owl? Highly recommended.
Disclosure – Emma and her family were guests of The Hawk Conservancy for the purposes of this review. All opinion is their own. Information correct at the time of publication.