Tuesday, 9 September 2008
"Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree ,
Merry , merry King of the Bush is he ,
Laugh Kookaburra - laugh Kookaburra ;
Gay your life must be ! "
I used to love singing this funny little ditty as a child ; with its cheery looping refrain , but I never really thought much about the words or the subject . In August I visited the Raptor Foundation just outside Cambridge , which is an amazing sanctuary / education and breeding centre for a whole host of birds of prey (raptors) and that's where "Dundee" was introduced to us .
Now , you don't think of Kookaburras as birds of prey - but they really are ! In the wild they hunt out small birds and animals as prey , and don't bother with fish unlike their near relatives the Kingfishers . Dundee was just six weeks old when we saw him ; looking like the adorable , fluffy invention of a toy manufacturer , and astonishingly he was being trained to the glove in the
exact same way as the hawks and falcons .
We were waiting patiently in the audience at the flying display grounds for the next star performer to appear when , accompanied by the most cacophanous hee-hawing laughter , a cat box arrived in front of us ! I was so surprised when this fat , stumpy little creature was popped up on the flying post - but how could anyone not totally fall in love with him ! His parents ( in a nearby aviary) clearly thought he was the total bee's-knees - and continued their decibel breaking encouragement from time to time ..... well , it was the first time he'd been exhibited at the flying ground . The wonderfully knowledgeable handler explained that she would hold out a chick's leg for him just a tiny hop and a flap from the post ; so enticing him to her glove .
In the end he pluckily managed three of these tiny flights , spurred on by "chuck-chuck-chucking" and a tasty reward .
Look at his little face - like a cat with the cream !
Ashley took some fantastic photos at the centre which I hope to post next time , till then -