There’s a middle school in the neighboring village of Štiavnické Bane here in our hills that specializes in geography and biology.
One of its teachers heads the local falconry club, and he also teaches falconry to his students. We visited him yesterday with our friends Kate and Christopher from London.
We had no idea.
Behind the school is another building in the rear of which lies a fenced-in area with 33 small shelters, each one housing a raptor.
There are more than a dozen hawks, several ravens, falcons, a golden eagle, even a handful of owls.
All of them have been either born in captivity or have been rescued. Those that cannot be returned to the wild are cared for during their entire life.
Our host, pan Michal Pavel tells us his students come to feed the birds every day. They go through 4,000 chicken pieces each month.
We met some of the young students who are learning to train the birds.
Here is Linda and her snowy owl whose name is White. She demonstrates how she calls White to her with a little piece of chicken – blood and feathers still there – she pulls out of a small leather shoulder bag. White picks up the piece of food just before she lands on Linda’s gauntlet.
Then pan Michal introduces us to Italia, a Mexican Harris hawk, one kilo.
Then we meet a very special bird indeed:
This is Nixon, a juvenile American bald eagle acquired from the Berlin zoo. He’s only 4 years old and weighs about nine pounds. We learn that these magnificent raptors are strictly fish eaters, preferring salmon to other species (yes they’ll go after land prey but only when really hungry).
Nixon lives indoors – he’s still quite young – and pan Michal uses a hood on the bird to help keep him from being distracted.
Nixon needs another few years before his head turns white. We also learn that female bald eagles are even larger than the male; and that their even larger Russian cousins are reputed to tackle wolves.
We are quite happy with this young guy thank you very much:
We have learned a little more about our adopted country and our local area.
It continues to amaze us.