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This was Ben's white-tailed sea eagle. Ben explained that she is at courting age, and that in the wild she would have a male bird bringing her food every day for the courting. Of course, she sees Ben as filling this role, which also means that she shows her displeasure to him quite vividly when he doesn't deliver correctly.

After each flight, the birds get fed. On one occassion, he only gave her half the usual amount of meat at that point; you can see her reaction in the upper-right picture. She stalked, just like that, all the way across the small performance field towards him; I lost sight of them behind the pressbox, but they both came out okay, so I guess he gave her more meat.

He also told the story that, back in their own roost (in Yorkshire), he'd been working with her one time, when she decided to latch onto his head. This is one finicky bird! She was also the least co-operative of the lot, but she did give us a couple of flights.

You can see her flights, and obstinance, if you
click here for the video (4m37s).

The audio on this one isn't as bad, but in case you can't understand it, here's what he said:
(I'm going to give her half the) usual amount she'd get. As she spins round ... look at that ... watch this. Bird lands. Wait for it ... laughter... alright alright alriiiiight, woah ... it's under the marquee, look. See, you've got to ... because it does start looking for me, then other options. It's right from that point on, the smallest dog in the arena goes, "Woah!" No. I fly this bird Every Single Day.

Next Segment

When we get it right, it's fantastic. The problem with that is, I had that bird doing that within about two weeks from when she arrived. Bird flies from one perch to another. This doesn't display that bird at its best. It tires me out more than it tires the bird out. And it was at this point, with my back towards it, it flew towards me and it grabbed me in my head. Cause I'm very vulnerable, aren't I? With my back toward it and of course stood like that. So I'm not going to keep doing that. Thank goodness the drums have started. Nothing's really going to upset it. But let's see what happens.

The last six shows - the worst thing you can say is this - the last six shows it's been perfect. So I'm putting me neck on the line a bit for you now. But every single bird that we have starts at the point where it has to go, maybe a mistake, or it can go to the next level. And I think we're about there with her. Luckily watching her now, she's starting to dribble and salivate as it gets excited. ... There's virtually no breeze, it's not going to go to 1000 feet. If it goes one big beautiful flight, that will do. ... And it's wagging its tail, using the loo. Bird flaps tail, laughter. We're going to go, about 20 seconds after that, alright? Bear with me, alright. It is spectacular when it does go, though. This is the hardest bit for it, though. It now has to think for itself, it's not been given direction. It now has to make its mind up as to what it wants to do, and does it really that hand to go in the bag and feed it? It looks like in about 10 seconds' time we're going to go for it.

You can see it looking left to right. Now, I don't really mind what it does, as long as it looks like a white-tailed sea eagle - as long it displays itself well. I don't want it sat on a marquee, though. I don't want it crash-landing somewhere. I just want it doing something impressive. Bird takes off. Look at that. As it goes up, it looks over its shoulder, look for it, and it's going to land. Bird lands. Give her a clap.

Next segment: bird back on perch.

But today, we're on a good roll, you see. ... Here we go. Last one now, good or bad, this is the one we're gonna go for it. That means, get up, take off, please don't grab my head, and I'll give you loads of food. ... Eagles when they take off, is they look over your shoulder as they leave you. They're looking back for the hand going to the bag. Cause I only train on signals, I don't use shouts or calls, I like that bit of look, alright. Now she's looking right down the field at the moment, the weather's mizzling, but it won't get her wet, cause her feathers are fantastically well-waterproofed. This is the way you're going to make me work, if we wait too long, are we going to get you airborne, young lady? You can do this. Look at her going, "Get lost." laughter ... We've been down south for the past three days. And when I go to London, we don't do this, by the way. We just do very short, reliable jumps and come home. But today? I'm an hour and a half away from home. I can make that trip a few times if I lose it.

You can do this one, though. This is the one we're going to really see what you're made of. You're gonna go, right, 10 seconds' time. She very kindly starts to salivate, like a wild thing, just before she takes off. ... That's usually the indication we're gonna go. The fact you just sat on one leg and wiped your tail, love, does not give me a great deal of faith. That's the equivalent to me going *uuunh* and read the paper. We're trying to get you airborne, young lady. Let's see if you can do it. You're moving - look at her watching me now. She's thinking, "If you get far enough away from me, Ben, I might just try to grab your head one more time - bird takes off - There we go. Alright, look at that! Is it looking back over its shoulder? Yes it is. And land on the glove. Ooh, no. Bird lands. Give her a clap, well done.

He was very entertaining, and the display made both Chris and I glad we don't work with animals and the public for a living!

Hayfield Country Show, 18 Sept 2010


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