Millets Farm Falconry offers you the chance to see, watch fly and even handle over 80 birds of prey. Billed as the largest centre of its kind in Oxfordshire, it certainly has a great variety of birds and makes an excellent half day out for anyone with an interest in nature. From huge eagles to tiny kestrel chicks, they have a wonderful range of birds, all with one thing in common - their beauty is matched by their hunting ability.
If you buy one of the 'experience' sessions, then you are able to engage with the birds even more than a general visitor. For example for the half day session, you arrive before the centre is officially open and a small group of you (around a dozen) spend the first hour learning about the centre, and beginning to handle some of the birds.
The raven, for example, is thought to be roughly as intelligent as a seven year old child, so his aviary has toys in it, and staff are able to talk to him and call him with the bell on the side of the grill. The turkey vultures, in contrast, sit more aloofly on their perches, but are vital to nature as they clear up all the unwanted natural debris other animals leave aside. The largest birds they have are some fabulous eagles. Once common in this country, they're endangered and in need of protection, Close up you can appreciate how extraordinary they are.
Once you have wandered through the aviaries you have a chance to fly the birds in a paddock. Again you put on a glove. One by one birds are brought out - a kestrel perhaps, or a barn owl, or even a falcon. A small piece of food is placed on the glove, you raise your arm, and the bird flies to perch on you. It's a glorious chance to watch the birds in action, and study them close up.
After this, you join back in with other visitors. There are regular flying shows throughout the day, where the falconers fly a range of birds. The striated caracara flits round the auditorium finding food.
Kestrels, falcons, hawks, kites and many more will come out over the day, making this an excellent chance to revel in birds. You have plenty of time to watch them in their aviaries , through the grills, through peepholes, or, for those with stronger legs, tethered to perches.
There are information boards by each bird, introducing the species and giving you a sense of how endangered they are. The birds all also have names, which are chalked up beside them.
The centre has only been running since 2013, so is still in its infancy, rearing lots of young birds on site so that they feel comfortable in this environment. The staff are knowledgeable, helpful and clearly devoted to the birds. a visit here will definitely leave you enthusiastic about the magnificent, majestic birds of prey.
There is a small shop, and plenty of parking (a few minutes' walk away). Access for prams and wheelchairs should be fine. You can pre-order tickets on the website, or buy them on the day. Experience sessions need to be booked in advance.