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Home > Tom's Articles > Vultures, vampires and a saint called Valentine!

Vultures, vampires and a saint called Valentine!

Honestly, I don’t even know where to begin on this one.

I suppose it started back in February with a guy who I did not even know, clicking the “enter” button after placing an advert on the web.

But then again maybe it had started months before when I dropped food into my pair of Lanner Falcons in a seclusion aviary and only one of them made an appearance that day and came down and showed interest in the food. Seclusion aviaries are used for a
pair of falcons or hawks to breed in. Leave them alone with peace and quiet hawks and these birds should, in theory, breed away to their hearts content. With a half open roof so they can watch and enjoy the season’s change, a covered area so they can enjoy their nest ledge away from the wind and rain, and a peep-hole so a human like me can keep a close eye if things went wrong.

But no matter how close an eye one can keep on birds, if one decides to pop its clogs and die of old age there is very little that can be done about it. And die he did, at the ripe old age of twenty three.

The advert read something like this; “Male Lanner Falcon for sale, three years old, would make good breeding prospect.”
Ok fair enough, sounds just like what I am looking for, so I click on it and open up the advert to get the man’s number and low and behold if he isn’t selling a few birds. I rub my hands together as I reach for the phone.

“Sorry, but the Lanner is already sold.”
I listen as I see the breeding prospects plummet for another year.
“What are the other birds you have for sale?” I ask casually. My heart had already left my head to finish the conversation.
“Well, we have a male Ferruginous hawk,” he says. “Light phase” (meaning white-bellied and beautiful. The Latin name is Buteo Regalis, or the regal buzzard)

I have flown a female one of these many years back and did not enjoy the experience, as at the time I was hunting for the pot and if enough seconds had elapsed between her catching her rabbit and me swapping it for a different reward the rabbit in question had not only been killed, but also gutted, skinned and devoured! I wasn’t particularly interested in a ferocious Ferruginous Hawk.

“We also have an African-Spotted Eagle-Owl, a Tawny Owl and breeding pair of Barn Owls.”
I am not really an owl type person. I like the fluffy little chaps, can admire the way they fly silently and gracefully through the darkness to capture their little rodent dinners. But really, if a grown man wants to put flesh on his plate, it’s a proper bird he needs; a hawk or falcon, the birds of noble kings and emperors, a bird that just oozes elegance and respect.

“By the way I also am changing some things in my falconry centre and have a Turkey Vulture available.”

I take back what I just said about noble falcons and suchlike, because truth be told, I just love ugly Vultures!

There was a deal was struck there and then over the phone and all that was left for me was to break the news to my better half that I was spending money on some more birds. The owls were not a problem as she just loves the soft-feathered cuddly little guys; once she got overt he facts that they were once renowned as evil, a herald of forthcoming doom and the cute way they can swallow a rodent whole without even licking their lips.

One more obstacle in the way was the fact that he was in Yorkshire in the UK and I was in Ireland which put one sea and a few hundred miles between us.

So I phoned her to break the news………….

And before I could swing the conversation around to the subject of spending hard earned monies on more predators, she said, “It’s Valentines Day in a few days,” and then asked,“Are you taking me away for a holiday or buying me a lovely present?”

“Oh, eh, yes dear, both” I stumbled. “I will take you away for a little break, and buy you a beautiful present. I hope you like it,” I said, letting her know what an absolutely fabulous man she had found in me!

Ok, now it was time to become fabulous.
I Googled Mr. Romance and came up with the man who had gotten me into trouble in the first place; Saint Valentine.
I then typed “Wikipedia” and pressed “Enter.”


The first representation of Saint Valentine appeared in theNumemberg
Chronicle, (1493); alongside the woodcut portrait of Valentine the text states that he was a Roman priest martyred during the reign of Claudius 11, known as Claudius Gothicus. He was arrested and imprisoned upon being caught marrying Christian couples and otherwise
aiding Christians who were at the time being persecuted by Claudius in Rome. Helping Christians at this time was considered a crime. Claudius took a liking to this prisoner — until Valentinus tried to convert the Emperor — whereupon this priest was condemned to death. He was beaten with clubs and stoned; but when that didn’t finish him off, he was beheaded outside the Flaminian Gate.

No mention of flowers or chocolates there then!
So I sent her a text and explained the situation. Within a minute my phone rang.
“You are buying me a what?”

A week later we boarded the ferry across the Irish Sea on a beautiful clear morning.
I am not that well travelled in the UK so I had taken a loan of a Satellite Navigation system from a friend who assured me that there would not be a problem with it. Having not used one before, I happily switched it on as we un-boarded the ferry on the other side. I am not usually an easily frightened or intimidated person but when the voice of Christopher Lee cut through the morning sunshine, it sent a cold tingle up my spine.

The Sat Nav, voice was set to “Vampire” and from the moment we touched the tarmac in Wales this blood-sucking navigational parasite done his utmost to destroy any chance of us reaching our destination unharmed.

“Let me consult my magic book.” he said in his slow and eerie voice

I have been to Wales a few times and I knew that the quickest was to Yorkshire was to stay on the motorways across England, not to take every side road and laneway that led to a dead-end with no way out.

It quickly became apparent that this Vampire was using modern technology to kill us. I ignored each turn the Vampire wished me to take and stayed on the motorway.

He didn’t like it…….

“Let me consult my magic book.” He said, sounding a little bit more pissed off with every mile travelled. And we had a lot of miles to go yet.

He settled down as the morning wore on, at one stage he even stopped consulting his magic book and told us, “You are brave people indeed
to travel alone in these parts!” But we ignored him again for a while
and just as things were getting along fine and dandy he shouts;

“Take the next exit or die”

He said it in such a blood-curdling way; he left no doubt about it, to take the next exit or else. When he gave me that order, I am sorry but I obeyed.
That carnivorous blood-sucker brought us through every town and village on the way to our destination, and every time I asked for assistance to get back on the right track he said, very slowly: “Let me consult my magic book.” And consult it he did. But by then we were on yet another wrong road and cursing him and any un-dead family he might have.

Anyway, seven hours later we eventually reached a sign that said Yorkshire and let us know that in distance, if nothing else, we were nearing our destination. We were cold, tired and physically exhausted from driving across the Yorkshire moors in pitch darkness,
having been repeatedly stopped by closed roads, not re-directed as we would have been in Ireland but just stopped by ROAD CLOSED signs everywhere with no directional help, just the blackest night all around us.

After driving for nine hours on what should have been a four hour trip, and haven driven through every town and village between Holyhead and Yorkshire in rush hour traffic and being so desperate that we knew that soon we would be killed and eaten by whatever
creatures prowled the Dales after darkness, we again asked The Vampire for help.

“Let me consult my magic book,” he said, obviously pretending that it wasn’t him
that got us into this mess in the first place.

“In 300 metres, take the next right,” followed by an evil laugh, and the words; “If you dare!”

We took the right turn and were duly met with a sign that read ROAD CLOSED which looked exactly like a ROAD CLOSED sign that we had read an hour before on a piece of road that looked exactly like this one.

With tempers fraying and an air of dislike towards all modern gadgets, I somehow managed to stop her from throwing the Vampire Sat Nav. out the window. By this stage she was pulling out her hair and was prising the sucky thing off the windscreen and screaming, “If you consult that magic book one more time…” As she balled up the connecting cables to make it more aero-dynamic to throw through the night air, I just about managed to save it. Luckily so, as it wasn’t even mine.

It was an interesting trip if nothing else. We eventually found somewhere to stay. We were not murdered in the middle of the night which is always a blessing. We even got up early to a beautiful sunny morning, far removed from the night before.

Later we travelled to meet with Stuart that had placed the advert and spent an enjoyable morning in his falconry centre, loaded up the birds and headed back down across England and Wales without mishap. The Vampire seemed to have softened during the night. We
didn’t really become friends with him or start to trust him completely, but we did manage to come down across England and back through Wales without mishap.

After a late crossing on the ferry back to Ireland we were both tired, and as it was me that was driving I envied her as she nodded off to sleep.
Now I have to admit that I knew the road like the back of my hand so maybe it was out of mischief that I plugged in the Sat Nav. one last time.

As the voice once more cut through the night with those immortal words… “Let me consult my magic book….” She suddenly came awake and screamed. “NO!!!”

Anyway, the Vulture and the other birds are well established in our centre now, all having survived the journey. But now and again as we speak to people in the centre and she explains about how we acquired the vulture, I sometimes hear a raised voice saying those words that will haunt me forever;

“He bought you a what, for Valentines!”


June 2010