I breed Falcons every year. Some go off to other falconers for hunting or demonstrations purposes. In the spring of 1999 a very special little falcon hatched out in the incubator in my kitchen. He was a Peregrine/Lanner falcon and I named him Finley. He lived in the house with me and became my best mate. He would watch telly, came in the car, came to the beach and of course to the hang gliding hill.
Before he could fly I would take him up in my harness when I went flying. I used to put him in the front pocket and do the zipper up so his head was sticking out and he could see what was going on. At a month old he had more experience at flying than any other baby falcon in history. As he grew he became restless and I knew it would not be long before his developing wings would start to test the breeze. His first couple of flights were a bit like mine a few years earlier. They ended with him crash landing, then looking around to make sure nobody was watching. He was so funny. He learned to fly very quickly, and within a matter of days he was a better pilot than I or any other human could ever be. Falcons are programmed by nature to be masters of the sky.
He was soon following me wherever I went and would literally throw himself at me in mid-air. He would hitch a lift on a perch which I had made for him. It was amazing. I had done it. My dream of flying with falcons had come true.
Finley has taught me so much about flying. He is far more useful and better looking than any man-made instrument. All you need to do is to learn to think like a falcon and he will tell you everything. His body language gives it all away. If he 'rouses' ( shakes himself ) in mid-air you know he has found a thermal and is trapping a layer of warm air in his feathers to make himself more buoyant. Also it must get pretty cold at the altitudes he goes to so he is making sure he is going to be comfortable when he gets there.
I am not sure exactly what height he achieves, but it is so high that you cannot see him any more, even if you are a couple of thousand feet up to start with. His eyesight is so keen that he can see tiny particles of dust or grass swirling up in the air as it is carried by thermal activity. He will head straight over to check it out. If you follow him you will lift and think to yourself, 'How did the little bugger know about that?' You can actually see him spot a thermal. He bobs his head up and down and reads the air like you or I reading a map.
Although Finley is my best flying partner I have trained several other of my birds to fly with me using training kites. It is the most wonderful experience. You get to see the world from an entirely different prospective.