Last Sunday I had a day out at Gentleshaw Wildlife Centre, which confusingly is in Eccleshall, a good 20 miles from Gentleshaw! The centre is a small sanctuary for exotic animals and birds of prey. They operate a wild bird of prey hospital which takes in sick or injured raptors from vets and members of the public. The birds are treated and rehabilitated before being released back into the wild. As well as the wild bird hospital, the centre take in exotic pets that have been mistreated or got too big for their owners. They are the home for for over 30 different species of bird of prey, primate, reptile, invertebrate, raccoons, cats and many more.
The centre run many different kinds of events but I was there to attend a bird photography session. We started by taking some pictures of Elsie the Mackinder’s eagle owl and Jill the harris hawk being put through their paces in the display arena.
We then headed out of the wildlife centre and into the fields at the back to get some pictures of the barn owls, Hops and Barley, in a more natural setting away from the aviaries. Hops and Barley are still very young and were being flown using a creance, which is type of light cord which is used to stop the birds flying away during training.
As well as doing in-flight shots we also got the opportunity to take static photos of a variety of different birds in and around the natural settings at the back of the centre. This makes for a great photography experience as it is unusual to be able to get so close to such magnificent animals without cages or wires getting in the way. We were able to photograph a tawny owl, peregrine falcon, buzzard, kestrel, plus my favourite, Victor the tiny and very cute white faced owl.
The whole event was a brilliant experience which I can thoroughly recommend to anyone with a camera (even a camera phone). It costs £35, and as well as being excellent value for money, it’s great to know that every penny of your admission fee goes to helping the centre run and look after its animals. The centre is a registered charity and rely on donations from members of the public to keep running. If you just want to visit to see the animals in their enclosures admission is a bargain at £4.00 per adult and £3.00 for children and OAPs.