JRJ was actually born James Norval Herald Justice on the 15th June 1907 in Lee, a suburb of Lewisham, London England. He was the son of an Aberdeen born geologist James Justice. The family must have been relatively well heeled as the young James was educated at Marlborough College in Wiltshire and then went on to study science at University College London. However he left after only one year and became a geology student at the University of Bonn. He apparently also failed to settle here and after barely a year left. A talent he did have in abundance was to able to pick up languages and it is said that he could speak in a great many, often stated as being up to as many as twenty different which included Spanish, French, Greek, Russian, German, Italian, Dutch and Gaelic.
Fatal attraction: electrocution of Saker Falcons at electricity power lines in Mongolia / Andrew Dixon - International Wildlife Consultants Ltd
It’s early August and a juvenile Saker Falcon drifts over the vast open steppes of central Mongolia, where the rolling grasslands stretch as far as the eye can see. This young bird has recently dispersed from the nesting territory where it was reared and now, about three months after it hatched, it has recently been exploring new surroundings in search of food. Fortunately, it has come across an area where there is so much food, rodents everywhere, teaming over the ground but all keeping a wary eye open for any predators and they are not so easily caught. Many other young Sakers have ended up here too, having dispersed from natal sites at all points of the compass, they have settled to make the most of the glut of rodents in this particular region of the steppe.
A year or so ago I was fortunate enough to receive an invitation to join a friend and fellow falconer, Leo Mandelsperger, hawking Herons in southern Germany. Hawking herons is perfectly legal for a brief season but local government can grant a special extension in the case of those employing falcons to help protect fish farms and rearing stations. I jumped at the invitation as the flight is one that has always fascinated me and although it can never be what is was when pursued by The Loo Hawking Club and falconers from around that era it is still a flight I longed to see carried out properly. There are many that have caught herons as they rise from a ditch with either large falcon or goshawks but for me this is smash and grab hawking not hawking of any quality. I wanted to see flights where the heron was already well and truly airborne and accordingly the contest between falcon and heron would be a sporting one. Subsequently I found myself in due course being collected from Munich airport and then enjoying some first class sport as well as old fashioned hospitality for a few days.
Last year saw the ICBP at Newent and the UKFC collaborate on a weekend event of falconry and despite it being thought of as a success in most visitors minds the two organisations parted company amicably and decided to go their own ways. The UKFC held an event in August, which is reported elsewhere in this issue, and ICBP decided it would host an event in its own right this year.
I have been trying out a new 1st generation GPS unit designed for personal use in the falconry world. Having spoken to the designer on the phone I was not only interested to see if it worked as well as he claimed, but if it was as easy to use.
For those who were attending the festival and not working the whole time there were also several excursions that could be taken. These included The Falcon Hospital, a Houbara breeding centre and of course the Grand Mosque. Places were fairly limited on each of the trips but I think most of those who wanted to participate managed to do so to at least one of the destinations. Some of us working with the falcons at the festival were fortunate enough to have seen such things before and so missing them this time round was no hardship.
“The World of Falconry” recently had the good fortune to be invited to participate in the 3rd Falcon-Expo to be held in Bad Sackingen which is in Southern Germany. The venue was right in a little pocket on the map where Germany, France and Switzerland all come together. Mobile phones have an awful job of working out where they are and what network they should be on and accordingly spent most of the duration of the visit to the event switched off. The organiser, Richard Senft, kindly invited “The World of Falconry” to attend and allowed the magazine to have a stand, free of charge, in a very prominent position for which we are extremely grateful. The Falcon-Expo is a three day affair along the lines of The Falconry Fair in Britain but obviously on a smaller scale, although this particular celebration of falconry is apparently growing in both participant and visitor numbers year by year. The event is held within the grounds of a Wildlife Museum and Golf complex which at first, on paper at least, perhaps seems a very strange setting. In actual fact the event site works well as the museum and clubhouse give excellent toilet and showering facilities for the participants as well as the normal temporary toilets for the visitors you would expect at such an event.
The Tidal Train bringing passengers from flushing via Queensborough to London, on Friday week, brought also the annual consignment of Dutch hawks for English falconers. They were fifteen in number, in the charge of Mr. George Oxer, falconer to The Old Hawking Club; and under his assiduous care they arrived (hooded of course) on two cadges, in perfect order, without a feather broken. A little party of expectant hawkers were on the platform to meet them, and the birds on arrival were eagerly scanned and criticised. There were twelve falcons and three tiercels, all birds of the year or, as they are generally called, red hawks, from the rufous tone which at that age pervades the dorsal plumage. Not a single haggard had been captured, nor did any goshawk, gerfalcon or merlin add variety to the picturesque group of “falconer’s favourites”.
George Roach is a well known and highly respected falconer who has been flying hawks the better part of sixty years. He has several different claims to fame in the falconry world each one of which would be sufficient to single him out from the crowd. George, along with the great Hungarian falconer Lorant De Bastyai, was one of the very first to give public flying demonstrations with birds of prey in Britain. Not just the run of the mill falcon to a lure demonstrations either. George stepped, or rather rode, into the arena as Saladin, astride Blizzard his Arab horse and flew falcons with tremendous style and panache. Later, in conjunction with his good friend Gary Balchin, George founded The British Hawking Association and steered it towards establishing itself as a major club in Britain. The BHA was the first falconry club in the UK to have a proper apprenticeship scheme in place. Also as a hood maker George has very few equals and his work is considered amongst the finest available. The one thing that singles George out probably more than anything else is that everyone you ever talk to about him considers him a true gentleman in every sense of the word.
Some days just seem to go well and everything goes according to plan. Most of course do not for some reason or other, particularly when deadlines and obligations to be somewhere else within a time period create added pressure to fit in some hawking into our daily lives. Today was one of those days that seemed to go just right and I’d like to share it with you.