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Skye hawks put pests to flight

Euan Naylor & Jenny Sandiford, Skye
Jenny Sandiford and Euan Naylor hold
some of the falcons used in their business

by Clive Dennier
A KILLER business idea which has taken wings on Skye has veered off in a new direction.

The Isle of Skye Falconry has become a popular tourist attraction since it was formed last summer, but recent interest in the birds' natural predatory instincts has led to a change of direction for the business.

The birds of prey have attracted attention from companies wishing to enlist the natural predators to solve bird problems of their own.

Euan Naylor and his partner, Jenny Sandiford set up the falconry business in Kensaleyre near Uig with the help of grants from Skye and Lochalsh Enterprise (Sale) and the Prince's Scottish Youth Business Trust. The fledgling business began by offering hawk walks and falconry courses, giving locals and tourists the chance to see and handle birds of prey from around the world, while at the same time promoting environment and conservation issues.

News of the unusual attraction spread and the couple were soon approached by businesses seeking solutions to pest control problems.. Now the couple's birds have become seagulls' number one enemy as they guard the skies above industrial estates and inside warehouses across the Highlands.

Ms Sandiford explained the company's recent change in direction:

"We didn't see ourselves offering a pest control service when we first started the business but it has certainly helped us survive a quiet winter.

"We've completed a few contracts, and our birds seem to have been quite successful at scaring off gulls. They don't actually catch or kill them, they just disturb them from nesting and roosting in the area"

The couple benefited from the HIE Starts scheme - a European-funded initiative to provide a regular. income and advice for new businesses during the first few months of trading.
With six months of HIE Starts assistance from SALE behind them, the couple had all the support they needed to pursue this new market, as Mr Naylor explained:

"The allowance scheme provided us with the capital to buy the materials needed to start our business, and without this we would have struggled through the winter.

"We started off with a team of eight birds and now have 11, with three new arrivals due in March. As our number of birds increases so does the need for a bigger site, and we have started looking for land on Skye large enough to house around 80 birds."

The Press & Journal, February 13, 2003

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