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On a wing and a preyer

Euan Naylor & Jenny Sandiford, Skye
The dramatic setting of the island has provided the perfect backdrop for Euan & Jenny's fledgling business

Northumberland couple fly the nest to set up falconry centre on Isle of Skye

It would be wrong to assume that just because it is called the Isle of Skye Falconry, it is only falcons that Jenny Sandiford and Euan Naylor are involved with.

Recently the pair took delivery of a new batch of birds, among them a European Eagle Owl (the largest of the owl family, weighing in at a hefty 7lb), a Little Owl (one of the smallest, at 7oz) and a Harris Hawk.

There are a variety of birds because school groups and tourists like to see the differences between owls, falcons and hawks, close-up, on the glove, and in free flight.

Already one local school has chosen to sponsor Milly, the Barn Owl, raising money to pay for the bird's feed costs for a year. In return, the children can get regular visits from Milly, as if she was their own.

Both Jenny and Euan have moved to Skye from Northumberland. "I studied conservation and countryside management at a college near Newcastle," begins Jenny. "Euan worked at the Kielder Water Bird of Prey Centre in Northumberland."

"Euan's father was partly responsible for us choosing Skye. He loves the island and is a frequent visitor to it. he has a house here and offered us its use for the next three years. Also, we thought Skye would benefit from a falconry business as a tourist attraction, as well as for locals, and that there would be a demand for its services."

"We did a lot of market research. There is barely a county in England that does not have a falconry centre."

The pair moved to Skye in May and opened their doors in August. The ultimate aim is to be able to welcome members of the public to a purpose-built bird of prey centre.

There is plenty for people to see and do. For instance, for a party of between one and six, there is the Hawk Walk, a two-hour trail through the large grounds and woods of a nearby hotel, with a hawk in close pursuit. There are also bird management courses, for those aspiring to train and fly a bird of their own.

Jenny and Euan also offer static and flying displays at local and regional events such as agricultural shows, host corporate days and stage talks and demonstrations to children from disadvantaged urban areas. At the moment all bookings have to be made in advance.

Hunting is not on the pair's agenda - yet. Scaring is, however. "We have carried out work for people troubled by birds, say seagulls beginning to colonise a town centre or sparrows converging on a retail food outlet. We can come in with a bird, say a Hybrid Falcon for seagulls and a Harris Hawk for sparrows, and allow it to make its presence known," says Jenny. "No harm will come to the birds, we just intend to scare them. We've also had calls from farmers who have rabbits to control."

Contact Isle of Skye Falconry on 01470-532489.
Visit www.isleofskye-falconry.co.uk.

The Prince's Scottish Youth Business Trust,
January 2003

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