What do you think is the fastest animal here at Fota Wildlife Park?
I bet you reckon it's the Cheetah............
Sorry, but I'm afraid you're wrong! Well maybe half right. It all depends on what time you visit us here at the park you see. Throughout the summer the park has organised a very special visitor - the Peregrine Falcon.
Our Cheetahs turn green with envy when this amazing bird drops by as it easily takes the crown as the speediest animal in the park. In fact, the Peregrine is actually the fastest animal in the world. While the Cheetah holds the record as the fastest animal on land, reaching speeds of up to 110 kph, the peregrine pulverises this by travelling at up to 320 kph! For those of you still clutching to the imperial system that's around 200 mph! Let me repeat that again.....200mph!
Peregrine Falcon (copyright birdwatchersdigest.com)
The reason why our feathered friend is dropping by is that the Peregrine Falcon is part of a new event running here at the park, the Birds of Prey Experience.
As you can guess from the name, this event offers visitors to the park an up-close encounter with birds of prey. Birds of prey, or raptors, as you know, are those birds that have evolved to be magnificent hunters, equipped with amazing vision, razor-sharp talons and a powerful break to rip through its prey. As well as seeing the Peregrine Falcon, visitors will be treated to a variety of other special raptors.
Also on display will be the Saker Falcon, an endangered bird whose population stands at only 8000 and unfortunately continues to decrease. This is joined by another type of Falcon called the Lanner which originates mainly from Africa and Southern Europe. We will also have a Harris Hawk. The unusual thing about this raptor is that while most birds of prey hunt on their own, the Harris Hawk forms a group of up to 6 individuals to track down and take down their prey. Last but not least is the truly beautiful Barn Owl.
In fact, the Barn Owl is my personal highlight of the day. While it's great to see the various birds of prey so closely, I think it's fantastic for everyone to get to see an animal that is both stunning and native to Ireland. It's very easy to be captivated by the unusual wildlife of exotic countries, and rightly so, but it's also brilliant to get back in touch with our native wildlife. Not many of us here in Ireland have seen a Barn Owl, even though you are probably living not too far from one. The reason for their elusiveness is that they are mainly nocturnal or crepuscular (active in the early morning and late evening). Additionally, their numbers have been severely declining across the island due to habitat loss. In fact their population has halved over the last 25 years.
During the Birds of Prey Experience visitors will be treated to a flight show featuring a number of the birds. This demonstrates the speed and agility of the raptors, made all the more amazing when it's happening just over your head. Following the flight show our talks presenters will be on hand to provide information and bring the magnificent birds out to the audience for a truly up-close encounter.
The Birds of Prey Experience is a new event and has taken place only a few times at the park. It has proved extremely popular with visitors and for that reason has been extended to run over the next few months. Stay tuned to the blog for any updates on this!
The Birds of Prey Experience will next take place on July 25th and 26th and August 15th and 16th at 1pm and 3pm each day. Of course, the event itself is free, with the price included in the entrance fee of the park. Please also bear in mind that the Birds of Prey Experience is subject to weather conditions.
We look forward to seeing you!