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Sunday, April 22, 2012

The owl and the...er, that’s no pussycat! Unlikely friendship puts a new spin on Edward Lear poem

By Jonathan Petre

The owl and the pussycat may seem like a natural combination thanks to Edward Lear’s famous nonsense poem.

But the sight of an owl and a dog teaming up is still enough to raise a few eyebrows.

Willow the barn owl grabbing a lift on the back of lurcher Merlin is now a familiar sight at the Pen y Bryn Falconry centre in Llanfihangel Glyn Myfyr, North Wales.

The owl and the.... Willow takes a ride on Merlin's back

Three months ago, Willow’s handler, college student Lowri Peacock, began combining Willow’s daily exercise with Merlin’s walk.

When the bird had finished flying, Ms Peacock sat one-year-old Willow on the dog’s back. And rather than complaining, Merlin clearly enjoyed carrying his feathered passenger.

Now the owl gets daily lifts from his canine companion.

Ms Peacock said that when Merlin sets off for a run, Willow loves riding on his back with her wings outstretched to keep her balance.

She said: ‘They are inseparable. People always stop and smile when they see them going by.’

Islwyn Jones, who runs the falconry centre, said he recently took the pair to an event at nearby Denbigh Castle and they had delighted the crowds with their double act.

When Willow is not riding on Merlin’s back, she is being trained in a very specialist art – to fly down the aisle during weddings to deliver wedding rings.

Mr Jones, who has been handling birds of prey for many years, was one of the first in the country to train owls to perfect the skill.

When the vicar asks for the rings, the best man slips on a glove and Mr Jones releases Willow, who then swoops down the aisle to deliver them.

To the amazement of the congregation – and the unsuspecting bride – the best man then takes the rings from a pouch carried by Willow.



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