12:00 pm

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[Cong, IRELAND]
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The eagle owl
Has a five foot wing span
And eyes as big as planets.
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We have been learning to fly hawks at Ireland's School of Falconry located in the grounds of Ashford Castle near the village of Cong. What a totally engaging experience that has been -- walking through the woodland for almost two hours with Tommy, our instructor, and the two hawks 'allocated' to us, Wexford and Cala. After returning the two hawks to their perches, Tommy invites us to fly Dingle, an eagle-owl -- the largest owl species in the world it turns out. Dingle flies from Tommy's glove to ours with appropriate arm/glove gestures (and the reward of food). When he lands on our gloves, his wings spread wide -- five foot wide no less. A massive feathery fan! His eyes are enormous in his solemn flat face, filled with the consciousness of all the world it seems. Of comets, planets and solar systems I feel sure. His eyes are orange as marmalade. Or fire. Tommy tells us the owl can hear the heartbeat of even a small mouse off in the field. We watch as the owl responds to a small girl on the other side of the hedgerow -- because, Tommy says, he can hear her more rapid heartbeat, and this puts him on edge. For a time, Sue and I are a privileged part of this other world made of pure watching and listening. And fierce intent.

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