How many of us actually act on what we feel?
Working with the birds of prey for 14 years has taught me so much about myself and my intuition.
I started with a European Eagle Owl, well she was a ball of fluff at 5 weeks old if being honest. This I did so I could imprint it, (hand rear) and have a well balanced bird. Remember, my behaviour will be adopted and highlighted by the bird through it's training that I give it .
As time and years followed I began to trust my own instincts even more.
Watching the behaviour of the birds before flying them free is very important. Were they going to behave and fly well and return or clear off and misbehave. When doing demo's it had to right. I can make myself look stupid without the birds help.
When they are flying free you are no longer in control.
So with Fire Service head on, we try and reduce as much as we can from going wrong.
I had now over the years, built up a variety, from Falcons, to Hawks, Owls and eventually an Eagle.
All very different in character and size. With size comes power. But don't be mislead, the little ones still packed a punch. After all they are Birds of Prey and designed to kill.
An un-gloved hand is not much of a match for a sharp talon.
So I would weigh them daily and feel their condition prior to free flight, this way you start to read the bird and it's behaviour patterns.
My priority is to ensure they are safe and well, but allowing them to regularly fly free.
Just by observing the body language and attitude you get to see if the bird will respond and fly back to the glove. You start to see the subtle things and hints in their habits. We are seeing body language all the time, we maybe just aren't reading it enough.
Have you ever had that feeling come over you where you are thinking, "this doesn't feel right?"
It's a primal instinct and their to protect you. You get that feeling that someone is sneaking up on you from behind. It's your psychic point making you aware.
If it doesn't feel right then don't do it.
The birds instincts are heightened and it's there for their survival.
We have over time become distracted and some could say, even lazy.
Some are more prone to feeling it in their stomach, a gut feeling, but start acting on it rather than dismissing it.
Sometimes due to hormones, the bird's age,the time of year or the bird just being up on weight I flew a couple of my birds on a line (creance, a 25m long line.) I did this just so I could get them safely back in their aviaries as working night shifts and couldn't afford to leave them out overnight. They weren't street wise and would have been injured or killed by wild birds possibly.
I hated doing it, but a fat Eagle Owl will not move unless it's hungry.
This a deep subject to the variables of flying birds.
Flying them is easy, you just let go. Getting them to respond instantly to a call and return is the difficult bit, lol
Nothing better than having them flying free and returning to your gloved hand. Just awesome.
That said I loved it, it was my therapy from busy shift work and unpredictable scenarios and craziness that could happen at any moment.
So on many occasions during my career, I started to listen to that little voice or feeling. The one that really hits home was around the December festive period and we got called to a house fire near the train station. It was a terraced 2 storey building and no obvious signs until we got right outside as it was very foggy. Roof fire well alight.
This was my turn to be BA ( Breathing Apparatus wearer)and not on the Hydraulic Platform, (we took it in turns as we had 2 x LFm and 1 x Sub Officer it was then, a luxury of numbers on a watch and pump and special appliance available for the public, unlike today sadly.)
Anyway we donned BA and entered the building looking for the seat of the fire and the occupant that neighbours had said they hadn't seen him. We have to presume he is still in there.
I took 2 steps in and it became restricted. The place was rammed full of everything, a hoarder.
We had a tiny pathway to wriggle through. Into a hallway, 1 door on right. Stuck my head in and it was completely full, literally. No time to wait here. 3 steps squeezing past a cooker of all things and we are at the bottom of the stairs.
Now we can hear the fire up in attic and feel the heat and had the delight of the Polystyrene tiles dripping down on us, spreading the fire load in its wake. Quick decision was for my mate to stay at the foot of stairs keeping the hose-reel going and me to whip round to what should be the kitchen and dining room to scan to see if he was in there. 30 seconds and glanced in and no sign, trust me not many hiding places, it was packed.
So back and now ascending stairs, we could see the roof hatch missing and flames rolling across the roof void space. There was so much stuff on the floor we were not far from the ceiling level. The whole time I am gas cooling ( spraying methodically the smoke and cooling down our working environment and preventing the continuous droplets from the poly tiles setting fires everywhere it touches. On the landing we now have what should be a bathroom in front and then bedrooms ,front and back and then heading back along the landing towards the front of the house, another small room. We had good comms between us, but little did I know my mate had it pulled off him somewhere on the stairs due to all the constrictions. Easily done.
The ceiling was starting to bow and not overly happy, the fire loading in this place was incredibly high. The rooms all checked with Thermal Imaging Camera, but scanned as this was getting seriously hot.
(You as a BA wearer have equipment hanging off you, and it's already pretty heavy. )
We then both heard a ladder and another BA crew entering the window in the front small bedroom.
This is where maybe the years of training and maybe being a BAI came in, but my instincts were yelling at me saying this roof is coming down..................get out!!
You can see it and feel the heat, but in all our training we don't have the roof actually collapse on us, so you almost don't want to believe it.
I got the other crew back down their ladder, didn't allow him to even get off it, after a few blunt words maybe, but needed to be said and understood due to the severity of the fire inside that they'd not yet seen.
We were literally at the top of the stairs when we heard the sound you don't really want to hear. The Evacuation Whistles.
The outside was a different picture by all accounts. My instincts were right, this is coming down into the first floor level, and with all this fire loading will be something very difficult to deal with.
We retreated with hose-reel and zipped out the front door. Both of us were very aware of the roof collapsing into the first floor as we came out the door, perfect timing!!
It was only when we had closed down the BA sets and stood looking at the fire ripping through and out of the roof that we both noticed we had tingling hands. What was this? Adrenaline from a very close call? No it turns out that the occupant had short circuited the fuse board with nails and where the plaster had come off the walls with the heat and we'd gone round wetting it all, the walls were all now 'live'. So every time we touched the wall, which wasn't as often as you'd like because you couldn't get close to them due to the loading in there, we were getting an electric shock. My hands were shaking. Keeps you on your toes I guess lol.
Turns out he had 20 x 15kg Calor gas cylinders in the house too.
Writing this out and re-reading out loud to my wife has brought up emotions that I thought weren't an issue. Yes it was a bloody close call and maybe because I'm not in the service any more makes it more difficult. Maybe I am just pondering on the fragility of life and how fortunate I am.
So coming back to Instincts..............
Trust yours if you are feeling you want to open up and talk, or maybe to shout and be heard.
Maybe its a person you've only just met, a professional or a friend, but if you feel a connection and you can trust them, then maybe talking things out can help you if you need it.
Writing and keeping active has certainly helped me.
Trust me the birds would not fly to people they didn't like.
I could see it and would use a different member of the family and the birds would respond instantly. Some people have a calming energy and are not a threat.
Some people you just need to avoid at times, it's not their fault, it's just we aren't ready for their energy to be absorbed onto us at this point in time.
Keep a calm grounded energy. Be kind to yourself and trust your instincts.
The calmer I was, the better the behaviour of the birds.
Today is a day off from exercise and I just felt compelled to write.
With the current global situation, if you want to keep your social distance, then do so.
We certainly are.
We are continuing to maintain the social distance rule until it settles down.
That's what my instincts are telling me.
Keep safe and positive.