Take a step inside the back garden of a house in a quiet Grenoside street and you might be surprised.
For Charlie Pass’s yard is a little bit out of place compared to the rest of the houses in Main Street, Sheffield.
And that’s because it contains ten fully-fledged birds of prey and is home to a high-flying falconry business.
It might sound like something out of hit sixties movie Kes, which was based in South Yorkshire, but it is a way of life for the teenager.
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Born and raised in the area, 19-year-old ‘Chaz’ is a part-time tree surgeon but a full-time falconer and he has been flying birds of prey for almost a decade.
“I came home one morning from work and my dad had one in the back,” said Charlie.
“A lot of people I know will have a bird but they won’t fly it, they’ll have it to show. But it’s got wings and it’s meant to be flown”
“He said ‘I’ve got this and I’ve been thinking about getting into it.’
“I went and bought one two years after that and since then it’s the number of birds we have has gone up and up.”
Falconry isn’t a cheap hobby to take up.
Minus the vast array of necessary gear, a Harris Hawk – a beginner’s bird – rings in at £300.
The ‘complicated’ falcons and goshawks go for far more.
“I paid £2,000 for a goshawk round about six months ago,” he said.
“I came back one day and it had been eaten by another one of my goshawks. The jesses must have pulled through its anklets and it’s got to the other bird and eaten it.
“A lot of people I know will have a bird but they won’t fly it, they’ll have it to show. But it’s got wings and it’s meant to be flown“
“Luckily he didn’t go for anything else. It’s dog-eat-dog in their world.”
As well as falcons, Charlie also has owls among his ten-strong collection of birds. For Charlie though, falconry isn’t about the money.
“If you’re going to get a bird you the best bird you can. It’s how you make it,” he said.
His current collection includes a goshawk, two snowy owls, a Lanner falcon, a Gyr-saker falcon, two Harris Hawk brothers, an American red-tail buzzard, Blossom the barn owl and a 12lb European eagle owl named Bonnie. “It’s not a hobby for me. It’s like a passion, a sport,” he added.
“A lot of people I know will have a bird but they won’t fly it, they’ll have it to show. But it’s got wings and it’s meant to be flown.
“A falcon can get to the English coast in a day from here. You’ve got to keep them fit and loyal.”
Falconers need permission from landowners or farmers to fly and hunt with their birds. Charlie flies them locally and also in Lincoln.
As far as their diet is concerned, each week Charlie’s ten birds get through 300 day-old chicks bought from a local supplier.
“What we feed ours are quails and rabbits and anything they catch is their reward,” he adds.
“Buzzards are more like a road-kill bird so they’ll find anything they can and if it’s rotten they’ll eat it anyway.“
When the winter approaches, Charlie feeds them ‘a bit of rat to keep their protein up’.
“If they’re not hungry they’ll just sit in a tree all day. I’ve waited hours for them to come down because I haven’t got the weight of their food right.
“They are weighed every day. That’s the most crucial thing in falconry, weighing them. It’s a fine line between losing them or keeping them close to you.”
Charlie and his team are available for hire – see the website at Sheffield Falconry or find him on Facebook at Woodhead-Falconry.
This article first appeared in The Star