Above: bird-of-prey expert Martin Ballam’s dream has become a reality, with the opening of the Dorset Falconry Park


A NEW FALCONRY centre opened last month thanks to the vision of an entrepreneurial bird-of-prey expert and a six-figure funding package from NatWest bank.

The Dorset Falconry Park is home to Xtreme Falconry display team, plus more than 100 birds representing 60 species including Critically Endangered vultures.

It is the brainchild of Martin Ballam, who has more than 34 years’ experience caring for birds of prey. He said: “The ultimate dream has always been to have our own centre to educate the public about birds of prey, as well as breeding and caring for the many species.”

He and his wife Tara are transforming the beautiful seven-acre site near Dorchester and have already created corridors of rough grass, two wildlife ponds and a butterfly garden. “The songbird population has increased. They use our birds as protection and now there are no magpies raiding nests. I have seen 62 species,” said Mr Ballam.

There is a bird hospital, with Mr Ballam’s old friend, and retired vet, Cage & Aviary Birds’ own Alan Jones offering support when needed. Much of the 100-strong collection of captive-bred birds was Mr Ballam’s own (including rehomed and rescued birds); others from friends or private collections.

His soft spot is for Tally, a 50-year-old bateleur eagle (Terathopius ecaudatus) that he has had for about 30 years.

Rather than just focus on the big, well-known birds, the plan is to theme the aviaries – British raptors, European raptors, African raptors and so on – “it will end up as a world tour’’. There are also daily displays. “It is more than just a falconry centre,” added Mr Ballam.

Species that can be seen include golden eagle, Steller’s sea eagle (Haliaeetus pelagicus), the Critically Endangered white-backed vulture (Gyps africanus), Harris hawk, Barbary falcon (Falco pelegrinoides), chaco owl (Strix chacoensis) and milky eagle owl (Bubo lacteus).

The sanctuary is open Wednesday to Sunday, from 10am-5pm. Visit: www.dorsetfalconrypark.co.uk

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