Donna, Imo and Rufus

My most memorable meal: Donna Davis, falconer

Donna, Imo and Rufus

Donna pictured on the right with daughter Imogen and Rufus this week at Wimbledon

My most memorable meal was back when I was just 16.  Wayne (Donna’s husband) and I had gone to North Wales hiking in the mountains.  I had never been hiking and the whole experience was completely new to me, I was a total novice.  It’s when I discovered that Wayne had a real love of ornithology, bending an ear to the slightest of bird call, identifying the different owners and pointing out many species of birds that were barely even visible to me.  We had a rucksack between us with our supplies, there was a little milk pan, it didn’t quite fit so the handle was sticking out between the buckles.  The hiking was hard and it was cold but our plan was to get to the top of Moel Moel and have soup, our conquering meal.  As we approached the summit the weather changed, as it tends to do in the mountains of North Wales.  The heavens opened followed by gale force winds.  We carried on and found some shelter and tried, unsuccessfully, to light the tiny gas stove.  It was impossible.  We had a tin of Baxter’s vegetable soup, the promise of a hot cup of soup at the top of the mountain had been our driving force.  The soup came out of the tin like a pale terrine.  One slice or two?  As meals go it was pretty disappointing but the circumstances and the events undoubtedly changed my life and set me on my path.

The little milk pan was Wayne’s mum’s and over the years it migrated to our house.  It goes on camping holidays still, it’s used by everyone and has seen many, many culinary disasters and triumphs.  When the children were experimenting and learning how to cook it was used for toffee, caramel, custard and sauces, and it’s perfect for hot chocolate and porridge too.  We worked it out to be 55 years old and I have no idea how it’s survived given the heavy use it’s received from us over the years.  I see it as an expression of life; it’s dented and looking a bit battered, it’s had so many experiences, but it’s still here to tell the tale.

Donna and her daughter Imogen run their family  business Avian Environmental Consultants. You might have seen them in the media this week along with Rufus, the now famous Harris hawk, on Wimbledon’s centre court, keeping pigeons away from grunting tennis players.   They work throughout the year at Wimbledon and can also be seen regularly at Westminster Abbey, Canary Wharf, Leicester University and various other sites around the UK.

Flying a bird such as Rufus in an area that’s densely populated with pigeons prevents the birds from getting too comfortable.  The bird is flown at regular times throughout the month, the pigeons sense a predator and make a quick exit.  Fight or flight, there aren’t many pigeons who would take on a Harris hawk so it works as an environmentally friendly method of bird control.

Donna lives with Wayne and their six children, owls, a baby goshawk, falcons and various other birds of prey in rural Northamptonshire.

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