A TEENAGER has become the youngest professional falconer in the UK after receiving a government backed grant to start his business.
Peter Wright, of Llangywer, near Bala, was 15 when he was awarded £1,000 by the Llwyddo’n Lleol (Succeeding Locally) scheme which aims to help youngsters in North Wales aged 11 to 19.
Now aged 16, Peter is ready to display his collection of birds and hopes to boost tourism in his area by combining his passion for falconry with bushcraft and hiking.
Peter was 14 when he bought his first Harris hawk, called Storm, which took every penny of his pocket money.
Since then Peter has built up a special bond with Storm and two other Harris hawks who put on a spectacular aerial display when he goes hiking around his local forests.
“We take the Harris hawks for walks through the forest without tethers and they just follow us from tree to tree,” said Peter who has a collection of 14 falcons, hawks and owls.
“They're quite playful and will glide past and clip my ears or if there's two of us they will fly between us and try to squeeze through and the smaller the gap the better.
“The birds fly more in the winter and the first time Storm saw snow he was jumping around excited and flicking it with his beak.
“I was eight when I first held a hawk at a medieval fair in Bodelwyddan Castle where a man was doing some flying.
"After that I wanted to get my own bird but it wasn't until I was twelve that I realised you could buy them.
“That took me about a year with my own money and then I searched the internet and found a Harris hawk for sale not far from home.
“It felt good to have my own bird but it was a bit scary as well because he always had this menacing look in his eye, kind of like a glint.
“It was me who was nervous and Storm was perfect for my first bird
“I did my first show in school in year 9 and I was really nervous because I was in front of all my friends, not just people.
“I took Storm and he was well behaved and everything and let people stroke him while he was sat on my fist.
“I took him outside to fly him on the creance and my whole class was crowded around watching.
“I called him to me and he flew straight away but kept on flying.
“It took me three hours to get him down and I missed three lessons," he said.
Nicholas Kester is the president of the British Falconer Club and said he was “very impressed” that Peter had progressed so much at a young age.
“All credit to Peter for maintaining his passion and we hope he will join us because we're in need of some young blood.
“There are three ways of working with birds of prey commercially and they are pest control, flying displays and breeding.
“Falconry, which is purely hunting with birds of prey, is more of a way of life than a hobby but he will do very well and we wish him all the best for the future,” he said.
Nicola Owen is a development officer for the Llwyddo’n Lleol (Succeeding Locally) scheme and said she was also “very impressed” with Peter's business plan.
“The business plan was completed to a very high standard, in fact it was the best I've seen, and his ideas are unique and its great to see a young person like Peter turning a hobby into a business,” said Miss Owen
Layla Bennett appeared on Dragon's Den and sold a 25 per cent stake in her business Hawksdrift Falconry to Duncan Bannatyne for £50,000.
Miss Bennet who left home aged 16 to take up falconry said it was “wonderful” that someone as young as Peter had taken an interest in the craft.
“This is the kind of interest that will keep falconry going as a sport and pastime from generation to generation,” aid Miss Bennett who has thirty birds of prey at her business in Builth Wells.
“It's fabulous that Peter has done this with his own pocket money and the grant from Menter A Busnes.
“It's also important that entrepreneurs to do as much as they can for themselves because that will help them later,” she said.