Q1 2024

SME News Q1 2024 / 58 Birds of Prey Conservation Takes Flight For over 4,000 years, falconers have been granting the everyday person access to the raw beauty and power of birds of prey. The practise feels as old as time itself, and yet the birds themselves don’t change. These magnificent creatures transcend what one would typically expect of a feathered friend, often times promising a sight to behold when given the chance to behave as they would in the wild. Where some falconries may believe that flying the birds is enough to convey this message, Dan Mercer of Mercer Falconry goes one step further. Below, we explore how his unapologetic love for birds of prey has transformed what we have come to expect from the everyday falconry experience. Based in the quaint village of Coton on the Elms, Swadlincote, Mercer Falconry is, by far, the region’s most personal insight into some of the world’s most astounding creatures. Often conducting falconry experiences in small groups, Dan Mercer has introduced a whole new meaning to the profession. As opposed to simply showing people the flying capabilities of his beautiful birds, he instead takes a different approach – one that, from a participant’s perspective, presents a once in a lifetime opportunity. You see, Dan’s flock doesn’t simply exist to wow and amaze - instead, they’re trained with the utmost love and care to just be themselves. Dan wishes to give all individuals the chance to witness the natural behaviours of birds of prey. This, in itself, is a factor that truly distinguishes Mercer Falconry from other falconers – instead of just flying birds from perch to glove, he instead grants them the freedom to exhibit all of the quirks and behaviours that they would in the wild. From their flying patterns to their innate tracking abilities, Dan grants a very special look into the often hidden nature of various birds of prey. This ultimately stems back to the initial intentions that Dan had upon founding Mercer Falconry. Having established the business himself, and subsequently running experiences, shows, and educational ventures with little to no additional assistance, Dan is able to maintain his overarching goal: to educate the public on the science of birds in the wild, as well as how to encourage the conservation of these enigmatic birds. This message of conservation is the throughline that has propelled Mercer Falconry forward over the years, and is delivered through every experience session, fair, and educational visit he conducts. ‘Conservation through education’ is a sentiment that you’ll often hear Dan emphasising throughout his work, and he prides himself on being able to empower others to help protect the wild birds of prey population. However, to fully understand how Dan came to adopt such a unique approach to the art of falconry, we believe it necessary to take a little look into his past. Unlike the vast majority of falconers, Dan Mercer hails from a zoo background. As such, he’s been able to integrate a variety of skills and tricks of the trade that he acquired throughout his learning process into the ways he trains his birds. Whilst more traditional means exist, Mercer Falconry was constructed around the idea of doing things a bit differently, and it’s from this mindset that Dan went about introducing a more modern science of animal training to such an old practise. This blend of traditional and contemporary is unlike anything other falconers within the region have attempted. Partnered with Dan’s exceptional attitude, knowledge, and enthusiasm, Mercer Falconry has become something incredibly special. By honing his practises over the years, Dan has now become a renowned name throughout the local area. In the beginning, he learned that there were ways to train birds that granted them the immense levels of respect that they deserve, and it was in this moment that Dan’s life started to change. Now, he leverages Mercer Falconry’s reach and influence to educate individuals on birds of prey. Every aspect, from their natural behaviours to the dangers they face in the wild, is critical to get across, resulting in practises that not only put the birds best interests first, but encourage people to really care for the cause. Dan’s aim is to educate and showcase their natural beauty, which forms the very backbone of each experience. Dan Mercer is an exceptional and fascinating man whose adoration for his birds knows no bounds. As someone who has participated in one of his falconry experiences, it’s impossible for me to even imagine the preconceptions that I once had. I believed that birds of prey were only compliant to the will of their handlers; that they were trained to perform. What I instead witnessed was everything I could’ve hoped for. I saw a man who genuinely loves each and every member of his flock – one who, under no circumstances, would make his birds do anything they didn’t want to do. I didn’t see performing animals, but instead beautiful birds of prey acting exactly as they would without any added guidance. That alone stands as a testament to the type of falconer that Dan has tirelessly worked to become. At its heart, Mercer Falconry isn’t simply a way for Dan to make money. In fact, it’s the opposite. When we spoke with Dan, he expressed a complete disinterest in the business becoming a lucrative venture. He even pondered “why would I want numbers in my bank when I can just go out and fly my birds?” Mercer Falconry exists to serve a far higher purpose: to provide Dan with a platform to spread the conservation message with each individual he meets. The end goal? To open a sanctuary through which he can breed and release endangered birds of prey species back into the wild. Making a real difference is what matters the most, and it’s clear that Dan isn’t willing to stop until he’s confident that he’s achieved this goal. In fact, we are excited to share that, since the start of the new year, Mercer Falconry has already taken its first tangible step into the conservation of wild birds of prey. Recently, Dan was able to set up a fund for individuals to donate to – a fund that he has already began putting towards the construction of nesting boxes for wild birds of prey. Equipped with cameras to monitor and capture the precious cycle of life, these boxes not only grant the birds a safe space to settle, but also hold the potential to showcase the breeding and raising of wild barn owl, tawny owl, and kestrel chicks. If our readers are interested, they too can become a part of Dan’s active effort to protect our country’s avian wildlife. Here at SME News we’re beyond proud to showcase and become part of Mercer Falconry’s journey towards changing the future of the UK’s wild birds of prey population. Dan Mercer has always worn his heart on his sleeve when it comes to his birds – whether this shines through his commitment to running the British Falconry and Raptor Fair for the second year in a row, or through the loving training of his new birds Igor, Lincoln, Ghara, and Isla. This year has some incredibly exciting ventures just waiting to be explored, and we simply can’t wait to see what new birds of prey experiences Mercer Falconry intends to bring to us. Contact: Dan Mercer Company: Mercer Falconry Web Address: https://mercerfalconry.co.uk/ 'In loving memory of Kit the barn owl'