Lloyd Buck is the most well known and sought after trainer of birds for Television and Film in this country, particularly for BBC tv’s Springwatch and Autumnwatch. He’s become a household name by showing his tame starlings on television and allowing them to fly amongst and, occasionally, land on members of the audience.
I first met Lloyd in the middle 1990s when I was preparing to make a film for the BBC about a Red-breasted Goose that took the wrong turn when it was migrating from Arctic Russia and landed in Norfolk instead of Hungary.
Bill Makins, then owner of Pensthorpe just outside Fakenham, procured some RBG eggs and they were duly put in an incubator and hatched. A lovely girl, Rebecca, now took over and began imprinting the RBG goslings on her black and white striped socks. They followed her wherever she went, glued to her ankles.
As they grew bigger Rebecca ran in front of them and they fluttered after her. As soon as they were full grown we took them to the Sculthorpe airfield where we had obtained permission to fly them. Their travelling crate was put on the runway, Rebecca was sitting in the back of our landrover, holding a strip of white cloth with black stripes. The door to the travelling crate was opened by remote control The geese walked out. Rebecca waved her stripey cloth. The geese started running. The landrover moved off. The geese flew and took up position within a few feet of Rebecca.
After a few more days training a small BBC crew arrived to film the flying shots for the film we were making and that’s how I met Lloyd Buck. He was driving the truck on which Nigel Marven, the cameraman, was positioned in order to film the flying geese.
Shortly afterwards Lloyd went on to imprint Greylag Geese. He had a flock of about a dozen which could be flown free and fly alongside a boat quite naturally. That was how they got the wonderful sequence of David Attenborough in a speeding boat with the geese flying alongside him.
Lloyd’s great passion is for birds of prey. I was in contact with him again when I was writing my book, A Sparrowhawk’s Lament – a book that dealt with British birds of prey and they were faring. I needed facts on the stooping speeds of Peregrine Falcons.
Lloyd told me of an experiment that he undertaken in Italy. There was a bridge over a five hundred foot ravine. He’d fitted a harness carrying an accelerometer onto his Peregrine’s back. A colleague standing beside him dropped a lure down into the gorge. By gradually increasing the time between dropping the lure and releasing his falcon Lloyd was able to work out the maximum speed necessary to catch the lure before it hit the ground. On one flight the accelerometer pulled 6G, the equivalent of nearly 200 miles an hour.
On a recent Springwatch programme, Lloyd used specially trained birds, a Gyrfalcon and a Peregrine to settle an argument over which was the faster in level flight. Martin Hughes Games, riding a motor bike with a lure attached to it, was given a head start before each falcon was released in turn to try and catch the lure. The big money was on the Peregrine. The Gyrfalcon won. The smaller Peregrine looked faster but the bulkier, bigger Gyrfalcon look slower but was in fact faster.
Lloyd Buck has kindly agreed to give Friends of Sculthorpe Moor a talk, illustrated with clips from his programmes, on 29th October starting at 6pm at the Fakenham College Conference Centre, Wells Road, Fakenham.
He will be flying a tame Starling and a Barn Owl during his talk and he will also show, but not fly, a Raven, a Golden Eagle, a Peregrine Falcon and a Gyrfalcon.
It promises to be a very memorable evening and I’m very grateful to Lloyd for making the long journey from his home near Bristol to entertain us. Don’t miss this show.
Tickets for the event are available from Sculthorpe Moor Community Nature Reserve at £15 (children half price) or can be purchased by phoning 01328 856788.