Look at the bird! Summer is over, and at last a holiday for the inhabitants of ‘t Uilenist | Zeeland news

,,lets see. Ayana is coming, Amy is coming, Ragnar is coming, Polly is coming.” Roald Jonkman leans over a note on a garden table and runs his finger over the list of names. Lucky, Knorri and Buffy of course. Evan, Kira, Louis and Quinn. My great friend Quinn.”

With a wide smile, Roald walked into his garden. The birds of prey he passes follow closely in his footsteps. As soon as Roald turns Quinn’s Alley, the American delinquent makes a high-pitched call. Roald opens his cage door and lets out the bird (“Hey Queenie”) and takes it to the yard. Roald opens a wooden crate and puts Quinn in it. Close the door, tighten the wire, and go to the next door.

All birds are collected. © Wendy Wagnermakers

Angry at the new shoes

It’s eight in the morning on a Sunday when the birds of prey are gathered in Osinis, a dam village in the northeast of Zeu-Flanden, for an educational visit to the other side of the western Scheldt. They’re going to Hof Poppendam children’s play heaven, for the last time this season.

Eleven birds are allowed to come, and seventeen birds stay at home. Fuego for example, vulture tube. “A very sweet animal,” says Roald, but its legs are very small. Doesn’t stay well on the glove. And Zahira, our jackal hawk, well, we’re not going to do that with the kids. Huge.” Roald stops in front of a cage containing a little owl with big eyes that are bright and cute. But she will also stay in Osinis. Yesterday the moon got new shoes. She is still mad about it.”

Trunk full of birds of prey

The birds that go side by side are placed one by one in wooden cages. Roald is going like hell. Amy check. Lucky, check. Meanwhile, the phone rings. It’s the animal ambulance, if Roald can come to Plus, because kittens have been found there. Roald had just taken Ragnar out of his cage. The Desert Hawk patiently waits for Roald to finish his phone call (“call 144”) and then disappears into his wooden box.

“Do we have everything?” Volunteer Destiny shows the list, now with crosses behind all the names. Roald’s wife Heidi also finished her list: posters, coins, ATMs, plant spray, pellets, skulls, flyers, all packed. It’s time to raise the bird to the Skoda Karoq. Seven boxes in the chest, four in the back seat. The lid closes and a scream is heard. Roland laughs. “Evan. He always does.”

Birds go in wooden crates for transportation.
Birds go in wooden crates for transportation. © Wendy Wagnermakers

With their paw on a thread

An hour later, the Skoda crashes into the Hof Bobendam. The first thing Roald and Heidi do in their place is pick the apples. This is to prevent birds from being bothered by wasps. Once you collect the apples, all the items are shown. The birds come at last. Otherwise, it will be filled with people immediately.

This is already happening. Once the first visitors realize that something special is about to happen, one by one they leave the bouncy castle for what it is and set out for company. The first birds now stand on a pillar or block, their claws attached to a thread. “Oh, that’s pathetic!” shouts a boy with a Flemish accent.

expensive hobby

Roald takes a Canadian eagle owl, puts a chair in front of the red and white stripe and sits down. “This is Kira,” he said, immediately surrounded by the children. “It’s beautiful, isn’t it? Kira, open your wings.” Kira spreads her wings, then folds them back. ,, Who wants to flirt with Kira? But with the back of your fingers,” Roald warns. “Does anyone know why? Well, I’ll explain…”

Always stroke with the back of your fingers, as birds like to keep their feathers free of grease and dirt.
Always stroke with the back of your fingers, as birds like to keep their feathers free of grease and dirt. © Lex de Maistre

The visit to Poppendamme is one of many on Het Uilenist’s agenda. Then he trotted with his birds at a nursing center in Ternozen, and then again took a photo in his yard. And all this in his spare time. He still works alongside him, as well as his wife. “The money we make from the activities goes directly to the animals. A bowl of chicks – I call it – used to cost five euros. Now you pay 18.50 for it. It’s an expensive hobby.”

Not without mixed feelings

This hobby for Roald began a long time ago, when he was just a little boy. Since all kids go through a phase where they enchant birds of prey, so does Roald. He did not disappear for his sake, his magic remained. Even when he met Heidi when he was fifteen, in Ternozen. “Where other couples go to the movies or the beach, we go to the zoo. The birds of prey appear in Blankenberge.”

It was something Heidi had to learn to live with, and she quickly realized it. Although it was not without mixed feelings. I love animals, too, but not when they’re caged. Zoo in Antwerp, Roald could not go there. Even at a certain point we met a falconer and saw how free the birds of prey left. Not in crowded fairs, but in the shade, like here. We both said: This method is good.”

Terneuzen’s backyard

Roald and Heidi had a family together when Roald took a course to become a Ranger. Things went well for him. Finally, he can also order his first bird of prey, from a breeder in Berkel en Rodenrijs. Soon another bird followed. And one more. Until the backyard in Ternozen became very small and the Junkmann family set their eyes on an old farm in Osense. The rest is history.

Roald and his first bird of prey, Kira.
Roald and his first bird of prey, Kira. © Lex de Maistre

That first bird, it was Kira. The same eagle owl with whom Roald is now sitting, fourteen years later, in a chair telling the children everything he knows about birds of prey. How does it kill its prey? Only, with his claws. Does anyone know what’s in an owl ball? The Flemish boy is now hanging on to every word.

One bird for two euros, three for five

Roald and Heidi often hear that birds are pathetic. “Having a caged bird of prey in people’s homes is really pathetic,” says Heidi, but falconry has been around for as long as dogs have been domesticated. Even the Animal Protection Service thought what we did was animal abuse. So they came to see us. They stayed half the day. After a few weeks we became part of their organization.”

Roald points to the table behind Heidi. “If you want to take a picture with a bird, you can buy coins there.” Of course all kids want that. Their parents take their wallets. One bird for two euros, three for five. In the meantime, children can choose a bird. All the animals stare stoically before her in the shade of the apple trees. Often referred to as owls.

Baby Nina sleeps through the night when desert hawk Ragnar joins her in Maxi-Cosi.
Baby Nina sleeps through the night when desert hawk Ragnar joins her in Maxi-Cosi. © Lex de Maistre

Sager with baby Nina on Maxi Cosi

A woman pushing her cart forward. “I have a four-month-old here. Can you do something with that too?” Yes, Heidi nods, anything is possible. Moments later, Saqr is standing on the edge of Maxi-Cosi, thirty centimeters away from baby Nina. Mother Mariel stands next to her “a little nervous.” But the hawk stays in place and baby Nina doesn’t yell at all. she is sleeping. The photo succeeded.

Then her brother Sam. This is what they came for. “This boy is totally crazy about owls,” his mother says. , Little Switzerland, Alvin an den Rhein We’ve already been all over the place. As a child, he got a cuddly owl and then was completely lost. He now has 98 in his room. “

Instead of going into the woods of playing

Roald gets Kyra for Sam. The boy lunges from ear to ear while the owl is placed on his hand. ,, They are so beautiful. I prefer sitting in a chair and watching it all day. And I also heard things I didn’t know before. They attack with their feet, for example. I didn’t know that yet.”

Sam van der Starr with Canadian eagle owl Kira.
Sam van der Starr with Canadian eagle owl Kira. © Lex de Maistre

When raptors are allowed to recover from all the photo opportunities, Roald says, that’s exactly why we do these kinds of afternoons. These children are our future. They later became our leaders, our teachers, you name it. We must not let them play games, we must let them play in the woods. Going back to nature and taking care of this nature, that is my goal. That’s why you have to let them try something.”

Kidney-sized tumor

About a year ago, Roald, 47, fell ill. “I was at work and had such stomach pains that I went home. They gave me morphine four times at the GP, but it didn’t help. It had to be my kidneys. When they went to investigate, it turned out I had kidney stones. Be happy, the doctor said, Because we discovered something else. My kidney had a kidney-sized tumor. I had cancer.”

Roald had to go under the knife quickly, but that wasn’t possible because the hospital wanted to keep beds free for Corona patients. “That didn’t exist,” Roald says. “Finally they were able to get me surgery after seven weeks. They removed the kidney, the operation was successful. But then my blood pressure went down.” 57 after 27, “That’s the last I heard. Then I went for a few minutes.”

Until he sold two birds

Roald regained consciousness, but received another blow just three weeks later: it spread to his lungs. “At the end of 2021, I was told I still had one year to live. They wanted to try something else with the immunotherapy to extend my life. It doesn’t work in four out of five patients. Tumor. In principle, I can age again.”

It’s quiet behind the table. “We almost lost him,” Heidi finally says. “Yes, and then what? Aside from the grief within our family, the children, there is of course more. Our whole lives revolve around birds. What do you do with that? We talked about it, yeah. We even sold two birds. We were really that far” .

Roald, with Ragnar on his leg.
Roald, with Ragnar on his leg. © Wendy Wagnermakers

Ragnar down Roald’s leg

Roald points to his falcon leg. Ragnar. Pulls down Heidi’s shirt sleeve. “And there’s Buffy. Put them together when all the misery is over.”

The oncologist said: Do only what you enjoy. And that’s what Roald does. He has temporarily started working less, with fewer responsibilities as well, and is now devoting more time to his birds. “Flying with them, building beautiful things for them. I really enjoy it.”

Roald fulfilled his dream: he has more birds than he dreamed of as a child. He is a falconer, and thanks to a miracle he will remain so for the time being. I’m glad I always kept birds as a hobby, because I never made it my job. Walk in the North Pole on a Sunday afternoon with a hawk in my arms and let the beast fly, then come back to you. Nothing is better than that.”

Heidi with brown owl Buffy on her hand and arm.
Heidi with brown owl Buffy on her hand and arm. © Lex de Maistre

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