Student journos in seagull swoop scoop


img_1769Intrepid first year journalism students Poppy Carson and Eleanor Prince swooped in on a celebrity story with a difference at the University of Worcester yesterday.

The hawk-eyed pair were taking part in a broadcast news gathering exercise on the St John’s campus when they spotted a peregrine falcon perched on a sports field lamp post.

When they saw it was wearing jesses, the leather straps used to control birds of prey while training or on the glove, Poppy and Eleanor set about scouring nearby bushes to find the falconer.

They soon spotted Dale Atkinson, resplendent in hi-viz jacket and leather gauntlet, and asked for an impromptu video interview.

As Dale explained how he and feathered beady-eyed buddy Reggie had been hired by the University to scare off seagulls, the students skilful interviewing techniques uncovered a terrific top line.

“I asked Dale about his gauntlet and he asked us to guess which celebrity had once worn it,” explained Eleanor.

“Poppy and I couldn’t believe our luck when he said Wolverine star Hugh Jackman had worn it on the set of the X-Men films where Dale had been a resident bird trainer with another of his falcons named Rico.

“It was our cue to ask whether he’d ever met any other celebrities and he said he was a regular spring time visitor in Sir Elton John’s London back garden to scare off parakeets with a Harris hawk named Lizzie.”

Poppy, who filmed the interview, added “When we asked Dale what Elton John was like, he told us that he’d only met Elton’s husband David Furnish and their two sons Zachary and Elijah.

“Not only had he given them an impromptu display of Lizzie’s flying skills in Elton’s garden but he’d also had to row out onto the family lake to retrieve one of their pet ducks after it took off to hide from the hawk.”

Dale, who works for Midland company J.G. Environmental Pest Control, said he was surprised to find himself being interviewed while scouring the campus for seagulls.

“This is the first of many visits to the University of Worcester for me,” he said. “I’ve seen about ten seagulls on the campus looking for nesting sites but they don’t hang around once they spot Reggie and Lizzie.

“Given the chance to build nests and lay eggs, they can be really protective and aggressive and start dive bombing people.”

Broadcast lecturer James McDonald said Poppy and Eleanor’s swoop scoop proved how tenacious interviewing skills can pay off.

“This inside story on Sir Elton’s pesky parakeets and Hugh Jackman’s falconry training on the Wolverine film set would fly into the pages of a celebrity glossy,” he said.

“It goes to show that a bird in the hand is definitely worth two trainee journalists looking for stories in the bush.”


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