He stands nearly half a metre tall and weighs more than half a kilo but, says his handler, Paul Thomson, he is very agile. Quinn flies through Trinity’s courts each week, keeping an eagle – or rather a hawk’s – eye out for one of the banes of College bursars’ lives.
Quinn is a Harris Hawk, a breed from South America, which in the wild would hunt for small ground game birds and rodents. In East Anglia, Quinn’s eye is on more urban residents – pigeons in particular – the idea being to make them feel unwelcome, so they seek pastures new.
‘They are only a pest if you have too many in one place’ says Mr Thomson, who founded Birdworks in 2009, which counts Stig, a Peregrine X Saker Falcon, and Sky, a female Harris Hawk, among its staff. The perils of pigeons and seagulls – including their droppings – mean Mr Thomson’s falconry services are in demand.
‘Male Harris Hawks are smaller, more agile and less aggressive than females,’ says Mr Thomson, which makes Quinn the perfect antidote to too many pigeons making Trinity their home.
On a working morning, Mr Thomson weighs Quinn – he has to be hungry enough to hunt – but the aim isn’t to catch anything even if, very occasionally, that happens.
‘The idea is to remind the pigeons that there is a bird of prey in the area, so they go somewhere else,’ says Mr Thomson, to whom Quinn will return for food.
It’s a very effective natural pest control, which people like the idea of compared to other forms of control which often include using poisons. But says Mr Thomson, ‘it’s a long term commitment.’ That’s why Trinity’s pigeons need a weekly reminder of their vulnerability in the face of a hawk like Quinn.
Diving across Great Court, he must have an enviable view and while Trinity’s architectural grandeur doesn’t interest Quinn, prominent perches, including Trinity’s famous clock, certainly do.
He’s even stopped the clock once, requiring it be re-set by Trinity Fellow and the College’s Clock Keeper, Dr Hugh Hunt, and his volunteer team. But that’s another story. All photographs copyright Paul Ashley.