There are different animals across the Harper Adams campus from the smallest mouse through to horses and heifers. Although we love our cute and cuddly pets, some of our students house a selection of more unusual creatures as their companions. As it is National Pet Day, we caught up with Elin Cunningham, a MSc Entomology student, to talk to her about her pets and why they have made a difference to her university experience.
While Elin has some stick insects and two rats at home (affectionately known as Peach and Pod II), she is accompanied at Harper Adams by Sol the Harris Hawk. She explained how Sol came into her life, saying: "I inherited Sol from a friend - I followed them around learning falonry and just fell in love with the sport!"
Elin shared what a typical day with Sol is like, explaining: "I get up at sunrise, and Sol and I go out onto Harper land. There I fly him before my lectures start.
"There's lots of cleaning and food prep in between! He has a bath, a nap, and plays with his ball while watching the chickens while I'm in class. Then, if the weather is nice, we'll sit in the garden in the sun or go for a walk in the evening."
On the best thing about having pets, Elin said, "It's like having my own little ecosystem that I've made myself. I have a lot of houseplants at home; stick insects eat the plants; rats would probably eat stick insects; hawks would definitely eat rats. It's all connected. None of my pets have ever met though!
"It's nice to have something to keep me busy while I'm at university, aside from my studies. Having Sol gets me out of be every day, knowing he needs to fly. It's easy to fall into a lazy student routine but I'm out flying by 7am most mornings. It's also nice to see happy animals excited for you to come home."
Although Elin is an advocate for falconry, she advices that there is work to be done before you can own a hawk. She commented: "I wouldn't advise anyone to get a hawk without years of experience and research in place. If it's something you're interested in, look for volunteering opportunities in local centres."
Overall, Sol has been one of many great experiences at Harper for Elin. Having been to Africa twice for her placement year and then further research as well as having made some friends for life, Elin's time as a BSc (Hons) Bioveterinary Science and MSc Entomology student have been wonderful.