Thursday, 16 March 2017
The new  staff room
Its been a busy time, the old stock room and the rooms upstairs are all now properly sorted out, new flooring in both upstairs and down stairs. The end room is Adam's office, the middle room a work room for anyone to use and we will still use it for teaching on the falconry courses, although not as much. The first room is now a neat and tidy stock room. Downstairs it has been divided into two rooms, one for Pink Jen for her office with the new admin person in there as well and easy access to the shop, the other a proper staff room with table, chairs, sofa, desk, computer and bookcase with raptor books. All looks great.
Daffodils in the Hawk Walk

We are revamping the cafe, Angela is only wanting to come in on a very few days, so Tess has taken over, we have to move to mainly stainless steel for working so the front half has now been done - took a lot of work from everyone, the new fridge was so heavy everyone had to help lift it into place and Rob and Alex went with Holly and Adam to collect it. The late evening tasks finished at 1.00am as we are open and so the cafe had to be up and running the next day!! No pressure! Thanks to Tess, Ian, Adam and Holly, for staying that late to finish up. It does look good and in the next week or so we will hit the back - again a late night.

Alex started officially yesterday so we are back up to five full time bird staff and Robin on part time, with one other to start in May on a seasonal contract but if all goes well we want to make it fulltime, bringing up back to where we were last January.

There have been comments about missing staff that leave, but with all due respect to all staff who have been and gone, actually we carry on very well and really do not have the time to miss anyone!! That is no reflection on the individuals but more a reflection on the fact that this is a well established (now 50 years old) centre and if we could not continue seamlessly we would not be doing our job. So we do!

Guess who is back on duty
The birds are going very well, the weather has been lovely, it is so nice to see spring in the air. The wild daffodils are out as are some of my primroses that survived the drought when I planted them. The hedge has been filled in with new plants and we have moved that very pretty cherry tree from the box in the carpark to the field and it is doing very well.

Many of the birds are on eggs and the season looks like being a good one. Here is hoping that we have great weather for Easter as we have lots of fun things for people to do over the holidays.

This beautiful animal now dead thanks to poachers
One incredibly sad note though, that beautiful male Rhino that we photographed in South Africa has just been poached. It completely defeats me as to just how vile humans can be. The bile farms in Thailand that keep bears in the most horrific conditions just to get bile from them, these people are sick they really are. That Rhino
was such a beautiful animal roaming around in South Africa and now some complete moron with no brains will have the horn, just for money. And please don't try and tell me that it is because the people who actually kill the rhinos are poor - crap - they are organised criminals with weaponry and equipment and they are the ones that should be shot, along with the end users.

Sunday, 26 February 2017
In South Africa not here sadly!
OK its time for a moan, I use Outlook as my email thing, occasionally I need to search for an email, but if you put the name of the person that you want to search it gives you three options, HOWEVER does it bloody give you the time after you have typed the name to get your mouse over the option that you want, NO, it is infuriating because it means you don't get the search you want and I can't get to the mouse quick enough. Sometimes I hate software writers, they really do not have a clue what the customer wants. And while I am at what the hell does dock the peek mean for heaven's sake!! And where have all my reminders gone!!! Outlook sort thing out please!

Its like super markets, when they change everything around - not cool. My idea of heaven would be a supermarket online that has a camera so you can 'walk' up and down the aisles and see what you want, just having a list does not help me at all!!

We have decided on our new bird staff member and he starts soon, it was such a close run thing that we are going to employ the runner up and he was so close it was a really difficult choice, as seasonal staff and hope we can do well enough this year to keep him full time.
The logs from the top wood, now gone and giving us better flying

We also now have a Wonderful Sale/Marketing/PR person, by the name of Jen, as we have a Jen volunteer here and new Jen has marvelous bright pink hair she is now called Pink Jen! I hope to have her new office sorted out by the end of this coming week. She will I know make a big difference to the Centre - so please pray for a great summer weather wise as that will help as well.

The breeding season is upon us, the African White backed vultures laid their first egg but sadly they moved it and it got covered with nest material and chilled so it did not survive, we are hoping they might recycle, but I am not confident now. The Eurasian Griffons have an egg and so do our pair up at Duncombe, so fingers crossed for them. The luggers have laid and the Burrowing Owls are also on eggs, so we are moving forward as ever.

Over worked??!!
The snowdrops are out, believe it or not we have mowed the Hawk Walk twice already and the field once - in February!! The wild daffodils are showing and the flaming wind is breaking the domestic daffodils.

Storm Doris meant no flying outside that day and we lost one big tree, luckily in the horse field (with no horse sadly!) and it fell in the best place, not hitting the fence, the hedge, any other trees, the road or people, good planning!

We are getting the bird team going well now, some of the falcons have been loving the wind. The team is increasing as we move toward March and the season hotting up as it were. It is going to be an exciting year with lots going on. Watch this space!

Sunday, 12 February 2017
Guess who is back on duty!
I am now exhausted!! We have done four days of interviews, two days for potential new bird staff, one day for PR/Sales/Marketing person and one day of looking for a new Cafe Manager. There were 49 applicants for the bird staff job, so with much effort we went through all the CV's and brought it down to 12 that we wanted to interview. And I should say the quality was good on  all of the CV's. We had 16 applicants for the PR/Sales/Marketing job and brought that down to six and 11 applicants for the Cafe Manager job and aimed for six of those.

summer is coming!
I feel very strongly that you should answer every application, which is not the norm I have to say. So we answered all of them and asked 12, 6 and 6 to come for interviews. Apart from a couple who's emails I got wrong, once sorted we had all 12 applicants reply for the bird job and accept the interview date apart from one so we easily replaced him.

Similarly the PR, the six we asked all replied for the interview. The cafe Manager job was a great deal less successful. Two of the people we asked never even bothered to reply (not cool!) one we had to chase to see if he was interested in coming (why would you apply if you weren't!!).

All of the twelve bird staff interviews arrived on time, as they should, interviewed and it was a seriously difficult choice to move to the next stage because the quality was so high. The PR/Marketing/Sales similarly all arrived on time, all interviewed well and again it was a difficult choice, but we have now the right person for us I think and we are really excited that she is coming.

The cafe manager position - well -  the first person due never rolled up and eventually we, having phoned and left messages heard that she had forgotten to come!!! What does that tell you I wonder. The next four were great, all on time, some more suited to the job than others, but it was really cheering that they had come to interview. The last one not only never rolled up, but had actually been phoned two days previously to see if he was going to come, said yes, but still never arrived and never bothered to even apologise. Well we will not be bothering to see him again and whoever does employ him - be aware, he is apparently not reliable or polite!!

Hope to be training one of these this year
Tomorrow we do the work day with the six potential bird staff that are through, I had planned to have four or five, but they were so good, that we feel that we need to know more. And for the six that did not make it, it was an incredibly difficult choice. I always wish I could employ all of them - just need to win huge amounts on the lottery to do so.

Tuesday I am quite hoping will be a quieter day apart from the last of the Owl Evenings and
Wednesday I fly to Spain for the Multi species Action Plan overarching workshop for vultures. Back home late on Saturday night. I really hope I do not have to do any traveling for a bit after that.

The first viable egg of the year is getting ready to hatch. The weather has been bloody freezing and the poor people in the flying field have been blue with cold, BUT seen some amazing flying. The dogs are moulting all over all the carpets, I swear I sweep up a Labrador a day!

Apart from that life goes on and the Centre slowly moves into its 50 anniversary year as February races towards its final day.
Sunday, 29 January 2017
My last free weekend is nearly over. As from now as we open on Wednesday, no more weekends until December, oh well. The dogs will be very pleased when February 1st comes, they hate December and January, particularly the weekends as there is only one member of staff here for a couple of hours and otherwise they are stuck with just me!!

Yesterday was beautiful, the sun came out, it felt like a spring day, the wild daffodils are showing, the snowdrops are coming out and I almost regretted that we were not open - almost!! However today has been less than pleasant and we would not have been busy.

The Owl evening on Friday had a lovely bunch of people which was a good thing because sadly the weather forecast was spot on and the rain start at about 5.00pm. However it was mizily rain, not really heavy and we managed to get through the evening without too many problems.

We are down on flying birds because of Avian Influenza, we have not had the normal numbers of birds flying because of the risk. We start up with a number of them tomorrow, so we will get up to speed reasonably quickly I hope.

I have spend hours going through CV's in the last week, we have had good applicants for all the three jobs we have available. Holly has done a stint on the bird staff applications with me as has Rosie, Adam worked on the cafe staff applications with me and Eileen on the PR/Marketing/Sales group with me. I am CV'd out at the moment!

Next come interviews - four days of them! February is going to be a very busy month! But it will be good to see visitors again as we settle in for the 50th anniversary year.
Sunday, 22 January 2017

The trip to South Africa was good, we first went to the house of Neil Forbes and stayed the night, had a walk through part of the game reserve and then the following day we move to Ostrich Manor a hotel in a beautiful site, although sadly lots of traffic noise. We spent three days teaching a husbandry, incubation and rearing of in this case vultures, but birds in general. It was well attended and everyone seemed to enjoy it. It was held at Vulpro which is based at the foot of the Magaliesberg Range of mountains, a stunning place.
It is really important to us to share the knowledge we have gained over the last five decades so that others can benefit – more importantly the birds can benefit and the mistakes that we have made in the past are not repeated ad finitum.
Kerri Wolter then led us to Oliphants, a game reserve that her family have a share in right next to Kruger National Park. The house was stunning and had air conditioning which for me was great because I don’t sleep well in very hot conditions. Not that we slept a great deal as we were out of the house by 5am for game watching and vulture searching! The house was right on the river, and there was a huge crocodile lurking at the bottom of the bank. It was certainly not the place to go for a walk right by the river!
We spent two days there looking at impala, elephant, saw a leopard, wildebeest, bush buck, and a beautiful male black rhino. And of course we were on the lookout for many birds, specifically vultures, which we saw a good number of. Hooded Vultures, cape Vultures, African White backed Vultures and Lappet Faced Vultures.
We had an impala carcass because Kerri wanted to catch and wing tag some of the local birds, however although they came in on the first day the nylon nooses did not work and although we caught three birds, the nooses did not hold which was annoying in the extreme. We redid the nooses after the first day, but not a vulture appeared, so later in the morning we went out looking for them. We found them, lots of them, and understood why none were coming into our carcass, but sadly the reason was a very recently poached female Rhino, with her horns hacked out, her tail and ears cut off.
We reported it and then when the manager arrived left them to do what they needed to do in terms of forensics. Even worse when we got back to the house they found a second poached Rhino, this time a male and another on a nearby reserve. Three Black Rhinos in one night, it was seriously shocking to see and hard to understand why people would do this horrific act for a horn made of the same material as our fingernails.
I suppose the only saving grace was that the revolting people who did this, did not poison the carcasses, otherwise we would have found a dead Rhino and hundreds of dead vultures. It did however put a severe dampener on the day and brought home to huge problems that fame wardens are facing to save these iconic species.
We headed back to Neil’s place where there were none of the wildlife liable to eat you and so Neil and I went for a walk to see if we could find a secretary bird as they have them nesting there. Sadly they were nowhere to be found that day.
After a day spent at the veterinary college where Neil operated on two of Kerri’s vultures to give
them the chance of being released back to the wild in the future I went back to Vulpro with Kerri and Maggie and the two treated vultures and had a peaceful evening before starting the long trip home the following day.
When it get close to my coming home I start to forget where I am and just look forward to getting home. Travel is not fun it is to be endured and survived!! I was however by that time really looking forward to a great cup of tea, a cold bedroom and a welcome by my five Labradors.

It was frosty and cold on the trip back to Newent, but once I got home, overcast cold and misty. All was well, staff, birds and dogs fine, and we moved new sand into the compartments in the Hawk Walk, got the top side done. I then worked on getting my office back to working as it had been emptied and decorated while I was away.

Mark left the Centre on Friday as his last day and did his final Owl Evening, it went very well, with a bright moonlight

night, tons of stars, and cold which is as it should be in the winter. We wish Mark the best of luck in buying a new property and starting his own business making falconry equipment.

My office is now almost up and running apart from the TV is not working and neither is the printer, but then moving electrics has never been my forte!

Saturday, 31 December 2016
I can't believe that I have not written since October, it certainly is not because I have a ton of free time, because apparently I do not. I don't know where the time goes, but it sure as hell does.

So I have been to India again - Mumbai, although quite frankly it could have been anywhere because over 6 days we never left the hotel apart from to move from one to the second one, and to get to the airport to come home. Not only that but the meeting was as so many of these things are, in the basement of the hotel with no windows. There is something very depressing about being in rooms with no view to the outside world for any length of time.

India consisted of various pre meeting meetings throughout the first two days, followed by two days of the SAVE meeting. This was followed by the MsAP, which was another two day meeting. It is a Multi Species Action Plan for all vultures and I have to say that I am not convinced that it is a good idea. I fail to see how you can have a plan to assist all species of Old World Vultures throughout all of their ranges when the threats they face are very different and the cultures in their ranges are also worlds apart. Interestingly there is only one other MsAP which is for Albatrosses – their problems are more similar across their range and I guess it might work but I am seriously concerned about the vulture one.

Once we had finished the last day of that meeting we caught the plane home flying out from Mumbai finally at 3.10am - Lovely, still at least it meant we got back with a lot of the day to get home. The plane was full and we had stereophonic screaming children surrounding us. It’s a good job the windows don’t open or I would have thrown several of them out!!

Autumn was almost over when I left, it had been a glorious one and mostly the weather had been dry. We had recently had just a couple of days of some serious rain and my pond which was quite low is now back up to the top for the winter. 

Mark, our head falconer has decided to leave the Centre. He wishes to make a business in the top end of falconry equipment and says he does not have the time to do it and still work at ICBP. I think too that as the Centre evolves and its focus changes a little he is uncomfortable with the changes. I think it will be good for him to leave and be able to refocus himself. He will still be around to help out on occasions which will be nice, but the break away will do him a great deal of good. 

With Mark and Emily leaving we are looking for one new staff member next year to assist, particularly as it is our 50th anniversary coming up. We are also looking for a new Cafe Manager as Angie wants to step back a little and a PR/Marketing/Sales person. I can't believe how expensive newspaper advertising is!!
Misty afternoon trying out my new camera with the dogs

It was glorious bright frostly weather to return too after India, a little cold, but a proper winter day. Just what I needed after 6 days in the basement of hotels!

We are now closed for two months, everyone seems to be coping with Emily having left, although we do see her dropping in on occasion, and Mark is leaving on January 20th as his last day. I gather he has nearly sold his house which he has been trying to go for about four years now, so once he finishes he will be very busy finding a new home. I do not envy him, but it will be very exciting for him.

Briza has recovered from kennel cough, I have no idea how she developed it, but luckily with a very swift vaccination, none of the others got it.

They just about sat for long enough to get this!!
Because of the Bird Flu outbreak in Europe and now cases in the UK, there are various orders from DEFRA about keeping birds safe from contact with wild birds so we have grounded those that might go off our land until the order is finshed which was to be January 6th  but I suspect will be later now. As we are closed it is not affecting us much and those birds grounded would have been rested over the Christmas period anyway. It gives us time to do more maintenance jobs ready for our 50th anniversary next year. 

Christmas has come and gone, I went with Holly before Christmas to Hereford, I have not been happy with my Canon 7D or the hugely expensive and very nice, but very heavy lens, so I exchanged the whole lot for a Canon 670D and a 300mm Lens, much lighter, really good in low level light and we shall see what I get on the next trip which is South Africa.

All the birds are fine, the weather was bitterly cold for about four days after Christmas, which made feeding round a chilly job. I find that when my hands get really cold it is much more painful than it used to be when they come round! Must be old age.

We are off to South Africa teaching on a husbandry and incubation course to about 18 people on vulture conservation. When we discussed it in May it seemed like a good idea to take a week off afterwards and go to a game ranch which we have been invited to. Now of course the closer we get to leaving, and with two staff down and new staff to interview on my return, I am regretting it!! I am sure it will be fine. And if I can work out how the new camera works I might get some good photos as well.
Benbecula on a sunny but cold morning

I still have not finished my part of the talks, and have to get one with it, but after feeding round, thawing out, taking the dogs for a walk and closing up the birds there is not much of the day left. I am sure my staff hate the fact that I care for the place for about 10 days, because there is always a long list of things I want changed by the end of it!!!



I have to say that keeping a weblog can at times become compulsive and at other times a chore. Sometimes I am berrated for not keeping it up and sometimes I get wonderful comments from people who follow the news of the Centre.

It is fun to share the daily goings on here, some good and some bad, some funny and some sad, but all a part of our daily lives.
And as I said before its a pretty cool to be here and it is a great place to visit, you should try coming and watching the birds and meeting the staff and of course the dogs.

An interesting video on Lead

An interesting video on Lead

I find it staggering that people who want to hunt don't see the value in changing their ammunition from lead to a safer product. We have stopped using lead in petrol, in paint, in our water pipes, but they still want to use lead - ah well, apparently eating it not only kills birds but leads to reduced intelligence in humans......................

NO ONE is asking you to stop legal and genuine hunting, they are just asking you to change your ammunition!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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