Monday, 5 February 2018
Well here we are open to the visitors again, January over, no more free weekends until November, but its good to be open again.

The Owl Evenings have been going so well that we have had to put in two extra ones, which is lovely and we have so far got away with managing to do all of them regardless of the weather. The British public are amazing really!! We just ignore the weather. We have had damp nights, very cold nights, blowing a gale nights, and glorious nights, but neither the visitors or the owls have let us down. Having hot drinks on arrival makes for a nicer atmosphere as well

I have not managed to get Yorkly on one yet though, we had a black plastic bag blow away aind get caught in one of the oak trees by the pond - it was there for four days before we managed to get it and Yorkly refused point blank to fly while it was there!

All the birds are flying well, Benbecula was spectacular yesterday, we were nice and busy and he
flew right over to Stallions Hill and then came back. Having the top half of Danny's Wood felled has as we had hoped made a huge difference to the flying as it opens up the field again. I plan on getting one of the Merlins out soon to fly again. I had planned on getting my Hobby out but she laid eggs last year so fingers crossed she might breed this year.

The Griffon Vultures have laid as have the Lugger falcons so the breeding season is upon us again. We are running an incubation course with Susie Kasielke from the US this month as well so there is plenty to do.

The cafe is looking wonderful, it is just needing the finishing touches now to make it work seamlessly. We were very busy in there yesterday it being the first weekend and reasonably nice weather on the Sunday, so Jimmy, our new cafe manager had a baptism of fire! But he managed really well and now understands about the lunchtime rush. I had a go at putting the cream on the hot chocolate too - that could have been a disaster but luckily it was not.

It was lovely to see the members again and the dogs are delighted that we are up and running again. They hate the two months closed as it means there is noone to scrounge food from. They all lost weight (purposefully I might add) but I suspect it will go back on again soon.

The puppies are well, growing like mad, Shasta hates them, I think the rest will be OK with them. It will be time for the boy to go soon (I would like to keep him!) and then Flax will come out and join the team officially.

Thursday, 4 January 2018
Apart from the Millennium, I have not stayed up to see in the New Year, it seems to manage to get there without my participating - amazingly. So I had no intention of seeing out 2017 and in 2018. However circumstances changed and I saw in 2018, in fact I did not go to bed at all that night because Briza decided to have puppies early.

They were due on January 2nd, but no, she went for a more memorable date. So she and I spent the whole night in my office taking her outside, at her insistence, about every twenty minutes. Luckily the first half of the night was not too cold and it was a clear and reasonably light night, rain came towards the end making the chasing her round the garden less fun.

To make sure I did not lose her I had taped one of the bird's radio transmitters to her collar earlier that day, the little green flashing light made it much easier to keep an eye on a black dog in the dark. No pups arrived through the somewhat disturbed and exhausting night. As I was feeding round over the Christmas period I fed the dogs and took them round the field as usual and then started to get food ready for the birds, constantly going back and checking on Briza. I managed to feed about half the collection, again checking her as I did. Then five ponies that are owned by some extremely irresponsible people came trotting up the road, I heard them go into the car park and the last time they did that they cut up the bank making it really difficult to mow, so I spent some time chasing them out. By the time I got back into the house, Briza had had her first puppy and it was sadly dead.

So I phoned Holly and she took over the birds while I sorted out Briza, she had become much calmer and so was quiet in her bed in my office. About an hour later the next pup arrived, I helped, but she was incredibly weak and so I was rubbing her madly trying to get her going. We managed to get a wonderful and experienced friend to come over and after about an hour the pup was still with us although definitely not strong. Pup number three arrived about an hour after the second one, a boy, double the size and very strong. By this time Briza was very tired (so was I!) We then waited, still warming and rubbing pup two, but by another three hours there was no further progress. So New Years Day, a trip to the vets, with Briza, two pups Holly and I.

She was given an injection, but there was no movement after half an hour and a scan had showed that there was at least one more live pup, so a C section was done and the last pup arrived - a large yellow girl who according to the vet, was not going to come out on her own.

disposing of the cafe timbers
Briza is well, the two large pups are doing well, the very small one survived two days and I was devastated to lose her as we thought we had got her going.  So it was a tough start to the year I have buried them in the wood where Nettle two pups are buried.

Instead of having to worry about Briza producing on the 2nd, I was able to help Adam and  Holly start work on the cafe. We had to get the old units out as we are putting in stainless steel ones. Well one thing led to another and eventually the whole of the kitchen and serving area disappeared!! So we have rather more work to get it all done by the 19th of this month for the first Owl Evening. It had to be done though and will be much nicer and easier to work in for the staff and far better for the visitors
 as well.

I am delighted to say that we have just hired a new cafe manager and ironically he worked at Beechinghurst, which is where Angela was before coming to us. I am sure he will be as good, it will be a joy not to have to worry about it all again, James will run it well and we are looking forward to him joining us.

Now all we have to do is get the cafe up and running again, so if there is a good carpenter out there who would like to be in the warm and dry next week and has nothing to do - Let me know.

I love the winter, but I am looking forward now to spring and my daffodils are already coming up. 

Wednesday, 27 December 2017
Another Christmas over for another year, I had a pleasant and peaceful one with some very nice presents. We went carol singing last thursday and raised £180 for a local hospice which was good. I also sang in the carol concert earlier and went to the Christmas Carol service up in the village. So I have had plenty of carols, which I love. I have had charge of the birds since last Saturday, the staff all come back on the 2nd, although Holly and Adam are around and about. Holly helped me feed today.

Having fed the birds on Christmas day with help from David who comes over to help  that day, I had a coffee and did a few things and then went out to Christmas lunch with my friend Alice and her family. It was delicious! The only down side of not doing your own turkey is that you don't get cold turkey the following days! However not having to cook one is a huge bonus, actually I probably would not do it anyway.
I came back to check the birds and take the dogs for a walk which they are insistant about at this time of the year. Although poor Briza is struggling now she is so close to having puppies. She also gets me up at 3.00am every morning as she can't go through the night now!

The trained owls have been delighted to have a few days off, Hemp is starting to come into breeding condition so she will not come back on duty, Yorkley will take her place for the 2018 early Owl Evenings, I don't think he has done one yet, so that could be interesting!
We had a sprinkling of snow on the field this morning and the Malverns which I can see out of my office window are a glistening white. I am not sorry we did not have more as it does make feeding round much more difficult, although it also makes us appreciate the golf carts even more when we can't use them.

We are now looking forward to the breeding season starting, which should be the African White backed Vultures first of all, at least they were first last year.We now have six here which gives us good choice for breeding. Very sadly the male White-headed vulture who came here died very suddenly, we are not sure of the cause but he did it the day he was supposed to have a cateract operation. I am not sure it they really help a bird, I had Mozart done years ago and I don't think it made an appreciable difference to his ability to get round his aviary. This vulture would never have been suitable for breeding anyway, so our female will have to wait a little for a potential husband.

We have switched the merlins around, and I hope they will do something, we have also split up the Steppe Eagles hoping that absence will make the heart grow fonder, They have not laid fertile eggs for several years now and I would really like them to start breeding again,  particularly as they have recently been uplisted as Endangered in the wild now.

I am still struggling with the new microsoft 365, which I still consider to be crap. The new Outlook has no spell check, I can't find anything. I have to download anything to read it and I think the people who wrote the programme should be fed to my vultures. Other than that - I hate it!

Tuesday, 12 December 2017
It snowed! And snowed and snowed. We had about 6 inches by lunchtime on Sunday. Helen could not get in to feed the birds which was not surprising, so I was thinking I would need to do it, which was interesting as the golf cart was a no no! Luckily Holly and Adam had driven back the night before and so met me in the field as I brought up the dogs from their early morning amble.

Of course the two youngest dogs had never seen snow before, so that was fun to see their reaction. Concern at first and then they loved it. We fed the birds, opening the doors in the hawk walk and feeding the flying birds and then closing them so the snow did not drive in to the birds. When we built them we put in a window into the doors, so they could see out and not be in the dark, which is good for them and nice for us. I am glad that we did because this morning it was much to cold to leave them open - well below freezing. We left the flying owls to see if we could fly them and get some photos.

And we did, Haze (Barn Owl) was somewhat thrown by the first snow she had seen. Hemp was too fat from the Owl evening. Hoxton, Bramly and Orion were brilliant and did not give a damn about the snow. So we decided to invite some of the photographer members to come the following day. Only a few could make it, but I think they got some nice stuff. We did try Drift (Snowy Owl) but he was a little fat, I don't think he minded the snow though.

After the incredibly cold night we just had the ground was very crispy and the places where we had walked the previous two days were very icy. Just goes to show that you should clear paths on the first day before it all freezes.

Rob was rushing around on Monday trying to save flattened plants, I think most will be OK, although we did lose a few branches from trees.

I have to say I hope it is all gone by friday as it will make the Owl Evening tricky if it is still icy. Oh and Adam's lovely big gazebo got flattened and completely ruined and damn me that was the one thing that the insurance did not cover - typical I guess. So I am not sure what we are going to do about that at this point. Still it is nice to have a proper winter again rather than the tepid affairs we have had recently.

Saturday, 9 December 2017
Another trip done, the SAVE meeting was in Bangladesh and we had it on a large boat, or do I mean ship in the Sunderban, which is basically a large mangrove forest opening out into the Bay of Bengal. It was an exhausting time, the flights were through the UAE which means longer in the air and on the ground so sleepless night number one. We had a night to recover before flying down to the nearest airport to the Sunderban and then a 3.5 hours drive over roads that have to be seen to be believed.

We then got shipped to the boat in a smaller motor boat and got into our various cabins by about midnight, then some food (which I can't manage that late). Then to bed, however after the drive and the boat moving and the anchor being incredibly noisy, there was not much sleep to be had. The boats were great although the cabin walls paper thin!

The huge advantage of having a meeting on a boat is that noone can slope off!! The boat moved downriver while we were meeting and then moored for the evening. We had a couple of
early morning trips in the smaller boat to bird watch (LBJ's). The most fun was watching the river dolphins and the Brahminy Kites.

All in all apart from only two nights of sleep in seven nights the meeting went well and much was achieved. And it is a particular pleasure to me to know that the first vultures in Nepal have been released back to the wild. Here is wishing them the best of luck.

But oh boy it was good to be home and I am not going to eat any rice until next September!

Hwever it was pretty damn cold after Bangladesh! We have had two Owl Evenings since, the first, the day after I got back was bitter, the owls did well, all worked but the benches in the flying ground were covered in frost! The later one was much warmer, althoug it looks like the next one will be cold again. I don't mind the cold, its nice to have a proper winter, snow would be even better. I only have one regret, I took up the carpet in my office because it was impossible to keep clean with the dogs, and it is now much colder in here!

Talking of the dogs, Briza was scanned on Monday and she IS pregnant, so puppies on January 2nd next year!

We have also now just finished taking out the leylandii hedge around the play area and the aviary area. It has opened it all up and will once complete look great I hope. Lots to do and not enough days in the year to get it all done!

Sadly our plan to have a good number of disabled vultures to help with their breeding programme from South Africa has been scuppered and we have been let down, a great shame really after everyone's hard work. However we now have other plans and are looking forward to the coming breeding season.
Friday, 10 November 2017
Well yesterday was glorious, my favourite autumn weather, a frost in the morning, the first proper one for I can't remember when and then beautiful sunny weather. All the birds flew well, Pippa's Saker finally went loose and now has a name, although I can't remember it right now! Faraday is as temperamental as ever, but looking very smart. The new Lesser Kestrels are settling, and the King Vultures like being closer to the visitors. Sadly Karis is showing his age and we are a little worried about him. I would hate to lose him as he has been such a very special falcon for many years. The weather today however has been rather less than glorious, which is probably a good thing as we had all morning in the Board meeting.

I have been doing work on my computer, although I have to say that we have just moved over to Windows 365, do I like it no, am I stuck with it - probably, but I do not enjoy these changes. They always cause me problems and it is emphatically NOT the same as whatever Windows I was using.

I am always told that the new version of what we are using is better, but generally I do not agree. Its the same as supermarkets changing the layout of the shops, it does NOT encourage me to buy more, in fact I have never been back to Morrisons since they did it. I like to know where things are, it saves time and frustration and the same goes for computers.

Looking at the news recently I have to say it seems to have gone beyond a joke with all these people being accused of sexually harrasing women. So someone touched your knee, so what? The only good thing I can see coming out of it is that it should reduce the population as men are going to end up terrified to approach women, so that may be a good thing as there are far too many of us anyway.

We planted 1000 daffodil bulbs last week and 250 bluebells, 200 aliums, tulips, fratileries and just have the hyacinths to go. The place is going to look amazing in the spring and summer..

Fingers crossed that Briza might be pregnant, she was sexually harrasted by a very handsome boy dog and we might just get puppies in January which would be great and there is a chance that one might be yellow not black!

The first Owl Evening is coming up on Saturday and we have made some changes to the evening which will I hope improve them to the benefit of the visitors coming on them. We still have a few places left so book up as they are great fun and our new Great Grey Owl Hoxton will be on some of them.

Adam has promised me that I can start to do some work on my beautiful Morris Minor, I want to get the brakes less scary and it would be nice to stop it vibrating so much that the rear view mirror is not helpful! Just need to find the time to do it. Which is not easy here and I leave on the 17th for the big SAVE meeting in Bangladesh.

And on that note, the first six captive vultures in Nepal were successfully released which is excellent news, here is hoping that they do well and survive to start breeding, they are old enough to do so.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017
Blogging ( that is not a very nice word really) has not been a priority this year as is blindingly obvious from how little I have done it, I will try to improve and get back to doing it. Incidentally one of my favourite words is paraffin, nice word and sort of a nice smell too!

The various new staff that we have had over the year have come and gone. Non bird staff we have three new people, all of whom are good and really coming on. Mary is wonderful, easy to work with, great with the customers and willing to have a go at almost anything. Karen in the new downstairs office has got to grips with all the vagaries of the finances and the centre and is really becoming a part of the team now. I think it takes a while for people to settle in really, it does not happen over night.

Alex and Joel are the new bird staff and with enormous help and training from Holly they have come on nicely. Alex has recently got a black belt in Jujitsu and is really getting into his own stuff outside work, he has started a club in Gloucester and is now teaching it - well done him. Pippa has moved out of the flat here and she and her partner have their own house! Exciting stuff, I bought them one of those moulded fish ponds for their garden and for the goldfish that we won at the fair in Ledbury last year.

The cafe has been a challenge this year with lots of staff coming and going, one of which badly let us down by just vanishing in August. The four girls who help out in the busy periods in school holidays were amazing, they really worked hard, and Holly Adam and I did a great deal down there as well. As we get towards winter it is slowing down and we are hoping that our new person will get to grips with it all as time goes on. Anyone who thinks catering is easy - think again!!! Particularly with all the rules and regulations that have to be adhered to.

I am bloody glad I don't have to do all that stuff in my own home, which is probably why I am so healthy!!!

We are looking forward to Rachel starting as marketing and fund raising person, she comes on board next month and will be ably assisted by Adam in marketing and Eileen Hammond in the Fund raising side of it all.

The summer has come and gone, I am looking out at a grey windy autumn day in half term, the leaf colour is wonderful and the gardens are looking great. Oh and if you have never had hardy Chrysanthemums  - get some, they are superb and just seem to go on flowering non stop and brighten the whole place, I am going to get some more! Autumn is my favourite time of the year.

All the birds are fine, we have more vultures, a Lappet-faced vulture arrived, so we are looking for a mate for him or her, the sex needs to be determined first. We have a White-headed Vulture as well, but sadly the mate we got for that has severe eye problems which we need to see if we can solve. We await the return of Neil to check him out.

I was given two male Sakers in the summer and they are both coming on nicely and we bred five Yellow-billed Kites, all of whom are staying here because we need them. I hope to find the funds to build a new enclosure so all the kites can live there and fly from it. I know where I want to put it.

We did lose Darcy Spice to a stroke early in the year, this is not something I have ever seen in any of our birds before. But his step brother Yorkly who is the most beautiful pale Great Horned Owl flew all summer to replace him. We are now getting all the owls ready for the Owl Evenings starting next month

I also tried to put Briza in pup in the summer but did not succeed so I am looking to try again soon. That will mean winter puppies which is not ideal, but all my dogs are getting older so to keep the line, one of them needs to have pups!

Very sadly we lost Moccas recently, she was killed on a power line in the field next door, she leaves a huge gap in the lives of everyone here and many visitors as well.

We have some wonderful volunteers and work experience people now and they make such a difference to what we can get done. We also had some corporate volunteers who bravely came over two weeks and cleared all the bull rushes out of the large pond, it looks amazing and much bigger now. It has taken a lot of journeys to the composting place to get rid of them all though and we are not done yet.

I travelled to Hawk Mountain in Pennsylvania in early September to give a lecture on the Vulture Crisis in the Old World species and then straight onto Nepal and India on vulture work, it was a hell of a stint of planes and one I would rather not do again. I have to go to Bangladesh next month and then that is it for travel for a while I hope.

Its nearly flying time so I will look for some photos to go with this and post it as soon as I can.


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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