Thursday, 31 December 2009
Its nearly the New Year, I can't believe how fast this one has gone and what we have achieved during it. The dogs are settled in the kitchen, Sedge is now using his igloo bed (when Acer has not sat on it and flattened it). Sadly we no longer have a butter dish, it got Acered!! Sorrel has been playing and is now finally flat out, and Indigo and Rush put up with them! Nettle does not, she insists on going up to my bedroom mid evening, and there she stays, curled up on the bed until I get there.

The weather men as usual got the forecast completely wrong for us, on Monday we were warned to be careful because heavy snow was coming, and every map showed us getting it. Freezing winds, frost, snow drifts etc, all I can say is that they have very good imagination, because it did not freeze, there was not much wind and on Tuesday and Wednesday it rained and rained! Not a sign of snow. Although Anna has a ton of it in the Highlands.

Mike has been here working on the enclosures at the end of the Hawk Walk, they are getting there, the roof is close be being covered in, now comes the fiddly bit that take the time, we also managed to get the furniture moved around the house, my office/library looks great and the dogs love the new sofa's which I have covered so they don't ruin them!

John came over from Northampton and helped all day in the rain on Wednesday, and his wife sent food!! Which we ate with gusto, it was very welcome on such a miserable day. Steve and I managed to get all the flying birds out, weigh them and put them on the lawn for a bath, then the rain got more serious, so I fed them and we quickly cleaned the Indoor Hawk Walk and got them back in again, poor loves they were shivering. I can't wait to get them heated perches. Linda worked on a project that was very important on the computer and I moved from job to job, plus looking after the dogs. Finally once eveyone had gone home, I worked on the house, got all the beds sorted out, tidied up the linen cupboard which I have wanted to do for ages, and failed to do anything on the computer as I ran out of steam. The male Redtail that had been lent to us was not right, so Simon took it to Neil Forbes at Great Western Refferals. We were worried about him, but Neil saw him and immediatly diagnosed stress induced diabetes!! He really is a first class, world class vet.

Today it was clear and dry, the enclosures continued to grown nearer being roofed, Steve worked with Mike and managed to get the small owl block raked as well. Linda and I worked on some stuff on the computer again, and then I had to go to the vet to collect the Redtail who looks great, and take Woodland Venture, whom we were a little concerned about, he got the all clear, and Mikki came with me to give me company, so we cooked supper together and she left when fireworks were starting in case her new dog was upset and Linda left about 10.15pm. My friends are so good and so helpful to me.

My brain is not functioning that well, so I am going to see the New Year in in bed!! With a good book, quite the best way to do it. I would like to wish all my Friends, and Volunteers and Staff a Wonderful New Year and I will do my best to make it so!

Monday, 28 December 2009

One of the things that really strikes me as I watched three films yesterday!! (and now my back is sore from too little work!) is that people really have no idea about global warming. They just don’t understand that this will affect all our lives in time. Just watch the adverts, the amount of waste is just mind boggling, when you think how much fuel and money the world could save by just using less lights it would pay off my debts in probably seconds. Gross over use of lights and water prevails in adverts, it may look pretty, but its shameful waste without thought or reason.

Christmas lights are another thing that really makes you understand that we really have not faced up to the fact that we should be saving precious fuel, not wasting it. I have to say I loath the fast growing habit of decorating your house, lawn, trees, and heaven knows what else with flashing lights, and a friend of mine just sent me a U tube video that says it all in terms of insanity and waste. And that is apart from most of them being incredibly tasteless, and causing light pollution. These people certainly must have money to burn because burning it they are, but bear this in mind, they are also burning your future lighting and heating, it is not limitless.

At the risk of harping on, I remember listening to a radio advert for I think it was a detergent product last year. The voices they used to extol the virtues of the stuff annoyed me, because when they got to the fact that it was a greener product they used a weird hippy voice, and I thought then these people really don’t understand that green issues are not to be joked about, they are, for our future, deadly serious.

So enough moralizing, although I mean it very seriously believe me. I am so sparing of electricity in my house that I often wander round in the semi dark!! But today it is a beautiful morning. A hard frost with a clear sky, I am about to put the birds out for a bath if the water is not frozen, the forecast is for snow, so I want to get them out for a bath before that happens. As long as all the snow comes this month and next and is finished by Feb that is fine by me!

Update, couldn’t put the birds out because all the hoses were frozen, but I guess that would be the case in the wild. Frozen water means its tough, as I have noticed with the moorhens on my pond, at least one has been knobbled by something, because they can no longer get underwater.

My day was a little unplanned all in all. Hamish and Caroline very kindly offered me a couple of beds and sofa’s as they have moved house and are putting the furniture from two houses into one – always a difficult task, so I benefited. I was to meet them at Hollybush, we were in touch on the phone, but as I was looking for their rented cottage, I got a phone call from them, they had hit a patch of ice and skidded off the road. I am not surprised, the ice has to be seen to be believed and if it snows on top of the ice that is going to be interesting. Anyway I offered to drive on and see if I could help. I had the trailer on the back. The car was definitely in a ditch!! No doubt about that and it was going to stay there too. So we all hopped in my Range Rover plus trailer and drove to near Stroud where their new house is, it’s a lovely area I have to say, with cracking views, no chance of flooding there! Hamish collected car number two and we drove back to Hollybush. There we loaded three beds, two wardrobes, two sofa’s and some lovely cushions. I have to have a word with Rush and Acer about cushions and games!!

Poor Linda had come over to help unload and have some lunch but could not wait and so I unloaded the two single beds and got them to the top of the house, but gave up on the rest. As Hamish so rightly said moving mattresses on your own is like trying to move blancmange! Luckily Simon came up and offered to help with the other bed and the sofa’s. So now I have two very beautiful suede sofa’s standing upright in the hall. I am hoping to get some help with furniture moving tomorrow!! Right now I can’t see the Christmas tree for sofa’s but they are awfully nice ones!

Now it is dark, there is a three quarters moon, its clear and frosty, the grass is crisp already. The pups have had their Wheatabix, I am listening to carols for the last time until next year peace reigns. I hope the Chinese don’t execute that chap…………………..


Sunday, 27 December 2009

Christmas Day, and it was still cold but not freezing until later in the afternoon In fact it was a glorious cold sunny day, just perfect. Simon went off to see his sister so I got the five baby owls to look after, which is nice. They are doing well. We are expecting more eggs from various birds in the next month, some are early layers.

We just have seven more nest ledges to get up and we are done on that. Then later in the year I really want to get the food drawers in. I don’t understand why more people don’t use them, they keep the food off the ground, are easy to clean daily, save on wasted food and consequently on vermin that will come in to eat wasted food and are generally the best way to feed aviary birds in my opinion.

I went to lunch with the Lowes, which was a nice surprise to be invited and fun, I left the dogs though, I have now learnt that you can't leave anything within Acer reach!!

Boxing Day and most of the very little snow we had is gone, however the ice has not and the paths are like a skating rink, they are lethal!! It’s a good job there is no one here apart from Simon, Adam and I. Simon said when he came home on Christmas night, he did not stop in the car park where he wanted to!! It was an ice sheet, luckily I don’t think he hit anything!!

I have been having a quiet few days, some TV, lots of time looking after puppies, walking the dogs, checking round, and writing a newsletter and redoing the signs for the aviaries. I feel very lazy, I plan on doing more on Monday

Sunday was quiet too, most of the ice has gone, thank goodness, my sister Anna phoned – to boast that they had had a foot of snow!! On top of more snow, she and David are having Christmas in their cottage by Loch Tummel, which is frozen!! She and David were going to a friends to watch a football match on the TV, yuck!! I would have gone out in the snow but she said it was above her wellies!!


Thursday, 24 December 2009

All electrics working, a lit and warm house – at least the two rooms that I do usually heat. Dogs are happy, birds are safe fat and warm, staff seem to be happy – all in all OK and we have nearly got through our first year back and the place is looking great. A good friend said that it looked like instead of just getting all the damage fixed, that we had actually raised the game here, and I think she is right, the game has been raised and it shows. AND it will continue to be raised!

We did not have any more snow, which is good for all those people traveling, at least locally to here. I failed to get out and get some holly with berries, so that will have to wait for next year now. But the tree looks great and the house is clean and tidy and looks like a home! It is cold outside and what snow that there is is very crunchy, but will not last long I think.

The enclosures at the end of the Hawk Walk now have perlins, and I know the difference between perlins, rafters and joists which is interesting, joists are flat - i.e. they are level and you can have floor joists or ceiling joists, perlins are the things that make the shape of the roof and the rafters go between them I bet you are glad I told you that vital bit of information. The rafters go on last and then the roofing felt and the tiles. There is still a fair bit to do, but they are going to look great. Mike and Simon and Adam worked on them until lunchtime when they finished, and all the perlins were up, so the roof is secure. Richard and his wife Janet fixed the electrics, what stars and on Christmas Eve too – hooray, and Holly and I cleaned the indoor hawkwalk after the birds were all weighed and fed outside and then they were put in again as there is going to be a frost tonight. Sue got the house straight, and I gave the dogs a run round the field. It is so good to be home. Merry Christmas to one and All.



Wednesday, 23 December 2009

I love getting Christmas cards, and I like sending them too, so it has been great to do it again this year after a long gap, however I need some help!!! To all of my wonderful friends who send me cards with just their Christian names – I have no idea which one you are. On my address list, just for example I have 5 Carols, 24 David’s, 28 John’s and so on, so Please always put your surname (or a clue!!) and preferably your address as I am out of date with many of you.

The last Owl Evening of the year went well, a nice bunch of guests, the weather warmed up fractionally, and the owls flew very well. They are all now munching away on ad lib food until mid January. Sunday was another clear and cold day, with a sprinkling of snow on the paths, but the grass was still green. The grass over here is always a vivid green; it never seems to go brown. Very occasionally in a long drought of hot weather (rare!!) it browns up but never completely.

I had a lunch invitation on Sunday, and for once I actually went. I am very bad about going out. I guess because we are open to the public and so I see people every day seven days a week for ten months of the year and then every day except for probably one a week during the closed months I see my staff and volunteers, which I love to do, I tend not to be particularly sociable outside that time. But when I do go I almost invariably tell myself I should do it more often!! I had a lovely time this time, and Sedge and Acer were invited which meant I did not have to worry about them. And they behaved very well too, apart from finding one Christmas present under the tree!! Oppppss

The last few days has been hectic, people coming, stuff to do, electrics being a little difficult (that could be the understatement of the year) and Sorrel arriving as well, Phew!! We still had not had snow, well OK a tiny sprinkling which is now a very crunch sprinkling and plenty of ice. Although Linda came over yesterday to take photos and went up onto May Hill and said there is snow there, but I have not had time to go yet.

Sorrel arrived with us on Monday morning, she is a chunky girl!! Quite a different shape from Acer, she was good as gold all day and very quiet – that has not lasted, she is now very bouncy and holding her own against Sedge who loves her. Poor Acer is feeling left out as Sedge seems to prefer to play with Sorrel (more of a similar size – but that ain't going to last!!). However we are going to be very careful she does not get middle child syndrome!

Hopefully the electrics will be sorted a little tomorrow, because Holly and Sue and I decorated the Christmas tree late this afternoon, but it was nearly dark by the time we finished and so we have no idea what it looks like. As the afternoon ended it started to rain, then sleet and then Proper Snow!!! Real, huge soft flakes which was lovely to see, sadly, or probably a good thing, it did not last for long, but it was fun. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve, hooray!
Saturday, 19 December 2009
We had snow yesterday!!! OK I admit that it was only for about five minutes, but it was snow. I was relieved that it did not come down in piles because of the owl evenings, Sunday it can do the job properly! But LOOK at our website, we have snow there too! Linda got ambitious and is smartening up the website and making it look great, with dropdown menus, which everyone including me prefers, but now we have a festive front page, have a look, she is such a star!

I have this morning come to the conclusion that I am very glad I am not a duck, regardless of what my Christian name implies. It might be fun to be a duck in the summer, after all I am a Piscean and therefore a child of water, which I love, but to be swimming round all night to keep a bit of the pond from freezing over, hummmmm not so much fun after all. It was a glorious early Saturday morning, the sky is clear clear and clean and very cold! The wind has dropped which was a blessing for the owl evening last night. The one on Thursday went very well and it was lovely to see the volunteers that got here for it, but the wind made standing still pretty unpleasant as it cut through you! Last night although very cold was easier to deal with without the wind. The owls really have been going very well too, although Cool Ground (snowy owl) is still inclined to bump into things, he is too busy looking over his shoulder and not where he is going!

My Christmas tree is in the house, much to the interest of the puppies, I have not decorated it yet, that is to come and I can’t remember if I gave away all my Christmas lights before I went to the US, so I have to see if I can find them, they, like all my stuff have been packed away since October 2004.

The aviaries are coming on a treat, they are going to look very good and I will be very relieved when the Hawk Walk is the closed Courtyard that it always was before I left. We have nearly undone all the damage of the last four years, it will be nice to actually move forward and not just catch up. The baby owls are doing well and the Griffon Vultures have two nest ledges which they now like and are starting to play with the nesting material. So hopefully a baby Griffon Vulture will arrive next year, they have bred before, so its just a matter of getting it right for them.

And………..a beautiful pair of Golden Eagles arrived yesterday, they belong to Donald Anderson and he and his wife have kindly let them come here on breeding loan, so we are hoping that they will breed, possibly even this year, which would be wonderful. Simon collected them and luckily the trip was not affected by any snowfall. The team here cleaned the whole of the eagle barn so that the birds were not unduly disturbed while settling in. They came out of their boxes very sensibly and the male was very good and went straight up to the high perches, the female did too, but was so excited by being up high that she came down again and took ages to work out how to get up to the top, she needs to be a little fitter – I know the feeling!

We are only flying the owls at the moment, the rest of the flyers are in the Indoor Hawk Walk, I took the young male Lugger down to the field on Thursday and, poor thing, he just sat there and shivered, so we left rapidly!! We will get them back in the swing of things next week if it warms up, which I think it is supposed to.

It’s the last owl evening tonight, which is sort of a relief, they are great fun to do, but it is also nice to not have to do them! We have two more in February and then that is it until next winter. All the owls will be fed tons of food tonight as they finish the flying demonstrations and I am sure they will be delighted.

Richard is going to fix all the light pulls, which will be great as the one in the downstairs loo is a pain and keeps making me jump when it finally decides to come on.

My new big axe is very good, fairly creams through the logs! Great fun although I have to persuade the puppies not to try and help, they make it a little hazardous!
Oh and if anyone has a vacuum cleaner that actually sucks properly, and which they don't need, the lads need one in the flats - and then they will have NO excuse not to be squeekly clean!
Wednesday, 16 December 2009
Its been a cold and damp two days, I was hoping that as the temperature dropped the rain would go, but at times in the last two days it has been pretty raw, cold, grey and damp. Nevertheless, we get stuff done. I did manage to go to Ross on Wye, got bedding for the Secretary Birds so they could be comfortable, did some food shopping and got a big Axe to chop up logs!! So look out all, once I am wealding that one! We have done a ton of clearing, the paths are All raked, most of the lawns are and things are looking tidy, very tidy! Yesterday and today Robin and Simon and our wonderful volunteers got the last of the Kite aviaries wired, painted and finished, we only have to move the Red Kites in there now. And then have a sort out in the Moulting aviaries. There are a few nest ledges to get up, but most are done now. And they managed to clean all the owl aviaries as well, what a team.

The aviaries at the end of the Hawk Walk are looking great - everyone is pleased with them and Mike has done a great job, the framing in up and the big perches are in, we are very organised I have to say. And now if you fall over or have a heart attach, five of us have had first aid training today and can do CPR. The chap who came to train us was very good, and very patient as we did have to answer the phone on occasion and I had to deal with puppies, who were not liable to behave with the practise dummies!! I can thoroughly recommend the company. They came to us and Andy was very good at explaining and showing us and answering a million questions. I am glad we did it, it also highlighted a couple of things we need to do here as well.

We finally had to change the phone system, the old one was very old - 25 years or more, and although it would have been nice to wait, it was not worth the risk. But if anyone phones and we lose you, its only because Jan and I have not worked out the system yet - so we apologise - phone again! My house is very untidy though because of all the walking through from one area to another with the new system, and the wet ground and mud has not helped the cream carpets!!

The light in my downstairs loo is playing up, actually all the damn lights with string pulls are playing up, the one in the loo comes on (if you are lucky) after anything up to five minutes, which can make you jump if you have forgotten it is going to come on! I did go and buy a new fitting for the one upstairs, but I am not sure it is going to fit and anyway, Acer got at it, so it is not as well as it was when I bought it! Colin, the phone man left a spare phone on the kitchen table for a short while - bad move, it had no plug on the end in a very short space of time, Acer is teething madly right now and nothing is safe!

The birds are well and coping with the cold, all but two of the flyers are in the indoor hawk walk, but we have not been able to do much flying in the damp foggy weather. We had a buzzard with a hugely swollen eye in this afternoon, he is thin as well, I hope he recovers, eyes can look very much worse than they are, and we have had some good recoveries from some awful looking injuries. Adam and I went to a meeting at Hartpury Ag College last night, and on the way back nearly ran over a rook that was sitting in the middle of the road in the pitch dark, it was under the car by the time I managed to stop! Adam caught it, I think it has a head injury, we have called it Rooky because Adam said that every college he knew had a Boa constrictor called boey, and an Iguana called Iggy!! These are incidentally my least favourite sort of names! If it had been a crow it would have been crowy or a jackdaw - jackdawy, but that is rather more difficult to say!

We have three owl evenings in a row starting tomorrow and then all the owls will be fed up for a month, before bringing a few back into training for re opening on Feb 1st. Time flies by that is for sure.

The Five baby Indian Eagle Owls are doing well, yes five! And I suspect we will have eggs again soon. Bloody hell its 10.00pm - my bedtime!
Monday, 14 December 2009
Sunday was a non achieving day. I tried to rake up the paths before I had to go to Eardisland to see friends, but it started raining so I tidied up in the house instead, and did all my washing and put stuff away. I don’t mind doing the washing, but am not good at putting it all away afterwards, the same goes for filing, I must have nearly a two foot stack of stuff that needs filing and I have not done, somehow once it is dealt with I sort of lose interest with the putting it away bit.

I got back from Eardisland at about 2.30pm to the older dogs but no puppies, but as the back door was still locked I assumed that Mikki and Helen had stolen them away and would bring them back, and I was right!! So the other three and I watched part of a Christmas movie until they arrived back, which was fun, well it was fun for me I am not 100% sure that the dogs appreciated it.

Today has been a day of bits, paying bills, raking, answering queries, raking, chasing up on things, more raking, tidying up and more raking, we are nearly done with the raking!! We have a lot of leaves to make into compost, a lot of leaves!! But the place is looking pretty damn tidy thanks to everyone who helps here, you are all amazing! Mike and Tom started the stud work for the replacement aviaries, they are going to look pretty cool and the birds will have nice sheltered homes that look smart and make the Hawk Walk back to its safe and secure courtyard once the fence is back up.

I did manage to find my absolute favourite thing in one of the flower beds after the pruning had been done. I saw an orange plastic bag in the detritus and I knew straight away what it was, seen them before, dealt with them before, bloody used baby nappies!! It’s a good job I did not see the culprit who put it here or I would have fed them to the Condor, child and all. I am sorry but I am damned if I think I should be responsible for other peoples children's nappies, if you want children you keep their nappies please, don’t dump them in my car park or flower beds. They are your responsibility not mine!

Other than that and finding a dumping of stuff from the old pets corner – right outside in the flowerbed – which did not surprise me from what I have seen of the staff that were here before our return, so I cleaned it up and carried on regardless, we have got used to their complete lack of care. And we nearly have it all cleared up too.

The weather forecast is for getting much colder later this week, so we were discussing with Richard about heated perches for the birds, it would make a huge difference to them to be sitting with their little feet snug and warm and the warmth radiating up through their feathers, so he is going to look into a design. You can get them in the US for parrots, but they are the wrong voltage and I have to say not particularly attractive, in fact singularly unattractive, they look like......... well never mind what they look like, I certainly think it is the best way to give the birds warmth in their enclosures, and safer than heat lamps, plus being cheaper to run and therefore good for our carbon footprint.
Saturday, 12 December 2009
Well I sort of went shopping but only to Newent to get bread and milk and ham, after all what do you need other than that! Cotswold Vale Farmers Hunt parked up in the car park, so I took the dogs to meet horses, Sedge was not impressed, he hid behind me, Acer thought they might be fun, but was good and well behaved. We all raked most of the morning, that would be me, Nettle Indigo, Rush, Sedge and Acer, managed to clear all except the small falcon block and barn 1 and 2 I have to say that I think I did the bulk of the work, the others were not that helpful, and perfectly useless at pushing a wheelbarrow! I managed to get the path down to the café raked in the afternoon after doing a training session with the male Lugger, who was very good, although a little vociferous, and before going to Newent. Then went to see my neighbours across the fields to see when we could re organise the Bonfire night, looks like between Christmas and New Year depending on the weather. The dogs came and were very good, and had a reasonable walk too. I need Acer and Sedge to understand that sheep are sacrosanct and must never be chased. The sun came out in the afternoon and it was perfectly lovely, and wonderful to be walking back where I belong again. I am exhausted!! And now we have a full Owl Evening, but at least the weather is good.
Friday, 11 December 2009

It was the foggy foggy dew day today, quite thick fog to start with that increased as the day went on, and bitterly cold, so starting off by raking was a good idea to keep warm. Mike did not come today, as I want to start fresh on Monday with the timber framing, and I thought the gardening team were not coming either, which was the plan. But we heard a vehicle pull up in the workshop yard and blow me there they were again!! Which was fine except that we have worked our poor volunteers into the ground this week and so we had non today!! So one and all, I promise that is it for dragging shrubs and trees over to the fire, its all done for now - come back!! Of course I am only joking, it just happened that way, but luckily Holly, Simon, Adam and I managed to more or less keep up with the pruning team, as they were not doing really heavy stuff today, and to teach the last day of the course as well. It was too foggy to fly most of the birds anyway, they would have needed fog lights to get back to us!

We managed to finish off the all the course teaching, we did cover tail bells, and they were able to fly a number of the owls, we could not fly a falcon because it was too foggy, but did manage to fly one of the Harris Hawks. They took themselves on a tour of the Centre after lunch and then we recapped in the afternoon and went through all we had worked on, and then I sent them off not too late because of the weather and Friday traffic, which is not fun in the fog.

So after they had safely left, we finished all the tidying we could do before dark, most of it is done and I will rake up by the small falcons and owls tomorrow in time for the owl evening. Then apart from round Barn 1 and 2 we have raked and tidied the whole Centre with its new haircut, it looks great, OK it looks a little bare, but it will look great in the spring when everything starts to grow again! The fog lifted at about 4pm, and the temperature rose, The gardeners left, Jan left, Colin and his mate doing the new phone system left, and are going to finish the task on Tuesday, and so the four of us put the last of the stuff on the fire and had a cup of tea in the field, it had warmed up that much, well in comparison to what it was like in the morning!!

I still have not managed to get out to go shopping and could not face a Friday night in Morrisons, so I will pluck up the courage tomorrow after some raking. Luckily Simon had milk and that was the only crucial thing, the rest can wait. I hope to get my Christmas tree in the house this weekend, not sure if I will manage that though. This picture is one that I had a few years ago!



Thursday, 10 December 2009
A lovely lovely day weather wise, sunny, warm, well pretty warm, although the temperature dropped fast once the sun dropped low in the sky in the late afternoon. We started early with raking and collecting up the pruning of the Hawk Walk last night. Got it all clear and tidy (and now there is more!) Then John and Pete and Simon mixed concrete for the last enclosure floor, that got finished and is now snuggly under a sheet of plastic to protect it from the frost. Then everyone, with Josh added to the team, and except for Holly and I, did clearing of all the trees and shrubs that the pruning team had chopped yesterday and today. They all worked SO hard, dragging all the stuff across to the fire, and I felt horrifically guilty not helping them, but we had the course to teach. The worst of it is done – clearing that is! And tomorrow it will be just raking up all the smaller bits and making all look tidy.

The Course went well today, the weather helped a great deal! They learnt lure swinging, and then got Casper to catch the lure, and I have to say they all learnt very fast which was nice. It is always much more difficult to swing a lure when the grass is wet because the line gets soggy very quickly and a wet line makes for a more difficult task. We watched Adam’s eagle doing nothing (!) then we covered hooding and Dawn Run was very good about being hooded by all. That was followed by telemetry, Holly had hidden a transmitter off site and they went to find it. It is so important to know how your telemetry works and what to do with it before you have to use it looking for a lost bird. After lunch we did condition checking – seeing how physically shaped a bird is by touch. Then we flew some of the birds. That was followed by imping, putting a bandage on one of the birds, and then tea in the house with lots of talk and questions about training. We did not finish until 6.30pm, but a lot got done.

One of the nicest things I think I was able to feel today, as I was raking the Hawk Walk before 9.00am, was that the Centre has got back to being a living place. It was interesting to hear from the zoo inspectors last week that the atmosphere was so very different on their inspection this time as opposed to last time they came. Instead of a feeling of staff with no care or pride in their work, and an atmosphere of lack of interest, this time the Centre was full of enthusiasm and interest. I remembered thinking that when I saw it last year in November it was a sad place, untidy, in disrepair, with a feeling of failure, and now it is a vibrant place, that is cared for, that is, despite still such a lot to fix, well loved and respected and moving forward. It’s a great feeling and mainly due to the staff and volunteers who work so very hard, and those who have felt it worthwhile enough to join as members.


Mike finished the day by clearing the path up to the Indoor HawkWalk from the garden, which was all over grown; a mini digger can do great work with the right person in the driving seat! We put all the flying birds in the Indoor Hawkwalk this evening as it is supposed to freeze tonight. Sedge may be getting to wear his jersey soon!
Wednesday, 9 December 2009
Just tell me this, how the hell can one become lame all day from getting a severe cramp in one’s ankle in the middle of the night. Last night I woke up with a bad cramp in my right leg going down to that lump on the side of your foot. It was a cramp that meant you have to get out of bed and walk around once you get your foot back on the floor, tedious in the extreme. And it was still sore in bed. It was still painful getting out of bed in the morning and having a bath, and it is damn well still sore now!! And then I managed to trip over as well, however being a consummate professional I did not let go of the falcon on my fist but did end with grazes on one knee. The third physical injury was a small puncture in my thumb from Casper – the ‘white bird’ when we coped his beak, not a large hole and pretty insignificant, but niggling now as I type!

The pruning went well, and prolific in terms of stuff to get rid of, a great deal of it, and I have been feeling guilty because I am teaching, not dragging tons of brush to the fire. However I am definitely the best at the final clear up! The place is looking very pruned! I did stand up for a couple of trees, but gave the chop to another that was not destined to go this time. We have some planting to do that is for sure, so anyone with flowering perennials, let me know, I have holes to fill!

The falcons almost all got flown early and did well, it was a lovely morning. The second last enclosure got concreted, and Labrador pawed as well – blame Indigo who did a good job on footprints! Only one to go and then we start the timber framing. The course went well, we covered more training and flying, casting a bird, coping three of them and doing talons as well, more flying and a walk with a Harris who did not catch anything, but that is par for the course in falconry, ended up with a cup of tea in the house and talking about food and emergency supplies.

All in all a nice day weather wise, a lot done and only one more day this week for pruning, and one next week. I think apart from being lame, I feel that we have achieved today!

Plus Sue has knitted Sedge a new coat for the cold weather coming next week, its colourful!! But I am SURE he will appreciate it next week when the weather gets cold, Won't he??? He does not like the cold!! Although I suspect that Acer is going to make sure that it does not stay this smart for long!!

Tuesday, 8 December 2009
A better day weather wise, it started off pleasant, although damp until foot (and will be for some time I suspect!) All the Hawk Walk birds were got out for a bath and their compartments cleaned. Peter Dowle’s team of pruners arrived and started a major prune of the place, it is now looking very pruned in parts!! Tom, Keiran, Paul and Glen with Adam at the helm moved and raked and tidied up after the pruning team. I did notice that Sedge was helping manfully, or perhaps that should be dogfully, for about three minutes in digging up a root!
Simon and Mike concreted the next bay in the rebuilt enclosures at the end of the Hawk Walk, so there are two to go, that should get done before the end of this week, particularly as the weather is supposed to improve, and surprise surprise no dog paw prints!
The course guys flew birds, practiced picking up and putting on perches, moved all the birds back under when it started to rain and then did jess making, and we talked about housing while they finished off the jesses and I fed the male Lugger on the fist, multitasking, my favourite thing! The pictures are of the puppies helping, the baby owls two/three days old, and the prunings being burnt for today. I also had a huge row with my computer and lost, I don't have photoshop down fully and Word does not have some of the functions that Publisher has, but no printing firm uses or likes Publisher so its a bit of a bugger to get sizes right. However we got a lot done – hooray.
Sunday, 6 December 2009
I sometimes watch those ‘move to the country programmes’ on the TV, I really should not watch them as they annoy the hell out of me. There are so often these people who apparently have no idea what to wear in the country, looking at what are gorgeous houses, and complaining about almost every aspect, and most of them are seeing them in lovely weather too. Wait until it has rained for ten days and there is mud everywhere and no street lights! Don’t let them move to the country!! They won't like it and we probably don’t want them. They will likely be the classic town people who move to the country to retire which is a dreadful mistake anyway, and they will complain about noisy hens early in the morning, cow muck on the roads, tractors, sheep bleating and so on. One chap in the village in Herefordshire, where I moved to for a short period before coming back here, complained like mad to the farmer who owned the land next door to his cottage, because when he moved in there were horses in the field and then they put cows in there, and he did not want cows, he thought that there would always be horses!! Mind you , he was also the one that said if my birds flew over his garden they would be invading his personal airspace - pratt! In one of the programmes the couple, who I suspect are at least my age or older and I very much doubt if they are used to the sort of physical work that I am, looked at a place with several acres and wanted to keep sheep, alpaca’s, a pig, chicken and a cow!! They fairly obviously had no idea how much work that would be on a cold wet dark winters evening, or how much milk a cow can produce!
My father wanted us to have a cow once, so we had a beautiful Jersey Cow, actually over time we had three. Fidgets was the first one, I don’t really remember her as I was not here at that time, Dazzling Leaf who looked more like a beef cow than a dairy cow and gave one pint of milk a day – so to the farmer who sold her to us, I know what you did, and I haven’t forgotten! But our last cow – Alice, was wonderful, however she gave nearly four gallons of milk a day, we were swimming in the bloody stuff. I had to buy three calves to rear on it and we still had a ton! The cream was to die for though, and spoilt me for shop bought cream for ever more. I used to leave the milk to stand over night in a jam pan, on the cold slate shelves in the larder and then draw the cream off the top in the morning with a huge flat spoon, it was like a thick velvet cream blanket on the top, even then the first pint of milk was 90% cream in the bottle, amazing stuff. But a lot of hard work, a single milking machine to clean twice a day, milk to deal with, and that did not count looking after and milking the cow, getting her in twice a day, putting her in calf for the next lot of milk and so on.
I have always thought it was a huge mistake to get to retiring age, and then promptly sell up and move away from all your friends and everyone and everything you know. I have seen it fail so many times. I know some people do it to be nearer their family, but are they really sure their family wants them nearer, that’s what I would want to know!
Talking of dark wet cold winter nights, it is one, or rather it was wet, extremely wet today, and it is the rest right now! And is there mud everywhere – oh yes, good quality red Gloucestershire mud, that sticks to your boots. The sort that if you walk round a ploughed field each boot weighs about 11 pounds more than usual by the end of it. However the first day of the five day course went well I think. They are all a really nice bunch, sensible and asking questions which is great, makes it much easier for us. Only one enclosure was concreted today, the lads worked very hard, but the rain beat them on that one, however the standoff barrier by the kite block is now meshed so that people can’t stand on it. And Tom made a smart gate at the end so we can get to the baths without a major crawl! We did not manage to fly many of the birds as the weather really did not help, but tomorrow looks good at least to start with, so we will get as many done as we can and get them all out for cleaning the compartments.
At some point in the day I spoke to a company called Unicom,n about a phone line still here, and I have to congratulate them, a real human being on the end of the phone – straight away – there is a change, not to say a flipping miracle!! BT please note, after we spend about 20 minutes with your bloody answer phone system and still never get to talk to a real person. And they were helpful too! Please Companies, can we have real humans and not long winded answer phones. I know I use an answer phone here on occasion, but only to tell you we can’t get to the phone at that time, not to give you nine million options, all of which are the wrong one!
Because the Owl Evenings have been going so well in December we have decided to run two of them for Valentines Day, so February 12th and 13th book into your diaries, because they are going to be the best!! And.......... by then our new babies will be old enough for one of them to have joined the team, I wonder what the theme for the names should be, and there is a dilemma, do we use the winning race horses theme as it was hatched this year, or what ever the theme for next year is -huuuuuuummmmm decisions decisions!!
I am pleased to announce that I like one of my new jerseys, well the cardigan actually. Goody!

We have babies!! Three of the Indian Eagle Owl eggs have hatched which is a good start to the breeding season here, and hopefully bodes well for India as well!

I put the trailer on the Range Rover and drove it up May Hill twice, the temperature gauge did not move! The only problem is that I now don’t trust the car, which is a pain, and I also think that the problem usually occurs a while after I have been driving it and I don’t have any long drives planned. Oh well.

The owl evening went very well, a great bunch of people, and it was full and the weather was very kind to us, although it was damp, that was all it was and it could have been much worse, so all three tours went off fine, (Holly overtook Adam – no surprise there!) Adam told his group that any minute now he was going to be told off over the radio, for being too long and he predicted correctly!! Clever chap! Robin kept the groups under control during the flying demonstration, Simon did a great job on the spot lights and Angela, Anne and Linda sorted out serving people with food and drink with no delays, all in all a good night with a great team of people.

Today everyone is off, apart from Simon who fed round. I have already had three phone calls to see if we are open, but only because the sun is out on and off, and we do need this time to get things sorted out.

Acer is in disgrace for stealing things off the kitchen table, so she got walloped and tried to hide by the wellies, but it did not do her any good, I suspect she is going to get a few more before the penny drops, but generally she is quite good most of the time! Sedge was horrified and disappeared as did the older dogs who beat a retreat into the library! However they are all fine again now. Mick came over with Millie, his female Red tail who is going in with the male here. But as we are quiet today, we put her in a spare enclosure until we can watch them. Then Linda came over and we went to Labels at Ross on Wye and I did actually buy a couple of jerseys and a cardigan, now the question is will I actually like them!!

Then we drove and got a Christmas tree, the one I wanted and had got out to look at, some miserable other people grabbed, I hope it wilts on them!! But we found another one and I need to put it up off the ground because it is going in the front hall and the puppies come down at speed so I need it above them! It will be the first time since 2002 that I have got a tree and had a proper Christmas – hooray, thanks to the Chenevix-Trenches we all have a home again and our first proper Christmas in seven years, yippee!
Saturday, 5 December 2009

We got a ton of work done in the last two days, as the fire was still going we decided to resuscitate it and get all the rest of the little bits of hedge and completely clear the fields, so we did! It looks great, that took to coffee time, by which time it was time for concrete mixing and my back is now not happy about that! The footing for the internal walls are now done, well all but one, and by the end of the day had several dog paw prints as usual! I had intended to go shopping but failed, I think it’s because I actually don’t like shopping so I make every excuse not to do it, however tomorrow it is a must I am afraid. We flew the birds, Kari who is on work experience for a week painted the inside of the last of the kites enclosures and Jason finished lining it, and made a nest box, that is going up now, literally! It was a cold night, but not as frosty as three nights ago, and the following morning it was a beautiful clear clean sky with sunshine and a chill in the air. We started by putting down the gravel for the staff entrance, that is now done, and when it rains, which was supposed to be later on, I will sweep the concrete and it will look smart and tidy again, another bit got back to how it used to be.

Mike put in much of the block work for the internal walls, and John, John, Robin, Josh (young Josh), and Simon mixed concrete for the floor of what I hope will be the enclosure for Mozart if he can manage in a new one. My back would not do concreting. Adam cleared the mud off the half circle by the post in the flying ground and Kari finished painting the last kite aviary. John and co also got the last nest ledge up too. So there is only the Zoomesh to get done and the wire on the standoff barrier and another set of enclosures is finished apart from the feed drawers which are another project altogether.

I finished the day by collecting my range rover, and have been told to hitch up the trailer and drive it up a steep hill which will have to wait until tomorrow as we have an experience day today and an owl evening. I did try to go and do some shopping, I really need a couple of jerseys, but I took one look at myself in a shop mirror and went and bought a coal scuttle instead, much more useful and cheaper and longer lasting, and hopefully means that Acer can’t reach the coal and eat it all over the cream carpet!

Two of the shops I went into had staff hoovering the floor, I was so annoyed I left, there is no way my staff would do that before we are closed, its not a good way to make people feel you want them there, someone should tell them – and no I didn’t, but I felt like doing it!

Acer has five new teeth and Sedge has eight!! Mine are OK too.
Wednesday, 2 December 2009

I have noticed that the orange fish in my water is not very assertive! It is nearly always underneath the black ones and is slow to feed, I wonder if I should be worried about it.

My falconry bag survived the washing although I can’t say if the reverse has happened, but the machine seems to have weathered the bag. and my bag looks pretty good actually. After my comments about my house keeping a friend of mine suggested that I might be exaggerating and that in fact I was probably secretly a domestic goddess!! Nope! I am afraid not sadly, and I told her that my absolute hitting rock bottom in terms of cooking was micro waved tinned peas with a micro waved egg on top, a sort of poor woman’s eggs Benedict!! It was quite disgusting I might add – I can’t advise trying it.

Its been a busy couple of days, I left everyone here on Tuesday cleaning and tidying, and took Eager to Kate Humble’s home where we filmed for the Spring Watch Christmas Special. I was a little worried as he has not been away from home before and can be a little noisy. I need not have been, he behaved very well and we were done and dusted in half an hour.

This was good because it meant I could get back and fly some of the birds before getting ready to go and give a lecture north of Lichfield (my computer just told me that this should be spelt lovechild!!) somewhere. I had to use the van, because I still don’t have my car back. I got there with one stop to ask the way, I really don’t like the google map instructions to get places, firstly they assume that you are going to be able to read every instruction and secondly that you are going to watch your mileometer like a hawk. Why can’t they just say turn onto the Axxx or what ever road it is, stay on it until you come to Piddle Trent Hide, turn left in the village onto the BXXX and you have two miles to go. Names and road numbers that is what we need and what they are there for. That would be so much easier, and don’t tell me I need a satellite navigator because I loath them!

Anyway the lecture went OK I think, well they stayed to the end so that must mean something. Then I took advice and went back a different way – bad move. I was following a friend and we followed all the signs to the M42, all the way to the last roundabout. I actually drove all round the roundabout looking for the sign, but no, not a sign as it were. So I ended up taking the signs for the M6Toll road, which had been on the same signs for the M42 all the way along. Huge mistake, I ended up having to pay £4.50 for the pleasure of going on a motorway I did not want to be on, and on which I was on for eight miles!! And to add insult to injury there was a 50mph speed limit flashing which I have to say I could see no reason for, and no other traffic, so I ignored it after I had paid to be on the damn road anyway. I am going to write and complain to someone!

The zoo inspection went OK, although they thought I might have to redo my contingency plan that you have to do if you look like failing. I wrote in ‘never give up!’ which I thought said it all.

While I was taking round the inspectors everyone else was clearing up the last of the hedge that had been cut, and getting the bonfire going, it took all day and its still going. But they got it cleared and all the birds flown, and Mike finished the bricklaying, and started on the pad. We passed our inspection so we had mulled wine at lunch time to celebrate, and luckily there was enough left that I can continue now!
Monday, 30 November 2009

It has been a cold day, particularly in the wind, which is from the north, but it is dropping now and we have a bright bright moon, so bright it is hard to see the stars. It was one of my favourite sky, that clear pale cold blue going to dark velvet that you can almost touch, with the trees outlined in black before it got completely dark, a perfect night for an owl evening – shame we are not having one until Saturday!

The brick laying is moving on, enclosure cleaning is zipping along, all the birds got flown, we put the female Hobby back in her pen for the rest of the winter, she seemed pleased – she has three males with her! One is due to be trained in the spring and released if he can fly well enough. The weighing room had a good clean out and tomorrow is the turn of the clinic, so we are all up to scratch for our inspection. Although I have to say that we are really only touching up things. And if the same people who inspected it in the last two years come, they should notice a huge difference, in fact I am amazed that if it was inspected in the last two years, it was passed, because I sure as hell would not have allowed it to do so!

I am washing my falconry bag in the washing machine tonight, I am not sure it will survive the experience; I hope so because I have no idea where my spare one is. We were discussing washing (and socks!) and washing up at coffee time and Adam pointed out that if stuff did not come off in the washing up then it would be unlikely to come off when you were using it to eat! And Holly said she hated it when you put the cereal spoon in your mouth and felt a crusty bit underneath – and I was worried about my habits!!!!!!

Sedge was a scream yesterday, it started to rain quite heavily at one point and he was ambling up from coffee with Acer, well he took one look at Simon and Acer and decided he was not waiting for them, he high tailed it at full speed up to the shop, he shot past me at full tilt and raced into the shop, cornered on one leg round the side of the counter and made it to the fan fire in seconds – he does not like bad weather! Acer trotted up later – she is a Labrador after all said and done.

Today was our last day for the year, and we were very quiet – in fact no visitors! Now we are closed until Feb 1st, it will be a good break for all. In the past I have had people say, ‘oh do you all go away’ and I have been so tempted to answer ‘yes, we just lob a couple of whole cows in each aviary and leave the birds to it for two months!’ You will be relieved to know that I have not said it and we don’t do it! We have fed up the two kites and Lammerlaw so we can concentrate on just the young birds. The owls will be flown until December 20th and then they will rest. This will give us more time to get jobs done.

All the young birds are in the Indoor Hawk Walk for the first time, there is a cold night forecast, our first serious frost according the weather people, so they are snug and safe. The moon is moving out of sight of my office window, I have lit the fire and Sedge and Nettle are sharing it. Acer has my arm chair and Rush and Indigo are on the sofa. The world is moving round and taking us with it.

Sunday, 29 November 2009
I am getting SO pissed off with websites that refuse to have any details on how to contact them, as far as I am concerned if they don’t have a contact phone number or email, there has to be a very good reason – i.e. they are a crap company. That aside, I find that I am getting more like my mother, which is in some ways a good thing as she was a wonderful person, but I am sure that all my family would admit that her housekeeping was vague to say the least. And I think it is that respect I am following. Now let me hasten to add that personally I am very clean – bath at least once a day, and sometimes more, always clean underpants, although the top layer can be a little grubby, but then so is much of what I do on a daily basis. Socks are another matter, none are white after the first wearing, none stay up in wellies, and all can only take one wearing a day. Although I don’t follow Holly’s philosophy – the way to tell if your socks need washing is if they stick to the wall when you throw them at it!!

However when it comes to washing up for example, it would be fair to say that I am abstemious! Well the washing up liquid lasts a very long time anyway, I have this theory that as the water is hot as hell and everything seems to come off OK, that will do. It’s the joy of living alone. And I can’t understand why jam does not last longer, you would think that it is a preserve and so would last for ages, but no, you have friends to stay and you had better check the jam before getting it out of the larder or they might not be impressed with the blue furry stuff on the top! It scraps off fine, but some just don’t appreciate it! You may have guessed that I had jam this evening – and surprisingly it was fine.

This was our last Sunday open until February. I look forward to being closed because it means that you don’t have to stop jobs in the middle to go and do a flying demonstration at a set time. We try to get all the birds flown first thing and then settle to jobs for the rest of the day, although it rarely works out that way, but the idea is good. It also means that apart from Owl evenings up to Christmas everyone has the weekends off, so they get a Sat and Sun, a more normal life as it were, one of us does the feeding in turn, and I get to write books I hope. Or treat of treat – watch Sunday matinee – do they still have Sunday matinee I bet they don’t, it will be some bloody football knowing my luck!

But oddly once the beginning of the year is over and everyone is back from the Christmas break we sort of look forward to being open again, seeing friends and having a regulated day. Today we – Adam, Simon, myself and Steve, Jim, John and Josh got a lot done often in the rain. We finished clearing the whole of the Hawk Walk paths plus other areas. Painted the front of the second last enclosure in the Kite block, so we can move the Brahminy Kites, finish the last enclosure and move out a pair of Red Kites, which means in turn we can tidy up the moulting enclosures. The Steppe Eagles and the Hawk Eagles need nest sites and the rest need perching and bath ledges re done. Then it’s the finishing of the Owl Courtyard and the redoing of the enclosures at the end of the Hawk Walk. Not much really!

We also have a zoo inspection this coming week, not that I am concerned, we are amazingly up to scratch considering what it all looking like a year ago. I am really hoping my bloody car will be fixed tomorrow but I am not holding my breath. We managed two out the three demonstrations before the weather beat us and we had customers even in pretty vile weather. All in all a reasonable last Sunday, we close on Tuesday.
Saturday, 28 November 2009
Well, I have just tried to download a piece of music from various bloody impossible websites, but to take the biscuit is the ITunes one, which then goes to Apple, well blow me, if you think you can contact Apple forget it, I went round in about fifteen circles and I rarely give up, but this time I did. I was going to send them a stinking email telling them what a crap website they had – and they do, so if anyone is talking to them, tell them from me, it’s a crap website, as for trying to send them an email aaagghhhhhhh!!

Its been a hard couple of days, yesterday the weather was lovely for most of the day, interesting we had awful weather and customers all week until Friday when with good weather we had no one! Ah well, we got a lot done. Adam and I put about 25 wheelbarrows of sand into the five flying owl enclosures, whoever invented the wheelbarrow was a good chap. Although on that subject, I have to say that I wish males would not always try to use a machine to do a job that can perfectly well and more quickly be done by hand. Mike Turned needed bricks by the enclosure at the end of the Hawk Walk that we are rebuilding. You just put bricks into a barrow and push them over and unload into small piles so he can get them as he moves along the row. But no, the hand fork lift was tried first to move the whole pile of bricks, which did not work, then the huge barrow which weighs a bloody ton before you fill it with bricks came into play, and when half full it took about three people to push it! By which time if the normal barrow had been used the job would have been finished in half the time!!!

So I moved the bricks in the normal manner and was the cement mixer for the day as well, my mixer is a joy to start; I wish the other tools started as easily. We flew all the birds and the only thing I failed to do was get the Indoor Hawk Walk raked. We had an owl evening that night and the weather held and the owls flew superbly, however I was glad to go to a warm bed, I was pretty stiff by the end of it!

Today we had five people from Iceland on a hunting day so Adam and Simon took them out, and I did all the demonstrations. Three of our wonderful members upgraded to Life Founder Members which was a fantastic surprise, and means I hope that we will really be able to do all the drainage and make the paths better in January, at least I really do hope so. I managed only to get the birds out, fly most, and hoe and rake the lower path in the Hawk Walk, but Sedge was a great help with the raking and pushing the wheelbarrow, although I do admit that he is much easier to push around in the barrow than Rush is! I do wonder about raking leaves, it seems like such a waste of time before they are all down, but if you waited until then you would need stilts to get around. Most are down now, it is only a few of the oaks that are hanging onto remnants of leaves, and my sycamore in the field has four left! It stayed dry the whole day, but cloudy and by the time I was doing the last demonstration I noticed that the cars coming up the road had their lights on! It was a thing I ended up with one of the owls. As our hunting team left in the dark it just started to rain and I breathed a sigh of relief that we did not have an owl evening this evening.
Thursday, 26 November 2009

There is a clean and clear sunrise today, although there also are many heavy and dark rain clouds around. I wonder why rain clouds don’t empty, I have never understood that, there must be a point when they are no longer saturated and so don’t rain, when does that happen. I would love to know more about that sort of stuff. The trees are starting to take on that stark look that they have over winter once the leaves have gone and they are outlined against the sky. My snowdrops are starting to push up, which is early. These days everything seems early, I guess its global warming. A part of me misses the cold of winter, which we have not yet had, but it is much kinder on the birds so that is a bonus.

Once the ground dries out (if the ground dries out!) we have a ton of brashings from the hedge to move and dispose of and a load of logs that will eventually make for good warming fires in the house once they have seasoned. But right now everything is too wet to get on the land and move. I suspect our bonfire night which we postponed is going to stay postponed for a bit as the ground is unpleasant to walk and stand on for fun! But at least for the moment the wind has gone, that will upset Fortina, she loves it!

My car is still sick, I hope someone can find out what the hell is wrong with it, I miss it, and having only one vehicle makes life a little tricky. I should have brought back the old truck I bought in South Carolina, but that was yet another item that the centre over there stole! Plus it was a petrol guzzler anyway, and would have been interesting to drive on our lanes here!

We are brick laying today, I think I might have a go as well, I am not very fast at it, but I used to be able to manage it.....................................

Well did I brick lay, nope, not sure what I did apart from get extremely wet, and help jess up the two luggers, who are now sitting quietly on their new perches, their primaries are not 100%, a little tipped, but that is to be expected I guess having been in an enclosure since March. But I am pleased they are up on their shelf perches before its dark, that is a good sign and means they are out of the cold and secure.

It really has been a pretty unpleasant day, even I admit it. Colder than it has been and with heavy heavy showers. Poor Mike managed to get most of the lower wall laid, but it was not fun!

John and Peter, a new volunteer, finished putting up all the nest boxes in the small falcon/owl block, brilliant!. It is so nice to see all the smaller owls now housed where they should be with decent perches, nest boxes and a bath ledge. We just have to organise food drawers and we will be sorted out and back where we should be Actually we are even a little further on, because we have a much better and smarter stand off barrier and Zoomesh on the front, so it is much lighter in there and easier to see the birds, and it has a new roof!
Simon and Josh moved birds around, Hard Tackle my best Tawny Eagle will not moult out with other birds as company, he is a bully, probably because he is more than old enough to breed. He was in an aviary in Barn 2 on his own, but he was next to the breeding pair and he is quite vocal. Now my breeding pair have not bred since we went to the US. The aviary design was poor over there and when one pair of birds bred in a line, none of the others did. We really need them to breed and Athena has been coming back to her normal self and so we are hopeful, but I was concerned that with Hard Tackle shouting, he might put them off, so we switched him with a pair of Bateleurs, who needed a proper nest ledge and more space and they are now next to a second pair of Bateleurs and their vocalisations might encourage one another. The Booted Eagles were moved too, its good that we have a replacement male now. So here is crossing fingers that they all want to breed like mad! I would love to fly a young booted eagle, and I really want some more Indian Tawny Eagles as they make the best of demonstration birds if you train them correctly.
Wednesday, 25 November 2009
Yesterday I had to go to Newent, and I went to our butchers and by chance they were cutting meat off the large leg bones of cows. The dogs love these bones and they are safe for them to eat as they don’t splinter, plus they are really good for their teeth. And I am lucky, all the dogs are very good with food, they will always let me move them, or take the bones away, they really are a dream. So it was with interest that I gave them and the two puppies bones this morning. It was without doubt the most peaceful morning I have had, not a murmur to be heard, and…….. both the puppies were good about having the bones touched, moved and removed, even Sedge, who I did have my doubt about. He now has eight adult teeth and Acer lost four of her baby teeth yesterday, so she has a huge gap in the middle – it looks very cute!

The blokes got the last of the foundations done and Mike then got all the lines in for starting the brickwork, it is starting to look something – hooray. Robin and John and Kieran started on putting up the new nest boxes in the small falcon/owl block, they got four up and the owls were moved into the aviaries. We carefully designed the boxes with steeply sloping rooves so that the birds could not sit on them and put droppings all down them, so imagine my dismay when the barn owl male was happily sitting on the top of the sloping roof!!!! Grrrrrrr!! However I suspect once they work out that they can go inside they will prefer that option. I am very glad that we are getting on with this, I am always worried if the birds don't have all they need, and these look great I have to say, what a team!

Holly got birds flown and cleaning done, Julie and Sue got all the mats in the Hawk Walk cleaned and whoever said that astro turf is easy to clean is either insane, doesn’t clean it properly or has never done it. It even says easy to clean on the back of the stuff which proves that whoever wrote it has never cleaned it. I have always maintained that it is a nightmare to clean and I am right!

Simon and Holly took the eggs from the Indian Eagle Owls, poor love she was so wet and the eggs were very grubby – she should have used her nice new nest box. Amazingly the eggs are all running and Simon has put them in the incubator. Poor Simon, he has not had much respite from babies and eggs this year. I am hoping the Indian Eagle Owl will recycle in the nest box and we will allow her one baby to rear.

I think I achieved things today, but I would not swear to it. Still one thing done is a move forward and I should not forget that. The two new Luggers arrive tomorrow, which I am looking forward to, I have come to the conclusion that I actually like training falcons more than most other species, I guess because I have flown so many and because it is a challenge to get them to fly well to the lure. It is however a more difficult time of the year to train young birds, with winter coming on, the leaves off the trees and the weather a little difficult – to say the least today! Although we did have a very nice school party who were a pleasure to take round and fly birds for, I did laugh quietly to myself as I saw them paddling in the big (huge) puddle next to the flying ground, with Indigo helping them!

My fields are saturated, and the water run off is impressive, however at least we know where to put the drainage when we start it in January.
Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Its been a day of bits, and serious wind. Howling through the trees and the wires that bring our electricity into the buildings, its quite an intimidating noise. We started and three quarters finished the concreting of the footings for the replacement aviary at the end of the Hawk Walk. I will be very glad when it is done and the Hawk Walk is secure again, I hate the open end, which it was not designed for, and which makes me feel that the trained birds are not as safe as I would like.

We did manage the first flying demonstration, but after that we decided that the wind was just too strong to fly the birds with any degree of safety, so Holly weighed and fed everyone and got them all safely tucked up for the night. Robin, Kieran and Adam mixed concrete and barrowed it, I helped on occasion between other jobs. Mike dug the foundations, I had forgotten how good he is with a digger, it’s a pleasure to watch. Sedge thought he could help with the digging, but was banned as a liability! Acer thought it was more fun to push the sides of the trench in on the newly laid concrete and Indigo just put a paw in to carry on the tradition of no concrete being laid on the place without a Labrador paw print in evidence! All the foundations are dug, the hard core is placed to back fill once the brickwork is done and the spare soil has filled in the sunken ditch in the wood and Adam and Kieran even managed to spread it out. Poor John stuck with the cleaning up of all the remaining timber, the pile is reducing slowly. Glen and Jane cleaned baths and raked more bloody leaves. Who would have thought trees have so many!!

However they are close to all gone now. The sycamore tree in the field just has a trimming of leaves left looking like a strip of lace at the bottom of a ladies skirt, the rest of the tree is bare. Only a couple of Oak trees have leaves remaining and the Lime tree is fast losing his, then winter will really be here. Having said that, with all the rain and the wind, it is still warm, almost no frosts and still mild. Many of my plants are thinking about getting new shoots, which is not a good idea.

I phoned the chap from whom I bought my poor male Lugger falcon to see if he had a male left. He had had no interest in the young and had both a male and female left, brother and sister to the fox killed falcon. So we came to a good agreement and they are both coming down on Thursday. We will train them both and fly the male for a couple of years before putting him in with Maya. She had better like him after all this effort. Hopefully the female will replace Dawn Run as a good flyer.

I just love the spell checker on this thing, it gives hilarious options for words that it does not know, but sadly does not give the option to teach it!
Sunday, 22 November 2009
An interesting day weather wise, it started looking lovely, but that was a flash in the pan! Then it rained, and then more clear skies, and so on throughout the day. The rain was more like squalls, they were fast and furious and the ground is saturated! In one of the sunny spells I took some photos, its so odd having roses still out and flowers at the same time as winter berries.

But it was generally not a pleasant day so I lit the fire to cheer myself up, and an early bath is called for too I think.

During the 1.30 demonstration when I usually fly Fortina, the wind got up to serious proportions and everyone came out to see her fly, she did not let us down, my goodness she is a spectacular bird, she just cuts into the wind, climbs and then turns down and I have a hell of a job to get the lure away, and she is just having such fun. She is barely puffed when I call her in. I hope the customers that are seeing her do this understand and appreciate just what they are seeing.

I am also very pleasantly surprised and pleased with Gazelle, he is the Lanneret that I had from Martin last year. He was very steady and good last year but nothing that special. Now he is a year on, and I am reminded of what I often say, but have not experienced in the last few years – the young birds take time to get really good, and he certainly proves it. It will be interesting to see if his baby brother of this year does the same.

We had a good crew of volunteers and the nest boxes for the small falcon block, which includes a lot of the smaller owls too, such as Barn Owls, Tawny Owls and so on, are getting close to done. I will be relieved when they are up, all the owls are in the right place and the Owl Courtyard is finished. Although I was very pleased when Adam discovered that we had carefully put away four rolls of Zoo Mesh, which means we can do eight of the enclosures in the Courtyard, and it just makes such a difference to the look of the place.
Saturday, 21 November 2009

Yesterday was one of ‘those’ days and I was so ratty by the end of it, it would not have been a good idea to put fingers to keyboard, well not and keep a business going! Today is going to be much better! Although I have to admit that it is a little grey and dismal outside my office window, and its raining, which makes life a little tricky for the experience day today – it’s a falcon day and that is always more difficult in the wet. We had an experience day yesterday and an owl evening and the same today and that makes for a long and tiring day. This was the fullest owl evening so far, and the mulled wine was one of my best, though I say it myself. The owls did themselves proud and Robin did most of one of the guided tours which I think he enjoyed. Holly flew Oath (Ural Owl) who was excellent, all of them are really getting the idea now. I do miss EJ Gallo though, she was a bad tempered Barn Owl, but flew circles beautifully and I have not managed to get another to do that yet. Eager, (Long-eared Owl) does his wing clap inside – it looks really weird actually, most ungainly, but I guess when they do it up high on display it is spectacular, it certainly is audible!

Dave managed to finish the hedge yesterday and tidy up a number of other trees in the field and Danny’s Wood. Of course now there is a huge pile of stuff to burn and it doesn’t want to! So as the forecast is pretty dire for the next few days, we will let it season before trying again. We are worried about the young Yew tree in the middle of the field, it does not look well and a number of my trees have died for no apparent reason, which is concerning. Perhaps they missed me! With the help of Nick and Jo and Matt, we managed to get all the first cuts from the huge Leylandii hedge over to the bonfire for our fireworks, which is supposed to be tomorrow, but looking at the forecast we are going to postpone it – after all, the rest of my work has to be done whatever the weather, but a celebration? That needs to have at least reasonable weather.

So actually I guess we got a fair bit done yesterday, with the experience day, the bonfire, the hedge, I managed to rake the Hawk Walk in between times, we did three flying demonstrations, and the owl evening – hell no wonder I slept well!

However today rain, rain and more rain, it stopped by about 9.30 and we did not get it again straight away so we were able to do some of the Experience Day in the sort of dry, but by lunchtime it had set in, so we just carried on!! Fortina did brilliantly in the rain, as long as there is wind she doesn’t give a damn what it is doing! Common (lanneret) was drenched by the time he had done three catches for the falcon day course. The poor chaps on the course carried on until 3.40 and then we gave up. Steve and Jim got painting done in the third of the Kites aviaries and Simon has both Vulture nest ledges made and ready to go up. I suspect the carpet on the edges is not going to last long knowing them.

The rain let up for the owl evening and actually it turned out to be a pretty good evening, the people were nice, the owls flew well, Cool Ground (snowy owl) did brilliantly, much better than his first night and only the new torches did not live up to their promise. Two long days though…….. I’m for bed and a book.
Thursday, 19 November 2009

Hedging and more hedging


Gosh I am tired this evening. We decided that as the forecast for tonight is hellish and we were pretty short on extra people today that we would not do the foundations for the replacement aviaries, that is now scheduled for Monday. David Kenworthy and his brother came and started on the huge hedge behind the small falcon block, which is that vile Leylandii. We are reducing its size considerably to make it more manageable. However we also had 50 MHP gusts of wind today and we really did have them too, it was incredibly windy at times, and that side of the property gets the full force of the prevailing wind.

But to add to our need to get the thing sorted was the fact that we are having a late bonfire night celebration for staff and volunteers, on Sunday. And we need bonfire material! And it was planned that those trees would be it! So Dave and his brother cut down enough for a good bonfire, plus we had the old fence from round the outside café area, Simon, Josh and I moved it into the next field (thank God for dumpers) and then Dave and his brother went over to the beech hedge between the flying ground and the sheep field and tackled that because it was less into the wind.

So we have been moving branches pretty much all day, and my arms don’t even want to type right now! We did manage 1.5 flying demonstrations, and the birds did amazingly considering the gusts of wind they were dealing with. Needless to say Fortina loved it!

Sedge kept going all day, Acer faded and went to sleep mid afternoon and even Rush was tired by about 3.30pm, but not Sedge, oh no, he just keeps going, and I have to tell you that having a terrier hanging onto large and heavy branches that you are dragging across a field is not helpful and by the end of a long day is not even amusing! Poor Matt who is on work experience was tired out by the end of it all, so we sent him off to help Holly fly a couple of owls late afternoon as the wind had dropped considerably by then.

Simon went to feed the owls and Sedge and I almost finished one side of the hedge, I gave up before the last few pieces, mainly because the fire was not burning that well. Beech does not burn as well as Ash that is for sure. As I walked out of the field with Sedge we stopped to say hello to a couple of trees, the Lime Tree is just starting to lose some of its leaves and so the canopy is less dense. There is something magical about standing directly beneath a tree that you know, looking up through the leaves to a darkening sky. Definitely to be experienced.




I can hear a bath calling......................

Hello

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.

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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!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qHZGQ8i8AwI

HC

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