Friday, 30 October 2009

First Owl Evening day

My computer is behaving itself this morning, I had a troublesome evening. My server is Fasthosts, who used to be there in the UK when you phoned with a problem, now you get through to the Philippines, I have nothing against anyone from the Philippines, I have good friends there and it’s an amazing country, although with almost no forest left. However often in these call centres, wherever they are in the world, I do not understand their English and when your computer is not working that gets pretty stressful. I am very disappointed that Fasthosts have not stayed in the UK, I also think we should support our own country where we can. Whatever the problem was they did not fix, and it took rebooting several times before it would work on outgoing emails again.

We had a very short power cut yesterday, (which is probably what screwed up my computer!) but worse than that, I forgot what it also does is change the settings on the boiler, so NO hot water for an early morning bath – disaster!! And the answer phone message had to be rerecorded for the 95th damn time, because it wipes itself at every power cut, great design! Have you ever tried recording an answer phone message with two puppies having a riotous and very noisy game in the office!! It took five goes and I only succeeded after putting them in the kitchen, however I forgot that the back door was open, and so they had great fun with the plants in the courtyard, oh well they are only puppies once.

Holly has done a great job on the Pumpkins, she did one with our logo, I was amazed, and she managed to do the huge one that I got from Jonathon Low, it’s a monster. I finally got a small one done with very little imagination just before it got dark…………

Phew, I am exhausted, the owl evening went well considering it was our first one, the only problem was that we were only supposed to have 20 people for the first one, which we did have until about lunchtime today, and then 30 rolled up!! That made the guided tour a little busy, but once I have done one with Adam tomorrow night, he and Holly can help and so we will split the numbers up to have smaller groups.

The food was great and the mulled wine pretty good. Eager (Long-eared Owl) did his first indoor demonstration and was very good, Pan (Barn Owl) was his usual excellent self. The outside three did well, Papyrus (Savigny’s Eagle Owl) was a little confused to start with but got the idea. Oath (Ural Owl) was a little wayward, but willing and Hemp (Eurasian Eagle Owl) was an old pro!

The experience day went well too as did the chap doing a short bird handling – yes it was a busy day. And we were busy too, end of the half term, and there were lots of people there, and the birds did not let us down. I suspect that Hare will have his last day of flying tomorrow before his rest period because the weather forecast is dire for Sunday. The Peregrine (Fortina) was amazing, racing round the sky and chasing wood pigeons all over the place and even Casper and the Lugger flew well too. A good but exhausting day, and still not on Autumn Watch!!
Thursday, 29 October 2009

What is it about coal and puppies, they, over all the years I have had puppies, have stolen and crunched up coal. I have always assumed that it does them no harm as it appears not to have done so far. I hope I am right on that one, although I have to say that it may not harm them, but it does not exactly do the sofa a great deal of good – or the carpet! Plus coal is bloody expensive these days.

My day started well, I got up at 5.00am, had a lovely bath, felt very virtuous, was feeding the dogs by 6.30, had the freezer shed open in time for the bird food delivery. Walked the dogs, had breakfast, got an article done that was out of time, and a letter for a friends planning application and its only just 9.00am! Not bad going. However the rest of the day was a little hectic.

A good friend of mine, Nick Lindsay from ZSL came down on his way to somewhere and he and Holly spent pretty much the whole day working in my office on the ARKS programme, which is the ISIS Zoos record system. We are not there yet, but hopefully we can get all the records sorted out soon. But because they were doing that and Adam had a day off (although he did come in and help with a couple of birds - what a star!) and Simon is not here, guess who did the first and third flying demonstrations. And a good job I did on them too! We managed to get through all the birds, Terri planted the new crocus bulbs and autumn cyclamen corms, as well as doing other jobs and Steve and Kerry did a great deal too, although I was too busy with birds and people to be able to appreciate what they were doing. However we got through the day, sorted out the birds for the day and evening tomorrow. The only thing I wanted to do but have failed on dismally was carving the pumpkins for Halloween - maybe next year.........................

But hell, I had a fright this early evening. Turned on my computer and it was not my computer, it had that Windows picture of the grassy hill and none of my stuff and could I find it, nope! So I went to phone a friend, but my mobile phone is flat, and needless to say his phone number is only in the mobile phone, which you can't get at when it is flat. So I thought again and phone Linda Wright, and between us and rebooting we found everything again, thank goodness. I sort of resent the fact that I am so reliant on computers because if they can screw up your life, they do so with monotonous regularity. So now I can get on with whatever it was I had planned for this evening, I wonder what it was!
Footnote - does anyone get those infuriating small and sort of long insects that crawl up the inside of your computer screen, and then Die!!! I have two now and I think they are going to be there for ever, its very annoying!

Wednesday, 28 October 2009


Well what a perishing flipping day. I wake at 3.00am, I read my book, I am not getting on that well with it, I turn the light on and off and on and off again and finally at about 5.30am I do feel like I could sleep so of course at 6.30 I should be getting up and that is when I am tired, damn it. I should have got up at 3.00am and done some work on the computer.

Marcus and Harry left today, and so I took them to the station to catch the 9.42 train, or at least I tried, I took the little van which will need an MOT soon and exchanged it at the garage for my Range Rover which was there because the drivers door would not open from the inside – tricky that one! That was fixed, but I told Tony about all the troubles I had had with it over heating – bad move, I should never have mentioned it. We got maybe five miles and the bloody thing overheated. It has had a new water pump, a new head (whatever the hell that is) a couple of other new things and finally an new radiator, what else can possible go wrong I ask myself!!!

So I called home on Marcus’s phone, because I had forgotten to take mine, I am not good with mobile phones, asked Jan to call a taxi to get the boys to the station, and I try and nurse my car back, not a good idea. It was not about to be nursed anywhere. So I pulled in about two miles back towards the garage and home. A very nice chap offered me a lift to Bucklands, the third garage that I have gone to, and I suspect the one that will fix it I hope. By sheer chance he was going there to get a chain saw fixed. My luck was improving!! So, I deserted the Range Rover, collected the van, lobbed the keys to the Range Rover to Tony and he collected it later on (I did check!). Drove home only to find that we had forgotten that five charming ladies were coming for a half day of bird handling! They were very good about my late arrival and we had a lovely morning with them, however it meant that all the work I had planned to do, did not get done.

We managed to fly all the birds in the afternoon, the Lugger was great – hooray. Casper was very good, the day was lovely, all the birds did well, even the Steppe Eagle who is not easy I have to say. We had a great team of volunteers who did sterling work in the Owl Courtyard and were all plastered in black paint by the end of the day. Finished at about 5.00pm I should have lit a fire as it is a little chilly, but a coat will suffice! And then had a lovely phone call from Penny Carpanini, she has just had a litter of 11 lab pups. Well OK she hasn’t, but a very pretty bitch called Holly has, so we are in line for a black girl before Christmas – perfect. So if you want a gorgeous puppy that has excellent breeding for both working and show stock you could not do better and mine is going to be the start of our new line, along with Acer.

The rest of the week is hard work with Simon gone, he is safe in India, Chris Bowden has just emailed me to tell me. OH yes, the email, that reminds me, guess what, BT strikes again. I had a phone call from them telling me they were going to suspend my broadband – why I asked (!!! And yes I did ask politely) because you have not paid the bill, they said. But I have a ‘One Bill’ which covers all my phone lines, and we have paid it, so what is the problem, I said. Well first they wanted my account number – you would think they would have the damn thing otherwise why did they phone in the first place. So we found an old bill, by this time two puppies were yelling for their lunch and I had 20 minutes until the next flying demonstration, its half term and we are busy!! I gave them the account number and after another wait, by which time I am getting a little annoyed(!!) they said that my Broad band was on the one bill but had ceased. I pointed out that I have had this broadband since January and it has not ceased, plus I could not sit on the phone for hours waiting for them to sort it out, could they phone me back once they had got a minor inkling on what the hell they were talking about. So finally with about ten minutes to go before the demonstration time they said they would phone back at 2.30pm – did they phone back – I am still waiting!!!

Adam is off for four days, and Holly and I have an interesting day on Saturday, plus Friday evening is our first Owl Evening, heaven knows when I am going to find the time to buy all the stuff for the mulled wine, which I make, although if I do, there is, sure as hell going to be some major tasting to check it is OK!
Tuesday, 27 October 2009


Well we got an awful lot done today, even if it did mean mowing the grass in the Hawk Walk at end of the day, in the pitch dark!! Which it did! However it is done and that is good because I kept leaving it until the morning and it rained each night. Tom did a brilliant job getting the stainless steel table into the thawing room so now it should be much easier to get the food out for the birds each morning. We also changed the shelves in the fridge part of the freezer, there is still a little work to do on that, but again it should make the job easier and quicker, and I love quicker! We finished off the Freezer Shed cleaned and swept it out, put up shelves for newspapers and completed it after the last demonstration, finally!
All the new nest boxes are up in the Owl Courtyard and now we are really annoying the owls by stopping them sitting on the rail at the front, and rapidly filling their nice clean baths with droppings. I have been meaning to do it for ages, and two are done, we are staining the timber black and it is starting to look great. We won't get it all done for the first Owl Evening this Friday, but it will all be done before Simon gets back.

Simon has left for India, he is going to spend about three weeks there working on the incubation room, brooder room, and egg handling and weighing, in preparation for the coming breeding season. He has only been gone a day and we miss him already, and Sedge will go nuts when he comes back as he adores him.
We got most of the birds flown, Casper the white bird, is coming on I have to say, he could even be quite good in the end. The Lugger falcon was bloody awful today, but I hope he will improve, all the other birds were good and we flew Cool Ground the Snowy Owl and Hemp, the Eurasian Eagle Owl after dark, they went well so we have our team ready for Friday! Hooray!
Monday, 26 October 2009

Went out to dinner with some friends last night, its impossible to get to a pub on a sunday evening, they must all be making a fortune as they all either close or stop serving food at 7.00pm, so we went to the Feathers in Ledbury, it was very good, I would happily go again. My car was a little trying yesterday, the drivers door won't open from the inside and it is amazingly difficult to open by leaning out of the window, so I took it to the garage. They said they could fix it so to bring it back later, I had to go and get some coach screws for putting up the new owl nest boxes, so I put my bike in the back and drove it back to the garage. It is about five miles home and such a lovely day, I cycled. The saddle on my bike was too low so we fixed it at the garage before I started for home. Or so I thought! But no, it slowly subsided so that after about a mile I could not straighten my legs when peddling and I like to have a very high saddle. It was a less than pleasant and somewhat tiring ride home peddling away with my knees under my chin!

I tried to take a christmas picture of all the dogs, but failed in that, black dogs are so hard to photograph and the sun was hitting some but not all, so it did not work, I will try again - and again! Casper flew very well this afternoon, and even the Lugger who bit my tongue did well too. The gymnogene needs to be jessed and tried outside its aviary, that will be a test. But Eager the Long-eared Owl was 215 grams and did not behave, I thought I was going to have to climb the tree to get him down!

Its been very mild again, and its really odd to see gorgious autumn colours and at the same time the roses are still out! Linda came and took some lovely photos, some of which I will put here. the day was lovely, and the pups have such a good time out in the field in the sun in the afternoon, half the visitors are watching them play rather than the birds flying, but that's OK.
Sunday, 25 October 2009

As soon as you hear nothing with puppies around, suspect the worst. Just caught Acer eating a wine glass, luckily I found all the pieces.

The clocks have changed, although you always have to go and find the ones you forgot, and the day is perfectly lovely. Nathan is hoovering up leaves, I guess it is worth it, but there are a hell of a lot still to come!! He looks very sweet doing it though. I love walking through piles of autumn leaves, they are better when they are dry, but even wet they are fun. The dogs have nearly finished the pears from the cider pear tree. There is a tree towards the bottom of the field at the far end of the upper pond (it was described as a lake in the house particulars when this place was put up for sale last year!! Some lake!). Its an old Cider Pear tree and if you pick one of the pears and bite into it your cheeks will meet and your tongue will cleave to the roof of your mouth, they are very bitter. But once they have fallen and started to soften and rot on the ground my dogs love them. Generations of Labradors, starting at Bramble and Tomale and going on through to the sixth and last of this generation, Rush and Indigo, and the first of the new line, Acer, have lain in the autumn sunlight munching rotting cider pears until the last one is gone.

Hummmmmm the weather forecast was wrong as ever, the day started well, but just as we had got all the birds out and sitting on the lawns, with their fresh baths, it started to rain. We left them out until about 12.00 noon, giving us time to clean their compartments and then put them all under again. It rained and then shone, and rained and shone again until about 2.00pm when the sun came out and stayed out. Holly and I managed to get all the birds done, we left Oath (Ural Owl) until the sun was down and tried him in the semi dark with the spot light torches. We tried it with Woodland Venture a couple of days ago and both of them appear oblivious to the strong lights and they both look wonderful flying in the beam and going up into the trees, its going to be fun doing the Owl Evenings. The Gymnogene is continuing to improve, he was keen for me to come through the door today, the new Harris jumped to the fist for Steve, Fortina was just amazing in the wind, I struggle to swing a lure for her at the speeds and angles she is coming in. Dawn Run did 27 stoops, counted by one of the smaller visitors for me, and my Steppe Eagle even behaved on the fist just before dark.

The Hunter Trials were not as well attended as we would have liked, but the volunteers were amazing and helped Adam and Micaela get through the day. I did not go and fly the birds as the attendance was low and the weather was not good at the time I would have flown. Still it was worth while and we may do it again next year, but earlier in the year.

Acer is completely flat out on the floor by my desk, back legs stretched out behind and looking like a somewhat flattened frog! She has settled so well and she and Sedge adore one another.
Saturday, 24 October 2009

Invasion of the toads started the night before last. Every year once the weather gets damp in the autumn a stream of small toads come into the house, I have never understood why as I thought they liked the damp. They come under the back door and hop up the hall, it will be a little more hazardous for them this year as the puppies are going to think they are edible until they learn they are not! I don’t mind them, they are pretty cute actually, but if they don’t get put out again I find them later on as a sad little desiccated toad in a corner or under a radiator, which I would rather not have happen to them

My record in one evening before I left for my ill fated sojourn in South Carolina was 34 toads, one frog, who was extremely difficult to catch and a tiny newt! I swear they were hoping round from the French windows back to the back door and coming in again! Still I would rather have them that the invasion of spiders, who run at you viciously gnashing their teeth and waving their eight legs menacingly at you, and then rush under the sofa so you don’t know where they are…………………

Having watched the PowerPoint programme about bottled water, for the third time and which Linda has put on the Latest page on the website, I am pleased to say that we have decided to change from selling drinks in plastic bottles as of the end of this season. All our drinks will either be cans which will be recycled, or paper cartons which will also be recycled. We will sell NO BOTTLED WATER, if you would like a drink of water we will provide you with a glass of water at our expense, it will be free to you.

I don't know where this fad of carrying round drinks has come from, we never used to carry around water in a bottle, and it is completely unnecessary, and wasteful, not to say incredibly expensive. We are trying not to just talk conservation but to do it as well – why don’t you!

Buy a nice metal water bottle and fill it up before you leave home, it will be fresher, cheaper, nicer and better for this stunningly beautiful planet that we are fast ruining. If you run out we will refill it for you. Be sensible, be responsible and care!

So this morning it was invasion of the wasps, having got up before light, it was pretty dismal outside, and after turning on the light in the scullery, a few minutes later the whole window was covered in wasps. Unfortunately I did not spot them before Sedge had trodden on one out in the courtyard, you could have heard the yell from Newent. He does not deal well with sharp pain, he yelled for minutes and then needed a lot of TLC, and is still feeling a little sorry for himself even now.

Although I have to say I am feeling a little sorry for myself as the young Lugger bit through my tongue while I was doing up the braces on his hood yesterday. As I could not yell for help, the only thing to do was tear him off it, and my tongue is definately the loser in the experience! He is an odd bird to fly, OK some days, it is very early in the training, and then its as if he is focusing on something else rather than the lure. I think he will come right though. Casper let me down and sat in a tree, which was not good. But the Gymnogene was getting better every day. Clocks change tonight which means we will have even less daylight to finish the day, better start earlier I guess!!

Thursday, 22 October 2009

A touch of rain

Yesterday proved fair and sunny which was a surprise, today started off that way, but then deteriorated until after the last flying demonstration, when the rain went. Its uncanny how it rains smack on flying times without fail. But I have to say that Hare is still flying well, even in the damp weather of the last three days, he has not let me down once. The peregrine Fortina on the other hand says stuff demonstration work, lets go and find something to catch. First it was the pigeon, then a Jay coming in to get acorns, who had to do a very swift dive into Danny's Wood to get away. Yesterday she buggered off in the field next door, she missed whatever she was after and Simon and I found her two fields away, to be fair she came straight in which was good. And today, disappeared again, and all I could see was tons of Wood Pigeons all high tailing it in different directions, so I knew what she was doing! But this time at least she came back

Holly came up from the flying ground after flying Jodami, her young Lanner, with a grin as big as the one Adam has when Cool Ground (Snowy Owl) has flown well, so we knew he had done a good flight. Casper, the white bird on the other hand is still flying free, but not getting very far at this point. In fact he landed on my shoulder and I had to run to get him off, he was most offended. The new little Lugger falcon is also loose and did three stoops today, I have never seen a falcon be able to turn like he can, makes a Merlin look clumsy!!

And my Gymnogene is jumping to the fist in the aviary, he will do just about anything now for a hairless mouse, well who wouldn't! Pups are well although I draw the line at Sedge wandering around with the loo brush in his mouth............

I am constantly amazed and delighted by the Long-eared Owl, Eager, and Eager does suit him because when you go to his aviary to get him he stamps up and down from one foot to the other he gets so excited And fly - my goodness, he was above tree height and I was mentally saying - oh nuts - to myself, but he turns on the whistle and circles round and comes back, just wonderful to watch and very different from all the other owls I have flown.

A new Harris has arrived, a female from a friend, so we will train her up and see how she does, we now have five working, which is more than enough!! And all the males are chatty, but will I hope get quieter as time goes on. My young Steppe Eagle weighs a flipping ton, I don't know exactly what as I have not managed to get it to sit on the weighing machine yet, but my arm says its weighs a lot!

The injured Peregrine that came from Neil Forbes is now out and being trained so we can get it fit prior to release, he is a very dark and very beautiful bird and both Neil and us have managed to keep him feather perfect which is pleasing. We had a lovely adult female sparrowhawk in yesterday and she recovered very quickly and was showing no signs of problems so we just opened the door of the box and the door of the hospital and she did a sickle dive out of the door and away over the trees like a pro, it was lovely to see.

Had a great school party here today and tomorrow which is supposed to be OK weather wise we have a falcon day. It will be Dawn Run's first official teaching day, I hope she behaves. Picture is Ruby enjoying the rain, Linda's new camera is working well! Good Lord its nearly 10.30pm - past my bedtime!
Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Not quite so sunny!

I took all the dogs to Martin Flamank who is their veterinary surgeon, Sedge to have his second vaccination, Acer to have her first and the other three had something, but I am not sure what, however it was important. Acer threw up twice, once on the way there and once on the way back, I do like consistency, and then ate it, so that means she ate her breakfast three times, great recycling. Indigo was much kinder and did not throw up until he got out of the van once we were home, and I notice that has gone too - don't even ask, I am not going to! It did not stop him having toast at coffee time which we were back in time for.

I had the first demonstration off - treat, and so could catch up on emails and an article I am supposed to be writing. Did do the 1.30 demo though and that is when the rain started, so as I write I am damp, but unbowed. Then followed the photo call for Joan, see photo. And now I am back to struggling with the article and trying to work out how I can do a lecture on the status of vultures world wide in 15 minutes!! Very fast I guess.

The rain is a nuisance really as I would have liked to have flown Casper today, having gone loose for the first time yesterday, but there you go, its still be a flipping gorgeous autumn whatever the weather. Oh and Julie brought some Christmas lights that we can use outside for the owl evenings, what a flaming swizz, it says 18 metres on the box and 12 of them are cable with no lights!!

Monday, 19 October 2009

Winter sunshine

There is undoubtedly a difference between autumn sun and winter sun. Autumn sun is strong, vibrant and powerful, with deep colour and a feeling that you could cut it with a knife. Winter sunshine is weaker, more transparent and watery and a feeling that it will fade away if you tried to touch it. Today the sunshine, what there was of it was more wintery than autumnal. However it did not stop Casper, the white falcon, who is stunningly beautiful flying loose for the first time! Hooray. I had him on a line to start with and by the time he had flown round me three times, I had the biggest tangle of creance and lure line I have ever seen, I had to ask Adam to come and help me untangle it so I could fly the falcon free!!

Simon would have said that even I could not call it a wind knot, and rightly so! However Casper is now loose and turning. For most of you that will mean nothing, but his first trip loose earlier in the year lasted five days!! And he was picked up in Wales, so this time it was immensley more successful, thank goodness.

The Gymnogene which I am trying to train without taking it out of its aviary came and took four of the revolting hairless mice that we have, out of my gloved fist, so that was good, I knew if I used them he would behave as many of the birds think they are wonderful and eat them like sweets!

Nathan who does all the grass for us and whom we missed at an evening out was asked why he was not there - 'oh' he said, 'I thought it was next week, what a shame I was looking forward to going to the Yew Tree Pub' Unfortunately he not only missed it by a week, but if he had gone to the Yew Tree, we were at the Glasshouse Pub!! We did all laugh at that!

One note of a problem one of the two baby Steppe Eagles was favouring his right leg and so took a trip to Neil Forbes our vet, and he had managed to crack his tibiotarsus, which is very dissapointing, Neil said that if he was going to damage something this was about the best option and he should be fine, did not even need a operation thank goodness. So five weeks rest and he will be back in training. But it is a shame as we waited for a long time before starting them both so they were fully fledged by several months and they should not have had a problem. However its just one of those things I guess. His brother and two sisters are fine and doing well. My one is sitting on the fist now, which is good. All I have to do now is persuade him that going into the weighingroom is quite safe and I do need to be able to get his weight!
Sunday, 18 October 2009

Back again!

Grey, then sunny then grey and finally sunny! All birds flew well and we had great customers, I forgot to tell you that yesterday the loo in the flats above the cafe decided that it would have a fit, break and the water going into the tank would sail happily through the ceiling, through the electrics and into the cafe!! Wonderful! So everything was turned off and at the moment the only place we can turn off the water is at the mains, so nowhere has any water, and yes that does mean the loos!!

So it happened in the second demonstration, which is good because at least lunch was over, and I told the customers that they could feel free to use the wood! The cafe staff managed with cold drinks and cake and we ran a cable from another building to boil a kettle. Simon managed to get it safe and turn the water on about an hour later and Dave, Jan's husband who is a plummer came and told us what to do. He is going to put stopcock taps all over the place soon!!

Nothing that dramatic happened today thank goodness, all was quiet, nice visitors, nice weather, nice soup for lunch and a nice fire burning behind me as I write. At the end of the day we got all the people here, staff and volunteers and the dogs and Joan, this photo is for you, you probably don't know them all but the wishes are the same whatever. Oh and by the way Indigo did not appreciate being a puppy!

Now I have to go and make sure that the puppies are not demolishing my wellies for the 95th time

Hooray, all staff in today which is the first time for three weeks, and I include myself in that. Its colder and greyer today, but still dry, apart from the mist on Thursday I don't think I have seen rain here for about seven weeks!! Amazing and very welcome, although it is set to change next week. Yesterday started grey but the sun came out and made us all feel great again.

Flying the birds in the late afternoon is tough though, the sun is very low and the falcons particularly know exactly where to come from so you can't see a damn thing, it makes for interesting lure swinging.

We are going to start trying some of the owls out after dark soon so that they are ready for the owl evenings, we have the new torches and are ready to go. And then of course I should probably test out the making of the mulled wine too, it would be a shame not to have it exactly right on the first night!!
Joan - if you are reading this, we are all thinking of you and worrying about you, and the two pictures are just for you, Sedge ( and you can see what I mean about his ears!! Very suspect!)and Eager flying beautifully Linda has another new camera, she says this is the one she has been dreaming about and so she took these yesterday.
I tried getting my new Steppe Eagle sitting up yesterday, and I need to get into some weight training I think, he weighs a flipping ton! But very beautiful, Adam needless to say got his sitting up, but then he is a fitness freak so he is tougher than I am and more and has patience as well.

Its nearly coffee time and the dogs are waiting......................!
Friday, 16 October 2009

Another day!


what a day, thank goodness its over, I managed to get the PowerPoint ready for the lecture, and then we had a powercut for a couple of seconds, and I nearly lost it for the third time!! And as usual that means I have to re do the bloody answerphone message because apparently it does not like power cuts. The Hawking Day went well and most of the birds behaved. It was hectic, teaching, and doing all the flying demonstrations as well. Thank heavens that Robin was able to take much of the course with the bird flying.
Rushed down to Bridgewater, well actually Shapwick Village Hall to give the lecture on the Vulture crisis, and managed to get there on time, the lecture went well and there were really nice people there. Had some supper with them and then drove home in time to see Adam and Malmo the Red Kite on Autumn Watch Unsprung live, he did well!!
Then checked my emails when I got home, and if I had been stupid enough to believe all my emails, I have won at least 78 million pounds!! Good job I am not a complete pratt and believe these idiots. Oh well!
Simon had checked on the dogs and puppies and they were OK apart from lake superior on the kitchen floor! Better than the land mines I guess. We nearly have enough volunteers for the Hunter Trials next weekend, I have to say I wish I had a horse again, it would be fun to enter!
It promises to be a cold night, do we believe them or not, I know, I will look out of the door and see what is happening, there is a novel idea!
Thursday, 15 October 2009


Well blow it, damn and blast, I carefully take my notebook computer that I have not had long, on the train to London, so I can work and get the lecture ready for the Hawk and Owl Trust meeting tomorrow evening. I find a seat with a table and plug it into the socket on the train and work away. I am doing well, all is coming along nicely, I am trying to merge three PowerPoint programmes, then with about five seconds warning the computer tells me the battery life is critical and then immediately hibernates! The flaming socket on the train is not producing any power - well just great!

The meeting went fine, it was very interesting and I met some kindred spirits and learnt a great deal, I hope it will lead to other things. I left before the afternoon session as my part was over and so this time I find a socket on the train that is working. My computer comes alive again and asks me if I want to save my work, not surprisingly I say yes, but the computer says, well actually you can't, I am going to lose it!! And promptly does so. So nothing daunted I start again, its a lovely afternoon, and what the hell, and guess what it loses it for the second time, well hoobloodyray! So I gave up and read a book instead.

It was a misty (doesn't that word misty evoke such pictures, trees looming up through the mist, autumn smells, dusk coming early, consummate autumn everything slightly out of focus, fire lit in the office!) when I got home, the owl day had gone well and all the birds had behaved beautifully, Adam had a good time at Neil Forbes course and had been to the Hawk Conservancy as well. The two injured wild birds that he took with him for check ups are doing fine and the peregrine can now be registered, trained, flown, hunted and released. The Hobby will have to winter with us and we will see how he does in the spring. Simon's visa is through, the torches are here for the Owl evenings, all in all everyone seemed happy and the dogs were very pleased to see me.

All I have to do now is the third attempt at the lecture for tomorrow and the day will be done!
Wednesday, 14 October 2009


Right - that is it, I am now totally convinced that all people who are weather reporters have to be manic depressives to get the job. There I was looking out of the window at the beautiful clear and clean and cold sky with the last suns rays disappearing, when I heard that in fact it was grey and overcast, dismal and depressing, and the night was going to be warm!!! Have they not thought of looking out the damn window for God's sake, what a bunch of pratts aaaaaaaagghhhhh. They should try my house when its a cold clear evening!! Good job I have five dogs, OK four and half to keep warm with!

Just got back from giving a lecture at Monmouth Girls School, it went well - on the Vulture Crisis, which is a topic I know well and they seemed to enjoy it, although my friend Linda Wright said that they are used to Politically correct people and I don't really qualify as PC - thank goodness!! I hope I never do..............

Tomorrow I have to leave for London at an ungodly hour and hope to be back for late afternoon and then on Friday I am giving a lecture again on the vultures at the Hawk and Owl Trust 40th celebration meeting which is apt as father was one of the founders of the Hawk and Owl Trust. Saturday should be fun, Holly is off, Adam and Simon are doing a hunting day, which leaves me to do all the demonstrations!! Hooray.

Now I know I complain about internet shopping, and rightly so, but I needed to order some flowers from us all to Joan in the Netherlands today. The first three website were crap but the fourth one - what a joy, they should be congratulated and if you want flowers internationally go to these people, great website, thought out, quick and efficient And you know how when you buy something online by the time you get to the final payment a ton of things have been added - not with these guys, what you paid on the outset was the final payment - very cool!

More lovely days, I know, you are getting bored with my telling you how lovely it has been, but its such a pleasure this autumn, I need to make sure you are all sharing it and enjoying it. This is such a beautiful country and I don't think any of us understand or appreciate it as much as we should. Its only when you leave and nearly can't make it back that you see what you lost.
I have two puppies sitting on my office chair, there is not much room for three of us, but they love to do it. I guess it will be OK with Sedge as he will never be large, I am damned if Acer is going to do this in a few months though.
I really am so very lucky, not only do I have some amazing birds, and wonderful dogs, but my staff are great, they have done such a good job with the birds that they have trained this year and Holly has never done this sort of work before. Adam has persevered with birds that I would have probably strangled and achieved good working birds. Simon has bred birds which should not have bred this year and Robin is putting up with all sorts of awful jobs as he starts to fit in. As for Jan, well, we none of us could do without her and the girls in the cafe have fitted in like a glove with the insane bunch that we are!!
As for the volunteers and work experience people, well we could not have done without them this year and long may they all keep putting up with the place, the jobs and me. We are all going out to supper tomorrow night, I hope I get back from London in time. I bet Simon chicken's out!!
Picture is Eager the Long-eared Owl

Monday, 12 October 2009

Bravo ITV Tonight programme, how nice to see a straight forward true to the person programme without any need for drama, or lies, well done, it was on why one woman's son had become the 200th soldier to die in Afghanistan and very moving to watch.
I was waiting for the new Attenborough programme LIFE which was good, not as good as I had hoped, but pretty damn good. The Brits do make the best wildlife programmes (and the best adverts!) but I have come to the thought that I am not sure I really like Leopard Seals!! Although I have to say I feel sorry for the camera teams, because in the follow up - how we did it programme, they mentioned that cameraman David Bailey was on a ship with them. I can only hope it was not David Bailey of still's camera fame because I have worked with him and a ruder more unpleasant little rat you would be hard put to find!
The picture is of some of the Eurasian Griffon Vultures at the feeding station in Spain, pretty cool, and I am a crap photographer, I hope some of my friends got much better ones.
It has been another glorious day, for some perhaps boring there have been so many, but a bright clear morning, sunshine sifting through the leaves and giving deep shadows in both the morning and evening light. The birds flew well, we flew Bay Middleton and Pretender together (two Harris Hawks). Bay Middleton was a little nervous, but they both did well.
Yesterday Fortina the African Peregrine was flying well and a mentally deficient pigeon decided to fly after her!! Not a good idea, she watched and turned and streaked after it. They both headed out for about three fields and then I guess the pigeon dived for cover because, thank goodness Fortina turned and came back. Peregrines!!!!! Deception the Yellow-billed Kite caught a thermal yesterday too and got up good height and stooped, Adam had a grin on his face for hours afterwards!
We moved to winter flying times today, which would have meant we finished earlier had it not been for the fact that Adam and I looked for high powered torches on the internet. Honestly it would have been quicker to get in the damn car, drive to Gloucester and go to Country Wide to get them by the time we had finished. I am blowed if I think the internet is quicker! Tomorrow we should finish a little earlier I hope.
Talking of cars, apparently only I can suceed in getting my Range Rover to overheat, I am blowed if I know why because if they can't go at the speed I am doing, which is not that far over the top, they are not the old Range Rovers I used to know and love. We will see if the thing will survive a drive to Bridgewater this coming friday. I hope so as it is getting tedious watching the temperature guage I have to say.
Its a hectic week with a lot going on and staff time is short. It looks like I am doing the demonstrations on my own on Saturday, so that should be fun! Come and see! Owl evenings start soon, we should have all the torches by Wednesday and we will rehearse some of the owls in the near future. Simon is off to India before they start, we will miss him, but he will be doing valuable teaching.
Pups are well and I think that Acer might be starting to understand about going out for a pee, which will save a ton on kitchen towels! It looks like it will be a colder night, we put all the young birds in the indoor hawkwalk in case and when I gave the dogs a run before dark we could see our breath pluming out, so I lit the fire, which was very comforting, its soooooooooooooo good to have a home again.
Saturday, 10 October 2009
Back home again, thank goodness, every time I leave I regret having said I would go somewhere, I guess its because I love my home and dogs and birds and staff, so I don’t really need to leave! The flight was OK, but I will definitely avoid going to Stanstead again, it’s a long way, particularly when you arrive back at midnight. And the M25 which you would think would be bearable at that time of night was a flaming nightmare. Traffic by the ton, road works by the million and the a huge queue and then damn me they took you off the bloody motorway - opppppps sorry the Orbital something or other, (I was calling it various other names that I will not write here!) and dumped you somewhere with no signs - great!!! My theory is just keep going and see where you end up! I finally managed to get home at 3.45am!
I travelled there with three friends which was good and we were collected at the airport by a great Spanish guy who took us to our hotels (and was very good looking too!), and picked us up the following morning. I am obviously out of date with hotels, now you have to use the damn card system that supposedly gets you into your room to turn on the lights as well, that took a trip back down to the desk, where they must have thought me mentally deficient. The journey from Zaragosa to Ainsa was OK except the last part where the roads got very windy and I remembered that I get carsick!! However I did manage not to throw up over anyone, and we got there safely. Dumped our stuff and then went on a trip to the mountains, and they are mountains!! After a steep drive up a long track we came to the Bearded Vulture feeding station, what a place, there were about 14 of us, many good friends, and there on the hill were about 140 Griffon Vultures, with more starting to fly. It was an amazing sight, the feeding station is at the bottom of the hill and only has bones placed there for the Bearded Vultures as they don’t really want to feed the Griffon's, but they come anyway. The day was overcast and still so not good for the birds to fly easily, which was great for us as we saw mucho more! The Griffons were everywhere you looked! And the most interesting thing for me was to watch how they sedately walked in a long winding line up the hill behind the feeding area to get to enough height to get up off the ground without too much effort. We watched and I counted the wing beats, the most was ten, but generally they lifted off and gracefully and slowly gained height with 4 to 5 wing beats, then a glide, then another four to five wing beats and so on. Ambition was not high, they were mostly just aiming for enough height to get to the other side of the valley and sit on rocks or a stunning dead tree. I have not looked at my photos, and I suspect that as usual they will not be as focused as I would like, but I hope I did get something. Add to that spectacle a few Red kites soaring and playing and Bearded Vultures cruising overhead and then giving territorial displays, mirroring and chasing another bird, with their glorious rust coloured breast and long long pointed wings and their beards easily seen, it was a sight to behold.

The great people looking after us had brought a picnic so we all sat and watched vultures, talked, ate good food and had an excellent time. I have to say the cow bells were a little annoying and if I were one of the cows I suspect I would find a way to get rid of the damn thing, but I imagine that eventually the noise which is constant and all over the mountains soon becomes unnoticeable. We were allowed to walk down the hill afterwards, which took I guess about an hour and was a lovely walk – it was a good start to Ainsa.

The conference went well, a few too many talks to assimilate, but great food, company and I love the Spanish red wine!

Now its back to autumn in the UK, which I love, back to the dogs and the birds and the challenge of training a young Steppe Eagle, which is going to be fun I hope!
Saturday, 3 October 2009

Phew I am exhausted! The conference was great, it was very good to see a lot, and I mean a lot of old friends from all over the world and have time to talk to them. Scotland was beautiful, it is a stunning country and it was lovely to stay at my sister's cottage in the wilds opposite Loch Tummel. It was interesting in some ways how the papers at the conferences have changed though and I am not convinced that biologistists will actually have any legs by the end of the century, because many fo them are papers written with data from computers. So many of the papers were completely mystifying models of stuff, with spatial variations and temporal something or others and probably a time space continueum as well!! At least half the time I had no idea what the hell they were talking about. I used to be able to go to papers and learn about species, now I am damned if I know what I learn! But it was the in between bits that are always important and they were the same as ever. I think my paper went OK, I hope so anyway.

I had a good trip back, although the wind on the way down through scotland and northern england was vicious. I had to fight to hold the car on the road in several places, and as I approached the Forth Road Bridge the signs kept changing, first it was closed to High sided vehicles, then high vehicles, then vans, then caravans, then motorbikes, I thought I was not going to get over the damn thing. However I made it back ................. just, the bloody Range Rover died on the last mile - again. I hope I can get it fixed, normally I can't break Range Rovers

You might remember the phone - and the lack of it last week. Well, when Colin came to fix it, after a few minutes he came out with a big grin on his face and I knew instantly that it was something silly!! I had checked the plug and all the obvious things, however he took me by the arm and led me into my office and pointed out that the cable going to the underneath of the works box was not happy. The Puppies had obviously pulled at it and not quite unplugged it, but moved it enough that the connection was no longer working!!

Puppies who would have them!! Actually they were very pleased to see me and I was very pleased to see them and all the other dogs as well. They, the puppies that is are now curled up behind me on my office chair, which gives me little room I have to say.

The weather is set fair for tomorrow, I will see all the birds and fly as many as I can, walk the dogs, do the washing, try to sort out the damn car and be glad to be home. Every time I drive back here, after having had no home for myself, the birds or the dogs for so long I thank the Chenevix Trench family for helping us all to get back here.


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.

Blog Archive

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


Website counter