Friday, 29 January 2010

First snowdrops 2010

There is a vividly bright moon outside, very clear and bright and to be very cold I reckon. I have to say the last two days have not been ones to write home about. On Wednesday our walk in Deep Freeze packed up, on Thursday Paul who fixes it came, he is a great guy and very honest, and he said it is not worth fixing – great, just the right time of year for that to happen. So we discussed things and decided that for the foreseeable future I would get some decent commercial chest freezers and if and when we can afford it we would consider getting a new walk in freezer. I feel like we are going backwards, but it was pointed out that it will be much more economical and sensible. So I phoned round and I have to say that a firm called Alexander’s was first class, there are four commercial deep freezes arriving on Monday and they have a five year guarantee on parts and labour and are only supposed to cost 13.6 pence per day to run. If that is the case I suspect I will have paid for them in the first year in saved electricity costs. I dread to think what the old walk in freezer was costing to run. But it was a shock financially at a difficult time of the year, I knew I should not have bought that lamp!

Today went rapidly down hill, I have been avoiding going shopping for days – I hate it, but wheatabix was calling or at least the puppies would have been had I not gone, I had improvised for two days, but this was it. So I got in the van – still no bloody car – and started to drive to Morrison’s in Ross on Wye – bear in mind I have gone off Tesco’s since all that rubbish with buying online. I did wonder why there were so many cars on a road that is normally devoid of traffic, I should have guessed, the road to Ross was closed – I mean damn it, a main road to the Motorway closed completely and the diversion signs – well the chap who decided on the route obviously never drove it – what a prat. So dilemma, do I go home – good idea – but then no wheatabix, so it was either Ledbury for Sainsbury’s or Gloucester for Tesco’s, should have gone to Ledbury!! I shopped at Tesco’s, and when paying first of all my debit card would not work – it had not worked yesterday either, but I had phoned the bank and left a message to sort it out – it wasn’t sorted!! Then tried my credit card, now I use it very very rarely, so I can never remember the number that you type in, I had two choices and got it wrong, but thought, oh well I have two more chances – wrong!!!! Now did you know that if you get the number wrong three times – at anytime in the whole life of the card, not just that time, but three times in three years your card will lock up and you will have to get a new one!! No I didn’t either, and neither did the girl at the bank, or anyone here, so remember – you have three goes and then you are stuffed. Luckily the last card worked, or I would have been left having spent two hours getting shopping I could not take home. I was fairly annoyed, so I got home and went straight to the phone to phone the bank, it was then I realised I did not have my wallet! Yup, lost my wallet, hoobloodyray!

So I phoned Tesco’s, you don’t get the shop you shop at, or perhaps if the chap had had a brain he could have walked over to the customer service and asked them, but no, he was in Cardiff and could not get them. I pointed out that this was a wallet with three credit cards in it, and was there not some rather quicker way of seeing if it had been handed in. He was singularly unhelpful, I hope he loses his wallet tomorrow. So I got back in the car and drove back to Gloucester having put all the shopping out of reach of Acer – I thought! I could not find the wallet and the customer service desk needs some serious training. I said what will happen if it is handed in, they said they would get hold me, I asked how as my address was not in there. They said, you have a store card, I said no!! So with persuasion I was allowed to leave my address, just in case. I then dropped into the police station to report it lost/stolen, the policeman said he could not list it as stolen as I did not know if it had been, I pointed out that I did not have it, Tesco’s did not have it, it was not in any of the places I had been – i.e., my van, my coat, my office or Tesco’s, so someone else had it!! Ah well, luckily there was no cash in there and three credit cards, two of which did not work anyway!! So whoever has got it will not have much fun! I cancelled the credit cards, and drove home. I hope it does get found as I was very fond of the wallet and had had it a long time, plus it had a great picture of the dogs in it and I have no idea what else!

The staff had kindly flown my birds, and so I did a little clearing up of shrubs, and then blow me it started to snow a storm!! So we rushed around and put all the baths and perches away, checked that all tools were in, thanked the Lord that we have the indoor Hawk Walk and finished the day. Phew!
Wednesday, 27 January 2010
Golly, what on earth happens to the days, it’s a while since I wrote and of course I can’t remember half of what has happened. I did manage to fly my falcons over both days at the weekend and John Cottrell came on Sunday and worked very hard on the new blackboards for the weighing room, the old ones are worn out, and his wife sent Cheese cake! Adam kindly siphoned another 10 gallons of oil from the café tank, so I did manage a warm Sat and part of Sun and a bath, but by the afternoon the boiler had locked out again with no oil. The first job on Monday was to phone Butlers and find out why the hell I did not get any oil, especially as they were apparently delivering on the weekend as well, but it seems that if your slot is missed you vanish into thin air! The oil arrived by lunchtime and the house is now warm again.

It was very cold on Monday, but we did manage to fly all the birds and get them out for baths, it always amazes me that whatever the weather many of the birds will hop straight into a freezing cold bath. We only give them the chance during the morning as we don’t want them wet later in the afternoon. We did not put them in on Monday night, but put them in their compartments in the Hawk Walk and damn me we did have a frost overnight. So we are still putting them in the Indoor Hawk Walk each evening now, just in case. Which reminds me, all rehabilitators and vets in the US be warned, a friend of mine at my request sent me some Styptic powder, which I had seen used in the US in the birds of prey centre in South Carolina, to stop bleeding in birds, if they needed it. I assumed that it was good stuff, and I liked the power rather than the pencils that we often use over here. Neil Forbes came over to give the birds a check up and look at our drugs cupboard, and luckily saw it there and nearly had a fit. He pointed out that it stated that it had Benzocaine in it which is toxic to birds, and blow me it does and it also says its good to use on mammals – and Birds!! He said that any drug with the word 'caine' in it is toxic to bords, so be very careful and ask your vets about it.

Tuesday a couple of friends came over, Kes had bought her husband a day, brushing up on lure swinging in the morning and going out with the Harris Hawks in the afternoon. So we did some lure swinging practice first and got the passes down, and then he flew four Lanners, one Hybrid and a Peregrine!! It was good to see his confidence build over each bird, and the falcons were very well behaved, even Casper who did not disappear.

Which reminds me!! After his little journey we had awful trouble with two of the receivers and after phoning Marshalls, and trying to dry them out over the weekend, it had not worked, so on Tuesday morning Jan sent them recorded delivery to Marshalls UK, and I was very impressed because we got a phone call this morning saying they were fixed and on their way back, so not only did the post office get them there in time, but Marshalls were first class in their service – well done, not only a brilliant telemetry but good service……………and…………….a real human on the end of the phone, will wonders never cease!!

Tuesday afternoon was a lovely warm sunny late winter day. The guys from Peter Dowles are here again doing more pruning, which means more huge amounts of clearing up. So we dragged a ton of prunings over to the fire and Adam finally got it to take. It was going so well by the end of the afternoon that we did not want to stop, so as all the birds had been done, and were safely in, the Harris Hawks had behaved out hunting and had some good chases, although nothing caught, the hunting team had brought back cakes though!! So we had a cup of tea and cakes by the fire with the most glorious sunset turning the sky a colour between pink and orange and impossible to describe, but a joy to watch. The temperature dropped like a stone as the sun dropped and we finished in the dark.

Today my Range Rover has gone to the garage again and I am hoping beyond hope that it will finally be fixed, but I have to say I don’t trust it anymore. The weather has been kind, Adam and Mike finished off the roof on the new aviary – it looks very good, and Mike has been doing the internal walls. We flew birds and cleared up prunings all day, it is looking great – well pretty bare, but it will look great!! And as we were doing it Simon’s voice came over the radio, and the young Verreauxs are mating!! And as we went down to home made Oxtail Soup for lunch (mmmmmmmmmmm!) he said that they were playing with the nesting material as soon as he put it in today, and SO WERE THE STELLERS!!!! Cross everything please everyone, it would be so good to breed Stellers Sea-eagles. The Tawny Eagles have two eggs and are sitting well, so the breeding season looks like we might have a great one.

Oh and I forgot, I slipped up and bought a new lamp, Sorrell had an accident with one in the office!! He is an eagle, pretty cool eh! THAT is what I did on Sat, how could I forget, I am never going shopping on a Saturday, its a nightmare!

OK Caught up, and Joan had her bone marrow transplant today and it is going to work and she is going to be fine – got that Joan!!

Friday, 22 January 2010

Its interesting how computers do seem to have a life of their own, I have a document that I write the Weblog in on my desktop and it is never in the same place when I go to find it, quite extraordinary, it just moves around all by its little self. So in fact talking to my computer, or more likely threatening to throw it out of the damn window now seems really quite reasonable to me.

I have to admit to not being in the best of frames of mind. Yesterday was good, Simon Adam and I left early and found Casper sitting in a tree not far from where we had located him the night before, it was bloody freezing and still snow on the ground and he was not interested in the slightest, so we decided to leave him for a couple of hours until things warmed up a little (OK so not exactly warm!). We came back and got on with things, I caught up again on my computer, actually I don’t think I ever really catch up, we had coffee, dried out all the lures, gloves, and so on and Adam and I left about 11.30. Needless to say he had moved and that area is very hilly, so we did a fair bit of driving around, getting and losing the signal, but eventually found a strong one and found him sitting on a house – looking very smart and content, with a chap up a ladder about 30 feet away who had not noticed he was being watched!!

After various attempts to get him down, I put the half quail out and he said whoopee, that is what I have been waiting for. He still would not come down to the ground, but Adam suggested putting it on the gate post and it worked, after a couple of fly pasts, down he came and picked up well, so after showing him to the people who kindly let us get him down off we went – back in time for lunch. We did more staining of the shelves in the afternoon and the sun came out and Holly and I flew a good number of the falcons, looking forward to getting them going properly again. So all in all it was a good day.

Today has been less successful, I am blowed if I know what I have done, it seems very scrappy. And right now I am bloody livid because as you may remember I ran out of heating oil last Friday, and could not get any for five days. So yesterday we phoned up to check that Butlers were going to deliver oil today – that would be the five days, yes we were told, it will be in the morning. We have phoned twice more today and were told its on its way, and its 7.00pm and do I have any oil, do I buggery. The boiler has locked up again and I have no heating and no bath, so I am feeling very ratty indeed. I hope they have a miserable weekend.

Other than that the shop is looking wonderful. We have booked up two five day courses at least I think we have, come to think of it someone was supposed to phone today and didn’t, hhhhhhuuuuuummmmmmm. Steve who has been painting the ceiling in the shop fixed the vacuum cleaner cable that Sorrel chewed in half yesterday. As soon as you don’t hear noise from the puppies you have to check and see what they are doing!! It rained all bloody day so we got no birds flown. But Mike is getting on well with the building of the aviary, the lining is going in now, Simon fixed up the new shelf in the café and the carpet has been professionally cleaned and looks sparkling, we are all forbidden to go in with boots on and the dogs…………hum, I guess nothing will happen with them, they are too loved!

A week to go before we open again, we are behind with where I hoped we would be, but the snow beat us on that one. I am going to light a fire now as it is starting to get very chilly in my office. And if the oil is not here on Monday first thing I am going to the Butlers depot and I am going to steal a lorry full of the damn stuff.
Wednesday, 20 January 2010
Well shit and corruption, and if that upsets people, I am past caring today!! I am cold and tired and have achieved bugger all in the last couple of days. Monday was lovely, everyone was back, we flew some birds, although all are showing loss of fitness because of their enforced rest. Charlie finished off in the shop and we started the big clear up and Richard came and I now have lights again in the scullery, the utility room and the loo. Of course now I have no excuse for poor washing up – again! The downside was that we can’t get any oil for the heating and hot water until Friday!!

Yesterday – was it only yesterday, Holly went to Hales to get some stuff including some Pine coloured stain to stain the new shelves, so I was fairly pissed off when they palmed her off with a large tin of brown gloss, which does not resemble the pine doors in the slightest, but more baby**** brown, and to add insult to injury they put the roll of lead in the back of the van with the paint, and consequently the van is now an interesting brown colour as well!! Then the new credit card machine would not work, and still would not work, so I got a little hot under the collar about that. So I finally got round to flying some birds, the lanner flew straight into me! And then Casper – the white hybrid falcon who said on his block he was starving and why was I not flying him, and then once down in the field, buggered off at a high rate of knots. So off Holly and I went with the telemetry, we finally found him, with help from Adam who arrived after finishing everything off with Simon. We climbed a fence into an incredibly muddy field with a large sign that said Beware of the Bull, hoping that it was not accurate, and found Casper sitting happily in a tree, watching the traffic passing on the motorway about three fields away. So we drove back to Adam’s van which by complete coincidence and very good luck was parked outside a pub, and so we had a G and T before going home.

We arranged to meet at 7.30am and go out and see if he was ready to come down. So at 6.30am I got up, looked out the window to make sure there was no snow, and went to feed the dogs, imagine my comments when they all came back in from outside looking like reverse Dalmatians, with huge flakes of snow all over their coats!

Holly Adam and I got in the van with telemetry, gloves, bags, meat etc, and drove through now very heavy snow fall, with the road starting to be risky (of course my bloody range rover is still not fixed!! Its so useful having a four wheel drive for snow!! Or it would be if I had been able to drive in on the damn stuff). As soon as we got close we picked up a good signal, and so parked up and started up the muddy hill in a whiteout!! Hoping that the bull could not see us, because we could not see it, we trudged up the slope in the snow, which was now a good two inches, and there was Casper, sitting in the tree, so now we have a white bird in a white snow covered tree in a white snowstorm – great. He came down to the lure or at least started, but veered off, and that happened about six times, he moved to a better area to get him down, and kept looking interested, but still would not land on the snow or catch the lure, which by this time was looking very frozen and unsavoury. We tried clearing the snow by making snowballs and rolling them to pick it up, but apart from getting freezing hands, that did not work and the snow covered the grass about as fast as we cleared it. We tried all sorts and he was chupping away in the tree, and coming out and going back in again. So eventually as the rest of the collection had to be fed and Simon was away, Holly and I left Adam to it and drove back through the snow to get life at ICBP sorted, check the dogs and staff and get warm again.

About 1.5 hours later armed with fresh lures, tea in a thermos flask (bad idea that), a bit of carpet for the lure to land on, I drove back and climbed the hill again, got caught up on the barbed wire fence, again, and found Adam in the middle of the wood this time. This is not a good place to get a falcon down, so we tried for a while, but as by now Casper was sitting fluffed up with one foot tucked up we decided to leave him for a bit and come back later. Down the hill again and this time we saw the bull, well several of them!! Highland Cattle with huge horns, but not that scary I have to say.

We did stuff back home, sorted out a few things, I did some emails and then at 3.30 out the three of us went again. The snow was still lying but the roads were a nice slushy mess. As we came over the hill we got a signal and then suddenly it went – just the worst feeling – no bleep!! We drove around in larger and larger circles searching for a signal and then dropped Adam off back at the wood in case we had problems with the receivers, and yes we did. Holly and I went back and got the third receiver, she left to take Robin back to the train station, and I took the last receiver out again. The first one had by this time started to make a very odd noise and we discovered that the tea from the thermos had leaked all over it!! The other one started to do the same thing and we think that the wet snow had got in somehow – a learning experience.

I picked up Adam and a signal and we then drove around in the pitch dark down impossible lanes trying to pinpoint it. By 7.00pm we had it down to one area but as we could see nothing we decided to go home and start again in the morning. And that is what we are going to do – great three days!! Joan – I am thinking of you, Casper your name is mud, and I can now hear my warm (I hope) bed calling me.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Saturday, and the snow has gone!! And did it go quickly, oh yes, thanks to the rain, and did it rain a lot, oh yes! I managed to be taking the dogs for a walk each time it really came down. The second walk was very weird because the strips of snow that were left, mainly by the lea side of woods was amazing to look at. There was a cloud of mist rising from the snow, almost like watching dry ice. As the rain hit the snow it gave off this vapour, and it looked really mysterious and almost science fiction – but it was fact!! Not that the dogs were impressed, and in fact they were less than impressed with the rain as well and very wet through by the time we got back. So was I, and in crossing the ditch at the bottom of our field, which was a torrent of water by that time, I discovered that it was in fact higher than my welly! So cold wet foot for the rest of the day.

So add to that the fact that we ran out of heating oil as well, things were and still are a little chilly! Sunday morning we siphoned off some from the tank that does the flats and café, it will be interesting to see just how long 10 gallons lasts!! Not long I suspect.

…………. Well I have to say the 10 gallons lasted the day, and gave Charlie a shower and me a heavenly bath, so that surprised me, and its still going and keeping us warm. The afternoon here was wonderful, the sun came out it was warm, yes warm!! I picked up Fortina and took her out to the field and jumped her to the fist, she was very good, she also bit Sorrel, which was also good, Sorrel will need to learn that she has to behave with the birds and I think it is going to be a tough lesson for her! I then set three mole traps, we have a ton of bloody mole hills in the field and I need to get rid of them before we start mowing again. It’s a grubby job and I doubt I will get any because the tunnels were running with water. We then sat in the sun for a few minutes and guess who fell in the pond – Sorrel!! She climbed out very wet and then tried to roll dry all the way up the field, which did not work!

Charlie has nearly finished the shelving in the shop, it is looking great, well OK right now it looks like a bomb has hit it, but it WILL look great. I have to start staining it tomorrow and then we can clear the stock room get more stock, and be ready for opening!!
Friday, 15 January 2010
Well we are having fun, first of all it snowed on Monday night and all through most of Tuesday, so the work outside ground to a halt again and poor Holly could not get her car out, and Mike could not get on the roof, and now we are up to our ******** in soggy grey slush!! Not nice, and Sedge really does not like it, although Sorrel thinks it is quite fun. There is not much left of our snowman - as you can see!

The new snow was beautiful on the first day, I took more photos, but without sun they do look a bit on the dull side, even though masterpieces in their own right!! Simon and Adam got the last two nest ledges up in the Owl Courtyard, but we still have not been able to get in there to change the wire, damn it! Adam built all the bath ledges for Barn 3 and today I got the rest of the hinges for the doors and the hasp and staples. Then after we finished for the day we built a snow dog, who looked wonderful for two days, very sadly I have to announce that his head fell off last night, we can only hope it was quick!

Holly is fighting with the paperwork and we are getting there, a great deal has been done and now she is going through it all to check who needs to have some changed, and which are OK, and what is missing, then we are going down to DEFRA to sit there and get it all right in one go, rather than a nightmare of questions going back and forth for weeks until we have it done. THEN all we have to do is get the new ARKS programme working and put all the information in there!! Just a minor task!

The Griffon Vultures have laid their first egg, it was on a freezing cold day and so it is now in the incubator. Talking of which we are going to run an absolutely first class incubation course in November. There will only be places for 20 people and it will last three days, and there will be between 400 and 600 eggs to look at, play with and generally learn about, book now if you want a place! Susie Kaseilke and Pat Witman from LA Zoo will be teaching and I hope Brinsea Incubators will be involved as well – a cool course!

Charlie is here again, this time we are sorting out the shop and I suspect I am going to be on painting duty any minute now. I think we have the right colour, at least at nearly £60 it will definitely be the right colour!! The place is going to look good and we put the old shelving on ebay, I have never done that before!! Lets hope it works.
Sunday, 10 January 2010
Its been a quiet weekend, not sure I achieved much, although the signs are coming along slowly. Linda came over on Sat and took some cracking pictures of the dogs. Adam tried to fly Cool Ground for her, but he is definitely overweight still and all she got was a shot of him disappearing down the field!! All was well and Adam retrieved him but that was all we could do. The snow looked stunning in the sunshine and we took the dogs for a walk while Adam baby sat Sorrel, who does not like being left!! But she is far too young to come on a proper walk and far to heavy to carry any distance. I could have given her a ride on the sledge but I doubt she would have stayed.

If you look on the new slide show, just scroll down the right hand side and you will find it, you will see some of the pictures and also my very leaning snowman. The weather changed today, the quality of the snow changed too, instead of being powdery, it is now more sticky, good for snowballs and snow men, but definitely starting to thaw and looking very grubby. I tried to push the snowman upright, but his head came off!! So instead I pushed him over as I was concerned that he might fall on one of the puppies, and he was no small weight of snow! There has been a dark cloud over May Hill all day, so I suspect it has been snowing up there, it is over 900 feet at the top, so its quite a bit higher than here. We had snow, but nothing to speak of really. I guess it is over for the time being, and that means once it is thawed we can get on a little better. Its amazingly hard to walk the dogs in it, very invigorating, but tiring! And we can’t fly most of the birds because when I tried in snow last year, Gazelle would not land on it. Luckily then there were some grassy patches, but not right now! So we have to wait until it has gone before we can start the birds off again. Ah well, its been a nice break, although I want to get on again now.
Friday, 8 January 2010
Angela come back soon!!!!!!!!! Angela is in charge of the café, and because we are closed for this month, she and Sue and Tracy are not here. They make the best soup (about on a par with Barbara Jones who made soup for us all in Eardisland), however right now they are not here, and we are now on soup because it is so cold. Holly brings in a tin, which is OK, but we all thought the meat in it was pretty difficult to find and someone said it might be difficult to identify as well!! I had Oxtail soup out of a tin, I have always loved Oxtail soup, however either they have changed the recipe, or I have changed, it was not nice and ended up in the dogs, but Adam took the biscuit today, he had soup but decided that there would not be enough to keep him going in potato and leek (tinned) soup, so he added ……………………… a tin of tuna!!!!!!!! Almost everyone went ……yuck!! Adam pointed out that it was nutritionally sound (but tasted bloody awful!). Even Simon raised an eyebrow (that is pretty significant for Simon!!). Needless to say Adam consumed the lot anyway, so Angela come back soon, Please!

It was bloody cold last night and I think by the feel of things it will be colder tonight. I wonder if my fish will freeze over!! Hope not! I dread to think what is going to happen when the thaw comes I KNOW we are going to have burst pipes, it has to happen, I just hope it is not on a weekend. Mozart is being up in at night, he does not really appreciate it but as he spends a lot of time on the ground I can’t risk leaving him out. Woodland Venture has had a bit of sneezing so he is on antibiotics and is in and seems much better. Apart from the Snowy Owl we are not flying anyone, and even he did not much like landing in the snow!! Must be an acquired taste!

John, Zoe and Josh managed to get in and so did some aviary cleaning and getting some more bath ledges ready. I just can’t understand why the people who were here for the four years I was away knocked the bath ledges down, it was a stupid and daft thing to do, but I guess looking at everything else, not surprising. We are slowly replacing them, but of course its never as easy as that. Barn 3, where all the falcons are, the doors have been removed and a bit of plywood screwed over the space. So we have to make new doors and get the furniture for them. Mike who was in earlier to look at the roof got the hinges, but could not get the hasp and staples, so I looked online for them. The local shop has them for £1.25 each and online they are 0.26p!!! But then you have to add on postage, which as far as I can see is where half these websites make a fortune. I ordered some stuff from the US the other day and they wanted forty bloody dollars to send it. So I had it sent to my sister (who lives in New York) who then airmailed it to me for $3.60!! Rip off I would say.

It’s the weekend tomorrow, so everyone will be back in on Monday, more snow is forecast for Sunday, I wonder!! My snowman is seriously leaning now, he looks like the leaning tower of Pizza, I don’t know how much longer he will be able to stay upright. Mike told us a story at coffe time, of a really well done snowman being stolen this week, who in their right minds would steal a damn snowman for heavens sake!!

By the way if you double click on the photos you will see a bigger image - don't steal them I will know!! And Adam says you can move the penguins around and it really annoys them! And see how my snowman is just beginning to lean here, he is much worse now! Maybe if we have more snow on Sunday I can fix him, but right now he is stuck, unless of course someone steals him, but they would need to be nuts or very strong!
Thursday, 7 January 2010

There is nothing like a bath when you are cold, and in this weather by the end of the day, I am cold. The house is heated in my study and the kitchen, but not elsewhere, and by the time I have taken puppies out numerous times, a bath is just great, especially with good smells and bubbles!! mmmmmmmm Perfect!

We have serious snow, it arrived the night before last, we had about an inch when I went to bed, and about five to six inches when I got up. The dogs think it is wonderful, of course it is the first proper snow that the three pups have seen and they have been having such fun. Acer runs through biting it, Sedge is up to his chest in it, but so energetic that he just runs through, Sorrel is like a rather small tank!! And she buries her head in it and then rolls over. She has such a thick coat that she never seems to feel the cold, where Sedge does shiver when he comes in. I have to limit the time she is out there and she knows it, so she runs away, little bugger!!

No one could get in yesterday, so Simon Adam and I did stuff, we checked the birds, and had to chop up a lovely Sumac tree that had fallen over in the snow, Simon fed round and then we had coffee, after which we built a superb snowman outside the house, he is very splendid, although he appears to have a slight list to starboard this afternoon. The snow was perfect for building him, good job we did it yesterday as it is not nice and sticky today, after the hard frost last night. I took down my Christmas tree and we burnt it and the branches from the downed tree. Then after lunch we finished the last aviary in the moulting barn, moved the falcons, and put in Dawn Run and the wild injured Peregrine so that was two less falcons to worry about in the cold.

I have to say I am SO glad I have completely roofed in aviaries, I know that my birds are dry and fairly snug. I really feel for birds in open topped pens in this weather. And I know that at least two people have had problems with their birds from not taking enough care and notice of the weather.

Today Jan and Holly managed to get it, plus two friends, so after picking up all the trained birds out of the indoor hawk walk, weighing them, cleaning their shelf perches and the sand, and checking them over, Holly, Adam and the two friends did bird paperwork, which was very much needed and very good to do, now we have made a start I think we will finish it off in the next few days. Simon painted the incubator room ready for the first eggs to arrive this year.

I think the fish food my fish are eating is making my screen grubby, there are marks on it in exactly the place I feed the fish!! Hummmmmmm very suspicious! I am still waiting for the dead insect that is inside my flat screen and has been for over a year now, to disintegrate, it will be an interesting experiment…..

The place looks amazing in the snow, but it is holding up getting birds going again, so we are going to get the Snowy Owl flying in the snow, just imagine what we could do on photography days here!! There are many places doing that, but I happen to think that we do it the best, with great backdrops and even greater birds, and for all the right reasons too!

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Well we finally got the snow!! Not as much yet as some I suspect, but enough that we sent Holly, Tom, Steve and Mike home by about lunchtime, in case the roads were poor. Which by the look of the TV news, they probably were.

Simon, Adam and I nearly finished off moving some birds around. We have put the moulting falcons into the back off show aviaries, all bar two which we will move tomorrow. We have moved the Sakers from one side of Barn 3 to the other, and that gives us space for a third pair of Lanners, which is good. And we put the melanistic Changeable Hawk Eagles out in that barn, which I hope will work well. We cleaned and reperched each enclosure as we moved the birds. It also meant that we gave physical checks to a number of birds that I wanted to check over. All were in very good feather condition, particularly one Peregrine that was a confiscated bird who arrived in appalling condition and now looks a treat.

The dogs had a whale of a time in the snow, all of them loved it and Sorrel the newest just had a field day, she was rolling in it and having the time of her short life! Although I have to say she is by far the most demanding puppy. The others seem very easy in comparison, she is a handful and not backward in coming forward as it were! Nathan dropped in and then kindly took Jan home as she was not sure if her husband would get his van up the hill, and Nathan was going past anyway.

I defiantly have a cold, I have a sore throat and feel somewhat blocked up damn it. Not sure where I got it, but no doubt I will generously pass it on! My Christmas tree goes tomorrow, and all the decorations, not that I managed much as it all got done late on Christmas Eve! Our mother would never let us take Christmas decorations down until 12th night, which is Jan 6th I believe or so she told us! Mind you in America some did not take theirs down for months after December, it was extraordinary and some never took them down!!

It really has been a very wintery winter so far, of course its when the snow starts to go that things get messy!! However as it is still snowing now, I think that will be a day or so away! We are going to try and get the Snowy Owl going quickly so we can get some photos of him flying in the snow, that would be pretty cool! Adam said if we lost him he would be much harder to see!! However knowing Cool Ground, he is quite hard to lose.

We had to give up on building after lunch because of the snow, so it will be interesting to see what we can get done tomorrow.

Oh and I made a tiny snowman!! I hope to finish him tomorrow and I will take a photo.

Monday, 4 January 2010
Hooray, back to normal, or at least normal for the last month. John, Zoe, Josh and Tom were in as volunteers, it was bloody freezing outside, -8 C last night and it did not get above freezing all day. Barn 2 and Barn 1 are now clean, but we can’t do the baths as all the water is frozen. The small wild birds, Robins etc are having a tough time, we put some warm water out for them and Adam made a bird table before Christmas and they are using that in the Hawk Walk. Simon now has to leave the door of the weighing room open when he is cutting up the rats as a Robin comes in and eats the liver!! Adam said it will be growing teeth next and be a vampire Robin! The bird sits on his wheelbarrow as he brings the food down the Hawk Walk. I wonder if it will stay tame when the weather eases up.

The Steppes now have a nest ledge and a smart nest, which I hope they appreciate, there is one more to go in that block for now and then we move to the Owl Courtyard on Wednesday. The stand off barrier is down in there ready for us to change the mesh on the front of some of the enclosures and then a new one will go back up that will be better for the owls. Tomorrow I want to finish off Barn 4 and sort out the last two moulting aviaries, and then do a move of some of the moulting falcons, check them over and they will have a larger space and better perching. We also want to put together another pair of the Lanners as they attempted breeding in the US.

The dogs were pleased that proper Coffee Time is back, with staff and volunteers in the café and toast being made especially for them! I often think of all those poor dogs that have to live outside, especially in this weather, when mine have the life they do. Talking of the cold, Simon is going to check that Mozart is up on a perch when he does the babies last feed and if he is on the ground, he is going inside. We desperately need to rebuild the hospital block and I have some ideas about that for this year.

Mike and Tom got one end of the rebuilt enclosures finished barring the mesh and the doors, the wall is clad and the fascia board is on, it looks good. Lots of fiddly bits to do, the other end is about four boards still to go and then it’s the felt and battens, which will make the inside waterproof. Although as the sand is a frozen pile right now I suspect we will not be putting sand in for a day or two!

There is a three quarter very yellow moon tonight and the ground is glistening with frost and is crisp to walk on. I went out to have a cup of tea after putting the dogs to bed, before coming in to finish off some office work. The forecast said we might get snow – I wonder!!
Sunday, 3 January 2010

January 3rd already, each day is two minutes more of daylight, and it begins to show when the days are clear! Holly and James came to dog/house sit for me while I went to stay with a friend for one night on Friday, which meant I could have a drink and not worry about driving. The minor roads, and I do mean minor roads were pretty icy, as indeed is our road outside the Centre. There has been a water leak for months above us and it runs down the road, the Water Board have been told several times but done bugger all about it. However now it is frozen and there is an ice rink outside our entrance, I wonder how long it will be before they fix it!!

It’s a beautiful day today, as was yesterday, I was in Wales yesterday and there was a light dusting of snow on the hills, it was quite stunning to look at, and I needless to say forgot my camera! Today it is cold again and the ground is frozen, which is tough on the small wild birds. We still have not had snow here, which is probably a good thing, although it would be fun for a short while, but last night it suddenly warmed up for a while and I thought we were going to get some.

I took Bay Middleton with me on Friday and we flew him on the grounds where I was staying, he was very well behaved and it is so lovely to see him fly, maneuvering between the trees and generally having a good time, there was not much about for him to chase though, but the day made up for it. We start the other working birds off again tomorrow, we have to have them ready to open in just under four weeks and that takes a bit of time. Not that the young birds have had much of a break, just over Christmas.

The African Spotted Eagle Owls have one egg, Athena and Hemlock look imminent for laying. We just about five nest ledges to get up this coming week, and I want to get Zoomesh on the front of eight of the owl aviaries in the owl courtyard, it makes such a difference to the look of them. Hopefully the Griffon Vultures will lay soon as well, and the Verreaux Eagles are mating daily, we are crossing everything for the Steller’s too, that would be wonderful. The Golden Eagles are very settled and looking good and the male African Fish Eagle is in breeding condition, so we are hoping he might possibly be brave enough to breed, that would be wonderful, even if she is a cow of the first order.

Life gets back to more normal tomorrow will nearly all staff back, and we start the run up to being open again. The new enclosure block is coming on, here is a picture of the back of it. Once that is complete, there are only a million other jobs to get done before opening!


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


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