Thursday, 29 April 2010
Woodland Venture died yesterday, or to be more accurate Neil came over and put him down. It was touch and go if he would pull through but we all wanted him home to see if he could manage. He could not. So before he became too ill again, Adam and I agreed that we would ask Neil to come over. We did not want to take him to Swindon, we wanted him here, in his own aviary that he loved, he was remarkably cheerful, although showing signs of deteriorating again. It is always so miserable to have to make the decision to put any bird or animal down and Woodland Venture was universally liked by all the staff here and I suspect all the staff at Great Western Referrals as well, he had charm, was like all the Asian Brown Wood Owls, stunning to look at and Adam had done a great job on training him as he was not easy to start with. Adam has planted a tree for him in the Centre, and he will come home and be buried in the wood where he loved to fly. We let him go for a Post Mortem, because it is so important to know why birds die, and the information learned can save others in the future, it also sometimes relieves one’s mind because then you know that the choice made was the right one and in this case it was indeed. I will do a stone for him, I have to do one for Lupin and Arabis, although I did moan at Adam because the O’s are the most difficult to do!!

It rained today, but we got off lightly and were still able to do the flying, and we had two really nice people on the Hawk Experience Day, which was good and the day went well, the other two people never turned up and did not even bother to phone, so they will find booking a little tricky now, unless there is a very good excuse. It was good to see the rain and I think the plants were pleased, OK so its not easy to see if plants are pleased, but I bet they were!! Sadly I bet the weeds were as well, we have been speculating if we could persuade people that ground elder is the new marijuana! Because we have a ton of it!

I have to borrow Tony Buckland’s Landrover Defender tomorrow, so that means my van turns into a Landrover for three days, yippee!! I am giving four demonstrations at the Falconers Fair at Newport in Shropshire over the Bank Holiday, so it will be a trek up each day. The birds do much better if you can get them home each night, plus it means I don’t have to ask one of the staff to dog sit and better still I don’t have to camp – I hate camping!

The place is looking wonderfully green and the lilac outside my house is coming out. The wood is full of wood anemones, bugle, bluebells, cuckoo pint and many other wild flowers which is great to see. Mike got the floor down in the new weighing room today, Gordon had given it to us and it looks great. We need to get the kitchen units next week, and then the wall can come down and we will be in business, its very exciting. We will paint it this weekend. And with help from Jan, Sue and Terry we finished staining the front and side of the shop, which looks great and the new signs are up.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010
A good friend of mine asked me if I was on Skype today, and I am not, so I had a look at their website, and as usual they never answer the vital question. What is Skype was not well explained, and what you have to do and how much it costs was not covered, so I am suspicious!! I think not at the moment. Anyway my spell checker has not heard of it!!

And talking of websites, our wonderful government has decided that if you turn over £100k a year, you have to pay your VAT on line. There is a help line, however no one answers it, I stayed on it, at a premium charge I might add, for 25 minutes before hanging up, the music was dire, and when they say they are taping the call I really really hope they were, because the air was blue with curses waiting for the dipsticks to answer. So I went on line to see how to do it, well all I can say is that as usual our tax payers money has been wasted, the complete dickhead that designed the site should be hung drawn and quartered and by the end of trying to find out what to do, which I failed to manage in a spectacular manner, I could happily have been the one to do it.

The complete idiots running the site, should go to the person who designed the DVLC one, he or she deserves a medal, getting your car taxed online or put on a SORN is a joy, well OK not a joy, because its bloody expensive, but it is understandable, easy, works and was obviously done by a person with a brain, which can’t be said of the people who did the VAT site. So consequently I am going to have to pay someone else to do it. Thanks government, yet another supportive way of helping businesses. (And anyone who does not know what SORN stands for it is Sodit Off Road Now, which is when your car doesn’t need taxing as you can’t drive it! I believe we are now looking for a long engine for mine, whatever that is. I hope they are very cheap.)

The weighing room is coming on a treat, Gordon a friend who came on a course has helped us out enormously with bits and pieces for it, including a water heater, which is amazing, I have such good helpers here. Mike has been brilliant in getting it looking good and it will look very good. Richard has been doing in the electrics and has lent us his quad bike to water all the beech plants.

I have nearly finished painting the front of the shop black, plus myself, my clothes and the floor as I dropped the paint container this evening damn it. The new sign is going up tomorrow which is exciting. Greeves the Kestrel decided not to hover today, but instead to hang on my face, I am only glad she was not an eagle! No damage done though. The Bald Eagle is Very exciting, and did her first turn today – at about 30 feet up in the sky! She was very spectacular, the new Brahminy Kite – new to the team – is rather less exciting, but will be fine eventually. All the other birds are doing fine and we have had some superb weather and great customers over the last couple of weeks and no rain for over a month. I never thought I would say this, but we could do with a little, but only at night!

The anti wrinkle cream is not having a measurable effect, especially after the Kestrel and some very exciting news, the same number of socks that went into the washing machine came out again!! Life is full of wonders.
Saturday, 24 April 2010
The weekend already, where do the days go? The five day course went well I think and hope, at least the people on it seemed to have a good time and learn a great deal. The weather of course helped as it was glorious all week, which if you are going to be spending much of the day outside with birds is a huge bonus. Having two of the people stay with me was fun too, and particularly as they were very nice people to have around, and so easy, plus they liked gin and tonic!

The injured Tawny Owl went off this week, we released him in the field as he was found in the field behind us, he flew off very well, it was early evening, he landed in the trees by the top pond, and then was mobbed by all the blackbirds, thrushes and other LBJ’s around, a couple of Magpies came in as well but we chased them off. I checked him about an hour later and he was doing exactly what he should be been doing, huddled up against the bark of a tree covered in ivy, pretending he was not there until it was full dark. We were delighted to see him go so well, it is always good to see the injured wild birds return to the wild. We have heard that our young buzzard is doing well too, he has been seen and is taking the chicks put out for him. It could not have been better weather for him to go in.

The peregrine is doing well, although will still only eat quail (sorry Charlie!) I did get her to eat a chunk of beef, so at least he will have two types of food to use with her. I really hope she gets back too, that would be great. Our birds are well, the breeding season is a little up and down, but then all breeding seasons are like a roller coaster.

I just looked at a friend of mine’s twitter page, huuuuuummmmmm wish I had not. What on earth is that all about, apart from to be completely incomprehensible, and make you look like an idiot. Twittering birds make more sense for heaven’s sake, are infinitely more attractive, sound great in the morning, and are wonderful to look at, could one say the same about ‘twitter’, I think not. I abhor the habit of ‘text speak’ as well, I am afraid that when people email me and write in text speak I return the email asking them to write in proper English and then I will reply to their queries. Our language is such a lovely language, it’s a crime to ruin it. And as for people who write in it wanting a job – dream on!! Why would I want to employ someone who apparently is unable to find out my name, and can’t spell or put a sentence together!! What do the careers people teach them one wonders.

The volcano is still affecting an amazing number of people, even here we had to postpone the Falcon Experience Day that was due to happen today as over half the people could not come because they were stranded outside the UK. Just goes to show you would be MUCH better staying in this beautiful country for your holidays and supporting the local tourist industry!! Which is more than can be said for the delightful Mr Brown who apparently feels that petrol and diesel prices are not high enough, and he is not getting enough tax screwed from the motorists to compensate for his dire management of the country for the last three terms, and so is putting on more tax, well done Mr Brown. Nice work the Labour Party, you managed to bring the tourist industry to its knees during the Foot and Mouth outbreak, and now you are trying to do it again, good job. How the Labour party can have the nerve to say that they will be the party to bring the country back from its problems when they have been in power for the last three terms and put it there in the first place, beats me.

I have some new anti wrinkle cream so I am expecting great things to happen, a friend of mine sent me a photo of her, me and mother (and Dinah but she hated the photo so I have not put her on. Its amazing to see oneself sooooooo young. And smoking too!! Ah well, the sad thing is that I always thought I was fat, and so never appreciated that in fact then, I was not! And wearing trousers too!
Wednesday, 21 April 2010

It’s been a lovely week weather wise, bright clear clean crisp mornings, with sunshine and everything growing like mad, the trees are looking green, at least some of them. It has also been cold! Frosts in the morning still and a cool wind blowing up the field, so layers of clothing are still in force. My American guests are charming and a pleasure to have here, plus they did not complain when one of the puppies stole their shoes and ate one of them on their first evening. A great welcome – oh how nice to see you and by the way the dogs have eaten one of your shoes!! Sometimes I do wonder about my dogs, and it is not as if I have not explained in great detail about not chewing things, ah well, maybe the penny will drop eventually. Although I have to say that Acer is very good, a bad chewer, but at least feels guilty about it, Sorrel is about the most Amoral dog I have had, perfectly glorious, but not a conscience in sight!

The birds are coping, we did put a number of them in this evening as the frost forecast is heavier for tonight. The eagles are flying well, the Bald Eagle was excellent today, she has, having dropped back in her training, jumped forward again. But last flight today she flew to my fist from about 15 feet away, and she looks bloody enormous as she comes in, with me quietly praying that it is my fist she intends to land on! The Turkey Vultures are charming and I mean charming. We just let them out and if we are lucky we get a good first flight and then they just wander around and say hello to people, and do not a lot. Although even they do better than Azor – hooray, I remembered his name, Adam’s Steppe Eagle. We have been letting him fly down from the weighing room and then I go down and collect him, take him back up, release him again, and then repeat the process, I am definitely doing more work than he is at this point. So today, we finished off the day, got a couple of bottles of wine out and all of us, course included sat on the benches and I released the Eagle from the top, he flew down and we just sat and waited to see if he would fly of his own accord. Half an hour later he was sitting on the middle perch, one foot up having done bugger all!! So we need to think again.

Woodland Venture is still at the Vets, we are hoping that he will be OK, but it is touch and go for him. The Brahminy Kite who was not well is improving which is good. The Symonds Yat Peregrine is tethered out and looking well, we need Neil to check her eye again before she goes up to Charlie to be trained and released if all is well. I think she will do OK. Otherwise all are flying well and generally behaving and we have a pretty good demonstration team. Oh and we put Milan, the Black Kite in with Theft and Deception the Yellow-billed Kites and he is doing very well, so three flying together, which is great, and the Red Kite Salamanca is flying free aswell, its all happening here!

My nice Landrover turned back into my van again, and the Range Rover is still sick, I have put it on a SORN, so no tax, I should have done it months ago and had I known how easy it was I would have done so. I am thinking of putting two life sized cardboard cut outs of a Landrover 90 on the outside of my van so I can pretend I have a decent car again!

The weighing room is coming on, it is going to be wonderful. Richard is doing the electrics, and Mike is doing the rest, with help from our brilliant team of volunteers, and my brilliant team of staff. I think we should have a celebration party when it is done!

Monday, 19 April 2010
Well I managed to get through the day without insulting anyone! I never try to be rude to anyone, OK so that is not exactly true, but I am only ever less than polite to people who are either rude to me, or one of my staff, or just generally deserve it. However I think I am on occasion a little tough on children and I hasten to qualify that. I am charm personified to well behaved children, however that might not describe my attitude to badly behaved ones, or more importantly to their parents. Plus often the children are under four years old and have therefore not been paid for to come in, and are spoiling the day for the rest of the audience who have paid!!

I listened to the news yesterday lunch time on the radio as I was chopping up meat for the 2.00pm demonstration. A 16 year old had been stabbed to death by a 15 year old, tragic tragic stuff, the death of a youngster, who should have lived for many years, and the family to be haunted by it for the rest of their lives. And by a damn 15 year old. I hate to say this, but this sort of thing did NOT happen when I was 15 and it is partly and in a large part from my experience because children now are taught no respect for anything. Teachers have a miserable time because they are not allowed to chastise children, parents give teachers little or no respect and so it goes on. Young things, be it children, puppies, foals, or what have you, push the boundaries to see what they can get away with, and need and in fact want to be given boundaries, to be told NO that is not acceptable. If you don’t do that you get what we have today, monsters who kill at the drop of a hat and then cost you and I, the tax payer, a fortune in keeping them in prison because they did it. It is interesting to note that often children like the teachers who are toughest on them, why does that not tell the parents something……………. Teach them to behave and respect themselves, others of their peer groups and adults early on and you will produce nice useful humans, don't and look what we get - thanks a bunch.

I saw some lovely Alpaca’s yesterday, and was very tempted to see if I could get two or three here instead of the Shetland Sheep that I am planning on. They are attractive animals and would enjoy being here I think and the visitors would enjoy them too. However they are very expensive, £650 for a male, which is not exactly useful and over £5000 for females!! So I suspect I will not be getting any, I will wait until the price drops and it will I hope!

The volcano continues to grind the world to a halt, hummmmmmmm Iceland was responsible for a large number of local councils losing a lot of money a year ago and now this!!! Although I have to say I find it extraordinary that Local English Councils would put our money in banks in Iceland, it should be made illegal to put our funds anywhere but within our own country. Part of me wants the weather to change and then the wind will take the cloud elsewhere, which is not very charitable of me, but if that happens, the weather will also change and it is so nice now.

Sunday, 18 April 2010
Hooray, heard the first cuckoo today, spring must be here!! Its been a busy week only Thursday was what might be called an ordinary day without a course or experience day, otherwise we have been running that is for sure. Woodland Venture is still very sick and we don't know if he will make it, he is at the Vets, although I suspect Neil is trapped in Brussels, which can't be fun.

The weather has been kind, no rain, which is always nice and the last two days it has been warm as well. The easterly and north easterly winds we had up until Sat did give us amazing flying though, so there are always up sides to the weather whatever it is. The grounds are looking great and the trees are finally starting to look green again. The swallow are here, Gazelle tried to catch one yesterday, silly falcon, he did not have a hope in hell, and the wagtail that likes to play chicken with the birds in the flying ground is back too. We had a great flight at two Jackdaws yesterday, Jodami, (juvenile Lanner) chased after them in fine style and he very nearly caught one. I would have been pleased as they are building a nest in one of my chimneys which I could live without!

I did
the first proper external flying demonstration of the year today, for the Cotswold Vale Hunt, their country fair and point to point. It was lovely up on the Cotswolds, and the birds flew superbly, I was delighted with all of them, as some, such as Theft, have not been away from home for a while, and he did well. Hare (Tawny Eagle) was great as were the falcons, and even Bay Middleton (Harris Hawk) did well although he chickened out on the dummy rabbit! I had to borrow Tony Buckland’s Landrover as my Range Rover is still sick, it is such a nice vehicle, sadly tomorrow it will turn back into my van again, damn it!

We have a five day course starting tomorrow and two people from America coming, although with the lack of air traffic, I am not sure if they will make it, I do hope so. I feel for all those people trapped somewhere in the world, my sister is in Switzerland, so I hope she gets back OK. I am glad I am home, it’s the best place to be trapped!
Thursday, 15 April 2010
Finally the sun has come out, and the evening is beautiful, now I am not complaining, because it is still dry and has been for days now, which is great, and I appreciate it, but the east wind, which HAS been giving us stunning flying demonstrations, is nevertheless bloody cold!!! The visitors have been very brave to sit out there regardless and watch the birds fly and they seem to be happy and be having a good time.

Yesterday I went to the memorial service for Lady Scott, for those of you who might not know her, she was the wife of Sir Peter Scott, of the Wildfowl Trust, now called the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust. I did not know Phil well, but I did have the pleasure of knowing her and saw her last in November 2008, when I was frantically looking for any help I could get to save the Centre and the collection of birds (and myself!). She was a lady in every sense of the word, intrepid, polite, kind, charming, tough, elegant, attractive at all ages, all the things it would be wonderful to be. Her popularity was shown by the huge number of people who were at the service.

Of course needless to say I did not read my card properly and went to the wrong church first, so I asked an elderly lady where I should be, and she said, oh you mean the service for Lady Scott, go back to the A38, get to a garage on the left and turn right and keep going and you had better step on it!!! Not a good thing to say to someone who drives as I do, step on it is my normal modus operandi! It was a lovely service and it was good to see some old friends. I was enormously good though and instead of going to the do afterwards, which I would have loved to attend, I drove home to finish the owl course, help with the last demonstration and do my job (damn it!)

On driving home it was good to see that the highways people have organised the roadworks in the middle of Gloucester so the traffic is held up for at least 15 minutes as usual. And I did have a slight contra ton with a white van driver (idiot! – him not me!) on the way back after getting the dog food. Whoever designed the new doors at Country Wide wants shooting as well – another idiot, they are the wrong way round.

The Owl Course finished well, the people on it were very nice and enjoyed it and learned a great deal I think and hope. Then on the last demonstration the female Turkey Vulture Alfalfa took off to fly over the hedge and got blown away, last seen with me in hot pursuit cursing barbed wire fences as I ripped my jersey off one trying to climb though, and the vulture was well above the electricity pylons!! There was no way I could keep up so Simon who was on radio grabbed a lift with Mike who was on his way home, and they followed in the car. On losing sight of Alfalfa Simon told Mike he would walk, so Mike went home and Simon walked up the track where she was last seen, by sheer chance he took the right turning and there she was on the track, she ran towards him, pleased to see him and he carried her home!!

Today we had a good but cold day, I took Sorrel to the vet for a jab, and hooray she did not throw up on either trip, a huge bonus that was. I then collected 200 beech hedging plants, however the people I had thought I ordered them from where not the people I thought they were, so now I have 400 beech plants – the staff and volunteers are just delighted as we have to plant them all!! However one hedge is in, with help from the digger!! One has the spaces filled in and I have a cunning plan for the rest!

The damn volcano cloud may cause problems as I have two people coming from the US on the five day course on Monday and I am not sure they are going to get here, which will be a blow. Let us hope that it blows the other way or something useful. I hear a gin and tonic calling, better go!
Tuesday, 13 April 2010
Its been another wonderful few days, dry and sunny, yes the wind has been chilly, from the east, but oh boy has it given us flying to die for. Pinotage (Egyptian Vulture) has been soaring well above tree height and looking stunning, Hare (Tawny Eagle) has been amazing, as have all three of the kites that we have going at the moment. The falcons have been spectacular and very difficult to swing a lure for; even the Harris Hawks have been soaring. Just amazing flying from all and a privilege to watch

Which brings me to the recent news, there has been some stuff on a hand reared wild Tawny Owl, (that one, I have to say, wonders, why it was not released last year). Supposedly in the various news items, this bird cannot soar and is frightened of heights, I have never heard such rubbish in my life and that quality of publicity does nothing for credibility. Tawny Owls do not soar, most owls do not soar, soaring is not the best way to hunt for an owl, plus soaring birds do it during daylight not at night. This Tawny Owl is apparently scared of heights, in fact I suspect it is a very sensible bird and does not fly any higher than it has to, like many owls. Its trainer needs to get it sorted, fit, flying into trees and release it. Add to that the old and inaccurate saying that the female Tawny Owl says Twit and the male Twoo, also rubbish. Although they may well duet (be biphonal) nevertheless both male and female Tawny Owls can and do give the whole twit twoo noise, and I should know because for several months I lived in the same barn as one of mine and it was extremely able to do both, plus the rape and murder scream very loudly and very often!

Perhaps I should let the One Show know that my Turkey Vultures prefer to walk all the way back to their enclosure rather than fly, are they afraid of flying, no, they are lazy buggers and will get the idea eventually! They just need time to sort themselves out and decent training to get there. As I prefer to get people to admire and respect wildlife rather than laugh at it, I think I will give it a miss.

The new Bald Eagle is coming on a treat, and generally the team of flying birds, which is now numbering over 45 flown daily is coming on in leaps and bounds. Which is more than I can say for my bloody Range Rover, which is still out of action, I am going to have to borrow a Land Rover again for Sunday as I have a flying demonstration at Andoversford. Still it’s a really nice Land Rover I just wish I did not have to keep giving it back!

The place is looking amazingly good now, all the lawns look super, the aviaries are up to scratch and being kept clean and tidy. We do need to get on with the food drawers, but that is Tom’s next project, I have not told him yet! The new weighing room is coming on a treat, Mike has had a hell of a job with the roof, but it is there now, and we can’t wait to get it finished it will make a Huge difference to all the volunteers and bird staff. We are hoping that Travis Perkins can help us get a good price on the new gravel for the paths which will lift the whole place.

The next task is to get rid of all the ground elder, which we have a substantial amount of, what a shame it has no use. The fence between the sheep field (sheep will be there eventually when I can find some Shetland Sheep) is getting done, and I am collecting hedging plants on Thursday to plant (replant) a hedge. We have nearly undone all the damage that was done to the place, there is little left of the ‘changes’! All two pounds forty nine pence of them!

Terri is back from New Zealand, so we were really pleased to see her back here, and I hope that Bob Martini is going to come and work on the stable roof SOON! Other than that we have been busy, which is wonderful and the weather has been kind. Here is hoping that it will continue.

Sunday, 11 April 2010
What a glorious few days and we have been busy!! The day after we released the common buzzard, another great day dawned, it is fun to work hard in such weather and we had an owl Experience Day, the only sort of down side to that was that we could not fly Hemp, she is sitting on her first egg! However all the other owls did well. I flew Calusa at the end of the day because I am still not confident with him. As I picked him up someone shouted - look out, the buzzard is here, and he was!! So I put a pickup piece on the post and in he came and sat and ate it looking very content, he then ate another two chicks, greedy pig! The following day he was on the post in the flying ground by 9.00am!! He then stayed around all morning and when Adam went down to the field to fly a couple of falcons in came the damn buzzard, and scared Topaz off, who then would not come in, so Adam, Simon, Zoe and Josh spent the next two hours trying to persuade her that it was safe and the buzzard was not there, which was true because they were on the next farm but one by this time!! We finished off the hawk Experience day and decided that this was not going to work. So Holly did her first winding up of a bird. She put a chick on a line, down came the buzzard, she wound him up and jumped on him!! Result! He has now gone to outside Bromyard, with one of the work experience lads, and is happily eating chicks on top of their stables and living free in the field next to them!!

Saturday was hectic, Adam was off doing some mad bicycle thing, with threats from me that if he fell off and injured himself he would be doing the flying demonstrations from a wheelchair! Holly and Robin had their days off, Simon took the last Hunting Experience Day of the season, they stop until Sept now, and that left me to do the flying demonstrations. Luckily Dan, Ali (who needs longer trousers!) and John Dowding were all there to help, we also had a photography day, sometimes I think I take on too much. However all went well, John flew three owls alone, first time, pretty good, he was only shaking a bit! Topaz bit me, all the birds went well, the audience was great, the hunting day went well, the photography day went well and the flaming buzzard was not there!! However we did have seven proper wild ones soaring overhead on queue which was lovely.

The Bald Eagle is AMAZING!! Yesterday she flew in front of a large crowd, who were great and stayed very still while I brought her down and took her away again. She flew about six to eight feet from one A frame to the other. Today, well............!! 20 feet plus in a strong wind not a hesitation to be seen and no bating on the way down or back, my arm is aching though!! She really is coming on a treat and very light in the air, even if not on the fist! We are pretty excited about her.

Simon managed to put the baby Griffon Vulture back with the parents two days ago, and the female was wonderful, she took to it immediately, no problems at all, and Simon has been going in to give it a feed to make sure that it is being fed. However today both parents were feeding it and when Simon went in it had a huge crop. So we are delighted about that.

The injured Peregrine from Symonds Yat, did I tell you about that, hang on I will look, nope, it does not look as if I did. About 10 days ago we had a call about a Peregrine from Symonds Yat. So they brought it over, generally we don't have the time or staff to collect injured birds. I have never seen a bird so deeply in shock, she had been attacked by a new Peregrine coming into her territory, her eye was a mess, but I could only find head injuries and decided that a very quiet evening was the best thing, with no handling or mucking about with her. The next day she was still with us, which I have to say surprised me. Simon very kindly took her to Neil Forbes, our brilliant vet that evening. He could only work on her for a short while because he had to stop because she was still so much in shock. The eye did not look good, However the Tuesday after Easter he dropped in and had a look at her. The eye was down, we had been treating it three times a day, she has about 75% vision back in it, or will have. She is eating well and beginning to get a handful, which is good.

Now comes the dilemma, firstly can she manage with less vision in one eye. That is easy enough to check as we can train her and see what her accuracy is, however if we release her here, soon, she will go back to Symonds Yat where the other female has taken up her old nest site, and she will probably get killed. I spoke to the RSPB guy there and he said that at all the sites along the river Wye there are intruder birds. SO don't let anyone tell you that Peregrines are rare or not doing well, there are tons of them, only limited by nest sites, and they are quite often killing one another in competition for the good nest sites. As for this bird, we will train her and probably wait to release her until she is past breeding time and it is safer to let her go.

Oh and Watamu, the Verreaux's Eagle is back out in the Hawk Walk and hopefully will start work again soon.
Tuesday, 6 April 2010
I was just sent an email from a falconer, who obviously does a great deal more on face book than I do. I am not sure I really like face book, it makes me uncomfortable and seems a little insistant. Whatever, this is a page called Save our Song Birds. Interestingly, very interestingly if you go to the various WebPages on it, those in charge of it and very vocal tend to be racing pigeon fanciers. Now racing pigeon people do not like birds of prey in any shape or form, those who are less responsible shoot or poison them, although I know there are also are many racing pigeon fans who do not. However if you look on this page, over half of the pictures are not song birds being eaten by Sparrowhawks, but instead racing pigeons. So firstly you need to ask yourself why is this a page called save our songbirds, perhaps it should be save our pigeons, and the question there is do you want more racing pigeons living in towns and cities, which is where they all came from in the first place. And you pay your council tax to clear up after them. Now this may make me unpopular with people who keep racing pigeons, but I suspect I am already, in fact I know I am, so what the hell. I don’t mind people complaining about things IF they are honest and accurate, but in this case and many others where raptors are concerned, it is not accurate.

Firstly Sparrowhawks are not killing all the song birds. This winter will have killed a large number of both Sparrowhawks and song birds, but the balance between Sparrowhawks and song birds is OK. The only reason you all see more Sparrowhawks is because the majority of song birds no longer live out in the farms and fields – any dog walker in the country with their eyes open, will tell you that. Nowadays the bulk of the small birds live in your gardens. This is because sadly farming is not suitable any longer for small birds and so very sensibly they have moved into gardens, particularly as a large number of us, my Centre included, feed them. So where the food goes, i.e. the small garden and song birds, the Sparrowhawks go. They are not increasing out of all proportion, they are just where the small birds are, and always have been, but now the small birds are in your garden, and you see them more. There is plenty of scientific proof of this if you care to look for it. However because people see Sparrowhawks catching and eating small birds (and pigeons!) they are convinced that this is the end of small birds.

Now your average cat - that is a very different story all together, cats account for approximately 300 million (yes that is three hundred million) small birds and mammals in the UK. And don’t forget your car – yes that would be you and your car – account for a whole ton more, as do your windows!

Lets look at some sensible figures, and please know that I know what a Sparrowhawk needs to eat, I have kept them for long enough. There are approximately 40,000 pairs of Sparrowhawks in the UK, that is 80,000 birds, so if each one ate two song birds per day, which would be enough food for most of them that puts the number killed 160,000, lets double that to be generous, that puts the number at 320,000, lets round that up to 500,000 for those who don’t like Sparrowhawks, so over estimating at half a million small birds. NOW, take that away from the three hundred million birds and mammals accounted for by the cats in the UK and that leaves a bit of a shortfall!! If we say that only half that number are birds (which is incorrect, but I am erring on the side of people who don’t like raptors). So that puts the cats at one hundred and fifty million five hundred thousand birds more than the sparrowhawks, hummmmmm I wonder which has more effect on the song birds..........

Oh, and there are nine million cats in the UK, which is eight million nine hundred and twenty thousand more than Sparrowhawks!! You have no idea how long it took me to work out those figures, my bloody calculator does not go up that high!

Back to pigeons, again if you look at the scientific studies birds of prey kill far less numbers of pigeons than are just simply lost – i.e. the bird gets lost and often dies on the way home. After all how many animals can you take 200 miles or more, let out and expect it to get home, not only home, but home in a certain time as well. If you tried it with any other animal you would be done under the abandonment of animals act!! Then add into the mix the number of pigeons that are culled (killed) by their owners because they are late, don’t come in on time and so on. It is a high number if they are honest with you. So my point is, complain if you are absolutely sure and have all the facts, otherwise, don’t be a hypocrite especially when you remove the comments put by others on your facebook! If you put your head above the parapet, expect to be shot down!

Its been a lovely day here, warm, sunny, a little windy but great for flying. Pinotage, the Egyptian Vulture was Brilliant!! Flew really high and circled, she looked wonderful. The Steppe Eagle who’s damn name I can never remember was also very exciting, also flew high and circled, but failed to land in our field!! Alexandria, the peregrine was excellent and so was Karis - Saker. And to end a nice day we released the common buzzard who came in last year. He refused to go!! Sat on the middle post until Adam picked him up on the only handy tool – a shovel handle, and then damn me off he flew and started to thermal!! The nerve of it, when he rarely got about about 15 feet while we were flying him for rehabilitation! Pretty good for an inexperienced bird though, we are hopeful he will make it.

Our bonfire party was good, all went to plan although I did not do a good job on the cooking and the sausage rolls were, hummmmmm how to describe them, well I think they were cooked, they were hot, but they were very soggy and rather off white!! However the rest of the food was OK, and the mulled wine went very quickly. It was a beautiful evening weather wise too. Here is hoping that the rest of the week goes as well as today.
Monday, 5 April 2010
It has been so nice to see the benches full this weekend, and they were!! I am so glad we did the new ones. Sat was a lovely day in the morning, in fact exactly up to the 2.00pm flying demonstration, when it peed down. We started outside, but even we could not manage in the rain, and we usually ignore it. So we went into the indoor hawk walk, and gosh the birds were good. We flew Katana, barn owl, Ruby, burrowing owl, who was brilliant, and then Deception the yellow-billed kite who was amazing, it just shows what we could do if I had got the barn that I built in Eardisland. It was designed for indoor flying, the indoor HawkWalk is 25 feet wide and 60’ long, the indoor flying arena I built at Eardisland was 105 feet long and 60 feet wide, the birds would have had a field day and I could even have flown a falcon in there. I wish I could afford one here, it would make a huge difference, that and move the shop and café together, we will just have to win the lottery!!

Saturday was also hectic in the café, and so one of our founder members was in there helping with the washing up!! I promise it is not something that is expected if you become a Life Member in the future, but it was jolly helpful and much appreciated I can tell you.

The new weighing room comes on slowly, we are all looking forward to it coming into use as it will make a huge difference to all of us bird staff. The weighing room is sort of the heart of the working areas for the bird staff and our existing one is small and dark, the addition will be larger, spacious and I hope nice and light, although I am not as requested going to put in a flat screen TV and a sofa!! However if anyone has a Kettle they don’t want, or nice kitchen units they are about to take out, send them in our direction!!

It was a grey morning this morning, but dry!! It’s the dry that counts, there is a wind, which will make the flying interesting, the wild daffodils are all over the field and looking great. A goodly number of visitors, the easter egg hunt went well and the children seemed to enjoy it. All the birds flew well, Calusa the male saker flew loose for the first time today, hummmmmmmmm weight a little high I believe, and Hard Tackle is back on duty as well. Good stuff.

I am about to go and make some mulled wine, and cook some food as we have our belated firework party this evening, not sure how many are coming, but a few I hope. Sedge, Acer and Sorrell have had fun helping with the demonstrations this weekend, although helping might not be the right word!
Friday, 2 April 2010
Rain rain and more rain damn it all. I have to admit to several sleepless nights recently as we are very thin on the ground with visitors, to the point where I am not sure that there isn’t someone at the bottom of the road telling people not to visit! I am hoping it is the miserable weather, and it is pretty miserable, yesterday evening I walked over to the stock room at about 6.30, still daylight and I could see my breath steaming and its flaming April! Still I suppose it could be worse and we could have snow like Scotland and Ireland.

I started to dig over one of the flower beds yesterday and Steve walked past with a broken rake. As I needed a far number of shovels, spades, rakes and so on last year, I reckoned that rather than paying Garden Centre prices which are high, I would be buying enough to go to source. Well the stuff I got from Spear and Jackson is appallingly bad. We broke three of the six spades, usually on the first day of use, two of their rakes have now broken, the design of the angle of the handles was obviously done by someone who has never used a tool in his life, so generally I would suggest not buying their stuff unless there is a major improvement – they have a ten year guarantee on the handle of the spades – almost exactly where they broke!!! Perhaps toy tools would be a better description as they certainly are not built to be used in a garden.

My goodness the sky is lightening up and the rain has stopped, well wonders will never cease, I suspect it is a lull! The bird team is pretty much up to strength now and most of them are back flying free, Hare, my beautiful pale Indian Tawny eagle did amazingly considering the weather yesterday. We have split up the flying of the two Turkey Vultures as the female is great and the male is a lazy bugger! So we are flying him off demo and trying to persuade him that he needs to work a little harder, plus they argue, a little like myself and my brother and sisters did when we were children. Which reminds me, Dinah found an amazing bit of archive film of this place in 1969, Linda has put the link on the website, go and find it and have a look, see who you can recognise!

Severn Print have come up with a lovely board that is going on the outside so that people can see what they are going to get if they visit here, and by chance I think it would make a good leaflet too, so I am working on that. The new signs for the aviaries are going up, sponsored by Black Eagle Motorbike Team, for which I am eternally grateful, David and Mark Kay have been amazing in their support of the Centre, and the signs look wonderful. And I know there is a damn spelling mistake, I thought I had corrected it and it bloody well turned up again!! What with the drainage making the paths better, the new enclosure at the end of the Hawk Walk, the new signs, and all the pruning over the winter, the place is looking amazing. Once we can top all the paths it will all come together and look finished, although of course it never is finished!

The baby vulture is doing well, the birds are laying, the spring has to be here soon, all I need is visitors and we will make it through another year. If any of you visit in the near future and can put nice comments on Face book, the International Centre for Birds of Prey has a page and it might encourage more people to come. Here is hoping we have a Happy Easter, don’t eat too much chocolate!!


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


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