Wednesday, 30 June 2010
We are all feeling a little low this week, I am hoping things will improve for us all to cheer us up soon. The show at Fawsley Hall went very well, it was a superb location, a little tight for the faster birds and the eagles, but generally very nice outside, and what a lovely house inside, just amazing. All the birds went well and I took D’Arcy Spice instead of Papyrus, I wanted to see how he did with travel and being away from home, he took to it like a duck to water, not in the least phased by travel and stole the show as it were, he had a lovely day playing around, with John following him to make sure he did not get into trouble, D’Arcy Spice that is, not John! And finally when he got tired he snuggled up in the roots of the huge tree under which we had put the birds for shade, it was a Cedar of Lebanon, one of my favourite trees. We got back at nearly 8.00pm and noticed that Holly’s car was in the car park, so instantly I thought that a bird must be out lost, however all were present and correct in the Hawk Walk, so we unloaded, only to get a phone call just as we finished – it was Papyrus, my beautiful Savigny’s Eagle Owl, who had flown off. So off we went to find everyone. We then split up and searched for about another hour and then I called a halt, because we really had no idea where he might be. I stopped off and let my neighbours know we had an owl missing and then walked home, I was talking to Simon and Joan by the café and damn me there was the owl. I called him down, but his feet barely touched the post before he buggered off again and we have not seen hide nor hair, or feather of him since. We have searched for hours, and I have had at least one night with literally no sleep but no joy. In the 43 years we have been here I have only lost three owls, and two of them we have got back in two days, the third was Mozart who was out for three months in one of the coldest of winters, and he came back on his own accord. So this is why we are all feeling a little low.

The weather is still amazing, although somewhat humid at the moment. Holly has a new Ural Owl called Bramley, and I have a baby Goshawk, who is very very greedy, but doing well, it was an amazing sight to see him sitting on the lawn surrounded by three Labradors just lying there relaxing, he is certainly going to be dog proof.

The new speakers are in as of yesterday and working well and the new speaker boxes were weather proofed today. Mike has removed the old fireplace in the education room which never really worked properly anyway. We have a huge wood burner to put in there later, when I can afford the chimney bit, and I think that will make a big difference to the owl evenings in there. Its time to paint it now – hummmmm what about magnolia I wonder!!

Sedge went lame the day before yesterday and as I have been a little worried about Nettle too, I took them both to the vets, both seem much better now, although nothing in particular was found and Sedge immediately went sound as a bell on arrival at the surgery. Gypsy King, Adam’s Spectacled Owl was a worry to us, but whatever was wrong is now sorted out and he is going back on duty and looking great. And the two baby Burrowing Owls Rival and Wayside are getting close to being on demonstration soon. Azor is now moulting (Steppe Eagle) as are three of the falcons and Pretender, Holly’s Harris Hawk. New birds will take over from them soon. Oh and I have an engine for the Range Rover, at least it is now at the garage, so I might even have a car back soon. I have forgotten what it looks like!

Oh and while I was out on one of my trips looking for Papyrus, I found the horse I would love, he is very sweet and black and only 15 hands, all of which of course would be perfect, just have to start saving up now.
Friday, 25 June 2010
Its coming up for nine pm, Iloana and I have been tidying up the courtyard by my house, I could not move some of the pots alone, so she helped, which was great. The sun is dropping down behind the hill where Keith Allan’s wood lies and the last of the rays are lighting up motes of dust and insects and the low long beams have a golden touch to them.

The days are long, very long, and hot too, but lovely, and a little tiring. The trick is to keep going, if I stop at the end of the day that is it, everything ceases up!! However if you just keep on going, you get more done. Plus I always feel guilty if I am sitting down, even at the computer, and Nathan is mowing in the field in the evenings, or Joe is cutting logs for the winter. I can’t just settle and leave them to it, I have to go out and make sure that they are OK.

I have rounded up the dogs for the evening and I will try and find something to eat, although in this hot weather supper doesn’t really seem to matter much. When I call the dogs they mostly all appear from wherever. Sorrel and Rush are nearly always last to arrive, however the joy of Sorrel is that there is no way you can not know where she is, because she makes her presence felt in no uncertain terms!

Hard Tackle tried his best to get a thermal today and nearly managed it. Hare did find one yesterday and did some lovely flying. I have had to drop the weight of Karis (Saker) so that at least we see him occasionally! And Gazelle is trying his best to get height as well, but it does make for interesting flying demonstrations.

Robin and I did a demonstration at Newent School today, and I have to say I enjoyed it. There were probably a couple of hundred people there and they really seemed to have a good time. The birds were very good and the PA system worked well, I was impressed, which is a nice feeling about your local school

Tomorrow I have to drive up to near Daventry to give two demonstrations and we will not finished until 6.00pm. So home will be around 9.00pm, another long day.
Tuesday, 22 June 2010
The summer solstice, what a magical word, yesterday was the summer solstice (in England that is, and of course the whole revolves around England……….doesn’t it!). The longest day, a wonderful time of the year when the day is light by 4.00am and I can still see the sky and the sunset after 10.00pm at night, what a pleasure. From now on we slowly slip into summer and each day becomes a little shorter as the seasons progress. Its been glorious weather recently, just perfect with long light sunny days and cooler evenings. I went down with the dogs early this morning for our first walk of the day and as I opened the new gate from the small field into the flying field I noticed a strange brown lump on the post, on looking carefully it was a pipistrelle bat! I carefully closed the gate and thought I really better get some bat boxes.

The new speaker boxes are now done and dusted, they look great and the sound system is working OK, although one of the microphones has died on us and is hopefully being fixed soonish. In comparison to the old boxes which were well past their sell by date, they really do improve the look of the flying ground.

The stable rooves are finished all bar five capping pieces, and now we are repairing the walls where either doors were cut (badly) or the horses that lived here ate the walls!! I have ordered more black stain and soon they will look as smart as the rest of the Centre is starting to look. Iloana, Katy and Robin had a really good go today around Barn 2 which was letting us down, they have done a cracking job and it is looking much better. We will be tidying up the enclosures in both Barn 1 and 2 this autumn. Barn 1 has had the least work done on it in terms of repairs and does need some TLC.

Karis (Saker) probably did a cracking stoop today, but I did not see much of it, he was miles up! Hard Tackle tried his darndest to get height but just could not find a thermal, he will soon if this weather holds. D’Arcy Spice, what a nice owl, he is now on demonstration and did three jumps to the fist, he will move on fast I suspect and if he keeps that charming temperament that he has, he will be fun to fly. Papyrus is by far the nicest and most reliable owl we have, so if D’Arcy Spice comes close he will do well. Holly and I took the two baby Burrowing Owls Rival and Wayside along with the Little Owl down to the flying field between demonstrations and got them doing stuff, they are a scream to watch. Not doing much, but very entertaining.

Holly Adam, Katy, Iloana and I went strawberry picking last night. We went to a place called Brand Green, what a nice fruit farm, lovely setting, great views, good fruit and nice people. We plan to get some ready mixed G and T in tins and go again!! I picked enough to have strawberry and cream scones in the café!! Holly had one for lunch, I don’t know how she keeps so slim!

The experience days went well last week as did the photography day, and everyone seemed to enjoy their days, which was nice. We have more this week and I have a demonstration away on Saturday in Northamptonshire, it will be a long day. And no the Range Rover is not fixed yet, but we are getting closer I think and hope. Oh and we have a new member of the team, a lovely tiny and I mean tiny - 95 grams(!) adult male American Kestrel, Holly has taken ownership!
Saturday, 19 June 2010
We had a school party visit this week and Simon saw one of the delightful children throwing a large stone at the Changeable Hawk Eagles aviary, with the birds going nuts. Between him and Holly they sorted it out, all I can say is that I suspect they were very much more tactful and pleasant to the little so and so than I would have been. He should be thanking all his lucky stars that I did not catch him at it or there would have been hell to pay. Unlike the teachers I am not able to be bullied by parents and so they get told the truth in no uncertain terms! Then the culprit, a fat over weight child charmingly blamed another child and all his little friends backed him, were I the other child I would have made sure he was no friend of mine, I loath bullies, and I suspect that is exactly what he was, he will make a lovely adult.

Finally I think we might have found an engine for my Range Rover, and so all I need to do is see about getting it put in and I might have a car back again, which would I have to say be very nice! My trip to London on Wednesday went fine, although I probably should have looked at the timings a little better as I thought it started at 2.00pm and not 4.00pm!! I was hungry when I got home which wasn’t until 9.00pm and there was nothing in the house, so finally I went shopping yesterday. So there is bubble bath and food in the house, and life is looking up!

The stables roof is nearly finished, and it looks so nice to see it cared for again. Next comes repairing the external walls and then cleaning and painting the whole of the inside, which will be fun to get done. I am hoping to put up a sort of a studio for Linda outside with translucent roof and two walls, it should make it easier for photography days on wet miserable days. Not that we have had many of those recently, it did rain yesterday, but did not start until we had closed – great timing, and the plants were pleased. Although I suspect that Nathan won’t be as it means the grass will grow again and his lawn mower is broken!

All the birds are flying well, the Steppe Eagle Azor is throwing out feathers now as are two of the Harris Hawks, this is always a difficult time of the year for flying as the birds hatched last year are beginning to look untidy and need a moult and none of the this years clutches apart from owls are ready to train as yet. Darcy Spice has had to be confined to quarters now as he can fly up onto the gate in the Hawk Walk and it is a small step (OK flight) from there to underneath someone who can eat him. We have two baby Burrowing Owls that Simon has just allowed out, although with the chilly weather this morning they were not impressed, and Holly has her baby Ural Owl, the only one in the second lot. It has a way to go yet before it is as pretty as Bosbury Pippin was.

A chap who's name completely escapes me and who is a wildlife cameraman came down this week to film Pinotage flying and breaking eggs, she was willing and did some nice flying, although better the day before he came needless to say. But it was interesting to watch her with eggs. She has not seen one since 2005, and although she did throw stones at a goose egg, her accuracy was not all it might have been!! However I think he got some good stuff.
We have a photography day tomorrow as well as a half experience day, they will be lucky tomorrow as they will have a number of lovely baby owls to photograph. It’s a good time of year to come on one.

Sunday, 13 June 2010
Last night as I settled Nettle in my bedroom, (on my bed!) she likes to go up reasonably early, acutally at times she likes to go up unreasonably early! I glanced out of the window and the light, the light was amazing, the sun was just touching the tops of the trees, the lower halves were in shade and although green and vibrant, did not have that glistening gold that sun gilden leaves have. The walnut tree that is always about a month later than all the other trees had tiny parts of it touched by the light, as the sun shone through the oaks between the walnut and the westering light. There were heavy black clouds in the distance, looking dense enough to walk on, and the seed heads of the grass in the field next door were back lit and shone out, I knelt by the window and just watched as the light changed, later as the sun dropped I saw a fox trotting across the field over the road and watched as it stopped and waited for something that was moving in the grass, it was a time to cherish and I did.

I am down to the last half pound, or whatever it is in metric, of butter, and a very weird loaf of bread that I found in my deepfreeze. I am not 100% sure that bread with olives in it and a somewhat old jam makes for the best of breakfasts, but I have not found the time to go shopping for about a month now, so it was sort of OK, the olives added a crunchy element to the bread and jam that was interesting, and at least the jam had no discernable mould! I am also on the last bottle of bubble bath, so shopping will have to happen soon!

This day three years ago myself and a great team of people in the US were packing up the birds in South Carolina to come back to the UK, note I do not say to come home, because although it was coming back to my home country, as at the time I still had no home to go to. It was a superb operation, done in military style and we packed up 169 live birds, some dead ones, the last of my stuff, and the dogs in an amazingly short time, even having time for sandwiches and strawberries!! It was amusing to watch the staff at the center in the US follow us round in a golf cart, to make sure we did not take anything we should not have done, although what they thought we were going to remove heaven alone knows as we could only take the birds we had paperwork for and apart from aviaries and fixed perches which might have been a little difficult to remove there was nothing there!! To my even more intense amusement I knew that mr eliott had actually camped out in my empty old trailer over night to ensure the safety of his property!!! What he thought we were likely to do defies imagination, but one has to remember that most people judge others by their own standards........... I should add I had an amazing team of UK people to help me with all the birds on arrival in Hereford.

It was an amazing day, and very long, much of it is a blur, but I do remember the wonderful feeling of sitting in the cockpit of a Jumbo Jet and seeing how incredibly graceful it was taking off into the rising sun, going east……….. After two years of being in limbo back in the UK and fighting more battles to survive, it is so very good to be home. I looked out of the window again later last night and saw lights on in neighbouring houses and remembered how I would drive back to Eardisland in Herefordshire in the winter months, facing living in a very cold steel barn and envying people with a home, and thinking of furniture and lamps and all the things that make up a home, and a warm fire!! Uuuuuuummmmmmm lovely.

Darcy Spice can now jump three feet and is beginning to get more active and very beautiful, I suspect he is a male. Cremorne is on full demonstration and has no problems with large crowds as we were very busy yesterday. The heavy rain on which ever day it was, has been testing our new drainage and showing us where we need to do more. The puppies are playing on the lawn in front of the house, its tough being a dog here! Karis did the most amazing stoop yesterday from about 700 feet straight into the field, which was much appreciated by the audience and the Steppe Eagles are now feeding their babies properly much to Simon’s relief. We have a half day Experience Day today and then a quieter week next week apart from a trip to London on Wednesday.
Friday, 11 June 2010
My days are usually pretty long on a normal day, 10 hours would be a usual day, and that would probably not count office work in the evening. Yesterday was a longer than usual day! We were filming for the One Show who are doing a feature in the autumn on Super Senses and have chosen the Peregrine for sight. Mike, the presenter and a crew of three camera people, one sound man and a very nice director arrived at about 8.30am, we had the five day course on as well and Simon and I were going to be involved with the filming which was done on May Hill (I can’t believe the flaming National Trust asked for £100 per hour to use it – bloody cheek!!! And Greedy in my opinion – bear in mind the word National – National Trust, it belongs to all of us). We took some dummy lures down to the field and I taught Mike to swing a lure and how to throw it out accurately as we wanted the falcon to take it on the ground, or at least hit it on the ground and then turn and come back). We rehearsed with a Lanneret and then Holly’s Hybrid falcon and it went fine, he did very well and was natural with the falcons. Then we traipsed up onto May Hill, which if you don’t know it is the beautiful hill behind the Centre. It rises up to 964 feet and has a clump of Scots Pine trees at the very top which can be seen for miles and miles around. It also has a long stretch of grass which is perfect for calling a falcon a longish distance, probably over a quarter of a mile.

We filmed all day, it was bloody freezing up there and I had not taken a jersey! The peregrine behaved beautifully, absolutely brilliant particularly as peregrines are a little on the temperamental side. We were shooting with a normal camera and one called a photron, which does very slow motion. It was interesting because years ago I had done some very slow motion filming – with film, not digital stuff – with Kestrels hovering. The camera then ran for 30 seconds and then had to reload. Have we moved on, well……. Actually yes and no, the stuff they were shooting was amazing, you wait until you see it, its staggering stuff, but, it had eight seconds of real time film and then had to download the stuff onto a laptop which took 10 minutes or so, so actually the time to get the final stuff was about the same, which was interesting. We finally got down from the hill after 6.00pm, very cold and tired, the crew were a really nice bunch and good to work with, and importantly understanding of the bird and its limitations, although I have to say she showed very few of those! They then did a screen test with Holly to see if she would make a good presenter on TV, and no, we don’t know the result as yet, but finally they left just after 7.00pm - so it was a very long day.

Holly and Adam who came in on his day off had a hard day here too as we had the five day course, a school party and the normal work of the day, luckily Steve, John and Josh were all here and I have to say the people on the five day course were great too as they helped with all the first thing jobs, which was really nice to see and much appreciated by us all.

Mike carried on with fixing the loos – again – and finishing off the roof on one side of the stables. It was windy down off the hill so Adam said that many of the birds flew rather well!!

Today it has been lovely weather, we finished off the course, flew all the birds, had another school party of wonderfully behaved children – well done school and then Richard came to look at completing the new PA stuff. And now its nothing but bloody football on the TV, I hope we beat the US on Sat and after that I don’t give a damn!!

Darcy Spice (baby Great Horned Owl) has had to start to live in an enclosure outside - he is now rather too ambitious to come inside at night, he is with the baby Spectacled Owl in the photo! Hemp is back out on duty having got over being post natal thank goodness, although she is not pleased with the new weighing room!! Does not approve at all at the moment, but most of the birds especially the eagles and kite seem to prefer it.
Monday, 7 June 2010
I learnt a little more about the Symonds Yat Peregrine the other day. We had a volunteer from the site here who knew about her. Apparently she did not breed at the rock (Symonds Yat) she usurped a female three years ago, stole her babies and reared them and then did not produce her own young for two years. I have looked online to see what the history of all the peregrines at the rock was but can’t find more information which is a shame. However I suspect it is because she is an old bird, but you feel a little less sorry for her as she had the same done to her as she did to the previous bird! She is doing well and flying free now, and it will be interesting to see if she can hunt again.

UPDATE on her from Charlie

Quick update on the peregrine. First the bad news - she buggered off chasing first a woodpecker and then a curlew the day before yesterday. She was 1/2 oz up (on purpose) and once she had her taste of freedom there was no way she was interested in my lure! Now the good news - I got her back a mile away (Marshall telemetry was spot on!) eating a crow she had killed. She managed to kill within sight of the UK’s largest pheasant farm! So now we know that her eyesight is fully functioning! She was really spooked when I found her and flew off her kill and landed on the ground about 25 yards away. I tied a creance to the crow and threw it to her and then ended up winding her up on it.

It is important that Charlie keeps her until any wild local young peregrines have fledged, then she will be able to move around the area without being attacked, and can perhaps find a home of her own. I know how she feels…………………. And I will be ever grateful to the Chenevix-Trenches for helping me and the birds get a home back here.

It’s been a very tough week this week, four days at the Bath and West Show, which I used to be at regularly for years and that stopped with a new Director. It was lovely to be back, but because of pressure of work (and hating camping!) and no stand for the birds, I drove down each day, which made for a very long day, well four long days. Five to six hours driving a day, and then the demonstrations as well, however the birds were superb and gave us eight faultless demonstrations of good quality and the stewards and the other demonstrators were great to work with. Then on Sunday I had another demonstration in Milland near Liphook it was your classic village show, but what a spectacular one. Well organised, superb stands, lovely people and a first class ring with good demonstrations, and again the birds did not let me down, they flew very well. I suspect however they were probably as pleased as I was to stay home today.

We are now through the first day of a five day falconry course and all the people on it are nice, which is great and makes for an easier course. I have been so very lucky in the last year or so, all the people who have come on the training courses have been really nice and some have become good friends as well, which makes it extra special. Still at least after all this work I might be able to afford to get the damn Range Rover fixed one of these days!

Hard Tackle seems OK, and he is flying and taking his meds fine. Cremorne, (Bald Eagle) is flying really well and improving by the day, which is more than could be said for Watamu, who is a tad lazy, but to be fair it is not the right place to fly him. Adam Robertson and his Dad came up last weekend and put up the new shade nets for the birds, they did an amazing job and it will make the birds much more comfortable in hot weather.

Darcy Spice is perfectly wonderful and Adam’s Spectacled Owl is going to be very good, and is a charming person, but not as charming as Darcy Spice!! All babies are doing well back with their parents, The Steller's is growing apace and we just have a few more eggs to go and then Simon can breath a sigh of relief and start worrying about the next breeding season instead!!


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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