Tuesday, 31 August 2010
Finally the bloody Harris Hawk is back!! Phew! It was an interesting weekend all in all and that could be the understatement of the year! The show went well, the birds were absolutely amazing because it was a playing field in the middle of a housing estate and there were three bouncy castles, and tons of children with balloons on sticks and so on. The arena was a ring of chairs!
I flew Topaz who was as good as she always is, then I flew Theft (Yellow-billed Kite) who was also very good, a little nerve wracking because he does go out of sight, but he did well. I took Domino, Holly’s Harris – as mine was about a mile away in an oak tree in the middle of a stubble field, and although she was a little upset by the travelling, she settled and did brilliantly. Hare was a good as he could be, and rarely lets me down, he is such a great eagle, and Gazelle was very exciting and made them all duck to finish off with. So all in all it was a good day. We found the Harris Hawk that evening in the same place but still not interested in coming down!!

Sunday Holly was off having worked the Saturday because of my show, Simon was off but kindly fed round first, and he flew his Barbary before he left, and the Barbary did a great first flight and then disappeared at a high rate of knots downwind, and there was a lot of wind. So Adam and he went off after the falcon and I did the first demonstration which would have been fine had it not been for the fact that an eagle appeared during the last falcon. So at one point I had a peregrine flying along with an eagle above it. Steve who was mad enough to volunteer that day came running down and said that the Bald Eagle had got loose, and that was very bad news as she was not in flying condition, and so unlikely to come back! It is odd, but when someone tells you it’s a Bald Eagle you don’t look hard at the bird. I asked Steve to get whoever it was I employ in the shop (I could not remember Jan’s name at that point!!) to phone Holly and ask her to come in. We now had a Harris Hawk out and not coming back, a Barbary Falcon out and not coming back and a Bald Eagle out and it was Bank Holiday Sunday – aaaaaaaaagggggghhh. So I finished flying Alexandria and the eagle flew over head as she landed on the lure, she was not impressed. I though - as the bird is interested, I will pick her up and throw out the lure to the eagle, which I did. And down came the eagle, and it was not the Bald Eagle thank goodness it was Hard Tackle. So now I have an eagle trying to eat the lure and I needed him later in the day, no staff, a falcon on my fist, the microphone still on, a crowd of people there and no help at that point. I managed to grab the eagle with my free hand, and Steve came over and took the Peregrine with dire threats not to let her go!! I suspect no one took photos either!

I apologised to the visitors, and said that most of the time we are much more professional than that, and put the eagle back on its perch, where it had managed to undo its catch. Holly arrived and peace started to reign. At 2.00pm Adam and Simon had retrieved the female Barbary Falcon and were on their way home. Holly left after the 2.00pm demonstration and the rest of the day was sort of OK, although we did have rain, which is not good on a Bank Holiday. Adam and I finished off and Simon who did not leave as he was supposed to, so he fed the owls, and then left. We then went out to look for the something something Harris Hawk. We tracked her to a field near a pub, and again she was not interested so we left and planned to come back early the next day. I then managed to pour a boiling hot cup of tea over my leg to finish a difficult day, it is still painful.

Bank Holiday Monday dawned a beautiful day, Adam and I tracked the Harris to a tree near Conigree, again no interest, and so we checked the signal through the day and worked the Bank Holiday. To add insult to injury a bloody wasp stung me on the back of the knee as I was working on my computer, so now I have both legs sore! We all went out Harris Hawk hunting that evening and tracked her to a fruit farm belonging to a friend, and this time she was interested in us. Holly flew Domino under her and that got her very calm and settled and twice she flew as if to come down, but veered off. We left late and decided that as she was actually looking like coming of her own accord we would come back very early and see if we could get her down. Holly and I stopped of at the friends to explain what we were going to do and had a G+T as well! My leg was swelling nicely by this time.

Not much sleep that night with two sore legs and no place to lie comfortably, it was just stunning first thing, early rising mist, sun coming up on a clear and lovely morning. I fed the dogs and horses and took the dogs round the field and Holly and Adam arrived, and off we went again. She was in the same place, and this time much keener. We flew Domino again for a short while and my bird came in several times and hit the fist but would not stop. I sent Holly and Adam home, and Adam came back with tea, we were still hitting the fist and carrying on, but if I moved across the field she followed me!! Adam then dropped off the Landrover as we had to return it and in the meantime I had been within a foot of the Harris at least twice, so I tied a lump of beef onto a creance, and put it on a fence post and stood back, down she came and grabbed the meat and I brought her down in the wet grass, she would not let me wind her up, but I saw then that there was no way she was going to let go of the meat, so I crawled in and grabbed her with a sigh of relief.

So all birds are back and safe, all staff are tired and safe, my leg is now covered in blistered and I am not going to be riding Henry for a few days. Just another Bank Holiday!!
Friday, 27 August 2010
It’s a lovely day today, yesterday was like being in a cloud, but it was just about OK to fly outside and I have to say that the birds were amazing. All of them did well, even the eagles and damp mizzily weather is not good for eagles and Karis was amazing, and did three lovely stoops in the wet!! Flame, the new male Kestrel trained by Joan and Simon has done his first experience day, and did it brilliantly, which means that Greaves is now grounded for a moult and a rest. The baby Steller’s has fledged, and I think it is a male not a female, but we will see when we get it out.

The west side of the Eagle Barn is almost finished and looking clean, tidy and bright and we have started on the east side now. Hopefully making them clean and lighter will help with the breeding. It was the last barn we tackled on my arrival home, and it was a mess. Its nice to see it looking better now. Next is Barn two and then we tackle Barn three, so it is all going according to plan.

Dinah left on Thursday morning, she is going to stay with a good friend in Ross on Wye, and will probably have a much more fun time as they will go out and go to places, which I never do!! It rained most of Wednesday and meant that for the first time we could not do two of the demonstrations outside, however the weather this summer has been amazing really.

It was cold last night though! I was almost tempted to light the fire, it was positively autumnal and some of the trees are turning, although I think they are a little more cheerful now we have had some good rain. As it was I just put on my electric blanket instead – ummmmm lovely. The birds all flew well today with one notable exception, my new Harris Hawk who does not yet have a name at least not one that is repeatable, is sitting in the Oak tree in the horse field, and has been there for three hours and looks like staying there for the night. We have been training two Harris Hawks, both female, Holly’s Harris Hawk Domino is charming, a lovely tempered bird and was a joy to train. My Harris Hawk is not charming, and at the moment does not have a lovely temperament and is flipping huge. Domino is flying at about 850 grams, mine I could not get away from at 1020 grams! But today she went up into a tree, which she did yesterday and came out nicely, however not quite the same today, she is still in a damn tree! ah well, hopefully she will have a cold night and want to come down tomorrow!

Hard Tackle got up good height and would have gone higher but for the young buzzard who came and chased him, and Alexandria got chased by a young hobby, they were around all day having fun in the sun. All the young bird are coming on nicely which is good, and we have taken out Dusky Emperor, the female Grey Buzzard Eagle, also known as a Chilean Eagle and about four other names as well. A friend is lending us another female, who might be a better breeding prospect, so we will fly ours for the time being. And Adam is being ambitious and is trying Arial, the Ferruginous Buzzard again, so that will keep him busy. To keep me busy we have a parent reared male Goshawk just arrived, and he is pretty wild, so he will take time and effort to get tame and going.

Henry (the new horse) has been an exciting ride! He and I have had discussions as to which way we are going on a ride, I have been winning, but it certainly does not make for a boring ride. He is settling in now and is much more relaxed in the field and is charming in the stable. I left the yard gate open the last couple of days so they could go in and out of the stables at will when it was not pleasant. However today I forgot to put away the High visibility waistcoat that I wear out riding, so I hung it on the door to put away later! Henry stole it – I saw him do it!! So he is a charming thief!

Show day tomorrow and I have the Landrover back again, sadly only for the weekend before it turns back into my van again. Such is life.
Sunday, 22 August 2010
Dinah and I watched a new programme called Secret Britain the other day. Both of us decided that the damn background music is extremely invasive, making listening to the commentary actually quite difficult, an spoiling the programme, which is the same with many films these days. It’s a shame that there is not an option to turn the bloody stuff down so one can hear the speech. I was also horrified to see the chap, whose name I forget walk through various gates and leave them open – bloody fake countrymen!! If you are in the country you should Always shut the damn gates.

I do sometimes wonder at the questions that our visitors ask us. And little do they know how incredibly tactful I really am!! For example they sometimes ask if the birds manage in the cold weather in the winter, and it sort of annoys me because it implies that we don’t think about it and often I would love to say, that we just leave them to it and if they get cold its tough!! When I think of the efforts we go to to make them comfortable and warm, no wonder I get annoyed, however I answer politely and tell them that many come from countries that are colder than this and if the birds need heat we supply it. Or my favourite, oh do you all go on holiday in the eight weeks you are closed, - yup, we lob a dead cow into each aviary and leave them to it!! Extraordinary how little people think before opening their mouths on occasion!

It has been very very muggy the last three days, almost reminiscent of South Carolina, but thank god not quite!! However it does make for hard work getting things done and the birds don’t like it as much as the hot days, or the windy days. But the rain has been welcome to the trees, that is for sure.

Dinah has painted the utility room green, it is not quite the green we expected, I find that however much you look at the colour chart, it is never the same as the real thing, she said that Farrow and Ball is the best paint and they usually are the colour they state, however they are also very expensive and not easy to get round here. Nick has gone back to New Zealand, back to the start of spring and then summer, he managed to miss about a month of winter, which in Bluff where he is, could be a seriously good idea!

I have a show next weekend and my range rover is still not fixed, one of the injectors refuses to come out of the replacement engine, so I am still driving my little van, and that makes life difficult for shows, in fact almost impossible!! This is the last show of the season, I used to have Chatsworth as the last one, and it was quite my favourite, however I lost it because of going to the US, and have not got it back which is sad, it was always a lovely end to the season and a beautiful setting to boot.

The Swallows have been doing well this summer, we have a ton of them here and Sedge chases them when they are doing their low flying over the field catching insects. I suspect they have also been chased by the wild Hobby that lives somewhere close by as we have seen them over a couple of times
Sunday, 15 August 2010
I have another damn cold, and I have no idea why, the last one, given to me by Biff (!!) came and went, and now is back again. Thank god for Vick, it is great stuff and at least means you can get some sleep. Its been a grayish week, although only yesterday did we have what I might call proper rain. And even then we managed to fly on all the demonstrations and get all the birds done. Holly is on holiday this week, so we are a little stretched, but managing and I have a horse!! Well actually a horse and a pony.

Because I work seven days a week and don’t really like having a day off, plus right now can’t really take one, I decided that I would get back to riding again as it is a means of getting away from the job for a short while. I tried a really nice little horse who lives up the road and he will be a great horse one day, but needs some work, so I looked further afield. In the mean time a delightful Exmoor pony called Hawk has come to join the family, he is only a yearling, but charming (and been placed at shows too!!). These days you look online for everything, including horses. And there are plenty out there, Michaela Swan is helping me and is going to ride at the weekends because those are our busiest times, so we went to see a horse the week before last and I bought him. He is a 15.2” thoroughbred, bay with four white socks and very beautiful. He has been a bit of a handful to start with but is beginning to settle now and he (Henry) seems to like Hawk, and he is charming in the stable, so now I have no excuse not to take an hour off every now and then.

Dinah is back and has started painting the utility room, which is great, I am looking forward to it being done, and now if and when the boiler in there finally dies, at least we can get at it easily and replace it.

The Griffon Vulture seems to be doing well, he is eating well and sitting on his perches nicely and generally is the same wonderful bird that he has always been so we are positive about the outcome. And Rush is still OK, the only change in him is that he can’t seem to open his jaw to carry a mug any longer. He always carried my tea mug on our early morning walk, but I have to take a smaller one now for him to manage.

All the birds are doing well, we have been redoing the Eagle Barn, and the two completely aviaries look wonderful. My plan is to try and get all the aviaries done earlier than usual this time round, so everything is ready for the breeding season and we don’t have a ton of work to try and get done before the start. I am delighted with the way the Eagle Barn is coming up considering how old it is. We are racing through magnolia paint and black stain, but the result is a cleaner, brighter enclosure for all the birds.

The Red Kite is well and going back to the wild in the near future, it needed a little longer to get some weight on, so the people who brought it are going to come and collect and release it, its so nice that people care enough. Sadly the last three birds brought all failed to survive, two, a Tawny Owl and a young male Sparrowhawk died within hours and the third, a common Buzzard had a horrific break in its wing and a missing toe. It’s tough out there for young birds making a start in life.
OK its back to work, we have four people on a Hawk Experience Day today, so I have to get myself ready.
Sunday, 8 August 2010
Good Lord a whole week has gone, where I am not sure, its been a week of dry weather (again), only a very little rain again, and my poor trees are beginning to show the effects of such a dry spring and summer, many are starting to lose their leaves and some looking very autumnal and its only August!! Still I can’t complain, the great weather has brought people in and made the summer very pleasant. Plus I love the autumn, I think it is my favourite time of the year, I love crisp autumn mornings and mist and bright colours, and shorter days, and a fire in the evening – ummmmmmmmm lovely. This morning Adam and I got four birds done before the Falcon Experience day, the sun was out, there was a slight cool breeze, we could hear the church bells ringing through the air from Newent, and the sound of wood pigeons calling, it was magical and we savoured every moment of it.

Our young Eurasian Griffon Vulture is just back from a second operation, which Neil is very pleased about. The leg was doing well, but about Wednesday it started to look different, I can’t really describe how, it just looked wrong, so he went back and had more ironwork put in! And now he is home and eating, and hopefully will recover, he has to have the metal work in for four weeks poor love. We really do want him to pull through and have a good life as he is such a star.

Adam’s new Lanner is going well and should be loose in a couple of days, my hybrid falcon is doing less well, he is loose, and called Cleeve, but he is not great at catching the lure I have to say, we have some work to do on that. Cremorne is slowly coming round and getting tamer, it is a long slow process and she is now up to 4700 grams!! Fat girl!! Actually she is not fat, so perhaps big girl would be a better description. Holly’s Harris Hawk Domino is lovely a perfect lady and flying well, Holly has been away this weekend at the ‘Big Chill’ whatever that is, so Adam and I have coped and poor Simon gets to rush to from the vets.

We had a young male Red Kite in earlier this week, it was fitting and not well, however it seems to have recovered and Simon is going to take it up to Reading where it came from and release it tomorrow I think.

My male Goshawk is back with Lee, we both decided that he was not the right temperament for here, which I felt was true, I have to say I am not convinced about imprint goshawks, so we are getting a parent reared one, which I think will do the job better and not have to be pandered to!

This evening my sister Dinah is here, from New York she arrived on Wednesday, and Sandra our cousin and Richard her husband, we are going to have supper together with Nick. Then tomorrow they are all going to Llangollen where Sandra and Richard have a lovely house and Nick will go back to Scotland to Anna and then fly out back to New Zealand and Dinah is coming back here and is going to help me to paint the utility room!!

The Peregrine Fund are doing great stuff with the problems of lead poisoning, and have a look at this website to see what we are doing to our wildlife with lead. The website
www.EndToxicLead.org has some compelling video and photos for use in educating the public about the toxic effects of lead from spent ammunition

Still no Range Rover, so if anyone out there has a Landrover 90 Diesel for a ridiculously cheap price and in great condition!!! Let me know please!!

Sunday, 1 August 2010
I just watched the weather forecast on Country File – crap crap and more crap or rather inaccurate and more inaccurate. Firstly we have had no rain here even worth talking about here at the Centre for months. Secondly they say the weather might be OK on Monday and Tuesday and yet if you look at the map they are talking about its DRY!!! And Sunny - That is NO Rain, what is the matter with these people are they completely mentally deficient – yes they are!! I hate the weather people, they do not have a clue, of course they might possibly consider the old tried and tested method – of looking out of the damn window!!!!!!

The two o clock demonstration was to die for today. Yesterday Hard Tackle had a really hard time with crows and Jackdaws chasing him all over, but today he did his absolute best and he finally managed to get height. He worked really hard, we did not see him for a while, but when we did, it was so worth while. He found thermals and must have been at a good 800 feet, he came over and did one of his famously spectacular eagle stoops, a pleasure, a privilege and an honour to see. And he obviously enjoyed it as well, and just to add to my pleasure for the afternoon, Karis did three average stoops and I put him up for a fourth, which I don’t usually do, and he pulled of a brilliant one, teardrop, all in sight and a joy to behold! The audience were very appreciative, and so they jolly well should have been!

The UK Falconry Forum – NOT to be confused with the International Falconry Forum – which is a nightmare, are joining with us and we are going to run the Falconry and Hawking Event here at ICBP and so we had our first committee meeting, which went well, we think that the grounds lend themselves to a lovely event. There is a ton of work to do, but I hope that it will work well and be a nice end to the summer, we are aiming for the first weekend in September next year, so book that in your diaries as it will be very special.

The Gardens are looking wonderful, thanks mainly to Iloana, Joan’s mother. We have started on smartening up the Eagle Barn, first aviary is painted, so new perches, fresh sand, and the roof lights cleaned will make for a smart and light airy aviary for the younger pair of Verreaux’s. If we get these done early it will make a difference to the breeding season next year and our work load this winter.

D’Arcy Spice is coming along a treat and now responding very well, just have to take the last step and get him going into and out of trees and we will be there and ready for the autumn Owl Evenings. The two baby Burrowing Owls, Rival and Wayside are also coming along in leaps and bounds.

No new injured wild birds in for a couple of days, which is good, and those still here and coming along well. Our new male Kestrel which Joan is training is starting to come to the lure which is good as Greeves is moulting madly and is going to run out of feathers soon. Fortina and Dawn Run have come out after the moult so the change over of birds continues. Bob Dalton gave us a lovely female Barbary Falcon and a Female Harris Hawk, I am going to start the HH tomorrow and Simon is going to do the Barbary, what a nice man!!

The Griffon Vulture is doing well and seems very happy, he is such a nice bird and we are looking forward to the time when he is fully recovered and we can start training him. And a Happy August to all!


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.

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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