Monday, 27 September 2010
I am home again – hurray!! And the dogs were very pleased to see me as was Mozart, although he can’t see much, but can hear me, and even my Goshawk was sort of pleased, and I think the staff too!! The trip was fine although the last bit before I left was a little more annoying than planned.

I let the dogs out last thing, which was a little earlier than usual as I wanted to get to bed early for getting up early (and why is that if you have to get up at 4.30am or there abouts you spend the whole night, what there is of it, waking up and checking the alarm to see if you have missed it ggggggrrrrrrrrr!). All the dogs came back except for Acer, so I called and yelled and swore and whatnot, only to hear the thumping of a tail underneath the decking outside the French windows in the drawing room. Yup she was underneath and stuck! I tried pulling her out with her tail, that was not going to work, I tried encouragement, that was definitely not going to work, I went to see if Adam was in to come and help, that did not work either. So I grabbed a spade and a torch and started digging, as I did she crawled to the back facing away from me – great. I could not reach her, so a second hole was dug to allow me to get further under and I finally got one finger round one back leg and managed to pull her enough to get both and then haul her out!! And finally get to bed to not sleep.

All planes behaved themselves and I managed to get an earlier flight into Denver from New York, so got to the hotel in reasonable time and went out to supper with lots of old friends. The sad thing about raptor conferences today and I suspect many others as well is that in the old days I would go to as many papers as I could and be able to take good, relevant, interesting facts and information about various birds of prey home, tell my staff and refresh our commentaries. Now its all DNA, and computer models and millions of graphs and I understand very little of it and much does not seem to even be about the birds. Although I was pleased to hear one of my old science friends state that he had no idea about most of it either so I did not feel so badly about it. But it certainly does limit the number of papers that I want to go to these days. Which was why I was happy to skive off for one full afternoon and go with Arthur Middleton to Laramie, where he is at University doing his PhD on Wolves and Elk, it was great to see him and even greater to see Lily, Aster and Arabis’s sister, who despite having a recent stroke, was looking wonderful.

The paper went well and I had extra time which was wonderful, although as usual when we have an education session, all the educationalists come and few of the scientists, which is a shame, as they might learn something! The trip back went smoothly with very little time between flights, although I did have to go to Frankfurt to get back in time. And I got back to grey, fine mist, rain and cloud – it was wonderful!
Holly and I flew Dusky Emperor last thing and we are going to try her loose tomorrow, we are also going to start work on the Griffon Vulture and see if we can get him to fly out and back into his aviary, should be interesting.
Monday, 20 September 2010
Am I ready to go, nope, not yet, I have written my paper, I have charged up my computer, phone, kindle and hard drive. I have a plug that will work in the US, my clothes are still damp!! And I have yet to pack, but that only takes minutes It was a day of slight but annoying problems, Dante got out through the road gate – which someone had opened and thought the horses would not barge through. He was caught half a mile up the road, and brought home in disgrace; at least my ankle appears a little better after the chase! Katana appeared in the field while Holly was turning on the PA, much to her and one of our regular visitors surprise!! She had seen Holly go down and assumed that of course Holly had forgotten her, and so remedied the forgetfulness. John has subsequently fixed the enclosure so that will not happen again! I tried to get my boarding pass online, went through the whole bloody process only to be told that I would have to check in at the desk, what a flipping waste of time and energy, why the hell did they not say that at the start.

I did manage to book the shuttle from Denver to Fort Collins and my car parking, so that was a bonus I think?!

Otherwise all the birds flew well, but there were niggles all day. I had to go and get diesel and air for the tyres in the car – one was very low, and managed to do it when the bloody school buses were arriving to empty Newent School, and that in itself is a nightmare to be avoided. One second male Bay Owl arrived back and the young female Spectacled Owl left for a new home and mate, so that was good. And actually I have to say that Cleeve did fly better than usual, although my Goshawk was only interested in hanging upside down – he was a little over weight.

We are doing a flying demonstration on Sat at least Holly and Mark are! and the company wanted our risk assessment, public liability insurance and method statement, what the bloody hell is a method statement. The world has gone completely mad. The only risk is our losing a bird, I don’t need to be insured (but am at vast cost) and my methods are fine thank you very much!!

I have to leave at 5.30am tomorrow so the dogs will not be fed by me, they will have to wait for Holly. And I am not taking them round the field in the pitch dark either – that is a recipe for falling in the pond while clean.

So its off to find the suitcase, tumble dry the clothes and find my alarm clock. I will be out of touch until next Monday – so here is jpj signing off!! (always wanted to say that!!)
Sunday, 19 September 2010
Usually the visitors at this time of the year are fun and interesting, the sensible ones wait until the end of the school holidays and then visit, knowing that it should be quieter, and for them more pleasant. However fun would not describe the visitors one day last week, some were good, but most would have been better suited to the towers of silence in Bombay, I nearly got annoyed and I certainly got very bored, having tried hard to get a reaction, so I went onto autopilot, which means I have no idea what I said, but it would have been factual, and boring – and well deserved!! Luckily we rarely get visitors who do not look interested, mostly they are great and fun to talk to and fly birds for.

I took five birds over to Great Western Referrals this week. The King Vulture and one of the young Spectacled Owls for sexing and both were female which is good. The female Turkey Vulture with an ear infection, which was looked at and was put under treatment, one of the baby Steppe Eagles who needed a stitch in both eye lids which was fine and he is recovering nicely, and the young Griffon Vulture to have all the ironwork out, and he did well and is back in his aviary and managed to hold down his first rat – clever boy. However the next day the Turkey Vulture was very poorly and cold, and by the looks of it in shock. We put her in an incubator, wrapped her up, but to no avail. So very sadly we are down to only the male, which is such a shame, but a learning experience. I am convinced as my two Black Vultures died after anesthesia in the US that both Turkey Vultures and Black Vultures are very susceptible to something, and it may well just be shock, after having an anesthetic. We will be very very aware of this in the future.

All in all bird wise it has not been a great week as I also lost my beautiful Barbary Falcon tiercel. It was windy and he had started to chase things and off he went during the demonstration. We tracked him, but the signal was not behaving normally, and so after three hours we went back to where we had got the only good signal. Eventually after work we all walked from the point of the best signal for about an hour and a bit and found to my sorrow, only the transmitter on the ground in a stubble field. I suspect he had stooped at something, maybe hit it and the transmitter had sprung off, it’s the first time it has happened in I don’t know how many years. I hope he does OK, he is certainly fit and fat and chasing, so perhaps he will. Or perhaps I will be lucky and someone will pick him up and return him, one can only hope.

Storm Force – Common Buzzard is back out and on duty, she is just the same as ever, and it is lovely to see her out again. All the owls are going well and in about 10 days we start off the last four ready for the owl evenings starting at Halloween. Dusky Emperor is starting to fly with a little more enthusiasm, and hopefully will be a good demonstration bird. Hard Tackle is now off duty and in the Eagle Barn moulting and grumbling to himself as usual!

We are now building two proper compost heaps that the horses and dogs can’t get at, it should make a difference, particularly as the dogs love to get on there when aviaries have been cleaned, and then happily throw up on the carpets later that day. Dante and Henry have settled and Dante is now picking his feet up properly, I will work to get on him when I get back from the US trip. And I also hope to have more time in the mornings so I can ride Henry more than once a week!!! Of course that will depend on wasp stings, lameness on my part and so on.

I still have washing to do to get ready to go; I am away in Fort Collins Colorado at the Raptor Research Foundation meeting, back on the 27th thank goodness. So I won’t miss the autumn which is one of my favourite seasons.
Tuesday, 14 September 2010
Passwords, I hate the damn things, I can never remember what I have chosen and then the flipping website tells me it is not a good one, why do we need them - agggggggghhhh!! I can't believe it has been another week, where do they go.

I have had such a nice evening, it rained heavily at about 4.15pm, so it was very pleasant that the visitors decided that they had already seen one demonstration and did not want to get wet - although we do promise to get wet with them - and we do!! So the last demonstration was aborted, the birds were fed, and we finished a little early, which is always nice. I was looking at the sky and to the north was a clear and clean blue bit, so I finished off and said to myself (always the best of conversations I feel!) if it comes over I will go for a ride. And it did, so I did.

The horse situation has changed a little, Hawk has gone to Yorkshire to keep a horse company belonging to two very good friends of mine, I went up with Charlie to make sure that Hawk did OK on the trip - he was a star. When last I saw them Hawk was lying down and if Harry (the other horse) had been any closer he would have squashed Hawk. They are very happy together and nothing seems to phase Hawk, although like any good Exmoor, fresh grass is very important! Anyway, here Dante is back, and Henry and Dante having been very spectacular in their first meeting - rearing, bucking, kicking and screaming!! and mostly Henry I might add, now look like a single eight legged horse they stay so close! So here I have Henry, beautiful bright bay 15.2 hh Thoroughbred, and Dante, just under 15hh three quarter Morgan, and one quarter thoroughbred and black (and very dirty right now!) However back to this evening. I took Henry out and he has improved greatly and is going forward nicely, the evening sun was low, the sky was clear, the views were great, the blackberries are ripe and numerous, holly berries are coming out, autumn is here and it was a lovely ride. I got back, groomed and fed Henry, and then groomed Dante and he was stealing hay from Henry's mouth while I did it!

The birds are flying well, we have grounded Hard Tackle, Theft, and Karis on Sunday and Maya today as the young birds are doing well and flying well, Red Streak (male Barbary) was chasing House Martins yesterday when Simon flew him!! Dawn Run tried her best at a pigeon this afternoon, and generally the young team are showing good potential. Dusky Emperor (Grey Buzzard Eagle) is getting there and Adam is very pleased with Arial, the male Ferruginous Buzzard. I was particularly proud of D'Arcy Spice who did his first owl day on Thursday, and was faultless, although I could wish he would stop trying to kill the toy rats we use as black board rubbers!

Mike Turner is getting on with the new compost heap walls, we desperately need to have more compost space and less dogs getting on there and eating heaven knows what, so we are building two compartments for compost, which will be good if the horses don't knock them over!! Tom has started on the feed drawers which I want to reinstate here. They make a huge difference to feeding round and I want to get them done before the winter sets in. Which reminds me I need to email Richard about heated perching in the Indoor Hawk Walk, Charlie and I had a good idea which I think will work.

Peter Dowle came today and we are going to move plants and put in new ones in the next month and then he and his team will come and prune again so we will need lots of help with clearing (please all you wonderful volunteers!!!) Its going to be exciting to see the changes in the gardens again.

Range Rover - best not to comment!! Dogs all well, Sorrel has learnt to get upstairs, which is not good, she keeps appearing with my clothes if I leave the gate at the bottom of the stairs open. We can't decide if when she takes things in front of you, does that constitute theft, or does theft have to be covert?? Hummmmmmmmm not sure on that one.

What else, I was going fishing tomorrow but have no time, a paper to write before Tuesday and ear ache, so I have chickened out - again, I will get fishing one day. Anna gave me the nicest pair of coral earrings carved in a rose which I love. I am not looking forward to going to the US next week, would rather be here!! Oh and I have a new pair of shoes! And the picture of the bum proves my point that humans are a great deal less attractive than vultures! where did this fashion of wearing ones trousers half way down the behind come from, its awful!

Tuesday, 7 September 2010
It is rare that I give up on a bird, but I have to say that I am going to give up on my Harris Hawk, either it really does not like me personally, or it is a bird that seriously needs to hunt and very soon, and either way I can’t help it!! She is a huge Harris Hawk, and started coming properly to the fist at 2lbs 5ozs, which is six ounces heavier than the other two, but she will be very much better off with someone who will get her hunting quickly. I have to admit I will not miss her, plus I really do want to concentrate on the new Goshawk, who is already just jumping to the fist.

The weekend weather was a little disappointing on the Sunday, but whatever, we really have had a great year of weather all in all, and now there is a clear blue sky, the dew is covering the millions of tiny cobwebs on the lawns and field, the horses have just got out onto the lawn to enjoy it! Opppps! The birds are going well and autumn is here. I have a stunning bunch of flowers on my desk from Aster (my beautiful dog who lives away) its amazing how he manages to send me stuff!! Could it be the very nice people he now lives with I wonder!

We have just been given a hybrid Merlin Gyr, I don’t like the made up names for hybrids I am afraid. She is a very pretty bird, but whoever was looking after her should have been ashamed, her beak was a disgrace. If you look at various raptor websites, it’s interesting to note that the number of overgrown beaks is frightening, and people don’t seem to know, I am blowed if I would have most of the pictures on my front page. Which reminds me I need to cope the Ferruginous, which will no doubt upset him, but it has to be done. We have got Dusky Emperor out, the female Grey Buzzard Eagle, or Blue Chilean Eagle, or whichever of the numerous names it has that you prefer. People just love her and the photographers are going nuts about her because she is so stunning to look at. Holly is retraining her and her husband whom she has ignored for probably ten years is getting a new wife!

The Eagle Barn is getting done, the enclosures that have been revamped are looking great and the birds show up much better. Next is the Falcon Barn as we have a pair of white Gyrs coming as a donation. They are past breeding age, but it will be lovely to have them and so I want to get that barn done so we don’t stress them too much. There is also a breeding pair of Prairie Falcons arriving on loan, and I have to say I hope that is that!

Mark Parker is going to be rejoining us as a full staff member, he wrote a while ago and asked if we would consider him, and as he is very experienced at teaching on courses, and we are very stretched when the courses are on, we had a long talk and I said yes. I am hoping that will give me enough time to have the morning off and do more office work and starting writing again, which would be very nice.

The moulting aviaries are now nearly finished and the next job for Tom is feed drawers which are urgent and will make a huge difference to feeding round and to our food hygiene for the birds. I hate the way of either dropping food onto the ground through the wire, or dropping it down a grubby pipe. Food drawers if done the way I designed them in the US work brilliantly, cut down on waste, and make a huge difference to feeding round. They add a small bit of time at the end of the day as they are all wiped over and sprayed with F10, but that means that we have clean drawers every day – marvelous!

Range Rover is still not fixed, the new engine (secondhand) that I bought apparently does not fit bugger it. I hate cars.

End of the day, just had a lovely ride on Henry, the sun was out, chatted to a friend, Henry behaved – mostly, and a good end to the day. Oh and just saw India's Silent Killer on channel five - good film, however if we are going to have to breed 1200 vultures in the next five years, we need extra funding!


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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