Monday, 31 January 2011
Boy what a week, it got warm and damp and then bloody freezing again, the loos are moving on, birds being flown and my Land rover back and fixed! Mark and Adam went round to the people who helped us to find the eagle and thanked them, and since have been working hard on the loos and they are starting to look pretty good, Mike has been helping them with all the plumbing. John has been working with Simon on aviary cleaning and tidying, he took the final plastic off the tiny owls today. Although I feel a bit mean about it because we had -7C last night, so the cold is still with us, but it is supposed to be warming up this week. Blowed if it felt like it when I mucked the horses out at 6.00 pm tonight!

Mark has been working with Cremorne, but we are going to have to go back to the start I think and work her through until both she and we have confidence in each other again. Linda came over and moved almost the whole pile of willow brashing to the fire all by herself, she was very stiff the following day and she must have known it was going to happen because she took a long bath instead of a shower and she never does that! Holly and Linda and I went to Hartpury Agriculture College on Wednesday, they had a careers day, I have to say I am not sure I would do it again, it was a lot of sitting around, however the birds we took flew superbly and I mean superbly in their absolutely stunning indoor arena, I could have happily stolen it for here!

We had a committee meeting about the Falconry Event that we are holding here with the United Kingdom Falconer’s Club on Sept3rd and 4th this year. It was a long meeting, but we got a lot done and then Charlie and Neil Davies and I took the dogs for a walk. Charlie has been down and has completely recovered and plastered the ceiling in the shop, it took him three days, in fact slightly less, and it looks stunning.

The daughter of a falconer friend of mine came over on Sunday, she is on an equitation course at Hartpury and is missing her horses and so the friend had asked if she could come over. I was delighted as it is not possible to ride two horses at once, and so for the first time we took Dante and Henry out together. Considering they had not been out for a week, Dante was very very good, Henry rather less so, and boy does Henry have a good emergency stop, I don’t know what upset him but at one point he stopped in his tracks. It was a lovely morning and we had a nice ride round the roads and through the woods.

Acer is now with Richard and doing very well, she is going out shooting and even retrieved a pheasant today! Richard likes her, she is settling and the other dogs also like her, so I am really pleased, although I have to say it’s amazing what a difference it makes having just one dog less. Seems like the pack is tiny now!

We had a good day today, the shop was a mess and that is an understatement. Plastic all over it, plaster all over it, all the stuff down in the stock room, so we started in there at about 8.30 am, and by 6.30 pm with huge help from Robin, Anabelle, Jan, Tom and Holly, and the others all coming in to help at the end of the day we got done. We scraped off the excess plaster from the walls, painted the whole ceiling with two coats, and did all the cutting in, painted all the walls and smartened them up, put up all bar three of the new lights, moved all the rubbish and plastic out, cleaned the whole place and hovered everything. Adam got the computer back and doing all it should do. We put all the furniture back, put up the pictures, found the missing screws and got the outside more or less tidy. There is only a carpet wash to do tomorrow first thing and get all the stock back in, and Richard hopes to come and get all the lights working tomorrow evening – phew!! Ready to open tomorrow!
Monday, 24 January 2011
There is a huge grin on the faces of my bird staff right now!! Cremorne is back, weighed, and given a course of antibiotics in case, and sitting on her perch in the Hawk Walk and we are all sooooooooooooo relieved. Mark and I will have a full nights sleep instead of waking at 3.00 am worrying about the eagle. It is amazing how it is difficult to concentrate on things when one of the birds are out. However, she is back!!

My staff are so great, all the bird staff have given up time off, weekends, and steak suppers to make sure that we did all we could to get the eagle back. I suspect that there are few places where all the staff pull together and put in such huge effort to get a bird back as my staff do. I am very very proud of them all. And that is not just the bird staff, the office and café staff are just as worried and supportive when we lose a bird and so are the volunteers, who offer to help, offer lifts, email to see what is going on. All in all they are all a very special team every one of them.

One of the wonderful things about dealing with and chasing a lost bird is the amazing help we get from almost everyone. Apart from one farmer who was a little crabby, all the others went out of their way to help us. We borrowed ladders, spoke to people about crossing their land and were welcomed, were given tea, coffee, even hot fruit buns. Got phone calls to tell us what she was doing, and generally were made to feel welcome and cared about, which makes a huge difference when you are chasing a bird for a whole week!

So life will hopefully get a little bit back to normal. Richard has sorted out most of the lights and is going to finish them on Wednesday. Mike has taken my Landrover back to the place I got it as the clutch is not behaving. At first everyone said it was driver error, but I am glad to say that eventually it came to light that it was car error, NOT my driving!! The loos will get tackled again tomorrow, and we are getting there with the fencing. John and Holly and Linda took most of the plastic off the aviaries, it is wonderful to be able to see the birds properly again. And some of them were even pleased to see us. Holly and I managed to get a number of birds flown before the phone call that Cremorne had crossed the river again!! We might even get the demonstration that we were supposed to do at Hartpury done on Wednesday if all goes well tomorrow!
Saturday, 22 January 2011
Its been a cold old week, and I have to say I am fairly tired this evening, having had perfectly lovely and memorable day chasing after Cremorne all over the bloody countryside. In fact we spent part of the afternoon lobbing frozen cowpats at her to get her to move on!! Well to be fair I had a couple of shots, but got accused of 'girly throws' which I admit was completely accurate, so Holly and I supplied the ammunition for Mark and Adam and Simon, who at various times were the throwers as it were. It worked until she finally moved to an absolutely enormous Cedar of Lebanon tree, which was far too high for us to get her to move. In the end we had to phone Philip to take us home as we had no transport, and I had left my coat in the van, so I was freezing once we stopped moving.

She has been playing us up since Tuesday, but until Friday she was always either in the flying field or just one field away and coming back regularly. However yesterday she started to move away and we have been on her tail ever since. I dread to think how many miles we walked today, but we ended up and Westbury on Severn, which is a long way off!! So tomorrow we will be out again damn it and there I was hoping to ride Dante this weekend.

It has been tough because we have not been able to fly any of the other birds since Monday because she was flying around all the time, so it was not safe.

The loos are cleared, cleaned, newly insulated and the walls are nearly clad with the under skin. We have made the gents disabled loo larger and the other loo in there, and the new urinal should come next week. The ladies will stay the same, but clean and no more smell. I hope we get it finished by the time we open, the Bald Eagle is not helping!

We have also fenced a whole load of stuff and it’s a good job because all the posts between the small and large field were rotten. The dead trees in the Centre has been chopped down and logged, but we have not had time to clear the logs or the huge pile of brashing. Other than that I think I am going to have to find a good home for Acer, which I do not want to do but she is wandering and starting to take the other dogs and that is a recipe for disaster. I need a good loving home where she lives inside because that is what she is used to, really she should be worked because that is what she needs.

Charlie is coming down next week, we have a meeting at the weekend, and he is coming to do the shop ceiling, which needs it badly. I am hoping Richard will have time to take the lights down before we start.

So just a few things to get done before we open!!
Friday, 14 January 2011
A wet and windy week this one has been that is for sure. However the loos are looking much better, all stripped out, all rotten wood taken out - although I might point out that the rotten wood was below the urinals, so hummmmmmm what does that tell me. I hope that the new stainless steel trough one will make aiming easier!!! Just try harder please you men! It was a job that needed doing, and we are now at the stage where we are rebuilding rather than taking down, which is always more cheering.

Birds are being flown, we have five falcons flying and three more to add, who were grounded in the very cold weather. We have taken out Bay Middleton and Pretender (two male Harris Hawks) ready to start work, and the owls are coming down. The Steller's was picked up the first time today!! John and Simon started handling her, and although she would not sit up on the fist, she was not too bitey, which with that beak is a good thing! Adam worked very hard and cut out the turf for a path and standing area in the flying field, firstly to take the water away from the centre post, and so make sure that we don't ruin the grass in the damp. He and John put down gravel, and it looks great. Holly has been fighting with paperwork all week, there is a long way to go but we are getting there I hope. We saw Robin on Thursday, he said he came to make sure we remembered him - actually we know it was to get out of the house for a bit! Richard came over and fixed the big refrigerator in the weighing room - hooray, I thought I was going to have buy a new one which was very depressing. Angela has been painting in the café and sanding the tables, they are looking great, and Jan has been sanding and repainting the shelves in the shop. Simon has been nest building and moving birds around and painting, today along with volunteer Matt. I have been running round like a demented thing seemingly achieving nothing, but I guess I have.

It has been so much warmer, which has been a lovely change, although the rain is a bit of a pain, but we have had a very dry winter, so I guess we need it. The ponds are looking good and the new grass is growing, amazing really when you think that we did not plant it until November and then had all that cold. I will be glad when we can take the plastic off the aviaries, but the weather is going to get a bit colder next week, so we will leave it until the following week and then furiously clean in time for opening.

I watched two programmes last night, I was very impressed with Hugh's Big Fish Fight. He really has done a great job, I hope you all have been watching, if not you should - on channel five. Lots of really good people on it and I think he is making a difference. In contrast the Human Planet on BBC 1 confirmed my opinion that really humans are a vile species. All we saw was various ways of killing fish and wiping them out, it would have been nice to see humans actually doing this wonderful planet some good, rather than the usual raping of it. I hope it improves, but I suspect it will not. However do get involved with two things for us all if you would - the save our forests campaign on the 38 degrees website, and the Big Fish Fight both need signatures, so get as many people as you can to join in.

Had a lovely ride on Henry today, I went out for the first time with someone else, and we rode through the woods onto May Hill, I can't count the number of years since I last did that. It was a spirited ride!! I might try it on Dante tomorrow depending on the weather.

We are now looking at doing the Lantra Award with our falconry courses, so people will be able to get about the only qualification available in the UK, I hope it goes well
Friday, 7 January 2011
Well I tried an experiment last night, I don't think it worked. I cooked some sprouts the other day, and of course you can never eat them all so I put the rest in the fridge, last night was the third time of microwaving, and I am not sure they actually tasted like sprouts anymore, so conclusion is, don't microwave them more than twice!!!

We started on the public loos today. It immediately became one of those jobs where you go, oh bugger I wish we had not started this, because it looks a serious mess. However the pipe work has gone, and three times in the summer we had to take the wall down to get at it and mend yet another leak and that was nothing to the leaks in it after the recent very very very cold weather. It smelt in there and even after I had had it steamed cleaned, it still smelt, the loos are old, the screws are rusted and the disabled loo in the men's needed to be rethought - so, rip it all down and start again aaaaaaaaaagggggggghhhhhh, well its ripped down!! If anyone wants to come and help put it all back together again, let me know!

Yesterday we, well not me, but the others, got the young Steller's Sea eagle out and jessed her (we think a her). We moved her from her parents in November so she had some time alone to grow up mentally before coming out, and now she is out - she is next to the Bald Eagle, and she is huge!!!!! She makes the Bald Eagle look like a squirt and she is not a small Bald Eagle either! We have decided that once she is sitting well on the fist we are going to have a staff photo taken. Many places have the women staff working with owls and the small birds and the male staff working with the large birds so our photo is going to be the girls with huge birds and the men with tiny ones!! Ha, justice!

I rode Dante for the first time in three weeks yesterday, I was going to ride Henry today, but I appear to have become a fair weather rider, and it was raining, so I did other things instead, actually I spent nearly the whole damn day finding out about loos, stainless steel urinals, flushing rates, pipes, hygiene cladding materials and other interesting items. What I don't know about them now is not worth knowing.

I also tried to buy some new wellies yesterday, but if you are a size five (UK of course) then the wellie makers consider that you should have a ladies welly and not a mans one, so they make them shorter, which I hate, I want full length ones thank you, and I want the choice, I don't want shorter ones just because I am female. And what about men with smaller feet?? It’s the sort of thing that makes me mad. I could probably find some of a size five that are men's, but I suspect they will be the expensive ones, and you know, it’s a bloody waste of money, because if you wear them everyday, which I do in this weather, the expensive ones will only last you a year - same as the cheaper ones, which is very poor in my book. Oh well I will just have to stick to my old ones, which are dreadful and are the ones that Charlie said I look like a bag lady in!!!
Thursday, 6 January 2011
January 6th, twelfth night, and as trained by our mother to follow all good traditions, the Christmas tree is down and out, the decorations are away, the cards are in a pile to be checked through and the Christmas period is over, Mother would be proud!

Its been a difficult week, everyone was back bar Robin who poor chap is suffering intensely from gout. The problem with gout, is that as soon as you mention it people tend to laugh. I guess because we think of it with Henry VIII and over eating and drinking. But Robin is a vegetarian (I knew it was a bad idea!! - only teasing Robin) so he is hardly over eating with high protein meat - we all think it is the cheese Robin, we will just have to see if Wallace and perhaps Gromit! comes down with it as he gets older. We all sympathise with Robin and are looking forward to having him back.
We have been concentrating on baths, and cleaning and a general sort out after the Christmas break, before getting on with the rest of the food drawers, the heated perches, and then the children's play area and the woodland walk, to name but a few of the projects for the next couple of months.

However back to the week, everyone was back on Tuesday, but very sadly we have had three deaths, all were old to pretty old birds, but all were hard and one was devastating. The female Peregrine, who never had a name but was wife to Crow and mother of Fortina died first, she had not been well, but we thought was improving.
Next was Spike, our male Gymnogene, who when looking up his records was 19 years old, so I suppose he had a good innings, but still we will miss him, I will put a picture of him as a baby and you will see why he was called Spike.
Lastly today, this afternoon, I had Copper put down…………………

For those of you who don't know, Copper apart from being wonderful, was a Burrowing Owl. He was hatching in 2001, so he too, for a Burrowing Owl. reached a very good age. He was hand reared, mainly by me, and we always had a very special relationship. As a baby he lived in the house until he could fly. Living with a Burrowing Owl is never boring, you never knew where he was, he could be anywhere, he spend two days hiding behind the cooker in the kitchen and refusing to come out when I called him. I would yell his name in the evenings and a brrruuph would sound - sometimes from upstairs, and his little head would appear through the banisters and then vanish as he was busy with something important! I would be in the sitting room late in the evening (I stayed up later than I do these days in 2001!) and wake up on the sofa to find all
dogs fast asleep on the sofa's and a small burrowing owl lying flat out on the carpet in front of the fire, also asleep.

He came to the US with me, and back again. He did what passed for Owl Evenings in South Carolina, those lucky few who were privileged to be invited on one would have seen him work, I don't think they know most of them, how lucky they were, although some will. He came home again, and caused me a near heart attack while in the warehouse that we had for quarantine. I had opened the huge roller doors which - at least 24 feet wide and probably 20 feet high that rolled up electrically. I used to open them to allow in fresh air once the quarantine period was over. I was chopping up rats, I used to name them all each
day after the Board of Directors and the remaining staff at the Centre in SC! The phone went and I was talking to someone, I don't remember who, and slowly began to realise that not only was Copper talking to me - he was very vocal, but he was much closer than he should have been and on looking up, there he was sitting on the wall of the loos, looking out of the huge doors with nothing between him and Hereford! I dropped the phone, quietly moved to the button that closed the doors, praying that the noise of them closing would not scare him and once they were closed, persuaded him to come down, with a huge sigh of relief. He came back to Newent with us, I think he was one of the first birds to finally come home again.
He entranced, amused and captivated probably, no definitely, thousands of people over his life, and he had a place in the heart of all the staff and volunteers who knew him, that will and is now leaving an un-fillable hole. He sleeps now for the last time in a towel in the kitchen, he will join the special others in the field in the next couple of days.
Sunday, 2 January 2011
January 1st 2011, well here we are again, another New Year which is good, I have to say I liked the last year, I think we achieved a great deal with huge help from my staff to whom I am always grateful, our volunteers about whom I am always amazed at what they do and the tasks they tackle with such good spirit, and the work experience people who often have vile tasks, but amazingly some of them even come back after their official stint!

I know each year seems successively tougher and the price of fuel is going to be awful, I know, and that impinges on visitor numbers, but its still a wonderful country and I would not want to be anywhere else.

Adam is back, I know because I took the dogs for a walk in the dark this afternoon and his lights in the flat were on. I have to say that taking six black dogs for a walk in the dark is a nightmare, its better to turn off the torch and count shadows.

I went to the dentist yesterday for a check up and they were mentioning how cold it was - all I can say is that they must be nuts, it has been positively warm in comparison to the previous weather. Sadly it is raining this evening, although I think I should be pleased that it did not rain last night and spoil people's New Year, I did not see the New Year in though, I was tucked up in bed! I can never see why people get so excited about the last day of December!

Mike came yesterday and fixed all the leaks which was great and now for the time being I don't have to carry water to the stables which a big plus! My Goshawk is going well, and Simon's caught a Woodcock, which was another big grin on his face.

January 2nd, and boy has the temperature dropped today, all birds are inside the Indoor Hawk Walk and the plastic is still up, the dilemma on that one will be when to take it down again. I managed to get the Mozart book finished as far as I can take it, now we see if anyone likes it. I sorted out my books file on my computer and deleted a load of old stuff and have started on the next technical book, well I started a while ago, but now I am back on it and hope to get it down in a couple of months. I think I might try to do an updated DVD this summer as well. Then its the book of the last decade, which I have also started, but I suspect that I will find it difficult to get a publisher as I am not going to that polite about a few people - still that doesn't really matter as I can publish it on our website if needs be!!

Hopefully I will get Henry re shod again soon, and get out riding again. That will be good, all my plans for that in December went out of the window with the weather and all. All staff are back in the day after tomorrow and we have a lot to do before we open on February 1st, exciting times!! And can you believe it, the daffodils are showing already!!


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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