Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Last day open, from December 1st we close to the public until February 1st, although we run the Owl Evenings and a five day course, plus a number of experience days up to December 23rd. We have a ton of things that I would like to get finished before Christmas. The food drawers should go in next Monday and Tuesday, the freezer shed should be finished and ready for the new freezer by the end of tomorrow. The electrics in the Hawk Walk will hopefully be done soon and the electrics for the freezer have to be done by the end of Monday! The tractor shed should be done and the tractor, dumper, digger and trailer in and secure by the end of next week. It will be good to know they are undercover if the weather does turn, makes for a dried seat to sit on too!

We are going to be busy, and we will have a fair number of birds still going. I had planned on grounding some when the weather changed and got cold, but it hasn’t yet. Amazing to think that this time last year it was freezing cold and we had the first snow, this year it is still mild, and I have only had the heating on in the house a few times. The leaves have mostly gone in the strong winds, although there is one Oak tree where they have barely turned from green!

The three merlin's are going really well, I am delighted by the way they are flying, and all the young falcons are coming on. Pioneer (Steller’s Sea Eagle) is in with her two brothers and doing well. Cremorne is out and will start work again in January, I hope she does not do the same as last year and bugger off for a week! We are also getting two White-tailed Sea-eagles which are going to be flown next year and for a while until they are old enough to breed, which is exciting. It will be good to compare a Bald Eagle and White-tailed Sea-eagle as they are so closely related.

The Owl Evenings have been going well, we have eight left to do and they are booking up nicely, Jan wants to have carols at the last one, but as she isn’t even going to be here………. We shall have to see!

Adam came over and fixed computer problems, I don’t know what we would do without him, he is a wizard at getting them to do what he wants, and he happily teaches all of us as well. Linda has been very busy with photographing the countryside for the Wye Valley, she has some stunning photos and finally someone is paying her closer to a decent amount for all the work she does. We have some also stunning photos for this year’s photo competition, last years were good, this year they are better, which is great, I hope you have bought the calendar of the last years photos it’s a good Christmas present, and nice to see staff, birds and dogs on your wall for a year!

Linda just sent me this - its great fun!

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Back from India safe and sound, it is good to go, and even better to come home again.

The trip was good, it was an early start on the Saturday that I left, I caught the 5.44am train. As I rode the train to London, I looked up and the sky was a glorious colour, oranges, greys, light blue and creams, the trees were not quite the deep black of a nighttime silhouette, but instead a dark indeterminate grey and the mist hung just below them in the fields, I wished I was not going, and my feet were cold because I was wearing sandals – ah well, the joys of travelling. It did not last long, the sunrise was done, the mist rose and grey predominated the view, hedges and trees loomed out briefly, and the mist made it hard to focus on anything as we sped past. I got to the airport via Paddington and then the shuttle to terminal, I then went to ask where I should go for passport checking and realised that I think I left my printed out boarding pass on my printer at home, but the lady I asked was very nice and instead of sending me to a queue, just booked me and handed my boarding pass to me, it could not have been easier. I met up with Thalita who is the Brazilian Vet going out to India and Nepal for six months to help with training and off we went.

We arrived in India at 1.30am, and then after a short night of two hours in a hotel, we met up with Chris, Janki and Vibhu and we all trained it to Pinjore. We went out to the Centre, the vultures are just starting to breed, so we did not look too closely at the colony aviaries but did see the new breeding aviaries, which are now filled with birds. We spent the next couple of days discussing the progress, planning for the coming breeding season, having a look at incubators and probably getting in the way of the staff who were getting ready for an influx of people from all over the world at the SAVE meeting. The meetings went well, three days of them! I was definitely meetinged out by the end of it. Ian Newton and I travelled back together and it went well, although catching a plane at 3.30am is not fun really, however it did mean that Adam Bloch who met me at Heathrow and drove me home, (thanks Adam) got me home in time for coffee – and a heavenly shower – and a bacon sandwich!

Although if I have a complaint it would be to the designers of Terminal Five – the shuttle train to get you from the plane to arrivals is very poor, we had to wait until the third train before we could get on and there was no option to walk, which I like to do after a long flight – very badly done I thought, particularly for a new terminal.

It is lovely to be home, it has been a little grey and overcast, but its still good to be back. Adam is in Guatemala doing his cycling bit and we are all hoping that he is having a good time. The wedding with Katana went Very Well, Holly and Sally went to do it and came back very happy that it had all gone according to plan (so was I, I have to say!).

Linda and Mark did a photographic job while I was away, that worked and the client got some stunning photos. Robin and Michele have just done SIX lectures to a school in Tewksbury in one day!! They came back pleased, relieved and tired. Anabelle has gone off home to Mauritius and will be back before Christmas. Simon is still delighted with his motorbike, but it is no longer here! Because we are redoing the freezer shed, prior to the new walk in Freezer arriving, he was worried about it, so it lives in a smart garage off site all by its little self! Although he and Adam blew it on their sojourns away. Simon left a lure in the rucksack that we use looking for lost birds, that took us several days to find the smell after he had gone to India and I found a lure and three pickup pieces in Adam’s bag yesterday!!! I on the other hand cleaned out my bag before I left!

The electrics in the Hawk Walk is coming on, I think it is just a question of joining up all the various bits of cable now. The heaters are in, the switches are in, the line has been tested, the steel armoured cable is in, just boxes and then the big switch on (and pray! Opps, sorry Richard!) and the birds will be snug and warm.

Friday, 11 November 2011

I am off to India at 5.00am tomorrow morning, car, train, shuttle and plane, arriving in Delhi at 1.25am on Sunday morning, three hours in a hotel if we are lucky and then a four to five hour train trip to Kalka. I hope, as usual, to survive the trip, Anabelle is staying in the house and caring for dogs, horse and house. Its raining heavily for the first time in a while. My staff will be as good as ever - I know. Mike and Richard will move things forward on the heating for the birds and I long for the 20th when I am home again. DON'T send me any emails until I am back - please!!
Thursday, 10 November 2011

Furiously getting ready to go to India, I am not a great traveller, I love my home too much, particularly as I got so very close to losing it, that makes you appreciate home far more. The washing is done, my office is more or less clear, my wonderful staff are more than capable of coping and hopefully I will survive yet another series of plane flights, which I do not enjoy.

Anabelle and Michele came out to do Mollie this evening so they know what to do, she did not know what hit her, three people grooming tidying and feeding her, As we walked out to the stables, the sky was a little cloudy, but the moon was out, it gave good light but sort of out of focus, it was easy to see without a torch, but still amazingly warm. Mollie still has not had her new winter rug on yet, although I am not unhappy about that as we don’t have the heating in yet, so the longer the forecast hard winter takes to come, the better as far as I am concerned.I think she liked it!She whinnied loudly as we got there, probably because we were late because everyone stayed a little late this evening to help with the electrics. Richard taught us how to put together various bits for the heating in the Hawk Walk, including leaving his tools which was wonderful. Had I not got the wrong number of tiny bolts we would have finished, as it was by 7.30pm we got an awful lot done, Adam is the best at it, with Anabelle a close second. Mark and Anabelle were going through the Lantra award at the same time, electrics is more fun with a lot of people and a glass of wine.

Mark and Michele took a number of birds to Neil Forbes today, a vet run we label it, we took an elderly Barn Owl who is not well, but the prognosis is OK, I am glad we took her. Delectable to have her feet checked as we were worried, but with changed perching and some permanent monitoring and ointment, she should be fine, with her abnormal leg she will be a long term bird to watch. She was NOT impressed by her new perch. She came out of the box and went straight to it, and then looked properly at it, and you could see that she said – what the hell is that – aaagggghhhhhh and refused to go near it, vultures are so suspicious!! Mozart had a good check up and is not bad for his age (the same could probably be said for me!) Lady Isabel has a tummy infection, which is good to know, and fixable and explains why she has not been getting properly fit, and Alexandria probably has the Peregrine virus, so we have treatment for her. An expensive but important visit to Vet’s Now, and if you can’t afford to go to a good vet, you should not have the animal in the first place.

Most of the leaves are going now, we have had several dull days, but this is still the best place in the world!

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Is anyone out there having problems with PayPal, I am not getting confirmation emails and it is very concerning and they are being about as helpful as an extremely dead donkey. I may have to remove the option of using them soon. And what is even more annoying is that they are not admitting the fault is theirs, which it most definitely is. They are going to be in big trouble if they don’t fix it before December that is for sure.

The British Airways advert that is showing at the moment takes me back to the day I flew back to the UK with the birds, June 13th 200. The shots of the huge
jumbo jet makes me remember sitting in the cockpit of the enormous plane with the tiny window at the front, smoothly racing down the runway at Atlanta airport and taking off into the rising sun with all my birds, my dogs and my life, flying back to something that I had no idea if I could deal with, and no home to go to. It was a memorable and unforgettable moment.

I see that that idiot Robin Page is at it again, - Time to prey on predators – in his country column in the Telegraph, if I were a farmer I would be ashamed of him, although I am not convinced he actually is one. Interesting that they show a drawing of a Sparrow-hawk rather than a photo and then a
photo of a non-indigenous species of animal that is frequently hunted and shot because of the damage it does. I wish he would learn a little about wildlife because he sure as hell does not know what he is talking about, but then he is very short, perhaps that explains it! I wonder if he gets paid for that rubbish.

I just filled in a form called the million women study, I am really bad at forms because the boxes never give the option that I want to give, so I either leave it blank or put in my own! Not quite sure about the question of how many bowel movements I have a week, that depends entirely on if I have been to India or not and the answers would be extremely variable. Loved the one about how many units of alcohol I drank in my 20’s 40’s and 60’s, I put ‘are you serious – who the hell knows’! And I suspect they are going to be somewhat interested in my diet – breakfast cereal – NO!

However I am feeling very virtuous because I have gone through my various in trays and cleared as much as I can before going to India (and increased bowel movements!) It is looking much healthier now, with only the usual things that I want to get done, but never manage, they get to be old friends in the end.

It was a glorious day on Sunday, Simon is back, and Holly and things are getting back to normal, we had lovely visitors, many of them now good friends and the birds flew brilliantly. On the Saturday evening wee went to a fireworks display that Laurence, a friend of Richards did, Richard was the vital assistant, it was very very impressive, I have never been to one other than the ones we do here, the only thing was I forgot to take my camera which is now annoying me!

I have got to the point where I think that R and D (research and development) departments should not be allowed. Last year we put in a water heater in the weighing room, it is small and it has a tap that apparently is the relief valve as well. Remembering that hot water expands and so it needs somewhere to expand, well the idiot that designed this system thought it would be a good idea to have the water expand through the tap. So we were told not to turn the tap off fully, so that the water could dribble out and dribble it did, almost permanently. Well that might be fine in a household with one person, but it sure as hell does not work where up to twenty different people may use the tap. To start with you have no idea where to stop in turning off the tap, where is too far???? Its like giving directions to get somewhere and stating that if you get to the roundabout you have gone too far, by which time it is too late! I think it is a clever ploy because the flaming tap is £150, and we would need one about every nine months. However we are changing the system to get rid of the bloody tap, although it is turning out to be immensely more complicated than I would like.

We got a lot done today, although I found it a frustrating one, and still have not ridden Mollie, we cleaned and re-perched and painted all the owl enclosures in the small falcon block, made room for a pair of Mottled Owls that are coming, and moved the kestrels around so we could put the two new pairs of Lesser Kestrels in there. They are not in the best of condition feather wise and so need to be in a nice safe, secure, dry and warm aviary, which they now are. Had another injured wild buzzard in yesterday as well, they are nearly always males, I wish I knew why.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Good God, what the hell happened to the rest of October, I can’t believe it is November already. Charlie came down and totally rebuilt my bathroom, I have a new shower, which I can’t use for another day, a new bath because the old one was not well, a new basin because the old one was broken, a new and safe set of stairs down into the bathroom as the old ones were going to kill me at some point, and the same loo, but in a different place, oh and a new floor of beautiful stone tiles, it looks amazing and is nearly finished. We then, that would be Michele and I – and yes she is out of hospital and no we have no idea what was actually wrong – had a cleaning session. I have this habit of having a major clear out on occasion, and this seemed like the ideal chance, so all the drawers in the various bits of furniture had a clear out – I found my wedding cards, so they all went in the bin as did a fair number of very old drugs (legal I hasten to add) that were somewhat out of date to say the very least.

I have done all the clothing drawers a couple of weeks ago, now all I have to do is find the time to get a couple of pieces of wood, fill various holes in the wall, clean and stain the new stairs and paint the room, oh and when I can afford it new curtains as the ones in there are awful!

The leaves on many of the trees are going fast now, with only the oaks still green, they are always the last to go. It is still amazingly mild for the time of year which is good for us and the birds, we are finally getting some rain, but not a lot, however the pond is looking fractionally better. We have only one more compartment left to do in the insulation of the Hawk Walk we are saving it for Simon when he comes back from India on Sunday!! Richard gave me a lesson in electrics last night, so we are wiring up the tubular heaters that are going to go under the perches, should get it done and dusted by the end of the month I hope.

Tom is making the last of the food drawers so when I feed round at Christmas it will all be done and clean and tidy!! And we have ordered the walk in deep freeze, I found a good company that are doing one at a reasonable price and we have help with the cost, we only need to completely re do the freezer shed and it can go in. It will be lovely to have a clean fresh freezer and a clean and fresh and insulated room for it. We are moving ever forwards!

The birds are well and most are flying to a good standard, the three new kites are all catching properly now, we ground Pioneer on Monday, Mark wants her to have a rest and I want her to have some time with her siblings which will be good for her, then Cremorne will come out in January and hopefully we will not chase her round the country again! Rinkhals did a rehearsal for an Owl Evening and was stunningly good, all the other owls are working well and Holly and I rehearsed two of them for our first wedding soon and that went fine too. The only problem I have is with the various staff being off I have had little or no time for anything including riding Mollie, I hope that will change.


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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