Wednesday, 26 December 2012
Won't it be nice if she breed this year!
Its Boxing day, I have full charge of all livestock, dogs, horse, birds! So most of the mornings are taken up with feeding checking and so on. This is the first time I have done it in a long time, Simon never seemed to go much for Christmas and so he would feed the birds in the morning on Christmas day, shoot off to see family and be back by the evening, but he left working here on Christmas Eve, so I have got the job. Actually I like it, it means I can check things, probably why no one likes me to do it. I already have a list of things to be fixed or put right and I have found some interesting things on the studwork in the corridors, we certainly have a good mixture of screws!!! And eggs!!! I did not dare drop any of them as I suspect there would have been a loud bang and a very bad smell. Still never mind, new regime in place as of Jan 2nd 2013, which I am praying will be a drought year!!! There can’t be more rain after New Year – can there??!!
I had my Christmas party on Christmas Eve, for friends and locals, it is the third year and it seems to be popular, but what a difference from two years ago when it was freezing cold, snow on the ground and ice all over the car park, this year I had to open doors as the fires in the sitting room and my office had made the house too warm!!! The trees looked lovely, the house lends itself to entertaining – although I only do it once a year! Most of the food went and everyone seemed to have a good time – same time same place next year!!
We finished our last two owl evenings on Fri and Sat and amazingly got away with the weather which I did not think was possible looking at the forecast. One audience was great the other was not!! The birds did very well and the lights just about held out, but only just with the wet ground. We are going to have to do something about them before February. The owls are now off duty until the last week in Jan when they all need to get going again for opening on February 1st.
We will tackle the flats at the start of January, as well as getting the last of the major cleaning done, we are close to being ready for the breeding season already. I had a look in the flats today, there is a fair bit to do to get them back to how they were in early 2009! Out with the magnolia paint I think, I was disappointed to see that someone has painted the nice pine stairs and banisters, that is a great shame, and difficult to undo.
The weather yesterday, although wet to start with turned lovely as I fed round, the sun came out and birds began to sing, it was a real treat after all this grey dull light that we have lived with for weeks now. Now sadly we are back to rain again, what a surprise. I do feel so sorry for those poor people living close to water and watching it rise to threaten or flood their homes.
Ah well, better take the dogs out for a run, which means putting Leaf on a lead, I think I am going to have to find a good home for her, because out with the pack she is pretty difficult to manage. Holly has taken her home for a weekend occasionally and she is so much better on her own, she is also chasing birds, which is not good news for us here.
All the birds up at Duncombe are settled and doing well and the birds that we have moved around here are also settled, even the new Golden Eagles seem to have settled and the White-backed Vultures as well. Here is praying for a dry 2013!
Monday, 10 December 2012

Written by a good friend of mine - it appears that Grouse Moor owners and their keepers have gone back to the Victorian times and are happy to shoot everything they consider a threat regardless of the law and the desire of the rest of the country.

Bowland Beth, a first year female Hen harrier has been shot and recovered from a Yorkshire grouse moor.

I visited The Forest of Bowland  in Lancashire towards the end of May in 2012. Bowland had once been the stronghold of breeding Hen harriers in England. In the late 1980s and early 1990s there had been 20+ pairs. Then there’d been a decline which was reversed from 2003 to 2008 followed by a severe decline to none in 2012.

I was told that at the moment the outlook for Hen harriers in England was dire. Perhaps this was going to be the year when Bowland would lose its breeders, they were down to single pair and that was in the north of England.  Maybe I would be lucky and see Bowland Beth – named after the character Bet Lynch in the TV soap opera Coronation Street.  She was a female fledged at Bowland in 2011 and she had been fitted with a satellite transmitter. Satellite tracking has revolutionised our knowledge of the Hen harriers comings and goings. From them it may be possible to evolve a strategy to protect harriers. I’d already seen the video recording made at that nest and I knew she was the most precocious of the four chicks, the first to fledge. 

I was shown a print out from the satellite tracking Beth’s journeys.  On 23rd July last year she left The Forest of Bowland and flew to the Yorkshire Dales spending the autumn and early part of the winter on a grouse moor Bethween Grassington and Pateley Bridge. Did she have some ancestral map in her brain that enabled her pin point the best foraging areas but also the best places to roost? She returned to Bowland on 2nd February 2012.  In mid-March she again headed back to the grouse moors in Yorkshire before returning to Bowland. In April she returned to the grouse moors in Yorkshire and to my amazement, within the next ten days, she travelled 450 kilometres to a point just north of Inverness. What racial memory pulled her in that direction, were her ancestral ties linked to the Orkneys?  Anyway two days later she was back in Bowland.  I marvelled at the mobility of this fine bird.  I was told that RSPB staff had seen her ‘skydancing’ and ripping up bits of heather so it looked like she is about to breed if she can find a mate.


She had no luck finding a mate, so on 1st May she left Bowland heading for Drumnadrochit, passed through Forsinard in the flow country – that would have been a good place to stay - and reached Thurso on 8th May. An epic journey of 510 kms.

Over the next twelve days she wended her way back south again and was in the Grampian mountains by 20th May. What an adventurous, feisty lady she was and no sign of a mate yet.

I had endless discussions with conservationists and a grouse moor owner about what was being done to save the Hen harrier from extinction in England. As long ago as 2006 The Environment Council set up a Hen Harrier Stakeholders Committee to try and resolve the conflict between the conservationists and the owners of the grouse moors. At the moment there isn’t any conflict because there aren’t any Hen harriers on grouse moors in England

If Hen harriers were ever allowed to breed undisturbed and numbers increased sufficiently a scheme has been discussed in which a quota of surplus Hen harrier chicks would be translocated from grouse moors, reared artificially and then re-located back to their original sites in the autumn.  This has the potential to allow for Hen harriers and driven grouse shooting to exist side-by-side. At the moment the status of the Hen harrier as a breeding bird in England hangs by a thread and is threatened by extinction.  The government have now made a commitment that there will be no extinction of English wildlife by 2020. If they act immediately the Hen harrier can be saved as a breeding bird in England.

Unbeknown to me as I left to catch my train home, Bowland Beth was homing in on the Forest of Bowland. When I’d last heard of her she was in the Grampian Mountains. Now she was back in Bowland and quite close to the nest site where she fledged in 2011. I missed her by about 5 hours.

She stayed at Bowland for a couple of days and then on 25th May headed north-east using the prevailing wind to settle on the grouse moors around Pateley Bridge. This is where she had spent her last autumn and winter. It seemed as though she had found a good billet for the summer. Her immediate future was secure.

When I got back there was a message telling me that on June 3rd Beth was still near Pateley Bridge and letting me know that she was fine.

Another fix on 11th June showed that Beth had contracted her foraging range to the grouse moors around Nidderdale and Colsterdale.  This was probably due to several days of prolonged rain. It was one of the wettest Junes in living memory. Heavy cloud cover meant that for several days there was no accurate fix on her. On about 14th June I was becoming concerned for her. Maybe the transmitter had failed. The manufacturers were contacted and asked whether the last fixes were reliable. I now felt sure that something had happened to Beth sometime between 8th and 11th June. Beth’s approximate position on a map was known. The landowner was contacted. He couldn’t have been more co-operative and arranged for the head keeper to help in the search. Using a hand-held scanner Beth was located at 11 am on 5th July. She was lying face down in a patch of heather and blueberry. The satellite tag was plainly visible. A post-mortem showed that she had been shot. A pellet had broken her leg and nicked the femoral artery. Tests showed really good traces of lead embedded in the bone. Beth probably would have been able to fly a few miles before she bled out and collapsed onto the grouse moor where she was found.

Bowland Beth was a beautiful bird, an amazing bird. Her story is remarkable. We should be celebrating her life now and her becoming a parent and tracking her sons and daughters. 

We will probably never know what happened. Perhaps this fearless, naive bird went a wing beat too far and had to run the gauntlet to regain the grouse moor which she knew as home. We grieve that, illegally, she was cut down in the prime of life. I hope she has not died in vain.
Saturday, 8 December 2012
You know it would be so nice if all these damn websites would let you buy stuff without having to sign up, or register, particularly if you are able to pay with PayPal. It’s so annoying and frustrating, a very few have the option to just buy without all that crap – good on you guys, it is much easier and much pleasanter.
Talking of good on you, which is sort of Australian, puts me in mind of the news today, what a dreadful shame about the nurse who had the unfortunate experience of picking up the phone to those Australian morons who thought it was clever to try and imitate the queen. What should be a wonderful time for the Royal family spoilt by idiots who obviously don’t have a brain cell, and how miserable for the nurse’s family, I really feel for her and for them. Personally I hope the perpetrators never get a job again, they don’t deserve one. I have never been one for practical jokes, I think they are mindless, stupid, unpleasant and can be, as we have seen, incredibly hurtful. I also think that while we are on the subject of TV and Radio Chat shows and the press – yes please - lets have some laws to control them, because they sure as hell will not control themselves and anyone who thinks they will is sadly mistaken.
I bought a couple of tins of soup last week because the café is now closed, they were so awful that I went out and bought a book on how to make soup – 400 recipes,. Well that was a waste of time and money, not one of them is normal soup!!! I can have mushroom and pear, or chicken and lime or Chorizo (which I loath) and a ton of things, but is there any bog standard nice ordinary soup, nope, not one!! So if anyone wants a book on lots of fancy soups, I have one you can have!!
The weather was glorious today, I went for a lovely ride, got some work done, opened another day on my Jacqui Lawson Advent Calendar – they are wonderful!! Took the dogs for all walk and in a minute will get ready for the Owl Evening – only five to go!!
The aviary cleaning goes on apace, and we had a major workshop tidy as well, its always a good thing to do as for about a week you can actually find things again, until chaos re ensues!! Its Adam last few days next week, he finishes on Wednesday! Then by the end of the week I think he is off to Dubai. Simon finishes just before Christmas, so over the Christmas period it will be very quiet, and I get to look after all the birds, so I will be busy. John is continuing to do an amazing job on the enclosures, I can’t believe how much up to speed we are. We should get the worst of it done by Christmas at this rate, with only the Owl Courtyard and the Small Falcons to get redone in January.
The forecast for next week is back to cold, although I think people are forgetting how cold it was three winters ago now, when we had five days of hoar frost and temperatures below -16 here – that was cold!!!
Monday, 3 December 2012
The rain is back!! But only temporarily I hope. I am cooking three joints of lamb for an Owl Evening this evening. We are putting it on in support of the village Church, the wall of the churchyard is in imminent danger of collapsing and we will raise over £1000 for it tonight. However the downside is that I have to cook the lamb that has been donated by the Credland’s, and we know what I feel about cooking!!! Hope it survives!
The last two Owl Evenings went very well, it was clear and bright with an almost full moon which always means that if the sky is good, Cool Ground, the Snowy Owl looks just wonderful as you can see him without our lights.
We are now closed although I think we probably should have stayed open for this last weekend, but one can never tell, certainly next year as Dec 1st lands on a Sunday, we will open and close on the 2nd. Talking of which I bought myself and some family and friends an Advent Calendar by Jacquie Lawson, you should get one, they are tremendous fun. A really cheap way to have a lovely run up to Christmas, I have decorated the tree in the calendar, and built a snowman, it’s very interactive and wonderful to do. Just google Jacquie Lawson and it will come up, her cards are superb anyway, as an e-card they are unbeatable.
The aviary cleaning and moving of birds around moves on apace, and John is doing an amazing job of getting it all organised, we are all very impressed and it may for once all be close to being done before Christmas, which will make my job of looking after it all between Christmas and New Year all the easier. Simon is back from the States, not sure what is happening there, although I am told there are all sorts of innuendos on FaceBook, but I still struggle with FaceBook I have to say. And I am not sure why you would want to put everything on there!!
Mike and I, well OK mainly Mike, have hopefully fixed the roof, but it looks like we are going to have to go for a complete re roof next year, the tiles that are on there are far too large and don’t work, so we have to go back to the kind that were on there before all 14280 of them!!! I have no idea how we are going to afford to do it, but we plan on doing it ourselves which will cut the cost down, and if we save the old tiles that will make some funds towards the new ones. I am really looking forward to that as you can imagine!!!
Art with furry ears!
I rode out both days at the weekend, it was great fun, and lovely but cold weather, I had a good time, although I am not sure Art did, I hope so. I did have a job to put my riding boot on as my toe is not right, I went to the Dilk hospital on Friday, hoping to get it X-rayed, but the X-ray people were not there, which was a drag. Ah well I am sure it will get better over time, it probably needs resting and putting up – no chance of that happening!
We took the Range-Rover into Buckland’s, and as a precaution I untaxed and uninsured it afterwards, because I suspect it may never come home again. It’s a great shame as I have had Range Rovers since the 1980’s, and I love them, but needs must at this point, and I certainly can’t afford to fix it if there is something major wrong, nor buy another one. Although even if I was very rich (which would be lovely!) I would not buy one of the new ones, they are hideous!! They look like someone has dropped something really heavy on them, they are NOT a proper Range Rover!!!
 Ooooooooooooppppppppppps I forgot that the kitchen fills with smoke if I have the oven up high – ah well the lamb is surviving so far – just…………..
Tuesday, 27 November 2012
What a shitty shitty week, the rain here has been unbelievable, unless of course you live south of us in which case you have probably had it worse. We actually cancelled the Saturday Owl Evening and we have never done that in probably 14 years of Owl Evenings. But I doubt if people could have got here and if they had negociated the floods, one huge one at the end of our road, they would not have got back because it never stopped raining. In fact it has only just about stopped now.
The flooding around Gloucestershire and Herefordshire is bad, our ground is sodden and groaning with the amount of water there is on and in it. And to cap it all my house has two leaks, one in the loft room which has gone through into the bedroom below and now into the larder, and the other in the main bathroom although that one rather helpfully is coming through the electrics and running down the light cord, so I can catch much of it in a bucket. All in all a depressing time I have to say.
The gardens apart from looking drenched are also looking very very pruned!! Peter Dowle sent two men over for two days and they pruned a substantial part of the garden with substantial pruning!!! It looks a little bar in places. We did all the clearing – in all the rain, and got soaked to the skin for four days,  and Adam managed, heaven knows how, to get a fire going and we burnt most of it, there is still a little to go, but it is very wet right now. I am sure it will look great in the spring!!! I hope so anyway.
We have also had visitors every day, regardless of the weather!! They must be nuts, but it is good to see them. Having said that we are also looking forward to the weekend when we close for eight weeks, and so can get all the birds done early in the day and then move forward with jobs.
John is now organising all the aviary cleaning and clearing and moving of birds. Because we took a reasonable number of birds up to Charlie’s, we have a bit of space which is wonderful, and so we are cleaning, and moving pair around to where we think they may do better. I brought a whole load of new perches down from Duncombe as we had had extra made and generally we hope to get most done before Christmas, and at worst all the barns containing early laying birds.
Art has been clipped – he looks very smart, and now does not get so hot and sweaty when he is schooled. We hope to take him over for a lesson to the local riding school next week, I will be pleased to do it and see how he reacts to travel and then work, it may be rather more exciting that I want!
I managed to stub my toe last Tuesday, I did not think anything of it apart from swearing when it happened and hopping around a bit. About three days later I noticed it was fairly bruised but now I am lame on it, and I suspect I broke something as it is swollen and sore.
So not a great week, here is hoping that December brings something better along, and perhaps my Range Rover will only have a minor fault…………………..
Monday, 19 November 2012
Flipping Henry, another Owl Evening is over and done, where does the time go, and it was another cool night, and a busy one – full to bursting, so it was fun, not that they aren’t all fun.
So what has happened in the week, John, Simon and Adam had a successful time at Duncombe, they finished all they should have done and helped Charlie along the way I hope. They all came back very excited about the place and the barns and the setting and everything about it.

John then discovered that his albino crow had escaped while he was away, he and Lisa were devastated, he had the next morning off and searched and searched, but no joy. Adam and Simon were off that day, Adam went to a free course in London that did not turn out to be what he had hoped, and sadly had Tash’s bike stolen off the roof of his car while it was parked at the station. Simon saw us all working away getting ready to pack up birds for the trip up and decided that he wanted to help, which was very useful I have to say, because it was a tough and long day.
We had decided to catch up and box the birds in the afternoon as we were leaving at 4.45am the following morning and it would have been dangerous to the birds to catch them up in the dark. So all the boxes were ready, clean and new carpet on the floor. The two trailers hitched up and ready, and Colin Pennycuick who had contacted me previously about taking tracings of various bird wings arrived for lunch and got his paper and pens at the ready. We caught up 72 birds and took wing measurements from over half, we coped them all, wormed them and gave them all Critical Care to cope with the trip, boxed them up and put them in the various trailers, and those that were going up in a van were put quietly in the stock room. We started with the Steller’s and worked down from there, ending up with the Burrowing Owls. It was only one day out of 8 years ago that we were packing up 189 birds to go to the US which was a little uncanny, and a few of the birds were ones that had done that trip and back again! We are pretty efficient at this sort of thing now I have to say.

So I then did the horse, took the dogs round the field, had a shower and we all went up to the Yew Tree for a meal to say goodbye to Anabelle. We had clubbed together and bought her a bike that Adam had chosen, so that was going up too!

I left before the others (as usual) because I was getting up at 4.00am – so was Anabelle, but she is much younger than I am! 4.00am dawned, or rather did not dawn as it was dark and very foggy – great, perfect for a five hour drive. David and Mark Kay arrived at 4.15am and by 4.25 we had loaded up the last boxes and the bike, moved all the vehicles out into the car park, and had a cup of tea. I drove the Landrover and horse trailer, Mark and Linda were in the Range Rover and the bird trailer, Dave and Mark had their large van and Anabelle had her car – she left us at the end of the M50 as we were not travelling that fast.
We arrived at about 10.00am, and immediately started to unload and put the birds into their various enclosures, it took about two hours by the time we had unboxed them all and put the boxes under cover. All the birds made the trip well and settled very very well in their new enclosures, there was little in the way of crashing and they looked wonderful, although Charlie said that the aviaries kept much cleaner without birds in them however they were a little boring to look at after a while! We had some lunch at the Centre, and Mark and David left at about 1.00pm, Linda Mark Parker and I left at 1.30, leaving Charlie and Anabelle and Duncan and Rebecca – two volunteers ( Duncan from Newent and Rebecca from Yorkshire) to feed all the birds and carry on.
All are still fine and settled well, which is very relieving. We filled up the vehicles, got five miles down the road the and the Range Rover died. Thank goodness it was on the trip back, and thank goodness for the AA who arrived within an hour, loaded the car up, hitched up the trailer and we left them to it. I did mention that if they wanted to lose the Range Rover on the way back that would be fine, but please return the trailer. They dropped it off at about 10.30 that night. Linda Mark and I drove back in the Landrover which behaved very well, because of the delay we hit awful traffic on the M42 around the airport, but got home at about 8.00pm after over 11 hours of driving!!
Friday we recovered and I had two riding lessons, and Art was very good and so was I! Saturday we were busy and the owl evening went well. The staff had managed to get three of the empty aviaries in the tiny owl block winter cleaned, re perched and painted so we were finally able to put out the Ferruginous Pygmy Owls, who are charming, very settled, and enchanting all the visitors, I just need to find the time to do a sign for them.
Sunday we had a half experience day and a half teaching photo day and very few staff so I did the photo morning with Linda teaching and Holly and John did the half experience day and Simon demolished the old temporary cage that had held the Pygmy Owls, the weather was perfectly glorious in the morning, a perfect late autumn day, it got a big hazy in the afternoon but we still had a great day.
Today Clear Vision is coming to fix the windscreen in the little van which I broke with a fence rail. Which reminds me…… I first phoned Autoglass to get a price – BE VERY CAREFULL!!! Their first quote was over £500 so after a few choice words and a mention that it was probably more than the vehicle was worth, they gave me a better one of about £380. I then phoned Clear Vision who quoted £120!!! I did say that was great because Autoglass had quoted far more, and the chap said that I was the second phone call that day with the same problem. SO phone around if you need a windscreen and remember that if your insurance company is using Autoglass which mine is, phone them and tell them that they need to phone around as well, because if they are being charged £500 instead of £120 which I suspect they are – that is one of the reasons insurance is high.
Saturday, 10 November 2012
We have just finished our second Owl Evening, it was crisp and cold, no moon but plenty of stars, the birds all did really well and the whole thing was seemlessly good!! The new indoor flying area is stunning with the low level lighting, I am so pleased with it, far better than the old Education room. I have just checked round, given Art some more hay, given the dogs a run and am eating really cheap microwaved fish fingers  - and yes, you can tell they are cheap! Shame I bought two packets really!
The duncombe finishing team are off at 5.00am tomorrow morning, will I wave them goodbye, probably not!! Although I might, you never know. Hummmmmmm the last two fish fingers are still cold - yuck! I have a riding lesson first thing and then its girls day at the Centre, Holly, Anabelle and I! We have a half day, but thank goodness the photo day is postponed, otherwise we would be a bit tight for staff.
I have finally started a very late newsletter, and realised that there is a ton of stuff to go in to catch up. Still it will be good to get back into getting new stuff up on the website, I have been lax putting stuff up, but then I really have been away such a lot it is not surprising.
I missed having Mozart there on the Owl Evening, Hemp has taken his aviary, and loves it, but although she is wonderful, it is not quite the same.
The boxes to move all the birds are nearly ready, everyone has been getting the boxes that I used to move to and back from the US down from storage and ready to go up to Helmsley, they have proved very useful and I sell the occasional one if a zoo needs to move birds as they are good boxes and have passed the test of time. I might even get my money back on them eventually, although I doubt it!! We are taking two trailers full and one van, so it will be an interesting trip.
Thursday, 8 November 2012

The Nepal Vulture Breeding team!!
Nepal, November 4 - 7th and the weather was lovely, sunny and warm but not too hot, although it was interesting that the Nepalese and Indians all wanted the heaters on and the British all went round and turned them off!!! The hotel  was pleasant, with nice gardens and the hot water was hot, which was a huge bonus. This trip was for the main yearly SAVE which stands for Save Asian Vultures from Extinction. It’s a group that encompasses India, Nepal, Pakistan, Myanmar and Bangladesh. We cover the monitoring of vultures in the wild, the implementation of Vulture Save Zone, these are zones that are made safe for the wild birds, and eventually these will be areas used for releasing the captive bred birds as well. Advocacy is covered and is crucial because without political lobbying to make sure that diclofenac  (and sadly now other NSAIDS that have proved to be toxic as well) is properly banned for use as veterinary drug, our breeding efforts will be a waste of time. We cover the breeding programmes, looking forward to the first releases and various other topics over a two day period. It is hard work, but when we finally succeed  with the project it will all be very worth-while.

That was pretty much the last big trip this year, which is good because things they are a ‘changing at the Centre. On my return from Nepal  last time, Michele had left to go back to the US and work on her degree. We miss her, but have a number of work experience people waiting in the wings to come and join us. However it was more of a surprise when Adam announced that he felt he wanted to leave and challenge himself to work in the conservation field, i.e. go out into the field for research, as have Ben and Nasha. He is planning on funding it with his artwork, which is first class, and all we can do is wish him the best of luck with it all. He will be with us until the end of February.
It came as a much bigger surprise when Simon also announced that he felt very stale and was not even looking forward to the next breeding season, or flying his goshawk,  and so wanted to leave. He has been our Curator for four years and been solely in charge of the breeding. He has also gone to India three times to assist with the incubation training there. The breeding season is very tiring and stressful, particularly if you work alone, which Simon likes to do and our breeding season is also very long, in fact we have eggs already,  and chicks so there are very few months of the year when none of the birds are breeding, so I can understand his feeling of tiredness and staleness, and again we can only wish him the best of luck with his future – oh and don’t forget to take your motorbike Simon! 

All this might seem shocking, but no staff member stays for ever, they have other things they might want to do, and other lives that they live. The Centre carries on, there will be changes, but they may be for the good, you can never tell. We will look forward, new people will come, although not straight away, the birds will be as well looked after as ever and we will welcome our visitors with pleasure as ever.

For now the next thing we concentrate on,  is getting the ICBP Duncombe Centre finished so that we can take up a significant number of birds into their new and very smart and comfortable enclosures. This will happen this month, thus giving us a number of spare enclosures at Newent, and that means we can refurbish, tidy, clean and paint them and move birds around so that they are also more comfortable – and all this before Christmas!!! So all volunteers feel free to come in and help us during the second half of November and December up to about the 21st!

So although there is great change coming at the Centre, its an exciting time for us, both at Newent and the new branch in Helmsley.
Sunday, 28 October 2012
Well I am back home again, and wonderful it is too. The trip back was a little fraught as there was fog at Heathrow so I was late back, but it was good to get home. Robin collected me. I was home for about three days and then went to London yesterday to see War Horse the play. Miranda Richardson took me, it was the 5th anniversary and we met the author who was absolutely charming. The play was quite wonderful, and the party afterwards was fun, although I know there were a ton of famous people there and I did not recognise anyone!! I felt like a very country person, but that is fine. It was bitterly cold yesterday, but beautifully clear and sunny, having had days of grey misty tepid weather it changed on Friday, and we have finally been busy, but chilly. I have ridden Art who has recovered from his lameness and was very good today, I have almost caught up with things, I have two meetings in London next week and then off to Nepal again. We did our first owl evening last night, Richard has put some lovely lighting in the Indoor Hawk Walk, so instead of using the iZone for the first part of the flying we moved to there and with low level lighting and a much kinder room in terms of space, it worked really well and all the owls, both inside and out did brilliantly.
I think I was homesick in Spain!! How about that for being stupid, I should add that when writing this bit I was not at home, but abroad again, however the more I leave home for various trips, and I was on my third one in less than a month right now, with another one to come, the more I realise how much I love my home and don’t really enjoy leaving it. Of course I am lucky enough have a lovely (if cold!) house, full of things that I have collected together over a lifetime, and I have six (at the moment) wonderful dogs who keep me sane and give me pretty much all the company I could need – bearing in mind that I see people on a daily basis all bar about either days of the year over Christmas. I also have an amazing staff who are almost family, and not forgetting the birds who form the core of all our lives at the Centre.
To be fair, I went to Spain with a seriously nasty cough and cold and managed to get sicker while I was there. (Still have the damn cough now) I don’t think I was the best of company, which made me feel guilty, and the group picture taken at the end of the workshop shows me looking remarkably pale I suspect, having just thrown up for the third time!  Annoyingly too, I guess through being not well and over tired, I took my camera and left the damn card in my desk top computer at home, so I got no photos, and I left behind a couple of bits of paper that I needed, and did not check my external hard drive for all the photos either, none of which is like me, I am usually pretty anal about getting ready. Mind you, if I have to catch that damn 4.00am bus  to Heathrow again this year I will be decidedly pissed off about it. I don’t think I have been as tired as I was when we finally got to Baeza, which was at about 9.00pm, so from 3.00am to then and not feeling well made for a very very long day. I am also too old and set in my ways to eat a meal at 9.30pm!!  That is only half an hour before my bedtime normally!!! And that is what I did instead of going out for supper!
The workshop was interesting and it was very good to see some of the papers of release programmes from around Europe. It was good to see old friends again as well, and at the end of the workshop, Miguel took Ian Newton, Phil Whitfield and me to Donana National Park, which is amazing. It does not get dark over there until about 8.00pm which meant we had time to drive around a good area of the park in a Landrover. (my favourite car!) As we drove out we saw a pale phased Booted Eagle soaring above us, then we saw a Black Shouldered Kite, they really are just beautiful birds, I could not believe that we saw flamingos! Red Kites were pretty numerous as well, although sadly Miguel did not manage to find the breeding pair of Imperial Eagles, but did show us a beautiful and ancient Cork Oak tree where they had nested in the past. 

I think too that I have never been adventurous about different types of food either, probably a cause of my upbringing and the fact that as a child, I am not sure there was anything much in the way of choice or different types of food. Mother much as we all loved her was not an adventurous cook (nor should I add am I! In fact cooking was a chore for mother and as I don’t have to look after any other human than myself I at least don’t have that problem!). Her idea of vegetarian food was a baked potato and frozen peas, God help any vegetarian that stayed more than one meal! These days vegetarians can get the most amazing things at restaurants, although I would warn that coming to me for a meal is a problem regardless of your eating preferences! Anyway the point of this digression is that going abroad means eating food that you are not used to, and some of my friends love it and will try anything and I am very seriously boring and really do not enjoy much of it! Which as my various friends tell me is silly because I am missing a great deal, but just happens to be the way I am. I do wonder if I would like food in China as I do enjoy Chinese food in the UK, but I suspect not as Indian food in the parts of India I go to is nothing like Indian food in the UK.
However I am now getting back to normal and looking forward to what is left of the autumn and all the staff being back in work again!
Monday, 8 October 2012

Well I have to admit to being somewhat exhausted, and not very well either. Got some miserable person’s cold on one of the many planes, which I am hoping to throw off before the next trip.

Simon and I left at an ungodly hour on September 23rd to catch the 4.00am bus to Heathrow, apart from the fact that the bus ground to a halt at the first roundabout getting off to Heathrow, which luckily our driver could sort out, the journey went well, we caught the plane to Bahrain which is a pretty small airport, and then after a four hour wait, got the plane to Delhi. Here things did not go as smoothly. We missed the taxi driver who was supposed to meet us, so took a prepaid taxi to the train station, there some idiot told us that our etickets where not valid and we had to go to the tourist office (at 5.20am!!) and get the right ones – he was lying. We went there which was a two minute drive for which we were charged more than the bloody 40 minute drive from the airport and were told by this very plausible man that the train was delayed by seven hours – he was also lying it turned out – and that the next two were fully booked and so the only way we could get to Pinjore was to fly or go by taxi – so we took a taxi which cost about £120, by which time I was seriously pissed off, but when you are in a foreign country you can never tell if you are being ripped off because you are foreign, or not. Well God help any one who tries that again because I will do the ripping and it will be a part of their anatomy that they are probably quite attached to.


Finally we arrived, having been travelling for over 24 hours, had a shower (a cold one as they never work in the hotel we go to) and went to the VCBC (Vulture Conservation Breeding Centre). We had a great look round, saw all the staff, renewed friendships and sorted out the running order of the course over the next day and a half.

The Incubation Workshop went very well, Simon, myself, Nikita and two of the staff at the Pinjore Centre all did some teaching. We had five people from India, two from Nepal and one from Pakistan, three were vets and three or four scientists so they were a pleasure to teach. As the workshop finished Richard Jones (avian specialist vet) and Chris Bowden arrived. We need to have enough over sea’s veterinary cover for the project to cope with an emergency, so having an extra specialist vet means if we have a problem we should be able to grab one of them to go out quickly. As only really Andrew Routh knows the project well it was good to get Richard out there so he met the people both in India and Nepal and saw two of the sites. We assisted in checking over 14 of this year’s young, and then took the train – with the same damn tickets I had had before – with no problems – back to Delhi. We got to our hotel by about 11.00pm although Richard had to have a beer to recover and get his adrenaline levels down enough from the drive! Unfortunately in the meantime the guy from Pakistan had got himself arrested because he had not had his visa stamped in Pinjore, and so Chris and I had to go and make sure he was OK.


Up at five, except that I read my phone wrong and got up at 4.00am instead (bugger) and back to the airport and off to Kathmandu, then a seven hour drive to do 120 miles over what felt like a very poor farm track most of the time!!  The hotel was good and the shower worked! We spent two days at the Nepal Vulture Centre in Chitwan National Park, the first day assessing the new aviary which is excellent, and talking to the staff about stuff, we also saw the most delightful baby Indian Rhino who had been attacked by a Tiger and survived, and a baby elephant and a not baby tiger that had had to be caught as it was a man-eater. I could have done without seeing the tiger, it was extremely scary.


We had been supposed to help catch up and vet 20 of the birds and had planned to leave the hotel at 5.00am and start before the day heated up. Unfortunately that did not pan out and we did not get there until 11.00 so after dealing with three vultures we had to stop because it was too hot.


We left for Kathmandu at 5.00am (which apparently is now my favourite time to get up!), I went to a meeting while Simon and Richard went to a market, and then we flew out at 9.00pm via Bahrain again. That was not without its excitement as the security men would not let Richard into the airport to start with because he did not have his eticket with him!!! However we managed in the end and it was really nice to be back home by 7.00am the following morning. Anabelle picked Simon and I up, Richard took the train, and we were home in time for coffee and a much welcome bacon sandwich!


The weather was glorious over the Friday Sat and Sun, and it is so nice to be home again even if today is pretty grey and miserable. Art managed to go lame while I was away, and is still recovering, so he never went off on his trip. The dogs are fine and were very pleased to see us. The birds are well and my eagle is just amazing she is flying so well. Next trip Yorkshire on Wed and back by train on Thursday and then Spain on Sunday for a conference.





Saturday, 22 September 2012

It’s one of those most glorious of mornings, and my favourite. Cold but not bitterly, a smattering of frost on the longer grasses, an almost cloudless sky with vivid sunshine and quiet, even the traffic noise which we do get even though the motorway is four miles away, is dim. The leaves are just turning and we are starting to hear autumn bird calls, the plinking of blackbirds – which my Sparrowhawk is fascinated by! The wild Hobby’s are fledged and playing around us, and chasing the house martins, who will be gone by the time we get back. In fact just the sort of day that makes you not want to get up at 1.00am tomorrow morning to catch a 2.00am bus to Heathrow!! Art came cantering up for his breakfast and I have a lesson at 8.30am, he then goes to Sam’s on Monday until we get back from India, so that is one less worry.


Holly and Ben are house sitting with the dogs, Shasta who has a bit of a swelling on the inside of her elbow which we are assured is nothing to worry about, is much better and now coming outside for some of the day. She was getting very stressed being cut in all day, plus she was chewing everything.


All the birds are doing brilliantly, we were flying the merlin yesterday and a wild Goshawk came over which was a delight to see. The two baby Grey Buzzard Eagles in the second clutch had to come out yesterday as mum is on more eggs and was getting a little stressed by them. One has gone back to Chris O’Donnell, the other Mark is going to train, so for the time being it has gone in with Hare and Azor to grow up a little.


All the Lanners are loose now and going well, my Indian Tawny Eagle is now called Plieadies (spelt wrong I think) and she is amazing, I have not seen an eagle come on in such an exciting manner in a long while, we are very very pleased with her.


Had a lesson Art this morning, which went OK, he was a little bumptious, but as I had not ridden for about five days that is not surprising.
Holly, Michele and I along with two Lanners have been filming this week, long tiring and on occasion boring days, but it never fails to amaze me what the birds will do for us. Dawn Run sat on a branch in a tree while a huge camera on a long boom arm can up behind her and filmed the actors with her in the foreground, and then she flew out of frame, Holly was up a step ladder and I was out of camera shot in the distance, although she got so bored with the whole thing that eventually she refused to do the flying bit, so Discovery took over and was very good although she would not deal with the moving camera, however the previous day she had been flying after a four wheeled vehicle with another huge boom arm on the top and the camera filming her as she flew after the car, Holly was in the car, Michele released the falcon and then did a dramatic drop to the ground to get out of shot, and I called her in at the end – it was amazing stuff and the birds were brilliant.


Got to finish off stuff, and get packed and so I will write again when I get back on October 4th





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.

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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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