Friday, 25 May 2012
Back on a train again yesterday morning, waiting to go to London for a Hawk and Owl Trust meeting, the weather forecast had predicted the hottest day of the year in London, great! I knew I was going to be sitting in an office while the weather was glorious outside, however having said that it was raining on the way to the station. I had to leave much earlier than usual because the Olympic torch was going through Gloucester, oh joy! I then discovered to my even greater joy that having been incredibly organised the day before when waiting for some people at to arrive at the station, I bought my tickets including the car park and the tube, I left them on the kitchen table so had to start again. Not an auspicious start to the day.
Leaf is lame, I am not sure what is wrong, she has been to the vet, but is very stiff in her back legs, it is not a disc, which I am told terriers are prone to, but probably a muscle strain, but still sad to see, she is on pills and sleeping in my bed and has been told not to run about or play!! That is a challenge for a five month old puppy.
Holly is away on holiday, so everyone is covering for her, and Jan is away for two days as well – both on our 45th anniversary weekend!!!!!!!!!!!! However we are coping brilliantly as usual!! The new website is moving on slowly, I now appreciate how much work Linda did over the years, and NO Linda, it was not three years wasted, it did a great job and much of it is moving over to the new one!! Things have to change and move forward, this will be the sixth website change, and will help us in the future as did all the other ones done by good and much appreciated friends in the past. Adam Bloch is holding me together right now, as I try to get stuff done, but as my life is very fragmented and it is hard to get to sit at the computer without interruptions. However we will get there, we always do!
At the moment I have to admit to being amazed that AHVLA/DEFRA are initiating a survey/monitoring research programme to see what damage our Common Buzzard is causing the shooting fraternity in affecting their pheasants. Recently I had to fight to be able to keep alive and use at the Centre two injured wild buzzards, the reason AHVLA did not want to allow this and let the Buzzards have a life, was that I wanted to use them for commercial purposes  - that would be education!

Shooting on the other hand is totally commercial. Forty million pheasants are released every year in the UK, shooters will all admit that far more pheasants are killed by cars than those killed by all birds of prey put together, are we going to have applications to shoot drivers next I wonder? They also admit that they probably shoot less than half the 40 million birds put out there! One of the excuses for wanting to kill buzzards is under the welfare of animals act, i.e. it is illegal to upset and scare their pheasants and so they should be able to shoot the culprit, well hang on a minute, sending a whole load of men and dogs to chase them through the woods and try to make them fly, and then shoot the bejesus out of them!!!!!!!!!!!! I think that might well count and upsetting and scaring for them.
Yet the government who are now telling us they are going to charge us £68 per captive bred bird to give us an Article 10 certificate to recover their full costs (shame the service is so bad for the money) because we are commercial, are going to fund it. This study will cost the taxpayer – that is you and I, £400,000 – nearly half a million pounds and they intend to remove some buzzards (how and where one wonders) and destroy nests – for which if you and I did it, we would be seriously breaking the law and could end up in prison.
To have any effect on the wild buzzard population, thousands would have to be killed. Removing a few will just make territories available for the ones that don’t have one. So when more birds move in are they going to be killed and then the next pair and the next pair – leaving a desert of raptors  for pheasants? It’s insane, hypocritical and a complete waste of time and money.

A completely commercial activity is going to be funded to make sure that they can continue to be commercial. So one law for one commercial activity and another for another, – that is pure hypocrisy and I do not like it. Now I realise that some people have concerns about Lapwing, Curlew, Oyster Catchers and so on having their young taken by Buzzards, but my main beef here is the fact that Defra are supporting a commercial activity on one hand and actively hampering another on the other. Ah well, this is bound to make me even more popular than usual, but I am afraid it has to be said.
On a more cheerful note, the weekend is going to be lovely, we have wine, (bring mugs please) you need to bring the picnics (you can bring enough for us too if you like!) the dogs are ready and waiting, we have games organised for those who would like to partake, we have nine ducklings on the pond – yup, wild tufted ducks in a bird of prey centre – amazing – lots of great birds to fly for you, baby owls starting to come out and play, and we celebrate our actual 45th birthday this weekend, come and join us!

Friday, 18 May 2012
OK, OK, I know I have not done the weblog for a while, but organising a Royal Event at the Centre is hard work!! Trust me I know I have done several now. And I have not got on with the new website over the last week either, but now all but the tent remains of our ‘do’, life gets a little bit back to normal.

We have all worked really hard over the last fortnight, a lot of stuff that we could have got ready earlier was held up by the rain and awful weather, but with the help of staff and volunteers the gardens look superb, the paths are all cleared, the aviaries all clean and tidy and the birds look really well. Four friends came over from South Carolina to help and be involved, they were a tower of strength and got a ton of stuff done. The sun came out after they arrived and the weather held up for the day.

It was needless to say a lovely day the day before The Princess Royal came and a lovely day after the event!!! However although there was a chilly wind coming up the field, the sun came out for most of the time and the wind made for superb flying from the birds chosen for the day. I started with Hare,(Indian Tawny Eagle) who was very good and did not let me down once, Mark flew Jack Daniel’s (Saker) and he was delighted with how he flew, Robin flew Pinotage( Egyptian Vulture) who flew brilliantly, but was a little tricky to get back into her aviary – however Robin was very subtle and few noticed that bit because Adam was ready with SideWinder who pulled out all the stops and we are so glad we chose a Burrowing Owl because the Princess does enjoy them. I few Bay Middleton (Harris Hawk), we had planned to fly two together but the previous day Pretender decided he would rather hunt, and so he was sacked for the day! Bay Middleton is probably the best Harris I have flown in terms of soaring and generally being very good and he did not let me down. We ended up with Adam Holly and John flying three of the Yellow-billed Kites, Deception, Bush Master and Buttermilk Racer, who all did very well in the wind.

The Princess had had a short tour of the Centre and then watched the flying demonstration, she then kindly met up with five different groups of people including the Life members; neighbours; the americans; our volunteers plus potential Trustee members, she then came into the tent and I did the formal introduction and she gave a lovely speech, which I will put a link to here, I have heard The Princess Royal speak before and she is just first class at it. She chatted to a few people and Carl Newman presented her with a beautiful bronze of a Barbary Falcon, that we had done specially for the event, it is one of an edition of only nine. The Princess has one, we have one, and one has already been sold, so if you are interested, there are only six left! Angela had done some amazing finger food over the previous weeks and she and Tracy and Jo, with help from various volunteers including Linda Wright got it all ready early that morning. I had made mulled wine, which turned out to be a good idea in the cold wind and most of it went!

The whole day went brilliantly, most of the guests arrived, a few did not come, probably put off by the weather, but guys – you never know what it will be like here!! And you missed a great day! They all enjoyed themselves and had plenty to eat and drink. Richard had sorted out the electrics in the tent so we had lights which helped, and Adam had sorted out an Art Exhibition in the Tent which looked better with lights, and was much appreciated by the guests, and a couple of paintings sold. Some will be on view in the Pavillion for the next month or so and then again at the Falconry Weekend in September. Mark auctioned off a painting of Greeves hovering in a sunset that Adam had done and it went very well.

We are all still a little tired and Holly has gone on holiday to Mull for a week (!!) but things are moving forward, the education room is looking good with more to come – ooooooooooooooppppppps sorry the IZONE, but finances meant that we could not finish it quite yet. Next comes the Garden Picnic to celebrate the actual opening weekend 45 years ago, I have the wine, you just have to come and bring the picnic, and pray the weather is good on May 26/27th. Then we have some pretty good kids events organised for the Jubilee weekend, so that is a good one to be here for as well.

I have an Ashy Faced Barn Owl chick that we are going to train and Holly is starting on a Tawny Owl as soon as she is back, John’s Burrowing Owl is charming and Adam has another Asian Brown Wood Owl. We await all the diurnal young for later in the year! Come and visit! Up date - tent going now too!

Sunday, 6 May 2012
I have to say that I am not impressed with the people who make adverts, we have some of the best in the world in the UK, but for example, the new Pringle advert where they blow up food to show how exciting the taste is, is nothing short of disgraceful. There are millions of people needing food and these idiots blow up food to advertise a produce that will add to the even fatter people in the UK, it’s just not right. I feel the same about the Cocoa Cola advert around Christmas time where obviously cutting down on using electricity does not feature with all the lights that they use!! Advert people you need to get seriously greener.

Its been a lovely day today, cold, but a fair bit of sunshine, and what a difference that makes. All the birds flew really well, John’s White-tailed Sea-eagle was excellent, although I have discovered that I really need a video camera with an eye piece as you can’t follow a flying bird by using the screen of a camera. I hope they still do them, not that I could buy one right now anyway! The two baby owls did brilliantly, the falcons were first class and the kites to die for, as was Hare.

All the staff were more cheerful  -  it has been a miserable time lately I have to say. We got three flower beds weeded and some of the new plants in, which was great, only another seven to go!!!! Nathan and his son have been working on the grass, Mark and Holly have been doing paths, and John and Matt were painting aviaries so they look a bit smarter. The café was reasonably busy and Jan was more upbeat with nice visitors. I would say long may it last, but the forecast for tomorrow is pretty dire.

The oldest Tawny Eagle chick is fledged and looking wonderful, I hope to start training it in July, when it will be well mature. The five baby Lanners are back with parents and the other chicks are doing fine. We have three wild baby Tawny Owls in, and probably more to come I suspect.

Not only was Badminton Horse Trials cancelled, but many other shows including the Falconers Fair, so instead of having to drive to Althorpe, we were home today, and I have to say it was a bit of a relief. It’s hard to get the birds ready for really good demonstrations this early in the season. It is now going to be mid-July, so we should have the birds really going well by them.

The website stuff is going really well, and I hope will be finished and up by the end of next week if all goes well, there will be stuff to add over time, but the basics will be up and running which will be a relief I have to say. Changing websites is very stressful! Now I know how Linda feels, but Adam has been a tower of strength.
Tuesday, 1 May 2012
Rain rain and more rain, apparently this has been the wettest April on record, well hooray for that!! My field is soggy, the ponds all three (one you don’t normally see!) are bursting and over flowing, on Sunday we had a very pretty Dutch Elm disease resistance Elm snapped in two, I had planted it probably 30 years ago and we had exposed it in taking down the hedge. It had a large split in it and I was debating what to do about it, I don’t have that problem now, but it was such a nice tree and having bought and planted it, it was personal as it were, now it will be firewood, when the field is dry enough for me to get down there with a trailer to move it.

It was not only raining solidly through Sunday but it was cold as well, I guess we have been spoilt over the last two years with very dry springs, I have to say I prefer them!! At least I don’t have to water any new trees planted and the hose pipe ban does not affect us in that way anymore.

I went with Anabelle to the local garden centre yesterday and spend the vouchers I had from my staff and my sister, I have a nice lot of plants to put in, however the ground will have to dry out a little after last night when the rain was torrential, the courtyard flooded so there is some cleaning up there to do, but the rest of the place seems OK so far and our barrier for the weighing room worked well – it was not flooded.

Art’s shoe is back on – just – the problem with them pulling off a shoe is that they damage the hoof, it’s a shame we can’t glue it back on, but I am told that it does not work well and it is very expensive!! Won’t bother with that then. Sorrel might be pregnant, she was mated over a week ago to a handsome boy, whom, come to think of I don’t even know his name!! We all think she is in pup, but time will tell I guess. Leaf and Shasta are teething, so nothing is safe, beware anyone who is staying next month, put your stuff away and shut the doors, or it will get chewed!

It’s the Falconer’s Fair this coming weekend (the Sunday and Monday) I hope I can get into the arena with the Landrover and trailer, if the ground is as wet as it is here it will be interesting, here is hoping for a beautiful weekend, we could do with the visitors here – I know, anyone who was going to Badminton Horse Trials, come and see us instead, you will enjoy it!!

The building of the new website is slowly moving on, I am learning stuff that I thought I never would (not sure I want to, but needs must etc.) I think it will be good and it will be more available to all those people who are constantly looking at their damn Iphones or similar. It never fails to amaze me how much people are on the phone now. How did we all manage to live without talking to someone on the phone, whom we were going to see later than day, I just can’t imagine. My JCB phone stays firmly in a drawer unless I am actually leaving the premises to go somewhere for a day, or to look for a lost bird.

Hector, the Lanner who was a stunning flying bird on demonstration, his chicks went back to him and mum yesterday and we are really looking forward to flying some of the young later in the year. The Tawny Eagles are looking well as are the Grey Buzzard Eagles, it will be tempting to get them out and train them, but I really want to give them time to mature mentally before we do, it makes for a much nicer bird in the long run.

Pictures to cheer us up, with colour and sun......ah well back to the website and the rain………………………


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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