Saturday, 25 August 2012
Apparently I am going to have no time for paperwork emails, blogs or anything else at the moment, I have to say I am feeling a little worn. So unless they are very neccessary, don't email me!!! What with bad weather, bank holidays, the falconry weekend (which is very busy now) and the training of new birds, plus all the birds that should have gone up to Duncombe a couple of months ago, there is no time for anything. I have not even ridden my horse for three days. 

It’s always a hard time of the year anyway as all the young birds are coming into training and the older more experienced ones are still flying because the young ones are not ready to take over, so there are masses of birds to get done through the day and the Experience Days, although great because they bring in funds, mean that we can’t use the field in the afternoon until they are done. Oh to win the lottery and buy some more land!!!! We are training four large falcons and four small ones, three eagles, two kites, one new Harris, and my Sparrowhawk, and that is on top of all the usual flyers at this time of the year, oh and that does not count two new owls either!!
However all young are going well, and will be an asset to the teams here and at Duncombe when they finally go up there. Once the Falconry Weekend is done after next weekend we will have a grounding of about five birds which will ease the pressure as well. It’s the unexpected that screws it all up. Two days ago Ara, the tiny male Lesser Kestrel buggered off, so that took Michele and I from 1.30 – 4.30 to finally get him back at which point his name was close to being changed!! And we walked bloody miles after the little dear!!!

Holly’s Grey Buzzard Eagle is now flying free, and called Ganymede. She is wonderful and doing really well. It is interesting to see how different she is to my young Tawny Eagle who is NOT ready to go loose yet and is also not the same charming character either!!
Shasta is still lame and now has to have a big operation on her elbow, which is just before the Falconry Weekend and I am dreading it. I hate taking them in and leaving them for an operation, I always wish I could be there with them.
It’s the Bank Holiday, we know that because it has been raining, like every other bloody bank holiday this year!!! We had terrific thunder storms, which had Leaf disappearing, but I have to say we still did get some visitors, and they stuck it out through rain, wind and sun!! As usual the birds were amazing and did not let us down. They are so special really, as are my staff as they continue on in the rain, just pretending it is not happening!!

I will be glad when the autumn is here though it will be nice to be under less pressure – I hope. Although I have three trips which I have to do, which is not so much fun. Ah well, better go and feed Art as I have not had time to ride him  - again! Oh and here is our Gold Postbox, with grateful thanks to the Dressage Team and the Individual Gold, in fact thanks to Charlotte we should have two!!
Tuesday, 21 August 2012
Yesterday Mark and I spent the day at Margam Park near Swansea filming for a series. Well to be more accurate we spent the morning waiting to film and the afternoon filming. There was a chap with all the stunt horses who came up and talked to Mark and came out with one of my least favourite comments. He asked Mark if he had been to some French bird of prey centre, and Mark said no, and he said – they do the best demonstrations in the world – I think that is so rude. If he had said it to me I would have said – have you seen the so and so horse team, they do the best stunt horses in the world!!! It really pisses me off when people do that – ah well he also told Mark that birds of prey can tell if you are scared by scenting you, which is pretty bloody clever as apart from three New World Vultures the rest don’t have a sense of smell, I hope he is more accurate with his horses!! The film job went really well, the birds were asked to do some quite difficult stuff and they performed brilliantly and did not put a foot or beak wrong, they did all that was asked of them, we were very proud of them. Shanny who did the bulk of the work did her last day as we have now retired her, she has been a star for years, and had not flown that well this year so we decided she has earnt her retirement, she will of course stay with the Centre for the rest of her life.

I did a demonstration with my Sparrowhawk today, I did put him back on a line as he was a little nervous, but he was brilliant, so I might try him loose tomorrow, he is loose on his own and is called Deneb. Pioneer is back on duty and flying well although very unfit. We have a new Merlin thanks to Greg – thank you Greg she is lovely. The Lesser Kestrel Ara is coming on, and the two new Kites are lovely, particularly John’s who has recovered from its cracked leg bone and is already catching in mid air, although it does not quite know what to do with the meat once it has caught it!!

We decided that Dusky Emperor was bored of her routine, so to change it we have introduced her to the dummy bunny – at first she was horrified and thought about flying in the opposite direction, but now she is getting very interested and today killed it well and truly and then let it go and when I pulled it away she ran after it and killed it again!! I think she will soon get the idea although I think the local wild rabbits are safe for a while!

The new Grey Buzzard Eagle is just wonderful and should go loose tomorrow, although that is more than can be said for my new Tawny Eagle who is a bad tempered person and although the same age, the same rearing, the same handling and training, is not ready to go loose yet!

Bookings for the Falconry Weekend are now full, which is wonderful, in fact even all the Space Only has gone!!! As long as the weather is fair it should be a great weekend for everyone. Charlie is coming down and the house will be full. Don’t miss it!!

Jules is going up to London for the ParaOlympics, so Art and I will have to do without her teaching for two weeks!! We have a lesson tomorrow and then we are on our own for a bit, although he is going away for the Falconry Weekend as I need his field for parking and camping and I don’t think the campers would really appreciate his nosiness!!

Friday, 17 August 2012
It’s been hectic!!! The weather has been so damn variable it’s hard to know where the hell we are!!! We lost a big branch of the Eucalyptus tree in the Hawk Walk, luckily after everyone had left, so David Kenworthy came over immediately and we took down a number of other branches and the whole tree will have to come down in the winter, still it will make for very aromatic fire wood in the future. We dragged all the branches away to the fire the next morning, the dogs sort of helped, although I am not sure that help was the right word.

We have given up on the Hobby, I am about to write to AHVLA which my computer insists is actually HALVA!! And tell them that we in our expert opinion consider that this bird is not releasable, it will not survive in the wild, and so we are leaving the decision as to what to do with it to them. We do not particularly want to keep it however we are prepared to give it a home for life, but they may not agree and may want us to kill it – which we are not prepared to do, so if that is what AHVLA and JNCC want, we will give it to them and they can kill it – that should make for an interesting conversation!!

All the young birds are coming along nicely, the awful weather is slowing things up a little, but we are moving forward. Mark has just got the young Aplomado Falcon out to start training, it is a male and stunning to look at!! The American Kestrel is a male and I am told really good at killing the carpet!! Adam and I pulled out four wheel barrows of stinging nettles from the other side of Barn 1, I am still itching a little, but I am told the stings are really good for arthritis!! I hope so as they are mean bloody nettles and always get you back as you pull them out.

The Falconry Weekend is looking like it will be a great success, I just pray for good weather. We have had a ton of late bookings, and I finalised on the tentage today. We have three spare spaces and that is it!! All the people coming to demonstrate or give seminars are on track and it really should be a wonderful weekend. The atmosphere here is always fun and it adds to anything that we put on. I am looking forward to it.

Then the next thing is Simon and I go to India for the Incubation workshop, which will be hard work, but worth it and then I think we go on to Nepal to see what is going on there with the Vulture Programme. This autumn is going to be busy!!

Saturday, 11 August 2012
I went to the Olympics last week!! Got the chance to see the first day of the team Dressage at Greenwich Park, it was amazing. The organisation was superb, the volunteers helping people to get to where they needed to go were wonderful, friendly, helpful, chatty and they deserve a huge thank you. The travel was seamless, no waiting anywhere apart from a short queue to get out of the park, but other than that, all trains ran on time and it could not be been easier. We left at 5.30 am and got home at 9.45 pm and the whole thing was really exciting and well worth going to. Well done all those organising the Games and to all those detracting it, just go away and shut up!!! I am extremely proud of the UK for all it has done in the organising of the games and even more proud of all those taking part, winners and losers. And we won Gold in the team event and Gold and Bronze in the Individual. In fact Britain is doing brilliantly in the medals, so we should all be very very proud.
My brother who normally lives in New Zealand is over here at the moment, he was staying with me, arrived on the 18th, he was due to leave last week to stay with our cousin in Llangollen in Wales. But her husband is not well so he is not able to go, which is a great shame really. He is in Scotland to see Anna now, in the country to start with and then back in Edinburgh for the festival

Right, a bit of a rant. There is a huge row going on between the various shooting groups about a report from the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust on lead.  The shooting fraternity in their normal blinkered way are continuing to shout at the top of their voices that there is no proof that lead causes problems for wildlife, one wonders why they don’t realise just how stupid this makes them look. This is regardless of reams and reams of very good science to the contrary. Why am I particularly annoyed right now, well we have just had a young Red Kite brought in and it is the second one suffering from lead poisoning. I can’t stress enough that if lead is ingested it kills birds, and it also kills mammals. Our local vet even had a number cows killed because there had been huge clay pigeon shoot over just cut hay, the hay was baled and the lead picked up and the cows swallowed it when they ate the hay and died. LEAD IS TOXIC, that is why it’s banned in all other substances!!!!!!! And have absolutely no doubt  ----  it will be banned in shooting, it is only a matter of time. Wouldn’t it be just the best thing if the shooting people voluntarily did it before they were forced to, but of course they won’t.
The Kite has recovered and been released again, but we suspect that the male of the pair probably died somewhere unfound, because the people in who’s garden they nested said that he had disappeared a couple of weeks ago. Other than the Kite we have had in a ton of Buzzards, so many that the need for a new hospital is really getting quite desperate! And then last night a Heron was brought in – very thin, but it did not make it.
I have been remiss in writing the weblog recently, life seems to be incredibly busy and hectic, more so than usual. The weather has been kinder to us in the last week or so, it plays such a huge part in visitor numbers, although I think that eventually people just get fed up with the weather and go out anyway.
Birds are doing well, the second clutch of  Grey Buzzard Eagles are growing well with their parents, and our young female from the first clutch is starting to fly well on a training line. The older Tawny Eagle chick is flying very well, and we have started to move her on with flying towards the public now, she was very unsure on the first attempt, but soon relaxed into it and did well.
The four baby Lanners are now out of their aviary and have started their training, and are already feeding by their  perches, so they will move on quickly now. Mark is about to start with his Aplomado Falcon which we think is a male.  We have a female Hobby coming which will be a treat. Mark is struggling with the injured wild Hobby who is interesting and that would be an understatement!!!  She appears to be very imprinted, and is still flying like a baby, rather than moving forward, she is very unfit, although we are flying her daily, and she flies just fractionally unbalanced, which may be due to the original injury.

I have to say that I have no desire to keep her, and interestingly the Americans have a reasonably good process to make sure that anyone imprinting a bird, either on purpose or by accident, does not benefit from doing so by keeping the bird. The imprinted bird if it can have a viable and useful life has to be passed on to someone else.
We appear to be working with a number of small birds this year, the smallest being the little Lesser Kestrel who is flying at around 130 grams, and I am delighted to have a male Sparrowhawk who is just coming to the fist but not really chasing the lure properly yet at 150 grams. And then Tash is going to be training the only American Kestrel we have bred this year, and Simon is going to train a Red-footed Falcon which will be new to us.
The gardens are looking good, although I am worried about some of the smaller trees, which seem to be losing leaves in a way that is concerning. The weeds have done well in the damp weather, but we are just about in control of them! The grass growth has been a nightmare, three of the mowers had to go and be made better as they had been working so hard this year!

The Gladiator Weekend was successful, I don’t think it brought in a ton more visitors, however I think that all those there thoroughly enjoyed seeing them do their stuff. We also had a local face painter from Newent come in and she did some lovely bird of prey faces on the kids, she is going to come again for the Falconry Weekend which will be fun for the kids that visit.

Next is the Falconry Weekend, we have a good number of stands booked, the tents will be here on time, we are doing all the catering in house, so there should not be any complaints about the costs and I am looking forward to an early morning bacon sandwich!! I suspect the dogs are also looking forward to it. Mark the date in your diary Sept 1st and 2nd will give you all the information you need to come.


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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