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.


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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