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…………..


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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