Friday, 27 December 2013
Adult Male African Fish Eagle (Linda Wright!)
Time for a bit of a rant I think. I just watched Earth Flight well at least I did until I got too angry to watch it. Someone needs to give all these cameramen and probably the editors a lesson in ethics. If you know your birds you can see that to get the large flocks flying dramatically (away from them please note) so that they can have dramatic film, they are either flying a remote helicopter with a camera or a small plane over to upset the birds, it is so obvious and in my book totally unacceptable. If these birds are stressed in that way and yes of course it is stressful for them, it just makes their survival that little bit harder. I don’t know my mammals as well as my bird, but I have concerns about how they get the footage they do with many of the hunts. A little more thought about the wildlife and a little less about dramatic film would be a good idea. 
Ruppell's Vulture
 
The pictures from the Ruppells vulture and the African Fish Eagle which are from camera’s mounted on their backs are very poor and very misleading, as I suspect the backgrounds were put on afterwards in most cases. The species of the vulture that is being spoken about changes several times – do these people think we don’t notice!!!
 
No your average vulture does not fly at five miles high, one Ruppell’s vulture was recorded at 36000 above sea level, and please note that is sea level, it did not state how high the land was  below it, and this a onetime siting I might add. And normally vultures are flying at up to 10,000 at the most. Why do these presenters always want to give you the utmost fact without qualifying it with the norm. Its again misleading and can be dangerous to the species. However I suspect they don’t think about consequences, they are only out to get the most spectacular film regardless of how they get it.
African White-backed Vulture
 
I was just sent a link for a CBBC series – Deadly I think it was, the camera crew actually came here and we tested their ring of camera’s for them in my field, and actually the birds were amazing and I think we could have got some great stuff. They said they wanted to get wild footage of a Bald Eagle snatching a fish from the circle of camera’s – I have to say, knowing raptors as I do, I was pretty sure they would fail, and what we got was some very average footage of a trained Bald Eagle with overly long jesses picking up a floating bit of plastic with a bit of fish tied to it!! – out of a large black bin full of water. Then you saw some very poor flying of a trained peregrine (the usual 200 MPH quoted) flying to the presenter swinging a lure, well sort of swinging it. The back ground was heavily treed and the bird maybe got to about 100 feet, the speed was probably about 50 – 60 mph!! They would have done better to film it here with us, our falcons don’t have over grown beaks, and the background is a lot more open.
 
Oh and by the way team, the Bald Eagle is not one of the largest eagles in the world. The White-tailed Sea-eagle is larger as a general rule and the Steller’s Sea-eagle makes a Bald Eagle look tiny!!!
Why don’t you ask experts to help you with your commentaries, it would be far more sense.
 
Have you noticed how many adverts there are for gambling on the TV, all this bingo rubbish, how to get people to lose their hard earned cash, it’s a great shame in this age of hardship, still not to worry there are about as many adverts for loan sharks on there as well so if you lose all your cash gambling you can borrow more at an exorbitant rate of interest. And then if you fall over a stone, or trip down some stairs, you can use one of these lovely lawyers who tout for business, I have always thought that the fact that you see the adverts of the back of lavatory doors is extremely telling!!
 
Ah well, back to work!
 
 
Thursday, 26 December 2013

Boxing Day, a heavy frost and then mist rose with the sun, but now its a clear and beautiful day, the birds are fed, food ready for tomorrow and late breakfast done. Christmas day was also beautiful, although I did feel very much for all those poor people who were affected by floods and no power. It is time we put all power lines underground, it would make the country far more beautiful, put value on tons of houses, mean far less power cuts or lines affected by the weather and less wildlife would get killed.
 
I was invited by my cousins over the way for Christmas lunch which was lovely, I had seen them on Christmas Eve because I had the usual drinks party here at home, which I think went well, apart from Shasta landing on someone's lap and spilling their mulled wine - a little tactless but they are not used to lots of people in the house.
 
The Christmas tree was done just in time and all was ready but with no Midnight mass at the local church, I did get to bed in reasonable time for a change. The weather has not been great, very windy and a ton of rain, I am only glad that I live up fairly high, so flooding is unlikely to happen, although we did have a ridge piece on the Eagle Barn try to lift off, but the lads got it safely sorted before it actually broke.
 
We just about got away with the weather and the last Owl Evening by the skin of our teeth. The forecast the previous day was awful, but it improved as time went on and so the wind and rain was not due to start severely until after 8.00 pm, so we changed the format for the last one and did the outside flying of the three large owls immediately after the guided tours had all finished, then had the meal and ended up with the two smaller owls flying indoors, which meant the weather did not matter at the end. And it worked, it was very gusty nevertheless, but the owls managed OK just about. We had a lovely group and now all the owls are stuffed full of food until mid-January when some of them will be got going again for the February Owl Evenings and the early part of the season for our visitors. We have a cunning plan as well, we are going to start to do Evening Owl Handling and flying experiences in the Autumn, that should be very special indeed. Only six people on them and flying owls in the dark – how cool is that!!
 
The Hospital and Clinic look great, all done now, and a pleasure to work in,  cleaning the boxes and feeding birds in there is a joy with the pull out tray on the floor. I have always wanted to do that design and it works a treat which is very gratifying! The garage for the cars is done and all plus my trailer are safely under cover which is really nice to know. Next job is to sort out the workshop in January, and re-roof the tiny owls and the flying owls because the Onduline has had its day. That should not be too big a job I hope. We also re-roofed the lean-to outside the Clinic so it does not leak.
 
 My staff had their Christmas Party on Saturday evening and I gather they all looked wonderful and behaved!! And no I did not go, I loathe big parties and a lot of noise and discos are my idea of hell!! So I  always wish them the happiest of times and sit quietly here and look after birds, dogs and the fish, I get to feed round the following day as well because they tend to be suffering !!
 
The dogs hate the weekends in December and January as there is no official coffee time, they don’t really like the period between Christmas and the New Year either as there are no staff around, and they miss them all – oh and the toast at coffee time. Briza has just eaten my carol sheets!
 
I went Carol singing last Wednesday, I have to say it was a somewhat unpleasant experience because it was a howling gale and pouring with rain, by the end of about half an hour I had not a dry stitch of clothing on! After about an hour and a half one of the others said they were too wet and cold to continue, for which I was very relieved, as I was about to say the same thing. I don’t think I have walked home from the village quite so fast ever. It took a shower and a bath to warm me up again.
 
 
I have to say that the threatened coldest winter on record for 100 years has not yet materialized, in fact it has been about the mildest so far. 
 
 
I am pleased to say that I could get into all my Christmas presents without a chain saw!! And lovely they all were, thank you to all. I got some new hinges the other day for the new cupboards and could I get the plastic off, some is still on there. Its ridiculous, why to hinges need to be shrink wrapped in plastic, I actually scratched the metal trying to get it off.  NO MORE PLAS|TIC!!
 
 
Monday, 16 December 2013
I have been painting, it is that time of the year. First I painted a new cupboard that has nearly been completed in the utility room. The cupboard is designed to keep everything, bins, wellies, shoes, salt for the water softener – all safe from thieving Labradors!!! Then over the last two weekends I have been painting the inside of the clinic. I have to admit it is a holding job because the walls in there are very damp and what we really need to do is take out all the kitchen units, strip off the plaster board and start again. But for the time being, we have a ton of things to finish before opening again in February and so it will have to wait a bit. A good coat of oil based paint will do the trick temporarily I hope. So it’s starting to look pretty good, John has done all the second, third and fourth coats!!! It should be finished by tomorrow. And the hospital is just about done so we had a major clear up in there today, it is looking stunning. Some staining of wood tomorrow and a couple of other things and it will be a done deal.
Adam Crisford asked me to put this up, go to his website,
 he is selling it and some of the funds will go to the hospital


Owl Evenings have been going well and Chris Sperrin from the Hawk and Owl Trust came up and did an Owl Prowl for our members. It was the day of all the wind, but thankfully the wind dropped in the evening and the event went well. I hope that we can do a few more, although it will be hard to be as good as Chris at mimicking owl calls – he is quite brilliant at it!!! Still there is always a phone apt that is pretty good!!!
 


We had a corporate Christmas Do on Friday, which was seamless, and they definitely got value for money. We started at 2.30 pm and finally finished up at nearly 10.00pm. My staff are wonderful, they worked really hard, including serving and clearing up afterwards, we did have fun though!!! Then on Sat we had the second last Owl Evening, boy we were lucky with the weather. The wind was very strong and made the guided tours a little tricky, but it kindly dropped in time for us to fly the owls outside and then the rain did not start until people were gone!

 
The new garage is just about finished, it is so nice to see the trailer, land Rover and new Range Rover sitting comfortably under cover. The van is also under cover outside the clinic.
 
 
Briza
We are down to just a few birds flying and all the owls will be grounded over Christmas. Then in the New Year we start again. We are keeping a couple of Harris Hawks going for staff that want to hunt them over Christmas and we are flying the two new eagles up until Christmas Eve, also the new Striated Caracara who is lovely.
 

Sorrel was NOT pregnant, which was very disappointing, we will try once more and then I guess the local sheep dog will probably succeed!!
 

Question for written answer E-012751/2013 to the Commission Rule 117 Andrea Zanoni (ALDE)


Subject: Continuing poaching of migratory birds in Cyprus, in breach of the Birds Directive 2009/147/EC, and violence against members of CABS

In Cyprus, there is widespread poaching of migratory birds flying across the island, with a thriving illegal market. This is due, in particular, to the existence of a local traditional dish called ambelopoulia, made up of small wild birds that are skinned and grilled whole, or pickled in vinegar. This dish has been illegal on the island since the 1970s, but sadly, is still widespread. Twice a year, therefore, CABS (Committee Against Bird Slaughter) organises an anti-poaching camp aimed at removing the tools used by local residents to capture live birds, such as mistletoe sticks, clap nets and electronic decoy devices. If these tools are on private property, the volunteers report the matter to the local police, who then seize the tools and start criminal proceedings against those responsible. The volunteer activists also seek out dishes based on these birds, which are illegally sold in restaurants, grocery stores, butcher shops, etc.

As reported by the CABS volunteers, cooperation with the local authorities responsible 
in particular the APS Anti-Poaching Squad, Game Fund guards and authorities on the British SBA military base  was particularly successful in 2011 and 2012 and paid off with an increasing number of poachers being reported. However, the 2013 anti-poaching camp was characterised by a U-turn by the Cypriot authorities, who have withdrawn their support and obstructed the volunteers, despite the latter reporting the dangerous and isolated situation they were in and despite repeated acts of violence against them. The volunteers, in fact, have had the tyres of a car parked in front of the entrance to the Cape Greko National Park slashed, have been repeatedly chased by cars, threatened, were once beaten up and bludgeoned and, last but not least, robbed of a camera and a mobile phone.

Can the Commission therefore answer the following questions:
1. What measures does it intend to take to ensure compliance with the Birds Directive in Cyprus and react to the infringements currently taking place?
2. Does it not agree that the time is ripe to commence infringement proceedings in relation to this matter?
3. Will it contact the Cypriot authorities to discover why have changed their attitude, when previously they had given their maximum cooperation to the CABS volunteers?

 
This will be interesting to watch for the answer, its about time the EU put its money where its mouth is.
Sunday, 17 November 2013

The second Owl Evening went well although it was a little more tricky than usual as our electrics are playing up, and neither the underground lights, or the PA would work without blowing everything!! Rob Moore (electrician) is coming on Monday to change and add some RCD’s ( I know all about RCD’s – don’t you!) and hopefully the problem will be if not sorted, at least more manageable. We will do some restructuring early next year and make it all less fragile.
 

The new hospital room is looking great and we are starting to use it, there are still a few things to finish off but it’s a very useful room and will be a huge advantage to us. The first injured wild bird to go in is a Kestrel who looks like she will recover fine, which bodes well for the future.
 

It’s a bit grey and dismal at the moment, very overcast, but at least it is dry which helps. The gardens are really starting to benefit from Rob being here as a full time gardener and he has only been here two weeks, so in a couple of years it will look just wonderful. His lawn mower arrives on Wednesday, I will take photos as it is not an attractive machine, however if it does the job I don’t care what it looks like.
 

We have got the brooder room all sorted out with proper electrics and it’s been repainted, so there is just a good clean to get done and that will be ready. Next is the clean out of the incubator room and all incubators to be thoroughly cleaned, Holly wants to keep that all to herself!!
 

The outside of the new building is all level and gravelled over and looking good. We have to knock through the new door from the clinic to the hospital room – which we need to give a name too. That will make a big mess, but gives us the chance to have a good clear out and redecorate in there, one wall is damp and I think I know why so we will sort that out before painting. Then the whole block of rooms will be done and dusted – phew!! Just in time to go charitable and then build a new brooder room and incubation room so we can turn the old ones into a treatment room and small lab!
 

It’s a busy week next week, I have two meetings, one in Bristol, one in London and I am hoping to go and collect my (newish!) Range Rover from Jinny. There is however a doubt because we don’t know if Sorrel is in pup or not. She is large (but could be too fat!) is digging furiously (but she does that anyway) is very grumpy to the others at times (but she can be a grump). Penny Carpanini thinks she is, I am vacillating and generally the jury is out, and of course we don’t really know when they are due as she was mated over about an eight day period. I need to be here for her, so the car may have to wait, but I am hoping not as being in London for a meeting helps me to get most of the way to collecting. We shall see!! Here is hoping she is going to produce lots of lovely puppies.
 

We are also doing a film job here with the Great Grey Owl on Wednesday and we have a group of MSc students coming as well, plus still being open and an Owl Evening on Sat. It’s good to be busy!

 
We close on December 1st, but as that is a Sunday, if the weather is good we will be open, so watch the forecast and ring us to find out. We close for sure on the 2nd, apart from a couple of experience days and the owl evenings.
 

Oh and if you are looking for a good Christmas present, we are going to reinstate the Owl Experiences, but in a different way. We are going to do Half Owl Days, which will be great fun. We have a good team of owls now and will be able to have guests handle and fly a good number of them. We are looking forward to it.
 

 
Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Well, that is the last   my travels abroad for this year, and I have to say I am not sorry!! Ever since I got back to Newent, and understood finally what it was I had nearly lost, I am much happier at home than travelling.  I guess that makes me a sedentary bird, rather than a migratory bird!
 

The trip was good, although started off a little poorly, my train from Ledbury to Paddington was an hour and a half late, so my plans to meet Ian Newton and Rhys Green at the check in were scuppered. I have to say that BA did not get good points for their helpfulness at check in, so as well as being stressed because I was late, I was annoyed before even getting on the plane. However things improved then because as I had to check in alone, and so because they were over booked and I was travelling alone – I got upgraded!!
 

On arrival at Delhi  we got on a bus to the domestic terminal and eventually caught the plane to Bagdogra in West Bengal. Most of the trip from Bagdogra to Alipurduar was done in the dark, but it was on much better roads than we travelled last time I went there. The hotel was OK, there were 88 steps from my room to the meeting room which sadly was in the basement . As I am not keen on Indian food, that part of the trip I did not particularly enjoy. The meeting was good and we had good representation from several new countries that were within the vultures range. There were good papers and plenty of good discussion.   All in all I think the SAVE Meeting went well and we seemed to achieve a good amount of work and decisions.
 

On the first day there we went bird watching, sadly for me we saw mainly LBJ’s which pleased all the rest of the twitchers!!!! But I wanted to see more raptors – they were hiding!! We did however walk across a river bed with a little water (that was fun) and crossed into Butan for about two minutes – which we did because we could!! We went into the forest but did not see a great deal apart from some lovely trees, but some of us did manage to pick up leaches, I had one on each foot, and Toby was bleeding dramatically from his leg. Of course we had to make up for lost blood later on, Toby and Chris replaced it with beer and I worked on Gin and sweet lime soda (no tonic). I have to say that the gin left a great deal to be desired, but if you drowned it it was bearable.
 

The meeting was held in the basement of the hotel and after three days it got extremely depressing as by the time we had finished each afternoon, it was already dark. So we rarely even saw the daylight, let alone anything else. We did have one short trip to the Centre and on the way back one of the other cars saw an elephant, and some pied falconets, did I – NO!
 

The trip back was extremely long, we left the hotel at 7.00am, with a short stop for a cup of tea we got to Bagdogra by about 12.00 noon, our plane to Delhi left at 2.30pm and the flight back to London did not leave until 3.40am! The flight was uneventful apart from the fact that there were four squalling children in our compartment, roll on child free planes. However when we got to Heathrow things started to fall apart, it took ages to get off the damn plane because some idiot decided that it was nice to let his small child walk rather than carrying the damn thing. There was a huge queue at the immigration and then I got to the Heathrow Express with just enough time to get the 7.58 train, which would have got me to Paddington just in time, but it was cancelled, the next one finally left at 8.20 and my train at Paddington happily left at 8.22 without me. I bought a new ticket (the bill for which I intend to send to the Heathrow Express) and got on the next train to Gloucester, which was then delayed because the doors would not  lock. So until my trip back from Argentina which was great and seamless was not replicated on this one!!   It appears that all of us on that trip had the same problems and we all missed our trains!!
 

It is lovely lovely to be home, its quiet (Alipurduara was incredibly noisy at night) my bed is blissfully comfortable (the one in India was rock hard, which they all are), the gin is great and the dogs were really pleased to see me home again. The Hospital is nearly done, the new smart hospital boxes arrived today and very smart they are too, I can’t wait to get the whole thing finished!! It will make a huge difference to us all and the injured wild birds that come in.
 

Our new lawn mower is coming next week, I chickened out of collecting it and so have got it delivered, it is coming from Carters of Swanwick who I have to say have been wonderful so far in all they have done. I am looking forward to trying it out!!
 

My Hobby is flying really well, I am very excited about her, particularly as it has not been great weather, she is called Killigrey. I want to be able to get her flying strongly in case we do get very cold weather when I will have to stop flying and feed her up. But so far the  possible forecast worse winter for 100 years has not appeared, although admittedly it is early days.
Friday, 1 November 2013

Argentina was good, the food was great, much better than India that is for sure and I fell for the Chimango Caracara’s who are enchanting birds of prey. The trip there was pretty reasonable, no disasters which is always good, although it is a bloody long way that is for sure.

 

The conference was excellent, the World Working Group for Birds of Prey and Owls did not show up, which I have to say did not surprise me. Miguel was more tolerant about it than I would have been. However I will say no more, but I will think it! The Neo tropical Network were there and it was great to see them. The papers were excellent, the company very good, the wine first class and all in all it was a great success. Ruth and I had planned to go on three trips, we did two of them and they were very good, but tiring, and I am not a serious birder in comparison to many on the trips, who were very serious. There are only so many ducks I need to see before I get bored, now raptors, that is a different matter, but LBJ’s – hummmmmmmmmmm. We cancelled the last trip as we realised that with the trip and the travel, meaning that we would arrive back in Buenos Aires after midnight, this was not a good idea. So on the Sunday we went with friends to the airport to see if we could get an earlier flight. The whole trip back was amazing, we kept thinking that something would go wrong but it didn’t. We got on the 10.30 am flight, went to the hotel that Miguel had recommended and it was great, had a lovely lunch and a walk, rested for the rest of the day, got to the airport on time, got through immigration and security like a breeze, got on the plane home and got upgraded to business!!! Hooray, what a pleasure, thank you BA.

 

I got home at about 12,00 noon on Tuesday, in time to fly birds, have tea and see all the staff who were in. The hospital has come on a treat, it is looking really good on the outside and right now the plasterer is in and hopefully it will be completely plastered by the end of Sunday. The boxes should arrive soon as well.

 

We have to wait until the plaster is dry before we can paint and the tiles on the floor can’t be done until the painting is complete. I wish I was going to be here for it, it is very frustrating not to be.

 

The birds were all well, the dogs pleased to see me, and I hope the staff as well. It is lovely to be home. It has been a little damp towards the end of the week, but was a stunning autumn day when I arrived back. My Hobby is going really well, and so are both the Merlins, the Red-footed Falcon has a way to go, but he will be fine and Helen’s American Kestrel is going really well. All three Lanners are coming on as are the two new eagles, Steppes and Steller’s. My Red Kite is good but bitey! Holly’s is a brilliant flyer but not focusing yet. The owls are all pretty much ready for the first Owl Evening which starts while I am still away.

 

This next trip to India is mainly a big meeting and reporting from all countries involved with SAVE to see where we are, and what we need to do to get to the point where we can release vultures back to the wild, and stop worrying about NSAIDs. It will be a while yet that is for sure. I leave on Monday and am back at about the same time as the last trip on the 11th, and then apart from a couple of meetings, I am going nowhere!!

 

Everyone has worked really hard on the hospital, and although there is still some stuff to do, it is getting there. It will be a huge relief when it is done, it will also make a huge difference to us all to have a proper facility to deal with injured and sick birds.

 

The aviaries are being sorted out ready for the next breeding season already!! The volunteers and staff have been doing really well with the nest building, Holly had a picture of John wearing one which I think has gone on Facebook. I still have not worked out how to get onto Facebook. Some of the birds may lay early, so we want to be ready. The incubation and brooder rooms will be refurbished after the hospital is done and Holly is looking forward to getting it all neat and tidy and ready to go.

 

The grass seed on the front lawn is coming up nicely and we start pruning in the gardens next week. We still don’t know if Sorrel is pregnant or not, I am certainly not laying any money on it anyway. However by the time I get back things should be much more obvious.

 

Still have to get clothes ready for India, so I must put in the last of the washing now.
Thursday, 17 October 2013

There are times in life where you think something is a good idea and you will do it, and then as the time to do it comes closer and closer you think to yourself, why the hell did I think that was a good idea!! I leave for Argentina tomorrow (don’t mention the Falkland’s!). I am going to a joint Raptor Research Foundation/World Working Group for Birds of Prey and Owl/Neotropical Raptor Group Conference. I am giving a paper on the vultures in India and Nepal, chairing a session and taking the minutes for the Board Meeting, because the secretary is not going to be there. However, I would much rather stay at home!!!

 
It’s an important conference, and if you don’t show your face at these on occasion you tend to get forgotten, however we are in the throes of building the hospital and I really need to be here as well. Plus there are a ton of birds that we are training, and so much stuff to do that I am really regretting that I am going.


I know my staff and volunteers who are wonderful will keep things going and get stuff done, but I hate to not be here!! Plus I am missing the autumn, which is my favourite time of the year – damn it!

 
The front lawn is done and dusted and reseeded, just waiting for the grass to show its head, which I think it will soon. The hospital is really coming on, one side of the roof is done, the other side will be started tomorrow, Mike and Craig have done sterling work on it. The plaster boarding is started inside and the windows and doors will go in over the next couple of days. The boxes are being made, the tiles for the floor are ordered, the electrics is being done now and we are on track – I hope!!
 

All the birds are flying well, my hobby is loose and called Kiligray, Muckle Row, my Red Kite is going well and Holly’s – Virtle Rock, is flying brilliantly, but not always turning on time before landing in a tree. Generally the falcons are coming on and we just got Cool Ground ( Snowy Owl ) going, ready for the Owl Evenings, which start in November.
watching the new roof go up, admiring staff!!
 

Needless to say I am away for the first one, I have to go back to India on November 4th to 11th, for the SAVE meeting, but at least it is a reasonably short trip this time.

Briza is still lame, she has a torn cruciate ligament, which is going to take a while to heal. We are hoping that Sorrel is pregnant, although the votes are out on that at the moment, sometimes I think she is and sometimes I think she isn’t. 

 
There is talk that we are going to be facing the coldest winter for 100 years, but I am told that the people forecasting it are not experts, I have to say I hope we don’t, because it does make life tricky, but with the heaters in the Hawk Walk, and the new very insulated hospital, we should be able to manage.

 
Ah well, back to getting ready to leave, phone charged, better get the camera batteries done, notepad organised, clothes clean, dog food and fish food in, all should be well.
Saturday, 28 September 2013
Well ,back from India and Nepal, it was an exhausting trip, but very worthwhile and we got a tremendous amount done, I have finished my reports and now have to get mentally organised (and physically as I have to give a paper) for the next trip, a big international conference in Argentina.

 

While at the train station in Delhi as usual at least three people tried to tell us that the train was not running, had gone, was nine hours delayed and that we  were on the wrong platform. It is infuriating and makes me very angry when it happens. We told them in no uncertain terms that we did not believe them!

 

We stayed at the Budgerigar Hotel and as usual the shower was dubious to say the least. In fact only in the place we stayed in where the shower not only working i.e. had water coming out of it, but was also warm, was the hotel in Nepal - What a pleasure.

 

In the twelve days that we were away we took nine different flights, one train journey, and travelled about 11,300 miles by air, train, car and foot. We had four meetings,  in five mornings with the teams, we caught up and vetted, took blood, micro chipped and ringed where needed 169 vultures, in five afternoons we helped out with analysing blood. We went to Bhopal, which I have never been to before, I think all the people in the city will be deaf soon as there was a festival and I have never heard such loud music. We had breakfast twice, and ate meals after 9.00pm three times. The budgerigar had no gin and I ate no dhal!!

 

We had a very nice India Rhino come to the VCBC in Nepal and watched the fruit bats in Pinjore leaving for their evening forays. We saw Black Kites although more often in towns than in the countryside and a Black Shouldered Kite, but that was it, although we did see a couple of my favourite non raptor birds, the Tree Pie! I wish I knew someone who bred them in Europe.

 

I got home late on Friday night and great it was to be home. The dogs were pleased to see me and Holly and Ben had been staying in the house.

 

In the next four days I managed to be flying various bird, three of which buggered off. First Yeates went, which he has done before, but he had not been behaving while I was away, and he continued the theme, so finally I gave up on him after eight months trying to get him fit and flying well, the time came to say OK, I need to focus on birds that will respond and get fit. Then Mark’s Lugger did a disappearing act while I was flying him, he will be very good, but you could see he was going to go, and he only went a few field before Jimmi and Mark got him back. Last Mark’s Barbary went, again when I was flying him, which I have often done. However He decided to be proper Barbary and went bloody miles, he left at 11.30, we finally caught up with him and to be fair he came straight in, near Westbury on Severn!!

 

I am glad to say that since then they mostly have been behaving. And we are flying Mark’s birds because he is working on the Hospital. It is coming on nicely, a little behind schedule because the towers that were ordered did not arrive until four days after the due delivery date and also it rained, however it now has walls, the purlins and rafters are up and it is looking good!

 

The autumn is here, the weather has been kind since I got back, dry and warm mainly with little rain, which is good because the front lawn has been dug up to lose the subsoil from the ground works of the hospital, so the lawn is changing shape again!
Monday, 23 September 2013
Meant to put this on on Sept 9th before I left for India - forgot!! Sorry!!
 
It’s raining, but my garden badly needs it and the pond could do with a top up right now. I am almost ready to got off to India this afternoon. Nic Masters Chief Veterinary Surgeon at ZSL are meeting up at Heathrow and flying to India and then on to Nepal later on the trip. We have a ton of things to do and my luggage is full of stuff that I will not be able to take as hand luggage so I have to check it in, I have not done that for many years. Prefer only to travel light.
 
The smallest Steppe Eagle is huge!!! He weighs a ton, but will soon start to get to a less unacceptable weight, he is doing well and was out on the lawn for the first time the day before yesterday. Muckle Roe is back on duty and doing well, she had three proper catches yesterday, just needs to learn to feed on the wing now and it will be a done deal. Chris has incredibly kindly given us her sister as well, so we plan on flying the two together once they are both ready for it. Our other kites are going well too. Most of the falcons are now flying free and coming on. Yeates is going to stay working through the winter so we can work on his fitness which is still a long way from good, mind you he would get fitter if he stopped sitting down!
 
The dogs are well except that Briza is lame and it has been difficult to get her to rest, so she is going to stay with Penny, her breeder while I am away, I hope she is going to be OK, but it will be very good for her.
 
The hospital is going on nicely, it is starting to look like a real project now and today the telegraph pole is being moved as it is in the way! The power guys have been great about it all. Abby our really good work experience is going to stay for another three months which we are really pleased about, it really helps in times when staff need to go on holiday.
 
Agatha, our Canadian Golden Eagle is going to a friend when I get back, she is just not suitable for a public aviary bird and will be much happier being trained and flown, she is a really nice bird, but too nervous for here and it is not fair on her. We have a new very settled female coming this week to go with the male. Watamu is slowly coming back to settling here, he is more nervous than he was and does not like the dogs, I guess because he has not seen them for three years, but we did a training session in the field on the last demo yesterday and he was getting there. A friend of mine has a daughter getting married in Watamu this year and now we know it is pronounced WaTAmu!
 
Other than that I am looking forward to being in India and Nepal although I hate the travel and I am looking forward to being home again!
 
Sunday, 8 September 2013

Well we are all exhausted, but the Falconry Weekend was a great success. The weather has been amazing for the last week, my staff and volunteers have been working so hard, we just could not have done it without all of them. They all are a stunning group of people. As I write Burgoyne’s has finally removed the last tents and left the field, Brinsea who still had their stand in the field has gone, the rubbish has gone, the PA system gone back, and only the electrics which have been neutralized has to be got in and we are back to normal. All the people doing the flying did brilliantly and the comments on Facebook are in their hundreds and all positive. It was as in the last two years, a wonderful atmosphere.

 

It has been a tough time though, after Rush died, our young Snowy Owl had to be taken into Great Western Exotics to see Neil, at the same time we had to take Alexandria, an 11 year old African Peregrine, and Pleiades my beautiful Indian Tawny Eagle whom we bred last year. The Snowy Owl, called Lindisfarne  turned out to have cerebral malaria, two weeks of intensive treatment, including one of the doses of antibiotics at 4 am one morning and we thought we were getting there, but he slipped back and even after a blood transfusion from his mum did not save him. Although young, we are going to bury him in the field. We lost the other two as well. Alexandria had an inoperable tumour and Pleiades had the same kidney problem that all the young seemed to have and was in great pain, so it was not fair to go on with her. They are buried together. Its so hard to lose these birds who are such a huge part of our lives.

 

All the other birds have been going on nicely. The four baby Yellow-billed Kites are all catching now and just all have to learn to eat on the wing and stay flying and they will be a stunning team.

 

Holly’s merlin Jura is going to be a good one, flying very well, the three young Lanners are now flying free, we have two young Luggers who are more of a challenge, but then Luggers always are. Mark’s Barbary is going really well and flying more and more strongly. Even Yeates, the five year old African Peregrine that I have been struggling with for months is now beginning to fly more strongly.

 

We had a big grounding of birds on Monday, the Falconry Weekend was over, the end of the school holidays was done and we need to concentrate on the young team, so four Lanners, two Harris Hawks, one Buzzard, two Eagles, three Kites and several Owls are now stuffing their faces and either in aviaries or about to go into one. Thus the young teams of birds take centre stage and improve more quickly as time goes on. We have kept the smallest young Steppe Eagle, I hope it will be a replacement for Pleiades, although I have my doubts, but you never know.

 

Indigo scared us all to death on Sunday, he was looking very old and ill and started to shake, so Holly and Ben bundled him into the van and took him to Ledbury to the vet. He stayed all day and was scanned, he had been eating far too much and his elderly tummy could not manage. He did worry us though and I was very upset as I could not bear to lose a second dog in such a short space of time, but he is much better now, and almost back to his usual self. Since Rush died he has slept on my bed and Holly has promised that he can sleep with her and Ben while I am away in India!

 

Muckle Roe, my beautiful Red Kite gave us a fright on Monday, she had one eye closed during the day, by the evening, her face was swollen on one side and tilted, she then threw up and so we decided to take her to GWE straight away, Tom was on duty and did an excellent job and we waited for her to recover from the anesthetic before I drove home and got back at 10.00 pm. I missed a good Chinese with Biff, so Holly and Ben had it!! Muckle Roe looked far worse the following morning, but at nearly 10.00pm 24 hours later she was looking more cheerful. She came running out of the sky kennel (bearing in mind we are rebuilding the hospital right now and so have birds littered everywhere!!!) ate some finely chopped food and then turned round and ambled all by herself back into her box!! Bless her! Today she is back on flying duty and did three excellent catches in mid air.

 

A new book about father written by Dick Fitzgerald was launched at the Falconry Weekend as was a reprint of a beautiful book by George Edward Lodge. I have a copy of each. And the Philip Glasier Falconry Museum concept was also launched.

 
It has been a busy time
Thursday, 15 August 2013

 

You just think that things are going well, all the birds are flying well, all the young ones are coming on nicely, the Falconry Weekend is getting organised well and things are on track for that. The young Martial Eagle is lovely and settling nicely, and we have been offered a male on breeding loan, and then something hits you that you really don’t expect.

 

We lost Rush today. I have been there for the deaths of 12 labradors, well 11 and orchestrated one from the US and it never never gets any easier. Two days ago Rush started to be very lame on and off, and he was crying loudly with pain. So I took him straight to Eden Tanners, who looks after the dogs for us. We had a job to get him out of the car and he was very quiet in the surgery. We could not find anything that was blindingly obvious, but they had concerns about him and so kept him in over-night. They did not have a peaceful night. He went through bouts of pain that had him yelling very loudly. Drugs kept it under control, and the following day he was X-rayed. This showed various problems with his vertebrate, particularly in his neck.
I collected him early that evening and he was gently crying, but seemed better when we got home. However by 11 pm he was back to crying, I managed to stop him for a while, but by 3.00 am he cried for the rest of the night, it was not a peaceful one for either of us. I took him back to the vets the following morning and they gave him more injections for pain, but over the day it was patently obvious that it was not working. If I or someone he knew was with him it was bearable, but if on his own, he could not cope. Sam Smith who is a great animal chiropractor looked at him as well and said there was not a lot that could be done for him, particularly taking into consideration his age.

 

So I weigh up all the pros and cons, and it was just not fair to keep him going. Eden came over with an assistant and Rush who had had as nice an afternoon as we could give him – constant people, tidbits of beef, never left alone, eventually lying in the sun (he had by this time started to collapse if he walked alone) was moved into the library where we all sit in the evenings, Angela whom he adored was there and we put him down………………….

 

The vets left, we toasted Rush and then gave him a royal trip down to the woods in the Golf Cart, which he would have loved. The ground was like rock needless to say, but Jimmi, Holly, Angela and I dug away and we buried him next to his mother Nettle. The other dogs sort of helped, although not exactly what we needed, and we left him in the wood with his family. So never again will he take my mug round the field early in the morning, or carry Angela’s keys, or refuse to get off the sofa to go to bed, and I will miss him, as I miss them all.

 

 

Recently I phoned the bank, now that to any of you will mean you understand why by the end of the third time I had had to give my bank details, date of birth, inside leg measurement, happiest day of my life and so on, why I wanted to feed the last person I finally spoke to, and a miracle it was that it was a real human, because many of the machines I spoke to were not!!!  - to my vultures.

 

All I wanted to do was make sure that my identity number was OK, well it was compromised – I have been compromised without even knowing it – well bugger! And if there was some way we could see the business credit card stuff online. 22.5 minutes later I finally gave up and could not face phoning the ‘direct line’ number they had given me, because I know that line well and it wants to know everything about your life including God knows what in the way of passwords etc, so I could not face it any longer I had had enough and hung up, so much for internet banking being easy and quite – I don’t think so. Although I did point out to the Scottish lady who was the last of the three people I spoke to, having had to give the same bloody details to a machine before everyone damn of them, that if she shut up and listened she might be able to help me. This was of course a hopeless thought, and none of them were even interested in helping. Lloyds bank, you need to sort out the system and if you really were taping the calls, I hope you got all my comments to your various machines, because they were not exactly complimentary!!!!

 

We have been very busy, at least I think we have, it seems like it anyway, the weather has been generally wonderful, although it has cooled off a little. Mostly the visitors have been really nice and fun to fly birds for. We have the occasional day where we think we had better not fly the vulture in case they are dead already, but mostly they have been a joy to have here. The gardens are looking great, although the very dry weather has meant that we have lost about four plants that I liked. And we have started the building of the new Hospital, which is wonderful.

 

 

 
Sunday, 21 July 2013

The weather has been glorious, very hot, and that has made for some very exciting flying, Karis has been up miles, and I end up doing a commentary to a bird that I can't see, I did manage to do it one day with my binoculars, but its hellish difficult to swing a lure at the same time!! It was lovely to actually be able to see him fold and stoop though.
 
Briza and Shasta asleep on the cool weighing room floor!
Briza has settled in well, its like she has been here for ever and she enjoys riding on the golf cart as well, she has already learnt to scrounge food from the visitors, and she is getting quite brave about going into the pond as well! We clipped Rush and Indigo again, they look a little odd but are SO much cooler in this hot weather.

I think this is the longest period we have had the shade cloth up in the Hawk Walk for years, thanks to Adam and his dad for sorting it out for us, we would have been lost without it this year. But the birds are doing fine. The garden is suffering a little and a couple of the young trees are looking very stressed, we are watering them and I hope they will come back next year. The beech hedge that we moved is not going to manage though I suspect.

The usual ups and down of the Centre and working with birds has occurred, we lost Gluey which was really upsetting to everyone. He was doing really well, jumping to the fist, enjoying life, living with his brother Middle Mouse, and suddenly one day he looked ill and died within a couple of hours. He had had a very tough start to life and it finally was too much for him.
 
The Striated Caracara's are in disgrace, they hatched a beautiful chick, reared it for about a week and then ate it, so they will not be given the chance to have young again, we will do it for them!

Taransay the Condor has gone to her new home and we miss her very much, she will be back when she is old enough to breed and when I hope we will be able to build some new and larger enclosures for her. We did not want her to leave but for her sake she was getting too wedded to the place here and the people and she needed to move before it became stressful for her to do so. She is such a bright girl that we wanted the best for her.

On a better note, Chris has lent us a simply beautiful Martial Eagle, she is happily sitting in an aviary in the Eagle Barn and will hopefully get a mate here in the future, what a stunning bird. He also dropped off a beautiful captive bred young kite. We have it in with the youngest baby yellow billed kite and they snuggle up together - it is a charming site to see.

The first baby merlin who was ill as a chick is now full grown and very bumptious and Holly has just started to train it, I have started on the first of the Lanners, and Mark has a beautiful Barbary tiercel from Mike Hewlitt, which is doing well and should be flying loose soon. The first three Yellow billed Kites are in training, dubbed 61,62 and 63 until they have their official names they are doing really well.

The Falconry Weekend is approaching fast, I hope the weather holds, it looks like being an excellent event and friends from the US are coming over to help us with running it. I have to go to India soon after the weekend and so it will be good to have lots of help. Bob Dalton has done sterling work on the Facebook page keeping the interest up.

We have been busy and I don't appear to have upset visitors in this hot weather! It is interesting how they all sit on the right hand side of the benches in the shade of the Walnut trees though, you walk down and think that there is no one there as the benches in the front are empty, but they are all in the shade!!

Hello

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!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qHZGQ8i8AwI

HC

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