Monday, 27 May 2013

Apologies I know I have not kept up with things, there just seems to be so many things to get done, and emails take up an unacceptable amount of time as well.

The second day of the British Falconry and Raptor Fair went well apart from the Last Bird!!! Typical, Fortina was upset by something, and did a disappearing act, however thanks to Marshall telemetry and the Kay’s who helped enormously, Mark Kay is first class with telemetry and also very encouraging, I am going to ask him to come and do some teaching here in the winter - we found her about two hours later and she came straight in which was nice.

It’s been up and down weather, some good days and some miserable, but it has been cold as well. The early bank holiday weather was wonderful, but then it slowly got chillier and chillier, still, the trees are now nearly all out, its that glorious vivid but soft green of new leaves that is such a joy in the spring. The weather forecast for the second Bank Holiday was OK except for the Monday, however as usual they were wrong, and as I sit in my office this evening it is still dry. It has been however, extremely windy, It was so windy on Saturday that we were unable to fly after the first demonstration, just too potentially dangerous for the birds out there.

The breeding is going OK, we have lost a couple of merlin eggs and sadly the Turkey Vulture eggs were clear, but it was a first time for our male, so were the Great Grey Owls, not sure what their excuse is. So as with many breeding seasons, on those species we wait another year. Our saddest loss was our young Tawny Eagle who was doing so well with the Steppes, but suddenly got ill and failed to make it despite a rush to the vets.

The three baby kites are very well, as are the Long-eared Owls, we await the second clutch of Kites, and then the first of American Kestrels and Snowy Owls and the second of merlin's, and I think that will be about it!

I am keeping my fingers crossed for a captive bred Hobby this year too, that will be wonderful to train and fly. There is a remote chance of two baby Secretary Birds if we can raise the funds, that would be just the best. All the baby Lanners are back with various parents, the young Steller’s is about fledging and the baby Bald Eagle is doing well with the Verreaux’s.

Earlier this year we tried a Groupon promotion – never never again. Some of the people who came were very nice, some were just dreadful, one expected a free guide book as well! One woman tried to get her son in as a child although he was 17, when told that 16 is the cut off point, she said – but he is still my child!!! One wonders if when he is 47 and still  ‘her child’ she will want to get him in cheaply. The café benefitted, but otherwise we did not – it will be interesting to see if any come back, I have my doubts I have to say. And what most people don’t understand is that Groupon not only take over half the money, but if you don’t use the coupon – they take the lot and we get nothing!!! As I said never again, and I can’t recommend it.

But what has made me most angry is Natural England granting in secret licenses to kill buzzards to a pheasant shoot and a chicken farm. Only because the RSPB did a freedom of information act query, did we all find out about it. And someone in Natural England needs to learn to do some maths.

There are approximately 35 million pheasants released in the UK, the Game Conservancy advises between 700 to 1000 pheasants should be released per hectare, a little over crowded you might say, and an invitation to predators.

'They're quite a primitive bird,' concedes Rufus Sage from the Game Conservancy Trust. He estimates that only 40 per cent of estate-bred pheasants are shot, but that 90 per cent of them are unlikely to live longer than a year. Road kill accounts for millions. At this time of year, the lanes near our house in Herefordshire resemble pheasant apocalypse, their glittering corpses littering the roadside in a terrible statement of wasted lives. (will they be applying for licenses to kill drivers next!!!)

In 1900, the average bag of pheasants was approximately 25 per 100 hectares, rising to almost 150 per 100 hectares in the 1980s.  As a direct result of increases in rearing, nowadays nearly four-fifths of shoot providers rely on released pheasants, with an estimated 35 million pheasants released each year.  The total pheasant bag stands at around 15 million birds. That is less than half the birds put out!!!

B A S C found that, on average, 1-2% of pheasant poults released were taken by all birds of prey, Knott said, adding that a third of all pheasants are killed on the roads.

1.5 % of 35 million is 525000!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

If 10% of the buzzards took pheasants, which I suspect is way higher than really do, that would be approximately 10,000 buzzards if they took a pheasant a day for the approximately 120 days that the birds are vulnerable (and I have extrapolated up here every time) that is 120000 pheasants killed and eaten - not only would the buzzards be the size of a condor if they ate that much!!!! But that leaves a discrepancy of 405000 birds!!!!

Sparrow hawks are being blamed, a male sparrow hawk weighs 171 grams, a female up to 350 grams, adult male pheasants weigh 1600 to 1800grams, females 900 grams  to 1100 grams. A male Sparrow hawk could not kill even a young pheasant, a female can kill up to 1.5% of their own body weight, but rarely kill things that large.


The only other species of bird of prey that can kill pheasants are Goshawks. The RSPB put them at 410 pairs, actually I suspect that is a very low estimate, so let’s put them at 1000 birds in the UK, many living where there are no shoots, we have a ton of them round here in the Forest of Dean. So let’s give 400 the chance to kill a pheasant every other day each year – 72000

That still leaves 333000 pheasants unaccounted for if raptors are killing 1.5% of the 35000000 birds released, that is bloody ridiculous!! Natural England need to get a calculator and stop listening to shooters.

Of course if cars are killing 11666666.6667 how sad is that, and what a shame that buzzards are being killed because of shooting. I have good shooting friends, but this sort of thing does not reflect well on that group in society.

Shooting a few pairs is pointless because more will come in and take their place, are we then to see every pair that comes into a shoot given a death sentence by Natural England who’s aim is and I quote ‘to create a better natural environment that covers all of our urban, country and coastal landscapes, along with all of the animals, plants and other organisms that live with us.’ They are a government body, which is I think a part of Defra. The next will be Red Kites, Harriers, and Peregrines, all of whom might just possibly impinge on commercial farming of pheasants or chicken.

Ironically we applied for a license to be able to keep for educational purposes and breeding a pair of injured Peregrines, it was denied, they would rather we killed the birds.

Oh and by the way 75 tons of lead is sprayed around our beautiful country – and its toxic!



Sunday, 5 May 2013
Just got back from the British Falconry and Raptor Fair, I gave two demonstrations and I have to say the nine birds were faultless, I took and flew Pleiades, She was very good, and behaved just as I would have hoped. The falcons were all good although some idiot let his bloody German Pointer run into the ring twice with the first bird, I was not pleased!!! I suspect he was very embarrassed by the end of my tirade, but he deserved it the prat. Thank goodness the falcon dealt with it OK. Karis was superb at the end of the first demonstration, Hare did brilliantly at the second one and I was particularly pleased with Bay Middleton again because he flew so well. We did two demonstrations and two coping sessions, and I managed to buy two shirts and a rather smart waistcoat, I never look as smart as many of the others doing demonstrations, so I thought I had better do something about. Although I have to say, I may not look as smart but my birds rarely let me down.
The Condor has hatched and what a charmer, Holly and I had to give her a hand because she  had started to be less active, so we popped her out, she was a little weak for the first few hours but is now racing ahead. The two lanner babies have gone back with Dawn Run and Hector, and they are doing a splendid job and two of their eggs are fertile which is great news. We have four baby Tawny Owls, and the Long-eared Owls have just started to hatch as well. More Lanners are starting to hatch and we await some of the small falcons starting to lay.
The weather has been great, not always sunny, but dry and reasonably warm, with a couple of really warm days giving us amazing flying from some of the falcons. The weeding and planting goes on apace, well actually it stopped for a couple of days as I have not had time, but I hope to get back to it soon. If anyone would like to come and help me in the garden I would be eternally grateful.
On Thursday Holly and Sally and I, plus Pan, Orion, Coll and Mucklerow went filming at St Mary’s church in Berkley, we were filming for a new series with David Attenborough. What a charming man and what a pleasure to work with, it was a privilege to work with him. The birds were very good, we were a little worried about Pan as he was asked to do stuff that was tricky before we had expected, but he was good, we then used Orion who was excellent, giving Pan time to get to the right time in the evening and then he did some lovely flying in the churchyard. All in all it went very well and I hope they were pleased, they should have got some good stuff.
I don’t know yet if Sorrel is in pup, there are not much in the way of signs, so we may have her scanned in a couple of weeks to see where we are, at least that will clarify the situation and I can plan ahead, particularly as if she is, they are due on a weekend when I am away damn it!!
Ah well, off to help with the last baby feed and then bed, with an early start tomorrow for the second day of the Falconry Fair, hope it goes well.


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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