Wednesday, 29 January 2014

A very good friend gave me an iPad for Christmas, for which I am extremely grateful, but which also means, much to the joy of the staff who have to deal with my emails when I am away, that I can do them wherever I am in the world – oh great!!!

Cowan Red is back out on duty for the start of the year

However to be able to access them I have had to change from Windows Live, which replaced Outlook Express, and was no-where near as good I have to say, to Outlook. I had to get Outlook 2013 – DON’T but it whatever you do!!!! It is crap, and that is putting it very mildly indeed. Apparently I can’t put emails into my calendar without sending the bloody things to myself as well, I can’t send a group email without far more clicks of the mouse. I can’t stop all email addresses that arrive to me going automatically into my address book, I can’t add a signature to emails that have been forwarded and there are a whole ton of other things that I can’t do which I could with Outlook Express and Windows Live - I hate it!!!


I guess the two things that really annoy me is that software writers don’t seem to understand that some things do not need changing and that in fact the upgrades, changes and general overhauls of a programme almost always are a problem rather than an improvement to the users.


Mark's Merlin is ready to show off
The other things that really pisses me off is that they have glitches and often don’t work. If I bought a drill, or an iron or a car that had glitches and did not work I would be able to throw it back at the maker with strong words about it. Can you do that with software, apparently not. I would like to return Outlook 2013 and get 2010 which I am told is better. Mr Microsoft, please talk to your software writers and tell them that they should not improve a programme without asking the people who use it if they really want to have it improved!!! And if they do improve it they need to put it out to people like me, who can then tell them what is not good about it!! Get it sorted please!


Well the rain continues, the ground is saturated, but we are at least much luckier than those poor people living close to rivers. I always thought it would be wonderful, like Ratty, to live on the river, but now I am glad I live three hundred feet up. However the snowdrops are still coming up, the daffodils are showing green and its very weird to hear spring bird song this early, but we have been hearing it since Christmas.


The Verreaux's nest and egg
We now have camera’s on the nests in the Eagle Barn, and Adam has put them on Ustream, so you can see what is happening. The Verreaux’s laid two days ago and the Vultures are now sitting on a wooden egg and Holly has taken their egg for hatching. We will return the chick at about two weeks old as they failed to rear last year.


Jimmi is starting to train the Black Changeable Hawk Eagle as we are unlikely to ever get a mate for her and so we thought we would see how she did flying. Benbecula, the new male Stellers Sea Eagle is flying wonderfully, as is Rathlin, John’s Steppe Eagle. He is also training a Striated Caracara kindly given to us by ZSL, called Hibre, he is wonderful and very smart. The falcons are starting to fly well, all the owls are coming back on line after their Christmas break, and we are ready to open.


Its odd that come the end of November we are really looking forward to being closed and not having to work our day round flying demonstrations, but by about mid January we are all looking forward to being open again!


A touch of spring to get us there!
I am very much looking forward to the spring this year because with Rob joining us as gardener he has already made a huge difference to how the gardens are looking and the spring will really show the difference.


With the new Hospital making a big difference to our lives, the gardens coming on, a great team of staff, the workshop being moved, the cars under cover, and the place looking good, all it has to do is stop raining and we will have a great year ahead of us.



Thursday, 16 January 2014

I am sure that at times our visitors and my friends think that I am anti humans, and generally they are probably right. It just staggers me how stupid, basic and all round unpleasant they can be. I have just been ploughing through EU paperwork and legislation and that in itself is a guaranteed place to get very angry at how stupid some of the laws are that are coming out, you would hope they might have better things to do. After all who cares what shape a bloody banana is. I suspect that at some point in the future when there are world-wide food shortages, which is likely to happen, all  of us will just be pleased to get a banana and all that stupid legislation (26000 words on selling cauliflowers!) will go by the board, and rightly so.


And then there are those people who want licenses to shoot Rhino’s, Hippo’s (where the hell is the skill in that for God’s sake) Elephants, Polar Bears, or go to South America and shoot 4000 doves in three days, or two puma’s. Why do these complete morons want to do it, what vicarious gratification does it give them to sit there with their expensive high powered rifle and a beautiful graceful, superb animal that looked so much better alive than held up by these pathetic idiots. Plus with almost all of these animals they don’t even have the extremely minor excuse of wanting to kill to eat.  You do have to wonder at how their minds work, if indeed they have anything that could be called one.


On the other-side there are stunning buildings, amazing artwork, generous and kind acts, and genuinely lovely people who stand up for humanity and bring it to a level where one could be proud to be human if it were not for all the others.


Sadly the others, extremists in religion – what is it with people who set off suicide bombs and kill hundreds of people who have no interest in their problems  - are they really stupid enough to think that it will have the desired effect – I guess they are and the only upside is that there is one less of them around, and all the other idiots push aside the good that so many do.

OK rant over. We have redone the roof over the aviaries for the trained owls and the weighing room, and found out where the leaks were and fixed them, which is a relief. We are half way through the replacement roof on the tiny owls and Delectable. We were gaily taking the old and extremely rotten one off (it had been on since 1995!) when I suddenly realised that the apex of the roof was in fact not over the service passage, but over the aviaries of birds that we had not moved! So a quick removal of birds occurred and the roof was finished on one side in the pouring rain and dark enough that it was hard to see the damn nail to hit it! Delectable is ensconced in the indoor Hawk Walk having a wonderful time. The others are all either in spare aviaries or in the hospital in the nice comfortable, clean spanking new boxes for the night.


Deneb looks stunning, a beautiful orange pink breast colour and very smart on the back. We have also got out Oberon, John’s Red tailed Buzzard, and Tiapan, the Barbary Falcon as well as Common and Discovery – Lanners, with more to come out over the next week ready for opening again in February. Benbecula is flying brilliantly as is Rathlin, and Mark is going to get his young Grey Buzzard Eagle out soon as well, so we should have a great team to start the year.

We have had two very sad losses over the winter, Pioneer our first and beautiful Steller’s Sea Eagle was found dead in her moulting aviary, we do not as yet know why, she was fat, in wonderful condition, just changing to full adult plumage, but died below her perch. We will miss her greatly. We also lost one of the older Black Kites, Milan, she was 12 years old, which is not a great age.


Otherwise the birds are doing well. We gave up with the African Fish Eagles who have been trying to build their damn nest on a perch, a rock in their aviary, even the food draw – in fact anywhere other than their nest ledge. So we gave them a new one near their favourite perch and they love it. We now have CCTV in all the Eagle Barn Aviaries and so we can check on them 24 hours a day to see what they are doing, it is wonderful and thank you Adam for fixing it up.


We did some filming with Suliska earlier this month, he had to show that a Great Grey Owl can find food without seeing it, so he was pouncing on a buzzer hidden in leaves. The Burrowing Owls may star later in a wildlife film and my sparrow hawk is wanted to film with as well, although I am less confident in him than the others.
Rob is making the garden look great, or as great as he can in the incessant rain which is beginning to get us all down.
The snowdrops are coming out, because it is so mild we are hearing spring bird song, so I guess it will probably freeze and snow once we open again!!

The India trip is postponed until mid February, so I can do the two lectures that I have booked. Angela has painted the café again, so we are getting ready for February 1st!!

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Well Christmas is over, the New Year is over, which as usual I saw in in bed fast asleep! I think the last time I saw in the New Year was the millennium with a good friend of mine Arthur Middleton and I am still kicking myself that we did not think to go up May Hill, it would have been tremendous, never mind – next time!
A ford near us!
Christmas Day and Boxing Day were lovely, sunny and dry, and I think that one other day was good too, otherwise it rained, and rained, and New Year’s day was I think the wettest day I can remember for a long time. I went through three sets of clothing and was so cold and wet after feeding round that I had to stop and get warm again before going out to finish the cleaning up and bail water from in front of the weighing room, that gave me the second set of wet clothes and taking the dogs out for a walk did the final set – though to the skin all three times!
It’s raining now, we had a respite on Thursday, it was good to see the staff back in, although Mark is not well. The hawk walk birds all had a day out on the lawn, a good bath and a good clean, before having to go back under their compartments again as the weather got worse.
We have five pair of birds on eggs, but three are probably not going to have hatched eggs, they have been somewhat sketchy in their incubation, however those pairs will probably relay. The Griffon Vultures are on an egg, which is good, we will take and hatch it and then return the chick at about ten days old if all goes well. Adam organised CCTV camera’s on all the nests in Barn One and it is great fun to watch the birds playing with sticks, completely demolishing their beautifully made nests, or sitting on their egg. Sadly we can’t put it live on our website as the Broad band here is too slow. So much for rural areas being looked after!!  
There are rooves to fix, gutters to mend, the old Secretary Bird aviary to sort out and make safe and birds to get flying again (if it ever stops raining) all before we open again on February 1st, I just don’t know where the time goes.
We are going to be filming the Burrowing Owl’s nest, we have been asked to work with some Harris Hawks on a project at Oxford University and my sparrow hawk Deneb is in demand, I am getting him out this week to start flying.
I also have to go to India sometime this month as we are going to be working with some of the parents and chicks to see if we can improve on our breeding successes. Not likely to get bored I think!


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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