Friday, 23 January 2015
As we are now charitable, apparently I decided at close to the last minute that we need to be better organised to be able to get Gift Aid. If we can encourage our visitors to pay a fraction more to come in and to sign up for Gift Aid it has a significant benefit to the Centre - 28p in every pound, which is a lot of funds over time. So............. it is very difficult to encourage people to spend more if they are talking to you through a window. I can remember the time when if you went to the Bank, or the Post Office you could talk to a person without the barrier of a glass window. That barrier makes it much more difficult to be personal with anyone coming through the 'gate'. So at about the last minute - and its all the fault of one of my trustees who (as yet not knowing that if I think an idea is good I implement it straight away!) said why don't we change the entrance now...... we have!! With a huge amount of work from all the staff we have removed the ramp, changed the shop and entrance around completely - is it finished - nope!! Will it be by February 1st, probably not, but it will be close. The counter has moved and bloody hell it was heavy, the window is going and a new door is going to be ordered on Monday. The paint job starts tomorrow!! And that would be me I suspect, however I am sure the other staff will help me finish it off - a bride of wine will help!
At the same time, I was not happy with what we called the stock room and Holly had an idea about the desks, so a ton of work has happened there in the last three days as well, to be finished off by Holly and Robin on Monday; bearing in mind we have not yet finished the incubation facility, and we are also trying to get ready for opening. But!!!! as the Centre is so much more organised by the great staff and fantastic volunteers,  and the birds in the aviaries looking wonderful and also clean, there is not the major rush we used to have to get ready.
I have to say if you don't notice some pretty big changes around the place, I will be surprised. With leyandii gone (I am pleased to announce that Jimmi put his camera trap by their, now moved, nest box and the Little Owls are already in there and happy), the hedge along our road is being laid and already looks great, and makes the field look much more open; the flying field archway pruned and the path for us to walk reinstated, the shop and stock room reorganised and the incubation facility finished, or it will be soon, we have done a lot!! And managed to have Christmas and New Year as well!!
Birds are doing well, we have some stunning flying birds for the team this year and we are excited by a number of them. The two Owl Evenings that we run in February are nearly booked up, February 14th is full and there are a few places on the 13th which is great. We have eggs in the new incubation room already, and expect chicks by early February, Holly is already going up to the incubation room late at night so we are looking for a nice coffee machine for her in case she has to wait for eggs to hatch. The snowdrops are coming out - actually I still have roses blooming, which is ridiculous, although we did have a very heavy frost this morning so they may have given up. It still has a winter feel, but you know spring is round the corner, and very welcome it will be.
We are going to be doing a PhD study with a student from Swansea on how rain affects birds flying, and I am delighted because you can guarantee that if we want to fly birds in the rain - we will have a drought - perfect!!!
Monday, 19 January 2015
Benbecula is out and getting ready for flying
I feel very guilty that I have not written on the weblog as much as I should have done in the last year or so and particularly recently over the Christmas period. In fact one of our members phoned me up to see if I was OK! What incredibly nice members we do have. I am fine, I really am, in fact I gather after my recent MOT that my blood pressure is low and so is my cholesterol, which is amazing considering my diet!!! It has been a manic couple of years. We have done a ton of stuff,  and so much is looking great now. But by the end of the day where I used to spend time on the computer and indeed still do, I don’t seem to be able to get round to doing the things I would like to do such as the Weblog.
Over the Christmas period, which was Christmas Eve until January 5th this year, I get to look after the Centre, which I did as usual this year and realised, as I fed the birds daily and tried to keep everything neat and tidy, just how wonderful a team of staff – and volunteers I have here. The place was spotless, the birds looked well and there was not an area of the Centre that I was not able to be proud of, and that is a pretty cool thing to be able to say. Each year things just get better and more organised and easier for us to care for the birds and the visitors. Once everyone returned Mike got all the trees down by the Condor aviary, which has made a huge difference to the light coming to the aviaries and as the days get longer they will get more sunlight to bask in. Everyone else got on with the job of getting ready for opening on February 1st.
Right now, apart from finishing off the new incubation facility, which is going to be wonderful and you will all see so much more, and dealing with the usual enormous number of emails, we have been working on what has been needed to go Charitable. We are now a charity and I have to admit to having a number of sleepless nights. The charities commission wanted the Trustees to be able to state that there was no conflict of interests and that I would not benefit from the charity being in existence. All of which I understand and is very laudable, but there is a part of me that feels like saying to the Charities Commission – for Christ’s Sake!!! - I have not benefitted from the Centre, I have always put back every penny and more, and taken risks to keep it all going, I am not going to suddenly start to take, and nor would I ask the Trustees to even consider it.
Before felling - two had been done by this time
It’s a scary thing to do – as my solicitor said (come to think of it, she has not answered my last email so she could just be washing her hands of me, thinking I am nuts to do this) it’s a leap of faith – and it is. The place will no longer be mine to do with as I see fit. I will have a wage and looking at it long term, I have no pensions either. Who thinks of pensions when you are younger, or need to spend the funds on something for the birds, I did not. So now apart from a wage, which I hope I will be able to earn for a long time to come, I am reliant on £64 a week from the government, which I have to say does not go far!
Those are the sort of things that are likely to keep you awake at night. Luckily I am the sort of person who will grab my book and read through the small darkest hours so I don’t think about it. Plus I have the philosophy that – it will be fine, it will all work out. And I think it will!!! The important thing is that now the Centre has a long term and I hope an as assured future as possible because it is not reliant on the continuing existence of just one person. That was too high a risk to take when I look back at all the tremendous work that so many people have given over the years for us to still be here nearly 48 years on.
All gone!
It is cold, actually it is pretty cold! But then of course it is the winter. The weather has been beautiful, clear and frosty and sunny most of the day – and cold! The birds are flying well, those we have started, more will be got going again ready for February. The two Owl Evenings are booking up, in fact the Saturday is full and there are still places on the Friday.
The Griffon Vultures egg will be removed soon as will the Grey Buzzard Eagles. We did have an interesting time a couple of Sunday’s ago. Katie (volunteer) was taking a wheel barrow to the compost heap and she came on the radio and told Pippa and I that there was a tiny owl on the wall. I was not far away and she was right, one of the Ferruginous Pygmy Owls was sitting on the wall. So we snuck round and tried to net her, however she then flew up into the Oak tree, way out of reach. I phoned Sally to see if David had a long fishing rod, Mark came over and then I remembered Adam’s idea about water. So we got all the hoses and put them together, and Mark went up a step ladder and he slowly brought the spray (which was just about reaching!) over the owl and got it wet. It did not appreciate the rain and tried to fly, but as we had hoped, it could only fly down!! Five minutes and two bites in my thumb later it was back in my hand and then in a warm hospital box for the night. The hose did not get put away until the following day!


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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