Saturday, 31 December 2016
I can't believe that I have not written since October, it certainly is not because I have a ton of free time, because apparently I do not. I don't know where the time goes, but it sure as hell does.

So I have been to India again - Mumbai, although quite frankly it could have been anywhere because over 6 days we never left the hotel apart from to move from one to the second one, and to get to the airport to come home. Not only that but the meeting was as so many of these things are, in the basement of the hotel with no windows. There is something very depressing about being in rooms with no view to the outside world for any length of time.

India consisted of various pre meeting meetings throughout the first two days, followed by two days of the SAVE meeting. This was followed by the MsAP, which was another two day meeting. It is a Multi Species Action Plan for all vultures and I have to say that I am not convinced that it is a good idea. I fail to see how you can have a plan to assist all species of Old World Vultures throughout all of their ranges when the threats they face are very different and the cultures in their ranges are also worlds apart. Interestingly there is only one other MsAP which is for Albatrosses – their problems are more similar across their range and I guess it might work but I am seriously concerned about the vulture one.

Once we had finished the last day of that meeting we caught the plane home flying out from Mumbai finally at 3.10am - Lovely, still at least it meant we got back with a lot of the day to get home. The plane was full and we had stereophonic screaming children surrounding us. It’s a good job the windows don’t open or I would have thrown several of them out!!

Autumn was almost over when I left, it had been a glorious one and mostly the weather had been dry. We had recently had just a couple of days of some serious rain and my pond which was quite low is now back up to the top for the winter. 

Mark, our head falconer has decided to leave the Centre. He wishes to make a business in the top end of falconry equipment and says he does not have the time to do it and still work at ICBP. I think too that as the Centre evolves and its focus changes a little he is uncomfortable with the changes. I think it will be good for him to leave and be able to refocus himself. He will still be around to help out on occasions which will be nice, but the break away will do him a great deal of good. 

With Mark and Emily leaving we are looking for one new staff member next year to assist, particularly as it is our 50th anniversary coming up. We are also looking for a new Cafe Manager as Angie wants to step back a little and a PR/Marketing/Sales person. I can't believe how expensive newspaper advertising is!!
Misty afternoon trying out my new camera with the dogs

It was glorious bright frostly weather to return too after India, a little cold, but a proper winter day. Just what I needed after 6 days in the basement of hotels!

We are now closed for two months, everyone seems to be coping with Emily having left, although we do see her dropping in on occasion, and Mark is leaving on January 20th as his last day. I gather he has nearly sold his house which he has been trying to go for about four years now, so once he finishes he will be very busy finding a new home. I do not envy him, but it will be very exciting for him.

Briza has recovered from kennel cough, I have no idea how she developed it, but luckily with a very swift vaccination, none of the others got it.

They just about sat for long enough to get this!!
Because of the Bird Flu outbreak in Europe and now cases in the UK, there are various orders from DEFRA about keeping birds safe from contact with wild birds so we have grounded those that might go off our land until the order is finshed which was to be January 6th  but I suspect will be later now. As we are closed it is not affecting us much and those birds grounded would have been rested over the Christmas period anyway. It gives us time to do more maintenance jobs ready for our 50th anniversary next year. 

Christmas has come and gone, I went with Holly before Christmas to Hereford, I have not been happy with my Canon 7D or the hugely expensive and very nice, but very heavy lens, so I exchanged the whole lot for a Canon 670D and a 300mm Lens, much lighter, really good in low level light and we shall see what I get on the next trip which is South Africa.

All the birds are fine, the weather was bitterly cold for about four days after Christmas, which made feeding round a chilly job. I find that when my hands get really cold it is much more painful than it used to be when they come round! Must be old age.

We are off to South Africa teaching on a husbandry and incubation course to about 18 people on vulture conservation. When we discussed it in May it seemed like a good idea to take a week off afterwards and go to a game ranch which we have been invited to. Now of course the closer we get to leaving, and with two staff down and new staff to interview on my return, I am regretting it!! I am sure it will be fine. And if I can work out how the new camera works I might get some good photos as well.
Benbecula on a sunny but cold morning

I still have not finished my part of the talks, and have to get one with it, but after feeding round, thawing out, taking the dogs for a walk and closing up the birds there is not much of the day left. I am sure my staff hate the fact that I care for the place for about 10 days, because there is always a long list of things I want changed by the end of it!!!

Sunday, 30 October 2016

October 30th 2016

The clocks changed last night, so shorter days, but I prefer the daylight for getting up, makes it easier. Back safely from the US, it was a good conference and a stunning place. It was great to see old friends and meet new ones. And the place was beautiful although I suspect a nightmare in the summer with millions of humans there. 
My Second Lugger is now loose, called Polonium he is full of feistiness and very funny. I think he will be a better flyer than his brother Squill, but we will see. The new Red Kite called Cadmium is charming, much nicer that Muckle Rowe which would not be difficult. I am not sure of its sex though. Supposedly a female but quite a big small than my other two. Its feather condition leaves a lot to be desired but that is fixable. Autumn persists in being beautiful and half term is nearly over.

October 18th
Here in Cape May, the conference has been going very well and the place is glorious. I have walked along the beach every morning and watched the sun rise, and the sea crashing on the sand. I leave my shoes on a fence by the sand dunes and walk down to the sea, it is surprisingly warm and just beautiful to watch and to paddle in. So I have paddled in the foam each morning watching the gulls and the terns, the sanderlings run up and down as the waves rush up the sand and retreat, they even have time to chase off other sanderlings with their feathers ruffled up. Just perfect, I wish the dogs were here!
This afternoon I have to chair (it’s called moderating over here) a session, which means I have to be in the whole thing – ah well.

October 15th
Just about to leave again, this time I am going the other way, west rather than east as I am going to Cape May for the Raptor Research Foundation meeting which has its Board meeting on Sunday and then the conference during the week. As usual, I have to rush back so there is not the time to go on any of the trips, which is sort of annoying. I am giving a paper on the Status of Vultures world-wide, which I am looking forward to doing.

We have been having the most glorious autumn with warm dry sunny days and we have had our first frost, not a significant one, but bearing in mind last winter we barely had a frost, so it was good to see. Autumn should be autumn and winter should be winter and we have not had either for a while. The leaf colour is amazing here when we have had frosts, the maples, and beeches, plus the liquid amber's which we have several of give us huge variation which I love.

All birds are flying well, the new female Lugger is going to be absolutely amazing if we don’t screw up, she is getting up really good height which for a young falcon is exciting to see and she may turn out to be another Karis. The Barbary has finally learnt to get enough height so that instead of doing a disappearing act because he can’t find his way back, he can see where we are and is coming back regularly, which is a huge bonus – and flying very well.
My male Lugger has a long way to go! The wild Peregrine from Norfolk is finally recovering, and will be retrained and flown and as soon as she has caught a couple of things we will take her back to Norfolk and release her with a sigh of relief.

Once I am back which is only 6 days, I have the brother of the Lugger to start on, he injured his leg early on and so after a rest he is now back to being trained, it will not be easy as he is older than I would like, but it will be interesting to see if he is like his little bro.

I have one more trip to India in late November, then it’s a serious start on getting organised for next year which is our 50th anniversary year and so a big one.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Sept 10th
Here I sit in Delhi Airport, waiting to get on a plane to Chandigarh. I have this habit of dividing journeys into stages. So for this first trip we are on stage five. I have seven flights in 11 days! Not my favourite thing I have to say. The weather was lovely when I left, and the dogs as wonderful as ever. Now is the time of year that we switch from the summer team of birds that have been flying since January, to the winter team.
Oxymil Pippa's new Spectacled Owl who is flying very well

We keep the summer team going until after the Falconry Weekend which we have just had. All in all considering the weather it went very well, and although we did not increase the numbers because the forecast on the Saturday was dreadful, we kept up to last year’s figures which I was relieved about. Actually the weather was nowhere near as bad as predicted – as usual!!!! However we really did know that we had diehard falconers and country people at the evening BBQ as we all stayed out for at least three hours in the pouring rain!! I did not have a dry stitch on by the end of it, at least I had put the dogs away thank goodness.

The Sunday was fine and all birds flew well, including all those invited birds that came with others. It really is a good show and the atmosphere is wonderful, assisted ably by those who attend and of course my staff who seem to enjoy it even though the run up is hard work.
The clear up went very well, all clean and tidy by the end of the day apart from the bins which went a couple of days later. I bought a second golf cart for the event and was amazed as what they can tow, a very heavy wheelie bin was nothing to them.

Now I am in India and Nepal for about twelve days, then home and looking forward to having my Sparrow Hawk out and a new Red Kite to fly now Muckle Rowe is in for moulting. It’s very weird not to be flying birds daily!!

Sept 14th
The Pre-release aviary in India
Now I am sitting at the vulture breeding centre in Pinjore. Staying at the Budgerigar Hotel with a big festival going on outside, very noisy!! We have been getting up at 5.30am each morning to be ready at the centre to catch up birds by 6.00am, after about 9.30am it is too hot to catch them without risk to the birds. So sleep is at a premium! We have one more day of it, and then a day of meetings. I am joined by Chris Bowden tomorrow and he and I will be travelling together to Nepal, so we then the train back to Delhi, which means if we get to the hotel by it will be a miracle. Our plane to Kathmandu leaves at about 6.45am, so we have to get to the airport the following day by about 4.30 – oh hooray!! And some people think I am having a bloody holiday!
Sept 16th
Its a great way to keep cool!
Well we did not get to a hotel, eventually we ended up going straight to the airport, so a night with no sleep, but a good G and T at some ungodly hour of the morning. We got to Kathmandu, caught the short flight to Bharatpur and were met by one of the BCN staff who is in charge of the release project in Nepal and drove to the hotel, only got lost about three times, but he got us there, so all power to him! We then dropped off our stuff, had a quick lunch and went to the Kasaura Vulture Conservation Breeding Centre so check that all was going to be ready to start the catch up at 6.00am the following morning. Another two days of 5.30 get up!
In the following two days we caught up all 57 vultures. We had had all the DNA sexing done previously and wanted to move them so that we had a balance of males and females. The skew of sexing in the two colony aviaries was marked and answered the questions of a lot of infertile eggs, which I was not surprised at. We ended up with 13 pairs in one colony aviary and 12 pairs in the other and seven spare females which would form the first group of vultures to be released – once permission had be granted for satellite tagging and the problems of the neighbouring States in India not being as free of diclofenac as they might be, being sorted.
The second last day was spend going to the vulture safe zone first created by Nepal, they lead the way in the creating of safe environments for the vultures. Interestingly not only in south asia, but also leading the US as we still have not managed to get lead banned in shooting and that is what is killing the California condors. So all things considering they are doing a sterling job. The people there working with the local community are amazing and have got everyone on side. This is the area where we are going to have the first release so we checked the site and chose a spot for the release aviary. There is a very good hide nearby as this is where the dead cows are placed once they die of natural causes (and guaranteed diclofenac free). So it is an ideal place for the release, apart from its proximity to the Indian border.
We stayed in a Home Stay which was very good apart from the mattress which was like rock! But then the mattresses in Pinjore are nearly that hard – I am going to take a Lillo next time! However other than that it was fine and we were treated to a jeep ride through the jungle and saw some very nice rhinos.
The following day we flew back to Kathmandu had various meetings with BCN, NT
NC and the government, stayed the night and got up early (just for a change!) to fly out. I flew to Delhi and then home, Chris flew to Delhi and then to Bangalore which is where he is living for the next three years before he comes home.
I finally got home at about 10.15pm and had a lovely greeting from Holly and Adam who picked me up from the station and an even better one from the dogs who were very pleased to see me – as I was to see them, not let me hasten to add that I was not pleased to see Adam and Holly as well! Jet lag still prevails!!


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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