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!!
Wednesday, 24 August 2016
Nearly the end of August, what has happened to the year - it has vanished. We have had the most glorious summer weather and that has made a big difference in visitor numbers so we have been very busy. All birds are flying well and Hare (Indian Tawny Eagle) managed to find a thermal and get height!! Only the third time in 16 years! But it was a sight to see. Karis has been loving the weather although a couple of days ago when Fens Falconry brought some of their birds to rehearse for the Falconry Weekend which is now less than two weeks away, they put a very beautiful Ferruginous Buzzard on the lawn and Karis just hated it, I had to move him out of sight.

We have some lovely new birds coming along on the team. The Black Shouldered Kite that arrived last year is now flying and its a scream, it flies beautifully, although not always where you want it and as it comes into land it drops its legs and just looks hysterical, bit of a charmer really. The two new Luggers are doing well although have the usual Lugger temperament (touchy!). We have added one more Barbary and one more Lanner to the team - both bred here this year.

I gather there has been an article about Hen Harriers in the Sunday Times, I don't read newspapers because they bore me and because I consider that they are only really suitable to put under the birds in our hospital, in that way we put on them roughly what is in them and as usual this article proves my point. I did look up Johnathon Leake and interestingly he is not recommended by any other journalists, that could of course be a good thing!

The hen harrier, Britain’s rarest bird of prey, is to be bred in a “battery” farm similar to those used by the poultry industry

This remarkably stupid and extremely ill informed statement is how he leads on the article, which damns it from the start sadly. The interesting thing I find about newspapers is just how incredibly inaccurate they always are. You can even write the article for them and they will still get it wrong. My sister is married to a journalist in the US and they assure me that American journalists have to make sure their facts are right. What a shame UK journalists appear to be incapable of following suit. They are at times so inaccurate it beggars belief, and sadly they can damage things very easily by writing without checking facts. 

I went up north in July and was involved in satellite tagging two young Hen Harriers. Monitoring is a vital part of the conservation plan to see where these birds go and sadly if they get killed on Grouse moors, which we know happens. I have to say I really hope these two make it to breeding age and produce young themselves that would be very special.

Bank holiday weekend coming up in three days and we are praying that the weather holds - it plays such a huge part in good visitor numbers and we are nearly at the end of the school holidays so it is important. Although I love the autumn here as we have what is called the grey pound - people who have retired and want to go out when there are not a ton of children around, and generally they are lovely! I am flying at the Essex Dog Day on the sunday, so a trip round the M25, but they are such a nice show I don't mind.

I am struggling at the moment to find a venue in London to hold an event for our charity, I want to do it in December and be able to take a few birds to illustrate what we do. So far venues are either too expensive, have closed down, do not bother to reply, or are just unhelpful. Its very depressing as time is of the essence and I don't have much of time spare! 

India vulture trip looms next month I have to be away from September 9th to 22nd, and its a big chunk out of September, I hope I don't miss an Indian summer here. I wonder which Indian that really means - I will have to google it!

We have a lorry load of concrete arriving tomorrow, the new trailer to carry away all the compost to the composting place is working a treat so we are turning the old compost heap into a store for sand and gravel with a floor, so that should make life easier and waste less sand which is bloody

keeping cool in the hot weather!

The place is looking good although the grounds are suffering a little from lack of rain, however that is a problem I am very happy with.  

I managed to slip over in the weighing room a couple of weeks ago, thought I had broken my ankle, but it was just a bad sprain, and it is still being a pain. Hope it is fixed by the time I have to fly or it will be uncomfortable that is for sure.

Better get on with things to do for the Falconry Weekend! 
Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Agapanthus doesn't seem to care either way!
I think it’s a great shame that we are exiting Europe and interestingly a number of people that I know voted to go are now regretting it. One could only wish they had thought a little more before they had voted. I think we may live to regret it. I hear also that many young people are furious about it, and feel that we have let them down.  We should have done what Scotland did and give this vote to 16 year olds as well, at least they might have understood the importance and bothered to vote. Shame on any of you that did not vote. 

The exit certainly immediately closes a door for us at ICBP because it means we can no longer apply for grants from Europe to do our conservation work. It will probably mean that moving birds to other collections within Europe or to us here for fresh blood lines will also become much more difficult and expensive. One of my staff has just lost his house sale because of the exit and I gather that selling houses in London right now is a nightmare.

I do wonder if people think that all those immigrants that are living near Calais are now going to turn round and try to go somewhere else – somehow I doubt that, in fact it would not surprise me if France just let them through!

Wild Red Kite over ICBP
I watched Andrew Neal interviewing someone about the exit, he really is the most unpleasant character. Extremely rude, constantly interrupting and aggressive in his interviewing techniques. I find a number of TV ‘personality type’ interviewers to be much the same, they seem to consider their voice and opinion is more expert and important than the people they are lambasting, which I have to say generally I do most definitely not agree. I want to hear what the person being interviewed is saying not the news person. They are news people, and as I know from personal experience, they are sparing with the truth whenever it pleases them. Andrew Neal is most definitely in that camp, he really should do something about his hair, is it fake?

Will this lead to the breakup of the UK, possibly. Watch out now for another Scottish referendum on leaving the UK, if they do they will win this time. So I hope all those who voted to leave are going to be happy about that, again I suspect not. Will Northern Ireland do the same I wonder.

I am glad I went to that meeting with CITES in Brussels last month because I doubt I will be able to do that again, we won't have any voice or influence with European CITES now because we won't be Europe.

I repeat – what a shame and imagine the world with the two blond men in the running now, Johnson and Trump – good God what a disaster!

Will the American's vote for Trump, you would hope not, however I think the problem there is that having had a black president they will not want to go straight to a female one. There would have been more chance of that later. I can just see the Southern men (and women) saying 'we can't have a woman president'!


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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