Sunday, 22 January 2017


The trip to South Africa was good, we first went to the house of Neil Forbes and stayed the night, had a walk through part of the game reserve and then the following day we move to Ostrich Manor a hotel in a beautiful site, although sadly lots of traffic noise. We spent three days teaching a husbandry, incubation and rearing of in this case vultures, but birds in general. It was well attended and everyone seemed to enjoy it. It was held at Vulpro which is based at the foot of the Magaliesberg Range of mountains, a stunning place.
It is really important to us to share the knowledge we have gained over the last five decades so that others can benefit – more importantly the birds can benefit and the mistakes that we have made in the past are not repeated ad finitum.
Kerri Wolter then led us to Oliphants, a game reserve that her family have a share in right next to Kruger National Park. The house was stunning and had air conditioning which for me was great because I don’t sleep well in very hot conditions. Not that we slept a great deal as we were out of the house by 5am for game watching and vulture searching! The house was right on the river, and there was a huge crocodile lurking at the bottom of the bank. It was certainly not the place to go for a walk right by the river!
We spent two days there looking at impala, elephant, saw a leopard, wildebeest, bush buck, and a beautiful male black rhino. And of course we were on the lookout for many birds, specifically vultures, which we saw a good number of. Hooded Vultures, cape Vultures, African White backed Vultures and Lappet Faced Vultures.
We had an impala carcass because Kerri wanted to catch and wing tag some of the local birds, however although they came in on the first day the nylon nooses did not work and although we caught three birds, the nooses did not hold which was annoying in the extreme. We redid the nooses after the first day, but not a vulture appeared, so later in the morning we went out looking for them. We found them, lots of them, and understood why none were coming into our carcass, but sadly the reason was a very recently poached female Rhino, with her horns hacked out, her tail and ears cut off.
We reported it and then when the manager arrived left them to do what they needed to do in terms of forensics. Even worse when we got back to the house they found a second poached Rhino, this time a male and another on a nearby reserve. Three Black Rhinos in one night, it was seriously shocking to see and hard to understand why people would do this horrific act for a horn made of the same material as our fingernails.
I suppose the only saving grace was that the revolting people who did this, did not poison the carcasses, otherwise we would have found a dead Rhino and hundreds of dead vultures. It did however put a severe dampener on the day and brought home to huge problems that fame wardens are facing to save these iconic species.
We headed back to Neil’s place where there were none of the wildlife liable to eat you and so Neil and I went for a walk to see if we could find a secretary bird as they have them nesting there. Sadly they were nowhere to be found that day.
After a day spent at the veterinary college where Neil operated on two of Kerri’s vultures to give
them the chance of being released back to the wild in the future I went back to Vulpro with Kerri and Maggie and the two treated vultures and had a peaceful evening before starting the long trip home the following day.
When it get close to my coming home I start to forget where I am and just look forward to getting home. Travel is not fun it is to be endured and survived!! I was however by that time really looking forward to a great cup of tea, a cold bedroom and a welcome by my five Labradors.

It was frosty and cold on the trip back to Newent, but once I got home, overcast cold and misty. All was well, staff, birds and dogs fine, and we moved new sand into the compartments in the Hawk Walk, got the top side done. I then worked on getting my office back to working as it had been emptied and decorated while I was away.

Mark left the Centre on Friday as his last day and did his final Owl Evening, it went very well, with a bright moonlight

night, tons of stars, and cold which is as it should be in the winter. We wish Mark the best of luck in buying a new property and starting his own business making falconry equipment.

My office is now almost up and running apart from the TV is not working and neither is the printer, but then moving electrics has never been my forte!

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.

Hello

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.

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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!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qHZGQ8i8AwI

HC

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