One of the things that really strikes me as I watched three films yesterday!! (and now my back is sore from too little work!) is that people really have no idea about global warming. They just don’t understand that this will affect all our lives in time. Just watch the adverts, the amount of waste is just mind boggling, when you think how much fuel and money the world could save by just using less lights it would pay off my debts in probably seconds. Gross over use of lights and water prevails in adverts, it may look pretty, but its shameful waste without thought or reason.
Christmas lights are another thing that really makes you understand that we really have not faced up to the fact that we should be saving precious fuel, not wasting it. I have to say I loath the fast growing habit of decorating your house, lawn, trees, and heaven knows what else with flashing lights, and a friend of mine just sent me a U tube video that says it all in terms of insanity and waste. And that is apart from most of them being incredibly tasteless, and causing light pollution. These people certainly must have money to burn because burning it they are, but bear this in mind, they are also burning your future lighting and heating, it is not limitless.
At the risk of harping on, I remember listening to a radio advert for I think it was a detergent product last year. The voices they used to extol the virtues of the stuff annoyed me, because when they got to the fact that it was a greener product they used a weird hippy voice, and I thought then these people really don’t understand that green issues are not to be joked about, they are, for our future, deadly serious.
So enough moralizing, although I mean it very seriously believe me. I am so sparing of electricity in my house that I often wander round in the semi dark!! But today it is a beautiful morning. A hard frost with a clear sky, I am about to put the birds out for a bath if the water is not frozen, the forecast is for snow, so I want to get them out for a bath before that happens. As long as all the snow comes this month and next and is finished by Feb that is fine by me!
Update, couldn’t put the birds out because all the hoses were frozen, but I guess that would be the case in the wild. Frozen water means its tough, as I have noticed with the moorhens on my pond, at least one has been knobbled by something, because they can no longer get underwater.
My day was a little unplanned all in all. Hamish and Caroline very kindly offered me a couple of beds and sofa’s as they have moved house and are putting the furniture from two houses into one – always a difficult task, so I benefited. I was to meet them at Hollybush, we were in touch on the phone, but as I was looking for their rented cottage, I got a phone call from them, they had hit a patch of ice and skidded off the road. I am not surprised, the ice has to be seen to be believed and if it snows on top of the ice that is going to be interesting. Anyway I offered to drive on and see if I could help. I had the trailer on the back. The car was definitely in a ditch!! No doubt about that and it was going to stay there too. So we all hopped in my Range Rover plus trailer and drove to near Stroud where their new house is, it’s a lovely area I have to say, with cracking views, no chance of flooding there! Hamish collected car number two and we drove back to Hollybush. There we loaded three beds, two wardrobes, two sofa’s and some lovely cushions. I have to have a word with Rush and Acer about cushions and games!!
Poor Linda had come over to help unload and have some lunch but could not wait and so I unloaded the two single beds and got them to the top of the house, but gave up on the rest. As Hamish so rightly said moving mattresses on your own is like trying to move blancmange! Luckily Simon came up and offered to help with the other bed and the sofa’s. So now I have two very beautiful suede sofa’s standing upright in the hall. I am hoping to get some help with furniture moving tomorrow!! Right now I can’t see the Christmas tree for sofa’s but they are awfully nice ones!
Now it is dark, there is a three quarters moon, its clear and frosty, the grass is crisp already. The pups have had their Wheatabix, I am listening to carols for the last time until next year peace reigns. I hope the Chinese don’t execute that chap…………………..
We just have seven more nest ledges to get up and we are done on that. Then later in the year I really want to get the food drawers in. I don’t understand why more people don’t use them, they keep the food off the ground, are easy to clean daily, save on wasted food and consequently on vermin that will come in to eat wasted food and are generally the best way to feed aviary birds in my opinion.
Boxing Day and most of the very little snow we had is gone, however the ice has not and the paths are like a skating rink, they are lethal!! It’s a good job there is no one here apart from Simon, Adam and I. Simon said when he came home on Christmas night, he did not stop in the car park where he wanted to!! It was an ice sheet, luckily I don’t think he hit anything!!
I have been having a quiet few days, some TV, lots of time looking after puppies, walking the dogs, checking round, and writing a newsletter and redoing the signs for the aviaries. I feel very lazy, I plan on doing more on Monday
Sunday was quiet too, most of the ice has gone, thank goodness, my sister Anna phoned – to boast that they had had a foot of snow!! On top of more snow, she and David are having Christmas in their cottage by Loch Tummel, which is frozen!! She and David were going to a friends to watch a football match on the TV, yuck!! I would have gone out in the snow but she said it was above her wellies!!
All electrics working, a lit and warm house – at least the two rooms that I do usually heat. Dogs are happy, birds are safe fat and warm, staff seem to be happy – all in all OK and we have nearly got through our first year back and the place is looking great. A good friend said that it looked like instead of just getting all the damage fixed, that we had actually raised the game here, and I think she is right, the game has been raised and it shows. AND it will continue to be raised!
We did not have any more snow, which is good for all those people traveling, at least locally to here. I failed to get out and get some holly with berries, so that will have to wait for next year now. But the tree looks great and the house is clean and tidy and looks like a home! It is cold outside and what snow that there is is very crunchy, but will not last long I think.
The enclosures at the end of the Hawk Walk now have perlins, and I know the difference between perlins, rafters and joists which is interesting, joists are flat - i.e. they are level and you can have floor joists or ceiling joists, perlins are the things that make the shape of the roof and the rafters go between them I bet you are glad I told you that vital bit of information. The rafters go on last and then the roofing felt and the tiles. There is still a fair bit to do, but they are going to look great. Mike and Simon and Adam worked on them until lunchtime when they finished, and all the perlins were up, so the roof is secure. Richard and his wife Janet fixed the electrics, what stars and on Christmas Eve too – hooray, and Holly and I cleaned the indoor hawkwalk after the birds were all weighed and fed outside and then they were put in again as there is going to be a frost tonight. Sue got the house straight, and I gave the dogs a run round the field. It is so good to be home. Merry Christmas to one and All.
The last Owl Evening of the year went well, a nice bunch of guests, the weather warmed up fractionally, and the owls flew very well. They are all now munching away on ad lib food until mid January. Sunday was another clear and cold day, with a sprinkling of snow on the paths, but the grass was still green. The grass over here is always a vivid green; it never seems to go brown. Very occasionally in a long drought of hot weather (rare!!) it browns up but never completely.
I had a lunch invitation on Sunday, and for once I actually went. I am very bad about going out. I guess because we are open to the public and so I see people every day seven days a week for ten months of the year and then every day except for probably one a week during the closed months I see my staff and volunteers, which I love to do, I tend not to be particularly sociable outside that time. But when I do go I almost invariably tell myself I should do it more often!! I had a lovely time this time, and Sedge and Acer were invited which meant I did not have to worry about them. And they behaved very well too, apart from finding one Christmas present under the tree!! Oppppss
The last few days has been hectic, people coming, stuff to do, electrics being a little difficult (that could be the understatement of the year) and Sorrel arriving as well, Phew!! We still had not had snow, well OK a tiny sprinkling which is now a very crunch sprinkling and plenty of ice. Although Linda came over yesterday to take photos and went up onto May Hill and said there is snow there, but I have not had time to go yet.
Sorrel arrived with us on Monday morning, she is a chunky girl!! Quite a different shape from Acer, she was good as gold all day and very quiet – that has not lasted, she is now very bouncy and holding her own against Sedge who loves her. Poor Acer is feeling left out as Sedge seems to prefer to play with Sorrel (more of a similar size – but that ain't going to last!!). However we are going to be very careful she does not get middle child syndrome!
Hopefully the electrics will be sorted a little tomorrow, because Holly and Sue and I decorated the Christmas tree late this afternoon, but it was nearly dark by the time we finished and so we have no idea what it looks like. As the afternoon ended it started to rain, then sleet and then Proper Snow!!! Real, huge soft flakes which was lovely to see, sadly, or probably a good thing, it did not last for long, but it was fun. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve, hooray!
I have this morning come to the conclusion that I am very glad I am not a duck, regardless of what my Christian name implies. It might be fun to be a duck in the summer, after all I am a Piscean and therefore a child of water, which I love, but to be swimming round all night to keep a bit of the pond from freezing over, hummmmm not so much fun after all. It was a glorious early Saturday morning, the sky is clear clear and clean and very cold! The wind has dropped which was a blessing for the owl evening last night. The one on Thursday went very well and it was lovely to see the volunteers that got here for it, but the wind made standing still pretty unpleasant as it cut through you! Last night although very cold was easier to deal with without the wind. The owls really have been going very well too, although Cool Ground (snowy owl) is still inclined to bump into things, he is too busy looking over his shoulder and not where he is going!
My Christmas tree is in the house, much to the interest of the puppies, I have not decorated it yet, that is to come and I can’t remember if I gave away all my Christmas lights before I went to the US, so I have to see if I can find them, they, like all my stuff have been packed away since October 2004.
The aviaries are coming on a treat, they are going to look very good and I will be very relieved when the Hawk Walk is the closed Courtyard that it always was before I left. We have nearly undone all the damage of the last four years, it will be nice to actually move forward and not just catch up. The baby owls are doing well and the Griffon Vultures have two nest ledges which they now like and are starting to play with the nesting material. So hopefully a baby Griffon Vulture will arrive next year, they have bred before, so its just a matter of getting it right for them.
And………..a beautiful pair of Golden Eagles arrived yesterday, they belong to Donald Anderson and he and his wife have kindly let them come here on breeding loan, so we are hoping that they will breed, possibly even this year, which would be wonderful. Simon collected them and luckily the trip was not affected by any snowfall. The team here cleaned the whole of the eagle barn so that the birds were not unduly disturbed while settling in. They came out of their boxes very sensibly and the male was very good and went straight up to the high perches, the female did too, but was so excited by being up high that she came down again and took ages to work out how to get up to the top, she needs to be a little fitter – I know the feeling!
We are only flying the owls at the moment, the rest of the flyers are in the Indoor Hawk Walk, I took the young male Lugger down to the field on Thursday and, poor thing, he just sat there and shivered, so we left rapidly!! We will get them back in the swing of things next week if it warms up, which I think it is supposed to.
It’s the last owl evening tonight, which is sort of a relief, they are great fun to do, but it is also nice to not have to do them! We have two more in February and then that is it until next winter. All the owls will be fed tons of food tonight as they finish the flying demonstrations and I am sure they will be delighted.
Richard is going to fix all the light pulls, which will be great as the one in the downstairs loo is a pain and keeps making me jump when it finally decides to come on.
My new big axe is very good, fairly creams through the logs! Great fun although I have to persuade the puppies not to try and help, they make it a little hazardous!
I got back from Eardisland at about 2.30pm to the older dogs but no puppies, but as the back door was still locked I assumed that Mikki and Helen had stolen them away and would bring them back, and I was right!! So the other three and I watched part of a Christmas movie until they arrived back, which was fun, well it was fun for me I am not 100% sure that the dogs appreciated it.
Today has been a day of bits, paying bills, raking, answering queries, raking, chasing up on things, more raking, tidying up and more raking, we are nearly done with the raking!! We have a lot of leaves to make into compost, a lot of leaves!! But the place is looking pretty damn tidy thanks to everyone who helps here, you are all amazing! Mike and Tom started the stud work for the replacement aviaries, they are going to look pretty cool and the birds will have nice sheltered homes that look smart and make the Hawk Walk back to its safe and secure courtyard once the fence is back up.
I did manage to find my absolute favourite thing in one of the flower beds after the pruning had been done. I saw an orange plastic bag in the detritus and I knew straight away what it was, seen them before, dealt with them before, bloody used baby nappies!! It’s a good job I did not see the culprit who put it here or I would have fed them to the Condor, child and all. I am sorry but I am damned if I think I should be responsible for other peoples children's nappies, if you want children you keep their nappies please, don’t dump them in my car park or flower beds. They are your responsibility not mine!
Other than that and finding a dumping of stuff from the old pets corner – right outside in the flowerbed – which did not surprise me from what I have seen of the staff that were here before our return, so I cleaned it up and carried on regardless, we have got used to their complete lack of care. And we nearly have it all cleared up too.
The weather forecast is for getting much colder later this week, so we were discussing with Richard about heated perches for the birds, it would make a huge difference to them to be sitting with their little feet snug and warm and the warmth radiating up through their feathers, so he is going to look into a design. You can get them in the US for parrots, but they are the wrong voltage and I have to say not particularly attractive, in fact singularly unattractive, they look like......... well never mind what they look like, I certainly think it is the best way to give the birds warmth in their enclosures, and safer than heat lamps, plus being cheaper to run and therefore good for our carbon footprint.
It was the foggy foggy dew day today, quite thick fog to start with that increased as the day went on, and bitterly cold, so starting off by raking was a good idea to keep warm. Mike did not come today, as I want to start fresh on Monday with the timber framing, and I thought the gardening team were not coming either, which was the plan. But we heard a vehicle pull up in the workshop yard and blow me there they were again!! Which was fine except that we have worked our poor volunteers into the ground this week and so we had non today!! So one and all, I promise that is it for dragging shrubs and trees over to the fire, its all done for now - come back!! Of course I am only joking, it just happened that way, but luckily Holly, Simon, Adam and I managed to more or less keep up with the pruning team, as they were not doing really heavy stuff today, and to teach the last day of the course as well. It was too foggy to fly most of the birds anyway, they would have needed fog lights to get back to us!
We managed to finish off the all the course teaching, we did cover tail bells, and they were able to fly a number of the owls, we could not fly a falcon because it was too foggy, but did manage to fly one of the Harris Hawks. They took themselves on a tour of the Centre after lunch and then we recapped in the afternoon and went through all we had worked on, and then I sent them off not too late because of the weather and Friday traffic, which is not fun in the fog.
So after they had safely left, we finished all the tidying we could do before dark, most of it is done and I will rake up by the small falcons and owls tomorrow in time for the owl evening. Then apart from round Barn 1 and 2 we have raked and tidied the whole Centre with its new haircut, it looks great, OK it looks a little bare, but it will look great in the spring when everything starts to grow again! The fog lifted at about 4pm, and the temperature rose, The gardeners left, Jan left, Colin and his mate doing the new phone system left, and are going to finish the task on Tuesday, and so the four of us put the last of the stuff on the fire and had a cup of tea in the field, it had warmed up that much, well in comparison to what it was like in the morning!!
I still have not managed to get out to go shopping and could not face a Friday night in Morrisons, so I will pluck up the courage tomorrow after some raking. Luckily Simon had milk and that was the only crucial thing, the rest can wait. I hope to get my Christmas tree in the house this weekend, not sure if I will manage that though. This picture is one that I had a few years ago!
The Course went well today, the weather helped a great deal! They learnt lure swinging, and then got Casper to catch the lure, and I have to say they all learnt very fast which was nice. It is always much more difficult to swing a lure when the grass is wet because the line gets soggy very quickly and a wet line makes for a more difficult task. We watched Adam’s eagle doing nothing (!) then we covered hooding and Dawn Run was very good about being hooded by all. That was followed by telemetry, Holly had hidden a transmitter off site and they went to find it. It is so important to know how your telemetry works and what to do with it before you have to use it looking for a lost bird. After lunch we did condition checking – seeing how physically shaped a bird is by touch. Then we flew some of the birds. That was followed by imping, putting a bandage on one of the birds, and then tea in the house with lots of talk and questions about training. We did not finish until 6.30pm, but a lot got done.
One of the nicest things I think I was able to feel today, as I was raking the Hawk Walk before 9.00am, was that the Centre has got back to being a living place. It was interesting to hear from the zoo inspectors last week that the atmosphere was so very different on their inspection this time as opposed to last time they came. Instead of a feeling of staff with no care or pride in their work, and an atmosphere of lack of interest, this time the Centre was full of enthusiasm and interest. I remembered thinking that when I saw it last year in November it was a sad place, untidy, in disrepair, with a feeling of failure, and now it is a vibrant place, that is cared for, that is, despite still such a lot to fix, well loved and respected and moving forward. It’s a great feeling and mainly due to the staff and volunteers who work so very hard, and those who have felt it worthwhile enough to join as members.
Mike finished the day by clearing the path up to the Indoor HawkWalk from the garden, which was all over grown; a mini digger can do great work with the right person in the driving seat! We put all the flying birds in the Indoor Hawkwalk this evening as it is supposed to freeze tonight. Sedge may be getting to wear his jersey soon!
The pruning went well, and prolific in terms of stuff to get rid of, a great deal of it, and I have been feeling guilty because I am teaching, not dragging tons of brush to the fire. However I am definitely the best at the final clear up! The place is looking very pruned! I did stand up for a couple of trees, but gave the chop to another that was not destined to go this time. We have some planting to do that is for sure, so anyone with flowering perennials, let me know, I have holes to fill!
The falcons almost all got flown early and did well, it was a lovely morning. The second last enclosure got concreted, and Labrador pawed as well – blame Indigo who did a good job on footprints! Only one to go and then we start the timber framing. The course went well, we covered more training and flying, casting a bird, coping three of them and doing talons as well, more flying and a walk with a Harris who did not catch anything, but that is par for the course in falconry, ended up with a cup of tea in the house and talking about food and emergency supplies.
All in all a nice day weather wise, a lot done and only one more day this week for pruning, and one next week. I think apart from being lame, I feel that we have achieved today!
Plus Sue has knitted Sedge a new coat for the cold weather coming next week, its colourful!! But I am SURE he will appreciate it next week when the weather gets cold, Won't he??? He does not like the cold!! Although I suspect that Acer is going to make sure that it does not stay this smart for long!!
I put the trailer on the Range Rover and drove it up May Hill twice, the temperature gauge did not move! The only problem is that I now don’t trust the car, which is a pain, and I also think that the problem usually occurs a while after I have been driving it and I don’t have any long drives planned. Oh well.
The owl evening went very well, a great bunch of people, and it was full and the weather was very kind to us, although it was damp, that was all it was and it could have been much worse, so all three tours went off fine, (Holly overtook Adam – no surprise there!) Adam told his group that any minute now he was going to be told off over the radio, for being too long and he predicted correctly!! Clever chap! Robin kept the groups under control during the flying demonstration, Simon did a great job on the spot lights and Angela, Anne and Linda sorted out serving people with food and drink with no delays, all in all a good night with a great team of people.
Today everyone is off, apart from Simon who fed round. I have already had three phone calls to see if we are open, but only because the sun is out on and off, and we do need this time to get things sorted out.
Acer is in disgrace for stealing things off the kitchen table, so she got walloped and tried to hide by the wellies, but it did not do her any good, I suspect she is going to get a few more before the penny drops, but generally she is quite good most of the time! Sedge was horrified and disappeared as did the older dogs who beat a retreat into the library! However they are all fine again now. Mick came over with Millie, his female Red tail who is going in with the male here. But as we are quiet today, we put her in a spare enclosure until we can watch them. Then Linda came over and we went to Labels at Ross on Wye and I did actually buy a couple of jerseys and a cardigan, now the question is will I actually like them!!
Then we drove and got a Christmas tree, the one I wanted and had got out to look at, some miserable other people grabbed, I hope it wilts on them!! But we found another one and I need to put it up off the ground because it is going in the front hall and the puppies come down at speed so I need it above them! It will be the first time since 2002 that I have got a tree and had a proper Christmas – hooray, thanks to the Chenevix-Trenches we all have a home again and our first proper Christmas in seven years, yippee!
Mike put in much of the block work for the internal walls, and John, John, Robin, Josh (young Josh), and Simon mixed concrete for the floor of what I hope will be the enclosure for Mozart if he can manage in a new one. My back would not do concreting. Adam cleared the mud off the half circle by the post in the flying ground and Kari finished painting the last kite aviary. John and co also got the last nest ledge up too. So there is only the Zoomesh to get done and the wire on the standoff barrier and another set of enclosures is finished apart from the feed drawers which are another project altogether.
I finished the day by collecting my range rover, and have been told to hitch up the trailer and drive it up a steep hill which will have to wait until tomorrow as we have an experience day today and an owl evening. I did try to go and do some shopping, I really need a couple of jerseys, but I took one look at myself in a shop mirror and went and bought a coal scuttle instead, much more useful and cheaper and longer lasting, and hopefully means that Acer can’t reach the coal and eat it all over the cream carpet!
Two of the shops I went into had staff hoovering the floor, I was so annoyed I left, there is no way my staff would do that before we are closed, its not a good way to make people feel you want them there, someone should tell them – and no I didn’t, but I felt like doing it!
Acer has five new teeth and Sedge has eight!! Mine are OK too.
My falconry bag survived the washing although I can’t say if the reverse has happened, but the machine seems to have weathered the bag. and my bag looks pretty good actually. After my comments about my house keeping a friend of mine suggested that I might be exaggerating and that in fact I was probably secretly a domestic goddess!! Nope! I am afraid not sadly, and I told her that my absolute hitting rock bottom in terms of cooking was micro waved tinned peas with a micro waved egg on top, a sort of poor woman’s eggs Benedict!! It was quite disgusting I might add – I can’t advise trying it.
Its been a busy couple of days, I left everyone here on Tuesday cleaning and tidying, and took Eager to Kate Humble’s home where we filmed for the Spring Watch Christmas Special. I was a little worried as he has not been away from home before and can be a little noisy. I need not have been, he behaved very well and we were done and dusted in half an hour.
This was good because it meant I could get back and fly some of the birds before getting ready to go and give a lecture north of Lichfield (my computer just told me that this should be spelt lovechild!!) somewhere. I had to use the van, because I still don’t have my car back. I got there with one stop to ask the way, I really don’t like the google map instructions to get places, firstly they assume that you are going to be able to read every instruction and secondly that you are going to watch your mileometer like a hawk. Why can’t they just say turn onto the Axxx or what ever road it is, stay on it until you come to Piddle Trent Hide, turn left in the village onto the BXXX and you have two miles to go. Names and road numbers that is what we need and what they are there for. That would be so much easier, and don’t tell me I need a satellite navigator because I loath them!
Anyway the lecture went OK I think, well they stayed to the end so that must mean something. Then I took advice and went back a different way – bad move. I was following a friend and we followed all the signs to the M42, all the way to the last roundabout. I actually drove all round the roundabout looking for the sign, but no, not a sign as it were. So I ended up taking the signs for the M6Toll road, which had been on the same signs for the M42 all the way along. Huge mistake, I ended up having to pay £4.50 for the pleasure of going on a motorway I did not want to be on, and on which I was on for eight miles!! And to add insult to injury there was a 50mph speed limit flashing which I have to say I could see no reason for, and no other traffic, so I ignored it after I had paid to be on the damn road anyway. I am going to write and complain to someone!
The zoo inspection went OK, although they thought I might have to redo my contingency plan that you have to do if you look like failing. I wrote in ‘never give up!’ which I thought said it all.
While I was taking round the inspectors everyone else was clearing up the last of the hedge that had been cut, and getting the bonfire going, it took all day and its still going. But they got it cleared and all the birds flown, and Mike finished the bricklaying, and started on the pad. We passed our inspection so we had mulled wine at lunch time to celebrate, and luckily there was enough left that I can continue now!
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
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!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!