I think the heading is a bit of an understatement for this issue.

Most of you will have received my letter with the information that I am moving the National Birds of Prey Centre to the US. Some will not have received it, so I guess it might come as a surprise to you.

I am going to reiterate some of what I said for those who did not get the letter or who still have concerns. What I would like to do here is to firstly tell you why I have made this decision It is not one made in haste. nor without much thought, nor without periods of doubt. But it has been made carefully and with, I hope, the best intentions.

As you may remember, if you have been a member for a long time, I have been traveling on a pretty regular basis to South Carolina since November 1998. There I have been working with the South Carolina Center for Birds of Prey. They have been in existence for 11 years this year and they run an extremely professional clinic that treats about 400 injured wild raptors per year. They run an outreach educational programme giving off-site lectures to schools, professional groups and others. They also have a research programme. What they do not have is a public facility, a captive breeding programme, or an international conservation presence.

We have, I happen to think, a very good public facility here at Newent, a world renown captive breeding programme and a strong international conservation presence. We also take in and treat up to 100 injured wild raptors a year, but have desperately needed better facilities to do it better for some time now.

The merging of the two Centres will give us a facility that encompasses education, veterinary medicine, rehabilitation research, captive breeding and conservation. This puts us into a different league and I have to say is very exciting.

Another huge plus is the location of the new Centre which is 154 acres situated next to a dual carriageway with first class access. And then there is the weather. Although the summers in South Carolina are pretty hot, and yes I have experienced every month over there in the last five years, the autumn, winter and spring are really lovely and I believe that our captive breeding will improve as the birds settle and have far more sunshine than they are used to in Gloucester.

So the date is set (as far as any plans can be in the world today). We remain open to the public here until October 31st this year. Then in the early part of December, two (I hope) staff, a vet, 230 birds and all the equipment they require, the contents of my house, myself and of course six dogs all pack up and move 4200 miles west.

There is much to do in the meantime, and Jim Elliott, the executive director of the South Carolina Center for Birds of Prey, is having to bear the brunt of the work over in the US as I am still over here. I hope he survives!!

As we are now well into 2003 it’s a little late to hope you all had good holidays, but we do hope that 2003 is going well for all.

December last year was a miserable month in Gloucestershire, rain, rain and more rain. The weatherman cheerily informed us that we had 40% more in December than usual. Wonderful, just what we needed. We think we should take up caring for ducks instead of raptors.

Gray day alter gray day does get one down after a while, however as our aviaries are nearly all completely covered, the birds faired well, even if the staff did get damp. After Christmas came the very cold snap, but again the birds got through it OK. For those of you who don’t know, we have heat lamps for birds who really do not do well in the cold and all the birds are fed with warmed food in the mornings.

The year ended with frosts and sun and the African Fish eagles and Tawny Eagles laying eggs.

Now its March and we have a few babies, the weather has actually been a little better and we are getting customers which is nice. I have two trips to do to the US in the next five weeks and then a trip to Bulgaria for a conference. So life is very busy as usual.

Please remember to take advantage of your member-ship this year and come and visit us. I will talk more about the future, as the year goes on and things become clearer and more fixed. If you are wondering about next year as a member, read the article on the Trust as I have some ideas that I hope you feel might work for you.

The name for the new Center is International Center for Birds of Prey and here is the logo. Designed for us by a designer called Gil Shuler who is very, very good and has nice dogs too!

New Issue of Stamps

If you are a stamp person you may have noticed that in January the Royal Mail, as they have sensibly returned to name-wise, issued a new set of stamps. They are lovely I have to say, and we were asked to help with some photos for the launch. So in December a photographer, plus people from the P0 came down and photographed EJ Gallo using the education room. He was, as usual, very good and very well behaved.

We had one of the young kestrels on standby, but he was not used. Its really nice to see good shots of birds in flight, instead of the more usual static birds. As flight is the essence of birds these stamps portray their subjects very well.

We were asked to do a number of first day covers (I have to say I have no idea what a first day cover is!) and all donations for doing it went to the National Birds of Prey Trust.

About two and a half years ago now Katherine and I started to try and get our external school lectures going properly again. It was mainly to try and encourage more schools to visit. The initial mailing of leaflets with a follow up phone call and appointments came to a grinding halt when our last education officer left. However alter Faye Giddy joined us officially as our new education officer we have been getting things off the ground again.

Why you might ask, as the Centre is closing. Well Faye needs work, she is absolutely first class at lecturing and teaching in schools and has done some fantastic work in preparing topics and tools to use in schools. So we thought as we are hoping to leave a small part of the Centre still running, there was no reason why the off site programmes should not continue.

To this end, finally I have managed to get the logo in the newsletter for you to see, and we are working on pushing the school lectures this year. So if you teach or know teachers, tell them that Faye will come in with live birds and superb teaching techniques. All we need is the schools to want us.

On February 3rd 1 trotted off on Continental airlines to the US again. I spent three weeks there and Jim and I got a lot of work done. I returned on Tuesday the 24th of Feb. Just about got my feet back on the ground and on Saturday morning at 4am a friend of mine and I left in a hire van for Spain. We drove to Portsmouth and took the ferry to Cherbourg and then drove about seven hours to just north of Bordeaux, where we stopped at 9pm. Leaving the next day at 7am we then drove till 8pm and got to Caceres, which is west of Madrid.

We met with the director and another vet who works at the rehabilitation centre we were bound for and took them out to supper. The following morning we drove to the Centre where we met with local politicians and dignitaries and I gave an interview, as everyone was either speaking Spanish or translating what I was saying, I have no idea what was said, I hope it was polite!!

Carlos, one of the vets, spoke good English, thank goodness, and as he and I had been corresponding by email for the last six months, we got on well. The Centre takes in 1500 injured wild birds a year, not just raptors, they have 400 European Storks come in as well.

Many of the raptors are shot, or have hit wires or vehicles and some do not recover well enough to be returned to the wild. I had gone because they knew I was interested in vultures and they had some Eurasian Griffon Vultures that were non releasable birds and were willing to let me have four. Although it would have been much easier to fly them home, it was prohibitively expensive. Hence the hire van. The friend who went with me was interested in Black Kites of which they had about 11 permanently disabled, red kites and other species from the area.

By taking these birds we freed up space in their centre for the influx of birds that they expect to get later this year. I probably would have euthanised a couple of birds, but they prefer to save as many as possible.

We looked round the Centre and 1 gave as much advice as I could. They have a pair of Spanish Imperial Eagles which they are trying to breed from and also a pair of Bonellis Eagles which again they have a breeding programme for. I tried not to dribble over the Bonellis!!

We stayed until about 1.30 talking, boxing up birds and doing the veterinary permits and checking that we had all the correct paperwork and then we hit the road. The van was full and I mean full, between us we had 24 birds!! All comfortably packed each in their own box with a carpeted floor.

We drove until 10pm that night and found somewhere to stay, I have to say it was the most expensive hotel we had found and we got into our rooms at about 10.30 and left at 3am, it was not good value for money.

We finally got back to Gloucestershire at about lam that night. We had checked and fed and watered the birds on the way. They really did travel very well. My travelling companion put his boxes in his, thankfully large car and drove another hour home. He phoned me the next morning and reported that all his birds were well and he was expecting his vet that afternoon.

Our vet came over that morning and we checked the birds over. All had travelled well and apart from a couple of small problems they are settling nicely.

I came home still suffering from Jet lag, plus sleep deprivation and very pleased to see the back of the hire van. In which we had travelled 2400 miles in four days!

 

The problem with closing at the end of this year is that it changes the way one views and runs the Centre dramatically. We have been looking at doing a set of postcards specifically of Centre birds for a long time and with Duncan taking such nice digital photos, and printing costs going down, we thought we would do them last year.

But these things always take more time than one thinks, and so we had not got round to it until the winter. Was there a point in doing them this year? Well yes, we thought there was. To start with, we hope to sell all of them by the end of the year. And Mark and Katherine can use them on the Falconry Experience and courses. Plus I could take some with me to the US. So we went ahead.

We have a set of 16 postcards, the last to be produced as the National Birds of Prey Centre. They are really nice, I think and we are selling them both separately and as a set.

So if you visit, or want them sent to you, now is the time. These are a historical set of pictures and not to be missed!

The National Birds of Prey Trust has had a very exciting start to the year. About three years ago I was approached by a visitor to the Centre who’s sister had recently died. She had left her estate to a charity that sadly had ceased to function just before she died. The law is such that in these cases, similar charities have to be found to receive the funds. This very kind person had put forward the National Birds of Prey Centre, however as the Centre is not a charity it was not eligible. But we were in the throws of starting the Trust, so I sent him the mission statement and all the information I had and then forgot about it A year later he contacted me again and said that the executors of the Will had narrowed it down to two groups. one of which was our now in existence and very new trust. So I sent him more information and our charitable number and so on, and again forgot about it.

We sort of kept in contact and I by then had been contacted by the firm dealing with the Will. But I did not really push as I have been disappointed so many times before. Then one of our Trustees said that why were we not pushing a bit harder as it was a considerable sum of money. So I contacted the solicitors and did some serious lobbying on our part. Blow me down this year the Trust received 225,000! It arrived as a cheque. I have a photocopy just to remind myself!!

As we told you last year, five Cape Verde Kites arrived here under the auspices of the Trust. They have been sexed and we have the one male in with one of the four females. The other three females have one of our Black Kites attending them. If any of them show signs of being interested in him we will allow them to lay, although in the unlikely case of any resulting young they would be rapidly removed. But the advantage of doing this is that we encourage another female to come into breeding condition and that bodes well for the future of the Kites in captivity.

As you can see by the above picture the Cape Verde Islands are a tough environment.

So, with the changes to the Centre impending, how is that going to affect your membership. Well this year Katherine and I are doing a sliding scale of membership costs, so that as new people join up this year, or ,existing members renew, they pay less.

Next Year!! Well at this stage I can’t tell you, because many of my plans revolve around the sale of part of the land of the Centre. Once I know how that is going we will know if the Trust will stay here, which is what I am planning, along with all the Courses. The name will remain the National Birds of Prey Centre and have the word School added.

We plan to have the owl evenings, limited numbers of booked parties and some special events. These will include special members days. So if you wish to continue to support the work here, you can do so by remaining a member next year.

I will be able to give you more information by the next newsletter. I will be greatly relieved when I have a more settled future over here planned, so I hope you will be patient and wait with us to see what happens.

I was approached by David and Charles in November last year about republishing the first book I wrote. It has the catchy title of JPJ’s Falconry. Care. Captive Breeding and Conservation. I should point out here. that unless you are a very well known and therefore well sold author. you have little choice on the title and even less on the cover.

Publishers have teams of people who design covers. I have to say I would not employ them!! I was pleased that the book was being reprinted as it has been out of print for several years. I would have liked to have done a little more editing. as things move on over time. But one is a little restricted in this.

But I just can’t leave the cover without comment. They emailed me a suggested cover and I said NO. this is not good. it really is not what I want to reflect my first book. Its not even my photo or one of my birds. However I was voted down.

I then said. OK-there was little I could say. but I did mention that I assumed that file photo they had e-mailed me was of a fairly poor quality and the cover would of course be better. I was wrong. I received a copy a couple of days ago. The juvenile lanner in the picture looks like it has hit a wall, its beak is non existent at the tip and the colour is appalling.

So, please don’t blame me. I am not responsible for the new cover. However I think the content is OK although some is a little dated.

Signed: Disgruntled Author!!!

A while ago we were approached by the Group Archivist of Zurich Financial Services. They were moving offices and had a statue of an eagle which they wondered if we would re-home. 1 have to say at this point, that we have been offered objects before and some of them have been quite dreadful. However Isabel sent us a photo, which I don’t think does him justice in the slightest, now having met him. And so on seeing the photo we were pleased to say he could come here.

He arrived on Monday and is temporarily in the shop, and he is WONDERFUL, I hope you will like him as much as l do, I go in and pat him on the head everyday!

With Gary now in Japan, we were delighted to have Simon Brough join, or to be more accurate, rejoin us after many years. He has taken over all the breeding and after a difficult start to the year we have three baby eagles all doing well so far.

He works incredibly hard, getting up every three hours through the night to check on the eggs-I don’t think I am paying him enough!!! We now await other eggs and babies as this spring advances.

So if you watch it, you Will have seen Alexandria and JPJ on the TV on March 26th. JPJ sat like a flipping dummy not saying anything, somewhat frustrated by the experience!!! The peregrine on the other hand was very good and looked wonderful.

The item was to encourage people to watch out for suspicious people who might be egg collectors doing things that they should not be doing.

I have to say that having spent the whole day getting ready to go up there, and getting home at after midnight for only 45 seconds work was not my idea of fun, but hopefully it will do some good.

What I did find interesting is that there are, according to the RSPB and the police, no women ‘eggers’ as they call them. I wonder what that tells us. Very interesting!!!

(for those of us who didn’t know!)

People think that filming is glamorous, that you get to meet the stars and generally have a wild time! Well think again. When a researcher from the television programme Hollyoaks called in January to ask about handling birds of prey Katherine was very excited as Hollyoaks is one of her favourite programmes. Time went by and we heard no more, then all of a sudden the producer called and we were wanted!

The story line was going to be about a wild injured barn owl who was being cared for before being returned to the wild. The down side was they wanted one of the staff to play the part of the person who was looking after the owl, so lucky Annie got the job! The barn owl E J Gallo was the obvious choice as he was the only barn owl on duty at the time.

Katherine was longing to go but due to office commitments wasn’t able to spare the time. Instead Charlotte came along to see the glamorous life of film jobs.

We were due at the location site, which was on an allotment site near the studios based in Liverpool. We arrived a little early to find that the allotments were on the banks of the river Mersey and there was a very strong wind blowing which did not die down all day.

We ended up waiting for 6 hours! All the crew were very friendly and all wanted their picture taken with E J Gallo. Apparently the crews Rota had been changed for the days filming so that they could see him! Once the filming was under way things went very smoothly, due to the wind we were unable to fly E J Gallo. The producers weren’t too worried about what would really happen if a wild injured bird was in captivity before being released.

The actual filming took about three hours so having spent, in total, 6 hours travelling and 6 hours waiting it wasn’t such a bad day. But remember this, if you manage to catch it when it is shown at the end of April, this isn’t what would or should happen to a wild injured bird and also that television puts on pounds!!

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