Its August, I don’t know where the time goes, days shoot past like minutes and weeks just like days, it’s very worrying. I swear Christmas is about once a month, isn’t it!!
We are nearly at the end of the breeding season, and half way through the show season, I have already done several and I have to say one was without doubt the worst flying demonstration I have ever done. I am going to take a very difficult venue, strong winds, and right upon the top of a huge hill as my excuse, but still it was not a fun morning. I did come back with all the birds, but only just!
We have some new birds in training, a number of which are owls, we have six new owls joining the team, we are training two Barn Owls to fly together. Many of the older birds are on line and doing well. The May bank holiday was dry but chilly, and the Jubilee weekend worked OK, I was very pleased at all the people who turned out for the Queen for her celebrations, it was most heart warming to see.
Our resident swans came and nested for the fifth time, and to our amazement and pleasure they hatched six babies this year! They moved next door and three are still growing well, she lost three.
I was away in India for part of May – it was hot as hell!! 43 degrees, but the trip went well and we got out of India just before people were advised to leave, rather good timing on our part I feel! A friend of mine said that he was glad I got out because he thought I made a better human being than a pile of nuclear dust – l think it was a compliment!!
The floor has been done in the education room, it looks wonderful, I want to put a wood burning stove in there for the winter – it would make such a difference, but the quote I had was £17OO – so I think it will have to wait!
Just before you got the last newsletter, but after it had gone to press, the London Marathon took place, and yes I did finish. I was not last – quite! And I was certainly quicker than the guy in the divers suit, although not as brave. 5 hours and 50 minutes for the marathon and a week of severe pain to recover. Would I do it again, probably not, but I would do a half marathon with pleasure I think.
The puppies are growing and I have kept two, I am not quite sure what happened there. I planned to maybe keep one bitch puppy and ended up keeping two dogs! Don’t ask me – I have no idea…!! They are however charming, and called Indigo after the grass from which comes the dye and Rush.
I am around for much of the summer so I hope to see many of you visiting and seeing some of the new birds on the flying team and generally just coming to say hello.
Red Kites Breed again
I am very pleased to announce that after a year of no young, we bred Red Kites again this season As I write we have two babies just started training.
We were flying two of the older birds, Brown Argus, and Santee. Santee and I had a love hate relationship, she or he hates me! Annie and I started flying the two together which was interesting to watch especially as Santee takes the occasional swipe at me in passing Sadly she started to do the same to Brown Argus!
Here you can see that Duncan, our member with the digital camera, on whom I rely for so many pictures that I use, has caught Santee on the final approach with a wicked glint in her eye. Well you may not see it, but I do at this distance!
Eventually we grounded both birds for the breeding programme and the two youngsters should be going very soon.
Wild Red Kites.
Many of you will know that the Red Kite, the largest of all the kite family was an extremely rare bird in the UK up until the l980’s with the remaining population only to be found in Wales and struggling there to survive. However now the Red Kite is becoming a familiar sight in an increasing number of areas around Britain.
The first release occurred in 1989 in the Chilterns, with the success of this site, further releases happened in the English Midlands, Northern Scotland, Central Scotland and the most recent release in Yorkshire.
Apart from one site, the releases have been very, very successful and now in England and Scotland at the last count two years ago there were 172 breeding pairs and in Wales another 259 So our populations are doing very well and they are a joy to behold in the wild (and here!)
Sadly in Yorkshire things have not gone so well and only three pairs are surviving, with a number having been illegally poisoned. It’s a great shame that the shooting fraternity up there can’t seem to want to live with birds of prey but instead only to kill then.
We can only hope that they might become more enlightened in the future as this is a beautiful and harmless bird.
Vultures also breed at NBPC 2002
Although they are now one of the commonest vultures in the world and probably the commonest of the New World Vultures, nevertheless Turkey Vultures hold a special magic for me. I never tire of seeing them fly when I am in South Carolina. That tilting, effortless flight they have is a joy to behold. So I was very pleased when this year our pair of Turkey Vultures laid two eggs. We have only bred from them once previously, the parents break the eggs so we usually take them if we are quick enough, and some-times we don’t get there in time.
This year we managed to rescue both eggs, and incubated them. On the day I got back from a US trip, Gary said, soon after I arrived home that he was concerned about the first egg. It had pipped internally, which we can see by candling the egg – looking through it with a powerful light, but it had not broken through the shell. Gary had made a small hole, but not gone any further so we opened up the egg, and we were just in time, another hour and the chick would have been dead, as it was it was pretty weak, however with some fluid treatment it did well and we hatched the second chick two days later. This is excellent for us because being able to rear two chicks together means that we can integrate them with the Black Vultures much more easily and they have a chance of breeding in the future. So if you are visiting in the next few months you should see the two birds, who are growing fast. They are destined to join the flying team and work with the three Black Vultures and demonstrate the differences between the two species.
Just to add a comment here which might help some people understand why we bother to breed from very common species. All too often over the years I have seen or been involved in projects where a captive breeding programme has been the last ditch effort to save a species.
I have to say that actually, those unfortunate people involved in these projects all over the world have all succeeded superbly and several species have been ‘saved’ or are in the process now. The one thing you can say about raptor people is that they don’t give up easily!! However my point is that it is very important in my view not to leave what is a sometimes difficult job until there are only a few individual birds left to represent their species – in fact it is nothing short of insanity to do so.
It is also very unwise to sit back and forget species because they are common. We have seen this recently with the Indian White-backed Vulture which was probably the commonest bird of prey in the world and within one decade has suffered a 97% population crash over all its range.
This species, and even more the Long billed Vulture and the Slender Billed vulture desperately need a captive breeding programme put in place in my opinion and probably not only as an in-situ project – i.e. in India, but also a population outside India so that all the eggs are not in one basket so to speak
So now I hope you will understand why I can get excited about breeding Turkey Vultures, both for us to work with but also so we can learn and understand the species better.
The new trailer and very nice it is too!
After a long and hard life of many miles and much abuse with my driving. The van finally got to the point where we did not feel able to use it for demonstration work. I have often thought of a trailer, and so with assistance from Jim French and the Cotswold Trailer Centre – here it is, and it really is a joy to tow and to work with.
Thirty Five Years This Year – Time to Celebrate so Please Join us.
On September 15th this year we are going to celebrate the fact that this year we have been going for 35 years, despite all the trials and tribulations there have been over the three and a half decades. Of course sometimes it feels more like 300 years, but 35 is not bad going.
We are going to have a relaxing day, with the chance for people to handle birds, learn to swing a lure, bet on the ferrets having a race and so on. There will be a chap carving walking sticks, some friends of ours showing their falconry equipment, our Trust will have a stand here, and I met a really nice juggler who is going to teach people how to juggle!
There will be hot food, plus the normal supplies in the café, and we will run TWO demonstrations during the day, rather than the usual three as that will give us more time for the other events. And if you bring guests, there is a 10% discount off the price. So please all you members, try and come, and bring guests to give us a boost before the winter months
Since the last newsletter we have had a couple of changes to staff and one more coming up, I hope. Martin Foulds decided to leave the Centre in May, so to replace him, particularly on the education front, Faye Giddy, who has been a faithful volunteer at the Centre, has joined us. It’s a bonus actually because with Faye we get her husband Tim, who helps out and Lilly her daughter as well!
I have also recently had a phone call from an old ex-member of staff who is going to be leaving his present job and coming back to us. As Simon has great experience in breeding, I am delighted as it will really help us and particularly me during the breeding season. I think he is going to be in for a shock to see how much help he gets from people here in comparison to his old job where he was on his own
Yes it really is going to happen. Finally after much discussion, the Diocene committee have agreed the design and we are moving ahead on the actual window. We aim to have the dedication service in early November between the 3rd and the 10th. If you are interested in coming to the service, please phone and ask for the date and time and let us know you are coming.
The window chosen is to be the West window, which should be lovely and will catch the afternoon and evening sun. It is larger than the original plan and I still need to raise another 1500 to pay for it.
Due to the large demand on tickets to owl evenings we are putting in more dates this year. So no complaints from members about not getting tickets, start booking now! The first date is October 31st – Halloween!!! And we are going to get into suitable attire and so can you! Then they are on every Friday and Saturday from November 1st to December 21st.
Remember too that we are closing to the public a month earlier this year. We will be closed November, December and January, so if you come up for an owl evening, don’t arrive early expecting to see round as previously.
The evenings will start as usual at 6:30 pm sharp, wear warm clothes and bring a torch. Because we are doing more, we have added new owls to the teams. We have a Collared Scops Owl who will be working indoors, a Magellan’s Eagle Owl, an Indian Eagle Owl, a new European Eagle Owl called Stockholm, and two new Barn Owls. The usual team will be working as well, although not every owl will work every evening, so if you want to see a particular bird, phone to find out when he or she is working.
I will look forward to seeing you at some of the evenings.
New Radio Advertisement
Every year we get literally hundreds of phone calls from newspapers and magazines wanting us to advertise. It is very difficult to see what works, and I have to say that I have always wanted to try television, but its too expensive for us. So this year, we have scrapped most of the papers and are having a radio Ad out all summer on Severn Sound. So if you get that particular radio station-listen out for the ad and let us know what you think.
NATIONAL BIRDS OF PREY TRUST NEWS
Training Workshop at Jatayu Vulture Care Centre
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), the National Birds of Prey Trust (NBPT) and the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) are working together in a linked project funded by a Grant from the Darwin Initiative from the British Government since early in 2000. The objectives of the project are to try and identify the cause of the dramatic decline of the Gyps vultures in the Indian subcontinent, to see if it is possible to solve whatever is causing the decline and possibly in the future set up a captive breeding programme should it be needed.
Dr. Andrew Cunningham, pathologist at ZSL and Jemima Parry-Jones MBE Founding Trustee NBPT, as a part of the Darwin Initiative project, traveled to India at the end of May 2002. They traveled via Delhi to Pinjore which is situated in the foothills of the Himalayas. In a National Forest on a piece of land kindly donated by the Haryana Wildlife Department has been built a Vulture Captive Care Centre. The enclosures there have been designed by NBPC, and a clinic has been built to the design of Dr. Cunningham so that initial investigative work can be done with the sick and dead vultures that will be housed there, both in terms of treatment and Post Mortem’s.
One of the main problems in discovering any cause for the decline is that it has been almost impossible to get very freshly dead vultures to be able to post mortem.
Between the four groups and with much work from Dr. Prakash from BNHS plus invaluable assistance from Mr Jakati the Director and some of his wildlife staff from the Haryana Wildlife Dept., three large holding aviaries have been built on land given to the project by Haryana WD and four quarantine pens, with four more quarantine pens to be added by the end of July. The small clinic/laboratory have just about been completed as well and only awaits a couple of deep freezes and a little more laboratory equipment. The only thing that is holding things up now is a water supply, which is in hand.
JPJ traveled out with AC to run a workshop on the captive husbandry, handling and management of vultures. This was primarily to ensure that BNHS staff were competent and comfortable to look after, catch up and handle vultures. Dr. Prakash had visited NBPC for three months last year, training, but the staff on the ground needed training as well. Mr Jakati and some wildlife dept. staff also visited the Centre and discussed handling and management techniques for possible assistance in the future.
There is one vulture held at the Centre at this time and as this bird needed a physical check up, the team learnt how to capture it quickly and with the least stress, and how to handle and weigh the bird. At the same time three levels of cleaning pens were covered by AC and JPJ, and a protocol established. This was written up later.
Vultures are particularly difficult birds to deal with, because of their habit of vomiting under stress, and having to handle sick birds regularly is very stressful, so there is going to be a learning curve on what works and what doesn’t.
There are India wide surveys going on at the moment to assess the current status of the vultures. These will hopefully be published very soon, as it is important that they are. Dr. Cunningham and JPJ were taken out to a known White-backed vulture nesting and roosting site. They saw a total of eight birds and two nests. There was one juvenile bird there who showed signs of illness, as did some of the other birds.
Since their return from India the second four quarantine enclosures have been built and it is planned that a vet from the UK with training from both ZSL and NBPC will be able to go out to India for an extended stay to work with the vultures that are going to be caught up for the Captive Care Centre. This will make a huge difference to have that sort of expertise on site.
Funding is a vital part of any project so if anyone out there is interested in helping with any funding please contact us. £8000 would build offices and accommodation close to the site, £500 would buy a deep freeze. £60 a month would feed the vet! If you are collecting funds for vultures, this project is a good one to support.
Many birds of prey have what is called the supra orbital ridge, or in our terms, an eye brow. This bony structure, visible quite well in Duncan’s picture of my Golden Eagle, protects the eye from damage when birds strike their prey, it also shades the eye from the sun, which may act as a shade barrier a little like the rim of a hat does for us. However not all birds have this ridge and in some it is much more obvious than in others.
Owls do not to have it, but then their eyes are very different. Most falcons do, but if you look at the Peregrines here at the Centre, and then the Eleonora’s Falcon, there is a marked difference. The accipiters have it, but the kites are much less marked, and although we don’t have an Osprey here, they have virtually no bony eyebrow at all.Sometimes Things Don’t go According to Plan!
As you can see here, the day did not go according to plan — the Grey Buzzard Eagle took off with the glove rather than took off from it…!Injured and Confiscated Birds This Quarter
We have had an interesting mix of birds in this year. One of the youngest was a four day old Common Buzzard, which had been found in a box in a bedroom on a drugs raid. The youngster came here and was eventually reared by the Verreaux Eagle, who did a superb job. However we realised the bird was ready to be released when we found it in with the Stellers Sea Eagles!!! Having got through a gap at the top of the pens-and flown and scrambled through two pairs of Golden Eagles and a pair of African Fish Eagles!! It was successfully released on a local farm with breeding buzzards and young around.
Kestrels – we had three or four young Kestrels, all of which we released from here as we have a wild pair with young. One youngster is regularly seen in the flying ground during the day and we have seen him carrying mice and voles that he has caught so we are delighted with him and it’s a pleasure to see him so regularly.
We have some good successful releases this year which I am pleased about, and none so pleasing as the Hobby that went recently. He came in about 18 months ago very thin and with oddly grown feathers. It was too late to train and release him after his fist moult, so I started training him in March this year. He was not a good flyer to start with but slowly got the idea and improved enormously. As he improved, he also got wilder, which we intended. Finally one day, luckily the day after we had removed his bell, he suddenly started to catch insects on the wing while I was flying him. He came back and landed on the lure, then stepped off again, and flew away. We saw him several times that day, always hunting insects, and then off he went, hopefully to survive and achieve his first migration later this year.
The little owl numbers were slightly less this year but I am pleased to say that they went off to Chris Sperrin of the Hawk and Owl Trust who so successfully released all the young last year. He also took five wild Barn Owls from us that had been here for some time. He and a team of people did a soft release on a farm in Herefordshire. Not only did the owls do well and were seen hunting and roosting in the vicinity, but much to the delight of all concerned, two of them paired up and produced eggs, which is an added bonus, and very, very pleasing.
Sadly we have no Barn Owls in our immediate area, probably too intensively farmed. Or too many Tawny Owls, which are very common. One pair have insisted on training their two young in the tree outside my bedroom this summer – it has been a little noisy, but only adds to the wildlife around, including the bats that hunt through the house in the summer.
Apart from the one day courses, and the five day courses we run here, we also run a Police Wildlife Liaison Officers course, which has proved to be very successful.
We have just finished one and got a lovely letter back that I wanted to share a part of with you, just to show you how well they are doing and how proud of my staff l am for helping to devise them and run them.
Between Tuesday 23rd July 2002 and Wednesday 24th July 2002, myself and Constable XXXXX, Stranraer Police Station, attended at the National Birds of Prey Centre, Newent to undertake the two day Police Wildlife Liaison Officer’s Course.
On behalf of myself and my compatriot may I take this opportunity to thank yourself and all your staff at the National Birds of Prey Centre and in particular Mark and Charlotte for what was a most enjoyable course.
Myself and my compatriot have attended a number of courses covering a range of subjects during our respective Police services, but rank the one that we attended at your establishment to be amongst the best.
There was more but I think that says it all, although I have to say when I read the first seven or eight words, my first thoughts were, oh hell have I been caught speeding again!These courses mean that when the police need to go in and look at birds they are more confident in their identification and better at handling the birds if needs be. So it is to the benefit of the police and the birds as well, which makes it OK by me.