Well finally after three years we have actually had a summer – well of sorts anyway, sunshine, staff with a suntan and birds flying and enjoying the sunshine. The young Tawny Eagle that we bred last year – the last from Mr and Mrs Timms I think, called Hare, has turned out to be one of the best eagles we have, he really is superb. It is interesting to discover that we end up with much better and more consistent flyers if we have a good summer, weather wise. They learn to use the warm weather and like us seem to enjoy it. I flew him right up until mid September which is much longer than I would normally push a bird, but we needed him and the weather was too good to miss. I had hoped to fly his older brother, Hard Tackle, who would have loved the weather this year, but he really needed a full moult, so we rested him for the summer.

As I told you in the last newsletter, Laertes died in August, well the run of problems did not stop there. Over a period of about 13 days we lost eleven birds. Mostly they were young ones, which although very sad, and it is, nevertheless they are not birds that we have yet got a relationship with and so it is a little easier to cope with. However imagine our distress to find the very next morning after Laertes death, his brother Kilbreck had died. He was lying as if asleep on his ledge. They are buried together in the field, by the fence in the flying ground, I have yet to carve a stone for them.

We have spent heaven knows how much on PM’s, bacteriology, virology, toxicology and every other ‘ology you can think of; but we still have no answers. Neil thinks it was probably a biting insect carrying a blood parasite that they had not met before. So in one fell swoop we lost our two top flying falcons.

However, as usual there are silver linings and compensations. Some of you may have seen me fly a falcon called Hoggar. She is a Lanner the same age as Kilbreck (12 years) and has always been good. But after the deaths of Kilbreck and Laertes, and I have to say because of the good weather which she loves, she pulled out the stops, and both at the Centre and the two shows left away from home, she was absolutely staggering. Both days at Chatsworth Country Fair in Derbyshire she was up at about 1200 feet and stooped into my favourite audience with great style.

Since then I have bought three new hybrid falcons to replace Kilbreck and Laertes as flyers (nothing will replace them as people I knew). They are called Obsidian, Iolite and Lorimar. I have to say that they have a long way to go!

The three new Black Kites arrived safely and are in training now. We also had in an injured wild Red Kite from the Chilterns. Interestingly it has a calcium deficiency, which one would not expect from wild birds, but it happens. It has had an operation on one leg and we are hoping it will recover well enough to become a part of the breeding scheme here. We now have nine Red Kites which is amazing really. All I need now is more space! We are training a number of new birds so if you visit next year you will meet them in February. All the young birds remain on duty until about April, with the older ones joining them from February onwards. The only bird you are unlikely to see work again is Treasure the Secretary Bird, who really has become rather too risky for me to work with at my advancing age!

MEMORIAL WINDOW

The ongoing saga of the memorial window continues. We had a design, which I think you saw in an earlier newsletter, however the diocese committee are not completely happy with it, so it is being redone, with a few less birds. Once we are all happy with the design, I will put it up on the website as promised. It is taking rather longer than I had hoped, but the plan to have a memorial service still stands for sometime in May at the moment. However please note – it is liable to be in the week, not at a weekend if you want to attend. And all are welcome

SEPTEMBER 11th

I feel that I want to say something about the horrific events of September 11th Almost every time I have visited the US in the last three years I have spent some time at the World Trade Center. My sister is married to a New Yorker who works for the Wall Street Journal and on my way home from South Carolina I would take the bus from Newark to the World Trade Center and meet her and often Barry for lunch, sometimes having it in there. Luckily for me and them, they were in France on Sept 11th and so safe, nevertheless it was a dreadful time for them. I still get upset about it all now and I am glad that I do. Whatever people think of the politics of America, no one in the world deserved that to happen.

Interestingly, a good friend of mine flies falcons at one of the airports around New York and they were asked to go and fly them over the area where the rubble from the twin towers and other buildings was being tipped and sorted through. This was to stop gulls from picking over the material and feeding. He was pleased to be able to be one of the people actually doing something to help, even if it was a little gruesome and rather an unusual need.

I have to say that I find the drive behind someone wanting to cause that much destruction and death totally and utterly incomprehensible, and completely indefensible. We feel for those who were murdered.

SARAH LEAVES AND THE OFFICE MOVES!

Very sadly for us, Sarah-Jane Rumble, my business manager for the last four and a bit years left us at the end of August. She had been here longer than any other job she had held, and wanted a change and more of a social life than you can have around here! So to add to the chaos of not having her here, and trying to finish of the organising of the Royal Launch of the Charity, before leaving for Spain for five days for a conference, we decided to move the offices!!!! Nice Plan!

Since 1981 the office has been in my house, which has meant that for 20 years I have had no private life worth talking about. Which is OK, but after a while it would be nice to have a late breakfast without a million people walking through the kitchen.

We have moved the offices to above the stockroom. I had to put in a new staircase as the old spiral one, which is very pretty but small and so we could not get any office furniture up it – tricky! And none of the dogs except for Nettle would go up. The new stairs now lead to a staff room – yes my staff have a proper clean comfortable tidy (ish!) and warm staff room. Katherine is in the main office overseeing everything and doing a wonderful job I have to say. They also have a staff kitchen and staff bathroom -they can even have a bath!! It has made such a difference to us. It really works well and will be even better in the winter months when we are closed and the staff will now have somewhere nice to go for coffee and lunch. I even put a TV and CD player in there for them, although watching football is banned – Gary!

I have a study/office in the house now, with my books and everything I need around me, to do all the writing and correspondence that piles up on a daily basis.

It was a traumatic time and we lost several things I have to say. But I am so glad that we have done it. So if you phone and need something now – Katherine is the person to ask. Between us, she and I are coping with running the place. And Jan is helping out in the office during the week. With Andrew from our accountants keeping an eye on things once a fortnight.

OWL EVENINGS, DECEMBER & FEBRUARY

For those members who moaned at me last year because you did not hear about the Owl Evening dates – HERE they are!!!

December 1st 8th 14th 15th 21st and 22nd
February 9th 16th and 23rd

We have had these on offer since August and they are booking up fast so get hold of us quickly if you want to come in December. There is less hurry for the February dates, however it would probably be a good thing to book sooner rather than later.

The price is the same as last year £12.00 for adults and £6.00 for children, with a pound off each adult ticket and 50p off childrens tickets, for members.

If you are interested in collecting model owls, we have just been donated a collection of 75 owls by the mother of a visitor. She wanted the collection to stay together and so we are raffling it off with the draw on December 22nd. Tickets are £2.50 which if you win is a pretty cheap collection, and if you don’t still it will help the National Birds of Prey Trust as we will donate the funds to it.

So if you want to come in December – phone us quickly during office hours and we will book you in. The same goes for February. It’s a good idea to book as soon as you can as places go pretty quickly.

THE HAWK BOARD

As you may know I wear a number of hats in the various different outside work that I do. Recently I was voted on as the Hawk Board Chair. The Hawk Board has been in existence since the early 80’s in fact it has a website up and running as I write – run by the same quite brilliant webmaster who runs our NBPC site. <Blush. Webmaster> It has become over the years the link or representative between the bird of prey keeping fraternity – falconers, breeders, rehabilitators, owl keepers and so on and the government. In our case now DEFRA. We deal with all sorts of issues, the needs of falconers, European directives that might affect us such as disposal of raw meat and other such interesting topics!! My father was on the Hawk Board initially and I took over when I bought the Centre from him.

If you are interested there is an open meeting each year, you have already missed this years, but I will try to remember to put the date of next years in one of the newsletters.

SPECIAL MEMBERS DAY

We have decided its time to get you all here for a special members-only (and guests if you want to bring one) Day.

The Day Chosen is Friday January 25th We will start at about 2:30 pm, with a guided tour of the Centre and grounds showing you anything new and interesting that we have, or might be doing in the near future. We will then fly some birds for you, I don’t know what as yet, but we will be getting ready to open soon after that on February 1st and so we should have a goodly choice for you. At about 4:30 we will go into the Caf and have hot home made soup and sandwiches, coffee, tea, hot apple juice or mulled wine. After that we will move to the education room where a good friend of mine Ruth Tingay will give a lecture on the Madagascar Fish Eagle which is a pretty endangered species that she has been working with under the auspices of the Peregrine Fund. I hope she will tell us a little about other Madagascar species of raptor as well. We will finish off the day with a couple of owls flying. And wave you all goodbye at about 7pm.

I am going to charge you £6.50 per head to cover costs of food and staff. I really hope we will get a good turnout. I know January is cold, but we will have a good day.

Please contact Katherine in the office to book a place, we must know you are coming.

NBPC ON CENTRAL NEWS

This summer we were lucky enough to have Central News come and run the local news from the Centre. Sadly it was not the best of days weather wise, it started off with rain, however by the time the news was on we were able to do some of it outside. I have to say it was a pleasure to work with them, they were friendly, interested and managed the birds quite superbly as well as giving out news and information. We were all very impressed and so were the birds. It also helped a great deal with encouraging visitors, which in a difficult year really was nice. I would like to thank them here for coming and hope that they will feel that one day they can come again!

CHARITY LAUNCH

We have had three royal events here and always been lucky with the weather, however this time the weather was not quite so helpful, however having said that, it could have been worse! The following Sunday after the event it poured down all day. Sept 30th dawned grey, windy and raining, which was disappointing considering that Friday and Saturday had been absolutely glorious! The Marquee looked great thanks to Tessa Reinhold, who had done a splendid job on the flowers and she and her husband Piers (one of the Trustee’s) who had also put up a first class exhibition of paintings that various artists had allowed us to have. Tony Allen from FISH! Restaurants had kindly offered to do the food for us and do it he did. Ably fronted by Yvonne and Claire and a staff of people to die for, they took over and at no point did I have to worry about a thing.

The weather slowly worsened during the morning, but people arrived and I was delighted to see that almost everyone who had said they would come, did so, despite the weather. As with all these events, I don’t get much time to be a good host, but as usual my guests always seem willing to forgive me. The princess arrived and we all went down to the tent. We were greeted by the Trustees who said hello and then the assembled multitude watched 20 minutes of cabaret from a team of people to whom I am eternally grateful. Stefan Bednarczyk played my piano and had the audience in stitches. (Actually we had a great time the evening/morning! Before when he tried out the piano at 2am) To Nicholas Parsons who stepped in to MC things for us almost at the last minute, to Liza Godard a good friend who made the owl and the pussy cat sound so good and most of all to one of my best friends and another Trustee Nichola McAuliffe who arranged the entertainment so beautifully and entertained even more beautifully.

It all worked really well and the Princess enjoyed it immensely. After that she met various friends and potential donors, and then gave a wonderful speech, which in hind sight I should have taped and needless to say did not and officially launched the trust. She then had to depart for another engagement. While I saw her off Nicholas Parsons encouraged all guests to support the trust either by donation, or by buying one of the paintings. Then a guest that we were hoping would come, but sadly arrived late due to poor weather conditions, nevertheless every one was delighted when Tony Allen arrived with Viney Jones! It was a day of celebrities because one of my other special friends Miranda Richardson also arrived from filming abroad and it was a personal treat to have her there for the day. Luckily after that the rain cleared and we were able to end the day with a flying demonstration and as usual my staff did a first class job and flew the birds superbly. I would also like at this point to thank Katherine for all the work she did in getting things ready for the day.

We did not raise as much as I had hoped we would, however we did cover all the costs and raised the profile of the Trust enormously. I hope that the knock on effect will help us over the year to come. I am planning on holding one event per year to keep the Trust profile high and to raise funds, and I hope I will do better next time round. Having said that various people who had been to more than one of our events said that this one was the best.

VOLUNTEER TRAINING DAY

Firstly I would like to give my sincere thanks to all those of you who are regular volunteers to the Centre. I should also like to apologise now and in the future to all those who’s names it takes me so long to remember, please forgive me on that one. Without you this year we would not have been able to manage anywhere near as well. Particularly prior to the Royal visit here, where you all worked so hard to make the place look wonderful.

We are planning on a volunteer day and I am thinking January 30th. I would like to have you here at about 10.00am for coffee, then we are going to run a training session in initial bird handling techniques so you can pick up, weigh and put birds away for us, and feed them on the fist. During the day we are going to run the usual three demonstrations but we are all going to watch and critic the commentaries. We feel that we are getting stale and we want input from you people and each other and constructive criticism. So please let me know in December who would like to come. This is only open to regular volunteers, but if you are not one and feel you would like to be one and can genuinely offer us your time, we will welcome you.

CHRISTMAS PRESENTS

We thought as it was getting close to Christmas you might be stuck for ideas for presents. So we are getting in a couple of special items.

We are doing a new Sweat Shirt with the National Birds of Prey Centre logo embroidered on it and the name, these are going to sell at £22.95

The other item is the Dorling Kindersley Animals encyclopaedia with a section on birds of prey contributed by JPJ and with some pictures of the birds from here. This sells at £35.00

Both items will have a 5% discount for members. But I would ask you to pick them up as the p+p for the book particularly will not be cheap.

There are limited numbers as we do not have vast reserves this year (actually we have never had vast reserves come to think of it!!) to lay out on large quantities of stock so let Katherine know very soon and if we run out we can order more.

DIARY NOTES…

  • Hawking Club visit to Centre
  • Live Central News Broadcast from wet NBPC
  • Filming with Red Kite in Devon
  • New Birds arrive from Belgium
  • Kilbreck and Laertes die
  • Flying Demonstration in Warwickshire
  • Father’s Headstone finally in place in churchyard
  • JCB here to move compost heaps and general tidy round
  • Vulture meeting at RSPC HQ Sandy Beds
  • Honey Buzzard goes for release in New Forest
  • Sarah Leaves
  • New stairs up to new office finished
  • Office move
  • Chatsworth Country Fair
  • JPJ Lecture in Yorkshire
  • September 11th
  • PWLO Course
  • Dr Vibhu Prakash arrives from India
  • JPJ to Spain for RRF raptor conference
  • Royal Launch of the Charity
  • Filming for British Museum
  • Five Day Falconry Course
  • JPJ takes 6 birds to Belgium and brings back 4 birds
  • Hawk Board Open Meeting
  • JPJ Expert Witness Court Case
  • JPJ trip to US
  • MSc Vet Course NBPC
  • Flying Demonstration at Cheltenham Festival Races
  • Private Owl Evening
  • December Owl Evenings

SPANISH CONFERENCE ON RAPTORS

About every other year the RRF Raptor Research Foundation which is an American based society to which I have belonged for many years links with a group in Europe and together they run a scientific conference on raptors.

This one was held at Seville, which, when you can find it, has a beautiful old town, absolutely surrounded by a huge and rather less than beautiful urban sprawl. As usual I managed to have other things happening both before and afterwards, and so was not able to go on any of the trips. I also had a nightmare trip there which was completely my own fault. When arriving in Amsterdam to change planes to go to Seville, I went through customs, bought sunglasses, had a glass of wine and generally relaxed while my plane took off without me – I had forgotten to put my watch on one hour!!! I ended up going via Madrid, then trained to Seville but the train broke down so I did not get there until midnight, instead of lunch time. I was not a happy person.

However the conference went very well, I was co-chairing a session on Raptor diseases in wild and captive birds, which had some excellent speakers. I also organised and chaired a workshop on the Indian Vulture Crisis, with a now friend Dr Todd Katzner. We had six speakers (including myself) and then a period of discussion on the problem. The workshop was well attended and if anyone is interested in reading the papers and the discussion it will be posted on our website among others, with various links. I also want to thank Disney Animal Kingdom who helped with funding towards assisting the speakers with their expenses, which made a great deal of difference I have to say.

The nice thing about such conferences is that one gets the chance to meet up with old friends from around the world and meet new ones who become old ones at the next meeting. I met the scientist who is monitoring and going to be trapping the Cape Verde Kites in December. Plus a good friend who is working on scientific markers on eagles and wants to try them out on some of our captive eagles. Plus many other friends and acquaintances.

The next RRF conference for me is September next year in New Orleans.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS – VULTURES

The vulture situation in India is still very grave, as yet there are sadly still no answers, although a virus has been found, it is not conclusive enough at this point to be the deciding factor. There are two schools of thought, one being the disease factor and the other being the massive use of pesticides in India being the cause of the decline. Both are still being looked into, although at the moment, one project was based in Pakistan and being run by the Peregrine Fund in the US, and of course this project has had to be put on hold for the time being. The Darwin Initiative, which is the project the Centre is involved in is going ahead. Samples from dead vultures are still be tested and looked at both in Australia and in India. At the same time Dr Prakash, who First alerted the world to the decline is in the UK working with us, and then going on to several other situations. He is learning the management and welfare techniques he will need for looking after sick vultures in captivity, aiming at research and cures, and possibly a captive breeding programme in the future… JPJ hopes to be going out to India in January for a short stay if funds allow.

COMMUNICATION WITH NBPC

Now we have a new office Katherine is in charge, she has her work cut out as I have not replaced her position full time. Although I am very pleased to say that Jan, whom many of you will know from the shop at the weekends, is helping out during the week.

If you phone us – call on the 0870 990 1992 number as it will not cost you any more and actually earns us funds which is really helpful.

I do much of my work on Email now, but have upwards of 50 emails per day now, so you may not get as quick an answer as you used to get. We also get around 60 – 80 phone calls per day, so if you can’t get through, be patient and keep trying!

OFFICE AND OTHER NEEDS.

Firstly let me thank those of you who kindly gave us plants and seeds for the gardens here. The new bog garden looks wonderful – even though some unpleasant people did try to destroy it on one weekend, sadly we did not spot who it was or I probably would have fed them to the vultures!!

The Woodland Walk has been very popular this summer and we are going to be doing some more planting this winter, so if members or friends have bulbs or forest type plants or shrubs, bring ’em over!

If anyone out there is in business and is getting rid of a photocopier, we are in desperate need of one, Our old one is dying on its little feet – its done heaven knows how many copies and gives appalling quality these days. So if you know of a business that is upgrading or ceasing to trade and that has a photo copier that needs a loving new home – let us know!!

MEMBERSHIP RENEWALS

We are coming up to the time of year that many of the longer standing members need to think about renewing. I really hope you will do so. You are very important to us and we like having you visit the Centre regularly. Don’t forget that membership makes a great Christmas present too. If you have a friend whom you think would enjoy being a member you could renew over the phone and at the same time buy a Membership for them. Its makes a good present with a card and membership ticket, a leaflet on the Centre and a newsletter. And better still you don’t have to get in the car and face parking and the crowds, you can do it on the phone! Give us enough time to get it to you with Christmas post though. And I would think that this will be slower this year because of the risk of terrorism.

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR

Well that’s it for another year. I hope you enjoy this newsletter, I have only been driven slightly mad by trying to do it in word which does not lend itself to this sort of thing. However, we have won again. My staff and I would like to wish you all a Very Merry Christmas and Incredibly Happy New Year.

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