Surprisingly as I write whilst in South Carolina, it is grey, cold and raining, pretty similar to Gloucestershire in November really. Not that that is usual, normally the weather here is very much more bearable, particularly in November when it can be cool in the evening and in the 70’s and sunshine in the day, so I am not complaining, and I am told they need the rain as there has been a drought – I can only wish we had one at home.
The rest of this year continued to be a difficult and complex one. I have been to the US a total of five times, plus a conference in Israel, a vulture workshop in India, and to end the year in December, a two day meeting in Edinburgh, followed closely by a very short trip to Spain to help and advise with an Imperial Eagle breeding programme. My father died after being ill for a while, and the petrol crisis made that a very much more difficult time than it needed to be. Over the year many people came to stay so the house was rarely free and the weather has been memorably bad. Other people may be getting global warming – we appear to be getting global wetting. It really is a concern to us on a couple of fronts. In terms of conservation we are seeing changes in patterns of animal behaviour all over the world. Some species are coping with the changes, others are not. Diseases that are not normally seen in more northern climes are appearing, some with adverse and catastrophic effects both to bird species and humans alike. On a more personal level, the constant wet and no proper summers is having an effect on tourism and more and more people are going abroad, rather than holidays within the UK. That has a big effect on numbers, which makes for difficulties.
However, some of the special evening events have been very successful. I was particularly pleased with the twilight evening. We had two booked and the initial response was not as good as we had hoped so we cut it down to one – and then of course the response increased – so on the evening we had well over a hundred people. Much to the concern of people that I work with, I don’t always plan things down to the fine detail, annoying though this probably is, what it allows me to do is change the plan at the last minute. I long since learnt that in this business it is a fatal tactic to have plans set in stone as living creatures (animal and human), weather and staff can all surprise you. Consequently on going down to the flying ground and seeing so many people I changed the plan in mid stream and we split the numbers, giving a lecture to one group while the others ate, and then reversing it. It all worked very well I am glad to say.
We are going to continue with the ‘behind the scenes evenings’ next spring. It is a good time for these events, as seeing the breeding birds, the eggs, incubators and young birds is a real treat for people who don’t normally see what we do behind the scenes. If you have not been to one, I can thoroughly recommend them.
I am hoping that next year will be an easier and less fraught year for us, with lots of good weather, many customers and finances at an all time high! Well you can but hope… Jemima Parry-Jones MBE
Originally The National Birds of Prey Centre was simply called The Falconry Centre. The brainchild of my father Phillip Glasier, it started with the able and vital help of our mother and my sisters helping after school. Father was ahead of his time. Many people thought him mad to consider trying to breed birds of prey seriously in captivity, even more so to try it in a Centre open to the public. But he proved them wrong. Over the years that he owned and ran the Centre – 1967 – 1983 he bred birds of prey successfully, many species of which had never been bred before. He encouraged and educated thousands of those who visited. He also helped and taught hundreds and probably thousands either with his books, the courses run at the Centre, or the many letters and phone calls that he returned in response to questions and requests.
He and Mother retired to the Borders in the spring of 1983. They were in a beautiful place called Yarrow. They stayed there until late 1992, when they decided to move, the choices being back down to this area, or closer into Edinburgh, where my sister Anna lives. Eventually they moved to about three miles from the Centre. Our Mother died on June 13th 1998. I think it was only then that my father realised how much he relied on her.
He slowly retreated into himself and literally got old. In the last year my sisters and I will always be grateful to Arthur Middleton, the young South Carolinian who stayed at the Centre for a year. He used to visit our father with me, every time I went over and once he got a car, visited on his own. Father was always good with young people and enjoyed their company. He and Arthur got on well, Arthur must have heard all the stories a hundred times, but never showed anything but enjoyment of father’s company, I think and hope they both got something out of it.
It was only after father’s death, that one realised how many people he really had helped over the years. The letters and emails came pouring in. But as I felt and my sisters voiced, what a great shame those people could not have told him to his face, rather than waiting until it was too late. He should have died a great deal less lonely than he did… It just goes to show you should always appreciate people to their faces and tell them, otherwise how will they ever know.
Sadly the petrol crisis came at just the wrong time, at least for father. For anyone who was not in the UK at the time, we really were literally brought to our knees. Food got short as people panic bought, people could not get to work, no one went to any tourist attractions, so what was normally a good couple of weeks for us at the beginning of September was dire. I really wonder if those who instigated it all have any idea of how much damage they did to everyone who was affected.
Suffice it to say that driving to funerals became impossible for most, although a dedicated few did manage to make it. So father’s funeral was sparsely attended which was a great shame and not what he deserved or would have liked. Many people have subsequently asked if we are going to organise a memorial service. As we consider that father was to birds of prey what Peter Scott was to water fowl, we would like to organise rather more than just a memorial service. Sir Peter’s friends clubbed together and paid for a stained glass window to be made in his name in the local church. I was privileged enough to be invited to the dedication and memorial service. We feel this would be a good thing to do for someone who had just as great an impact on falconry and birds of prey world wide. However it will depend on finances, we certainly can’t afford to do it, so I am asking anyone who feels so inclined, if they would like to make a donation towards this project.
Any donations can be sent to me at The National Birds of Prey Centre and made payable to the Memorial Window Fund. I really hope that enough people will contribute to make this happen. JPJ
A County Award for the Centre
Gathered together on the 3rd November were not only companies, individuals and organisations of national and international renown, but ordinary members of the county of Gloucestershire. All nominated because of work done for the benefit of others. At the reception organised by the High Sheriff of Gloucestershire at Cheltenham Race Course, On behalf of the National Birds of Prey Centre Mark Parker and Sarah-Jane Rumble received “The Heroes of Gloucestershire Award” for the care and research into birds of prey.
This was very special for us as there is little that encourages one to do more, than to be appreciated for what has been achieved. Here I would like to add a personal note to all my staff, past and present, as without them, the Centre would not be what it is today. We are only as good as the people who work there and over the years I have had some pretty amazing people, both paid and volunteer and I deeply appreciate all that they have done.
Christmas Owl Evenings
Tickets on sale now!
The Owl Evenings are being held on the 2nd / 9th / 16th and 23rd of December this year, and make a really nice evening out for all the family leading up to Christmas.
We can’t guarantee snow again this year… but we will take you on guided tours of the owls by torchlight, supply Hog Roast and Mulled Wine to warm up, followed by our Hawk Owl “Hovering” and a flying demonstration in the dark!
The evening starts at 6:30 pm and finishes about 9:00 pm… £12.00 Adults and £6.00 for Children including food and refreshments. (Membership discount applies, and under 4’s are free).
For more information and ticket sales, please telephone 0870 990 1992 Don’t forget to wrap up warm and bring a torch!
Good bye & good luck to Henrietta, move to Cornwall
Katherine left us for five weeks to travel Europe!
Filming at the Centre for a new series called “Animal Champions”
Congratulations to Judy and Martin, now Mr & Mrs Eley
Arthur travelled to Panama to track and study Harpy Eagles in the wild
Hornet nests brought in “experts” to advise us that they are endangered, so they stayed!
Flying Demo at Chatworth Country Fair by Jemima
Two Students from the Van Hall Institute in Holland arrived for three months – Roland & Freddie
Jemima attended the Police Wildlife Liaison Conference to give a talk
Lisa James and film crew joined the Falconry Experience Day for HTV
Have you seen it? The Ad for the New Sony Digital Handycam… it’s “Chalky”
Philip Glasier, Founder of The Falconry Centre (our original name) died Sept 11th 2000
Jemima to India for Vulture Workshop
Members celebrated their Ruby Wedding Anniversary with a day at the Centre
Martin and volunteers took the Ravens to a “Haunted House Party”
Jemima away in November
Preparation for the winter months and breeding season, and eggs start arriving early
The Hawk Conservancy Members braved the weather and came to visit… it was great to see you!
Rain, gales… mud, mud, glorious mud!
Preparations for the Breeding Season
As I think I have probably said before, our breeding season is an extended one. Because of the number of different species that we house and the differing parts of the world and climate that they hale from, breeding starts early and often ends late. I learnt to my interest that this is not unusual in the wild. Bald Eagles which inhabit the continent of North America which covers most habitats and temperature ranges, have an incredibly extended breeding season and somewhere on the continent there are Bald Eagles sitting on eggs every day of the year.
For us the start of the season means getting pens ready for birds that may be coming into breeding condition. We catch up the pair of birds, give them a physical examination, worm and spray them, clip and file beaks and talons, sometimes take a blood sample to give a more extensive health check and then place the birds into boxes put somewhere quiet while we get on with the job of aviary cleaning.
This year, after much encouragement from my staff we bought a commercial power cleaner which is making the cleaning of pens very much easier and quicker. The walls and perches and nest ledge are cleaned, the floor is raked, the sand is cleaned and the nest ledge is re sanded. Then we build a nest if the species is a nest builder. This year we are trying to make the nests a little smaller and more manageable, even to the point of being in a contained frame which means we can move it a little if necessary.
Once all this is done and the pen looks good, we return the birds to the pen and hope for good results. Last year was an excellent breeding season for us with several new species being bred. So we are hoping that 2001 will be a good year, both with the breeding and optimistically the weather as well, which actually makes a difference to the way the birds breed.
Many of our members, friends and visitors have been in contact because of the dreadful floods and stormy weather suffered by so many people in recent weeks. We would just like to say thank you very much for your concern and it is really nice to know that you have all been thinking of us.
Fortunately, we are slightly higher up than most places around Gloucester and have managed to avoid major flooding. All the birds and staff are well, although the mud is getting extremely tedious and the dogs are permanently mud coloured! We have lost a few fences in the gales and some damage to the larger trees will have to be attended to in the not too distant future. Needless to say, the paths are in the field as usual … although it’s not over yet, we don’t plan to let it get us down! As we constantly say on the phone to potential visitors, ignore the weather – just
Membership News & Renewal for 2001
At the beginning of the year we opened the Membership to a wider “audience” and made the Scheme, which has been in place since 1997, more flexible. This has been a great success, and throughout the year we have had the opportunity to welcome more and more new Members of all age groups, than ever before.
Your Membership is very valuable to the Centre especially in December and January, so please don’t forget us during the hectic shopping season!
Membership makes an ideal present for relatives and friends, all you need to do is give us a call during office hours on 0870 990 1992 and we will organise everything by mail order (including a gift card).
NBPC Education for the Future
Back in 1997 I began to study for my Diploma in Raptor Biology through the University of Wales, Swansea at the NBPC. At the time I was working at the Lincolnshire Birds of Prey Centre, where I was for six years, then after I took on the role as Education Officer at Linton Zoo.
It was always a dream that perhaps one day I would be working at the NBPC, why? In any career you have goals, things to aim for and achieve. In the bird of prey world the goal has to be to work here at The National Birds of Prey Centre. When you work for the most famous birds of prey centre in the world, with the largest collection and leads the world on many aspects, i.e. captive breeding, what more do you need?
In the past I have worked often on my own or with just one or two people, but here you are part of a large team of bird staff who all clearly love their work, and where it is clearly obvious that there is a strong team spirit. And who are all committed to the NBPC. I find in my short time here that I have learnt so much regarding new ways in training birds that it has brought to me a breath of new fresh air.
With the help of my colleagues we are putting together some exciting new ideas for the future. Next Easter we are hoping to launch our new “Wildlife Walk” which will be really great for everyone, in particular children, where we will really bring the National Curriculum to life. There will also be a new quiz trail on offer for the whole family to get involved in to test the old grey matter!
I am also the co-ordinator for volunteers, so if any one wishes to give us a hand here we would love to see you, just let me know. Regarding volunteers, I am thinking about creating a separate “Volunteers Club” so they who join could organise their own activities, have there own separate uniform, be in charge of organising their own work load etc. I really think that this will work and would be very exciting and rewarding. I hope in the near future to get the opportunity of perhaps meeting many of you as members of the NBPC. Martin Foulds, Education Officer
A Trio Sadly Missed
Overnight on the 15th July 2000 three female Harris Hawks, namely, Lambe, Common Blue and Bell, were stolen from the Hawk Walk within the grounds of The National Birds of Prey Centre. In my time at the NBPC this is the second time that birds have been stolen. The previous theft was in 1996 when two breeding pairs of Harris Hawks were taken from Barn Two. In addition to this, one of the youngsters that was being reared by its parents ended up dead on the floor of the aviary.
The 1996 theft was hard to take, but the recent theft of birds was very upsetting. It hit Jemima and all the bird staff hard, especially me as all three Hawks played such an important part in the many courses that we run, notably the Falconry Experience Days. All the courses over the past few years have gone from strength to strength and none more so than the Experience Days. Without a doubt this success has been helped along by quality birds who by their own character have helped us run courses consistently and smoothly without too many hiccups. All three birds stolen have helped the Centre to achieve success as well as giving staff, the public and course attendants many enjoyable and exciting moments, I thought that it would be nice to write a little piece about each bird, as a sort of, tribute and public thank you for all they have given us.
Its only right that I start with “Lamb” who was named after a Scottish poet. Bred by Mr J. Shaw from Derbyshire; Lamb was seven years old when she was stolen having hatched out in June of 1993. She was by far the most experienced Harris Hawk at the NBPC, having performed public demonstrations on thousands of occasions, including numerous demo’s in front of members of the Royal family. Lamb’s many days out hawking had taken her to well over five hundred head of quarry which included, hare, rabbit and pheasant. She was also particularly adept at surprising crows. One other talent that she had was a rather crafty way of catching squirrels. Often on days out, she would find herself a squirrels dray and then proceed to jump up and down on it. This she would continue to do until a squirrel was flushed. Now all the bird staff at NBPC try not to catch this particular type of quarry because they posses a nasty bite. This can cause severe infection to a birds feet, with the possibility of tendons being severed and serious infection getting a hold. Lamb was bitten many times by squirrels but it never deterred her. She was an absolute master at catching them and would refuse to come out of a tree if she believed one was there. Lamb was an extremely clever hawk, one of her tricks, in realising that squirrels often positioned themselves on the underside of branches was to sneak along the branch above them. If the branch was small enough she would reach around either side with her feet and grab it. Unfortunately for me she rarely let go, which meant I normally had to climb the tree in order to retrieve both bird and quarry.
Lamb was not the most elegant of birds, she was a long slim strange looking hawk who gave the impression of being extremely slow and clumsy. In reality she was, very efficient and knew how and when to turn on the power. She is the only hawk that I know who has caught two rabbits at once, and a rabbit in a tree. They are true stories that I won’t detail now, though if you ever come on an experience day, I’m sure you will hear me tell the tales.
The one thing that I will truly miss about Lamb is her truly wonderful temperament. She was easy going and never aggressive. Many hundreds of course attendants over the years have picked her up and held her on their fists. She made it easy for them. My lasting memory of her will be of earlier this year when a school party of blind children attended the NBPC. Lamb allowed the children to run their hands over her in order to understand what a hawk was. She never flinched once and permitted all of the children to have their turn. She was a remarkable bird who will be sorely missed by all.
Bell – was the youngest of the birds stolen, having been bred here at the Centre in August of 1999, a year when the chosen theme for naming new birds was “inventors”. Bell’s initial training began in January 2000, this was pretty late on, due to the fact that she was a second clutch bird. Bell was trained by Annie Miller who put a lot of time into her, both at work and her own time. Annie’s hard work was rewarded in early March when Bell caught her first rabbit on a Five Day Falconry Course. From then on she went from strength to strength and formed a very good hunting partnership with the more experienced “Izzy”, a four year old male Harris Hawk. They often flew quite brilliantly together especially when out Hawking during Experience Days. It was a partnership that just clicked producing a quite formidable duo. On many occasions when quarry was scarce they would circle up high into the sky, soaring around together before stooping down to the fist. The control and sheer spectacle of it all astounded many people even bringing some to tears!
Bell was a very dark, smart looking young Hawk who at times could be a little vocal and a touch temperamental. But all in all she was a reliable responsive and valued asset to the Course team. She will be missed by all, especially by Annie.
“Common Blue” arrived at the Centre in June of 1999 with somewhat of an unusual start to life. She arrived in part juvenile plumage having already started her first moult indicating that she was a 1998 bird. Though where she originally came from and who actually bred her was and still is completely unknown. Her path to us was via a gamekeeper who had caught her unharmed in a Larson trap. She had been living rough in the area for over 7 months surviving on a luxury diet of pheasant. It was because of this that later during her stay at NBPC she became known as the upper class Harris Hawk. She would often turn her nose up at rabbits when out hawking, showing a much greater desire and aptitude to pursue pheasant.
After being caught by the gamekeeper Common Blue was handed over to West Yorkshire Police Constabulary who in turn delivered the bird to us. Ironically the ring on her leg was one of the batch stolen at a Country Fair. Though whether Common Blue had been previously stolen from someone before her capture or just lost, no one knew. Yorkshire Police had been unable to trace an owner, and so she began a career at the NBPC, she was a pleasure to fly and never caused any problems to anyone. Switching her flying talents from Experience Days to demonstrations, to flying to complete strangers fists on numerous varied occasions.
She had a nice easy going attitude to life, and gave all the staff an easy option bird to use in any difficult flying situation. Because she was a 1998 bird, the ‘name’ theme that year being butterflies, I decided to call her Common Blue. She was due this year to be paired with a suitable male in the hope that her easy going attitude would be inherited by any offspring. I hope that wherever she is, that she is still happy. I trained and flew her for most of the 1999/2000 season, I am grateful at least that I had that time with her.
All three birds have been greatly missed we still have hope that somewhere in the future we will see and fly them again. I hope they are safe and well and that their present keepers who ever they may be are taking good care of them.
To date none of the birds stolen in 1996 or July 2000 have been recovered. Mark Parker, Head Falconer
Volunteers… We Need Your Help!
Here at the Centre we are developing a new Volunteers Club, comprising of enthusiastic people from all walks of life who have a keen interest on Birds of Prey and a dedicated desire to help with the NBPC. As we move into the year 2001, we have decided to try and recruit people with various skills that can take the NBPC into the future. We are looking to bring in extraordinary people with skills and experience in education, fundraising, ideas, DIY etc.
On the education side we want to develop our Education Room more into an Educational “Activity” Room where kids and adults can enjoy aspects such as face painting, badge making etc. We are also looking to develop our Educational tours where we can provide the public with up to date information on what is happening at the Centre in particular with the breeding programmes. This means we need your time if you can spare some on a regular basis. On all positions available there will be extensive training offered to the successful candidates and of course the benefits of working with the Worlds most famous Birds of Prey Centre.
INVITATION: If you are interested in this chance of a lifetime and the opportunity to support the work of the NBPC, why not come along to our open Volunteers Night? Saturday 3rd March 2001 at 6.3Opm. There will be a talk, questions and answers session, followed by food and refreshments. RSVP (please) to: Martin Foulds, Education Officer. We look forward to hearing from you!
You have helped!
We still need lots of Wild, Woodland, Bog and Pond Plants to put in our new Conservation Area and “Wildlife Walk” at the Centre. If you send us a plant or packet of seeds from your local garden centre, market or car boot sale or a cutting or plants from your garden… Anything will be greatfully received! Work has started and lots of donations already received, so a big thank you to everyone who has contributed.
New Owl Courses
At last, Understanding Owls… the Training Course. The National Birds of Prey Centre has been training people for many, many years.
Some have used their new found skills and knowledge as part of their job in the RSPCA, RSPB, Animal Quarantine Stations, Airport CITES Teams, Veterinary Care and Zoos. Others have gone on to become extremely dedicated Falconers, and some have just done the Courses for the experience.
We aim to give “hands-on” practical training in care and management, diet, equipment, aviary design, health and disease, training, flying, hunting, telemetry and more… to help you do it right the first time!
In recent years we have received numerous requests to introduce an OWL COURSE, so we have and the dates are as follows:
OWL COURSES (3 days / 10 places only) 30th March-1st April / 27th-29th April
FALCONRY COURSES (5 days / 6 places only) 12th -16th February / 12th-16th March
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON ANY OF THE TRAINING COURSES HELD AT THE NATIONAL BIRDS OF PREY CENTRE, PLEASE CONTACT THE OFFICE ON 0870 990 1992 or email / write to us at the address given in this Newsletter.