Friday, 26 March 2010

Smart outlook.

Let me start by saying a huge "thank you" to Anne and Elaine at "Hawkshead" at Lomond Shores. They have kitted us out with our new uniforms. The Hawkshead logo looks appropriate. So, we can all wear the same colours when we are on display. The boys will not be allowed to wear any new stuff when they are cleaning out, or, I will get them to clean out Aggro, while she is in the pen. Ross has made a start on putting the new sand into the weathering pens. This is the first chance we have had, considering all the bad weather and frozen ground. We will wait a few weeks yet before we tackle the painting of the centre.

By the way, the illustration of a Kestrel is supposed to be used to identify the male. The only way anyone would see this view, is from above, really clever, eh ?

I actually caught sight of one of the wild Tawny Owls at the centre last night. I didn't get back until around 9pm. When I was opening the gate to leave, I heard it calling, then right above me, there it was, just about 4 feet above my head. Proves who the culprit is when it comes to knocking the owl ornaments off the fence posts at night.

We have carried out six education visits over the last ten days, it is one of the most rewarding parts of what we do. The expression on the face of a young child when they see an owl really close for the first time, priceless. And, despite all the facts about European Eagle Owls, power, ferocity, size etc., the kids always want to meet Mozart. Right enough, he is one of the most laid-back owls I know, and is never phased by all the attention and touching. He is the bird that all the kids want to hug.

Hopefully we are due some better weather. It is about time. No one wants to venture far when it is windy, wet, and cold. Here's to Spring, and the clocks going forward.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Green Energy ??

Time for another rant. Having had a very interesting conversation about wind turbines this afternoon, I decided to do a bit of research. And some rather frightening and puzzling things came to light.

First, locally. It seems there is a large tract of the Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park which has been designated as suitable for wind farm development. This is puzzling, especially as the founder of National Parks did so with a view of restricting development in order to conserve the habitat of that particular area for generations to come. I just wonder, in these modern times, what gives government funded organisations the right to sacrifice their moral and ethical obligations for what appears to be, commercial gain.

Second, nationally. It seems the R.S.P.B. lack direction and clarity in their decision making. At one point, not many years ago, they were vehemently opposed to wind farm development. However, over the past few years, this has changed. In fact, a 180 degree turn. They now support wind farm development, saying renewable energy sources must be used to combat climate change. They qualify this by stating wind farms must be located where bird populations are not affected. Maybe if the R.S.P.B. were more effective, and less political, there would fewer members disillusioned. They are the nationally recognised body we all rely on to look after the interests of our wild birds, and as such, they should shoulder that responsibility. There are dozens of studies and reports showing the damage to birds by turbines. There are studies and reports showing how inefficient wind turbines are.

There are far less damaging ways of harnessing the elements to provide energy. Or, providing the means to reduce the amount of energy required. The only ones who are gaining from this bandwagon, are those involved in the supply of the equipment, and those being subsidised to run it. I wonder. With so much money at stake, what lengths will the parties concerned go to, to ensure these projects go ahead.

Something which may have a bearing on the above. Why are the studies to establish Golden Eagle populations only concerned with the number of breeding pairs ? The last census, in 2003 by the R.S.P.B., established just over 420 breeding pairs in Britain. So, where are the others ? A Golden Eagle does not reach maturity until at least four years old. it may not pair up and breed until 5, 6, or 7 years of age. If we assume breeding success of 60%, 420 pairs, offspring start to breed at 5 years of age. The calculations say that there are well over 1,000 Golden Eagles unaccounted for. That is more than the total of breeding birds. Can the R.S.P.B. tell us where they are ?

The consequence of the above is. Golden Eagle territories are mapped based on breeding pair population. If wind farm development is allowed in areas where there is no recognised Golden Eagle population, i.e. breeding pairs, they may be allowing development in areas where the population is actually greater, but only juvenile birds. Kill them with turbine blades, and you kill the future.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Sport Relief

Having watched some of the tragic stories on "Sport Relief". I have decided that we should do our little bit to help. So, tomorrow, 20th March, half of all the money taken by the Bird of Prey Centre, will be donated to Sport Relief.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Making a point.

We had a great time at STV on Friday night on "The Hour". Young Ross did really well, and the birds were very well behaved. Michelle and Stephen made us very welcome, and put us at ease. The whole point of the appearance was to provide a bit of visual aid to the news of the submission of a petition to the Scottish Parliament by the R.S.P.B., asking for stronger punishment for those found guilty of crimes against Birds of Prey.

There are a few mindless morons who will inflict harm on animals and birds, just to see the suffering, or for spite. Those individuals usually use direct means, rifles, or air-guns. There are those who perceive Birds of Prey as a threat to their livelihood, or responsible for demise of animals or birds in their care. Those individuals are the ones likely to use poisoning

That said, we have to put things in perspective. Unfortunately, our justice system is non-existent, for any crime. There are no longer any deterrents in place. The penalties available to the authorities for wildlife crime, are, up to six months in jail, and fines up to £5,000. To my knowledge, no one has ever been jailed. The fines are minimal, or, community service. If you start at the top with the most horrific crimes, and work down to the bottom and wildlife crime, (I say the bottom, because that is where it is). Then you look at the punishment allotted to each crime, the authorities have nothing left to dish out at the bottom. If the Scottish Parliament decided to jump on the bandwagon, and instruct the authorities to impose severe penalties, it would be viewed as rediculous.

An example. An individual, found guilty of deliberately poisoning a Buzzard, is expelled from the Gamekeepers' Association, fined £1,000, and jailed for 3 months. Justified ? On the other hand, a parent sees their child knocked down and killed by a speeding driver losing control of his car. Punishment, the driver loses their licence, is fined £1,000, and jailed for 3 months. What does that parent think ?

So, why doesn't the Scottish Parliament start at the bottom, apply the penalties, and work to the top. Then, we might have sufficient deterrents in place to reduce all crime. Life for murder would mean life, the rest of their natural.

Enough of a rant, enough said, but how many will read this, and will it make any difference ?

Thursday, 4 March 2010

As seen on TV

What a surprise this morning. I got a phone call from STV, asking if I would like to appear on their show, "The Hour", on Friday evening. It seems the producer visited the centre at the weekend with his family, and was very impressed. The recent submission of a petition by the RSPB to the Scottish Parliament has been on the news and in the papers. So, as a way of highlighting the plight of Birds of Prey, the team have come up with the idea of having birds in the studio, and explaining persecution etc. What an honour, I might stop shaking after we are finished.

This cold weather is still playing havoc with the water supply and cleaning. The ground in the aviaries and weathering pens is still frozen solid, except where the sun shines for a few hours. This means, the opportunity to clean has to be taken when available.

The condition of both wild Buzzards continues to improve daily. Both are growing new feathers, as I said before, we can only hope the feathers on the wing of the shot Buzzard have a strong enough hold to develop properly.

I can't wait for some decent weather. There is so much to do. The more I think of what needs to be done, the more I think we need twenty four hours of daylight each day.