Some members of the Flying team
is a Tawny Owl, it is a pleasure to be flying one again. Interestingly he flies much better if we take him down to the little wood, because he is less likely to be mobbed by small birds. However he does manage in the flying field and it is so nice to see native species flying here in Newent. The Tawny Owl is our commonest owl in Great Britain and is often incorrectly described as the female calling Twit and the male calling Twoo. A single bird can and does make the full call!
is an awesome Indian Tawny, these are one gene different from the African Tawny Eagle and the difference is considerable. They are a pound lighter in weight and have a light wing loading and so make superb demonstration birds. Hare was hatched in 2000, went to the US and came back again, he flew well over there, but surprisingly considering it was considerably hotter, he never really got good height over there. He is consistently good, and occasionally great, he has a nice temperament although is nervous and has never liked the dogs, many many people have wonderful photos of him in flight and he is the best flying eagle we have at the moment. We have three baby siblings this year (2012) and are looking forward to training them to see if they will be as good as he is.
Delectable is the first Eurasian Griffon Vulture to be bred at the international centre for Birds of Prey at Newent, although one was bred in the US in the last year. Hatched to one of the pairs of our injured wild griffon vultures from Spain in 2010 she is a very important member of the flying team, as although she doesn’t fly high and soar like her wild cousins as she finds it very hard in the rolling hills of Gloucestershire she charms the audience with her inquisitive and persistent personality. Helping us to dispel the myths about vultures being smell and dirty (she is always well turned out!) and show them in their true glory. Not only that but with the recent population crash of wild vultures in the Indian Subcontinent she is helping to raise awareness for the conservation efforts we are involved in to save the Asian vultures from extinction. The naming theme for birds in 2010 was British Apples, so with such a wonderful personality Delectable had to be the only choice!!
Nearly always the best remembered of our flying teams over the years has been the Burrowing owls. Many frequent visitors may remember our beloved Copper who died at the ripe old age of 10 (very old indeed for such a tiny owl) and Ruby, who died this year at 11. After 10 long years of service from both Copper and Ruby, a new young Burrowing Owl - Pysis joined the flying team as an owlet this year 2012 with the difficult job of filling their shoes! Luckily the long legs of the burrowing owl, normally used for digging holes, help in fulfilling everyone’s expectations of him! Despite the fact that it took us weeks to get him to go down a tunnel without our noses down the hole with him too and although not as confident as Ruby was yet he certainly has the personality to be remembered by many for years to come. At the moment he is going through a bit of a teenage stage, but we hope to get him over it soon!
A snowy owl is one of the birds that captures people imaginations, for so many reasons. Not surprisingly he is one of our winter flying team birds. Cool ground is a male snowy owl who joined the flying team in 2009. Since then he's been starring not only in our day time flying demonstrations but being the grand finale in our owl evening demonstrations as well. With shafts of light rising from our underground lighting in the flying field through the mist on a cold night Cool Ground looks fantastic flashing through the lights as he completes his big circuits around the flying field.
One of the smaller members of the team, Airborne is aptly named as his mother laid him as an egg ten feet off the ground!! So the egg was airborne before hitting the sand. However it survived, Simon incubated it and Airborne arrived safely! Adam has trained him and he (Airborne that is) is a sweety, flies to any and everyone except for John and is never anything but charming, oh except for one thing, he will not travel to schools with Adam when he does the lectures! Being a small owl he is happier if we fly him through Danny’s wood rather than in the open flying field, which is normal for all the smaller owls with the exception of Burrowing Owls who don’t seem to give a damn about anything much! Called a Boobook Owl he has a wonderful quiet call ‘boobook boobook’ and a little trilling call when you are near his aviary.
Is one of our African Peregrines, these are smaller than the British Peregrines, and very agile in Gloucestershire fields! She is very dark and at the moment, until we get some new blood lines she is the last of the breeding that came from Zimbabwe in 1980! She can be very temperamental, but flies really well once she is fit, and early in the season you always know where she is because a horde of pigeons will suddenly appear from behind one of the hedges and you can tell she is somewhere in that direction. Although I also have an interesting picture of her taken by a visitor in 2011 year being chased by a wild female Sparrowhawk and looking decided worried about it! She too prefers the cooler weather.
Is a Kestrel that we bred while the birds was still at Eardisland, she was hand-reared along with her brother. The first year she refused to chase the lure, but like so many of the birds, by the time she was in her second season she became very good at it. She will also hover well, particularly in a wind and is a vital member of the team on Experience Days. Because she is small she is a great bird to start off with in case people are nervous of the birds flying towards them. She can be a little noisy at times and has a mind of her own, but generally does very well in whatever we ask her to do.
Domino and Bay Middleton
Harris Hawks are one of the few species that can be flown together without risk, Bay Middleton and Domino are male and female respectively, and enjoy flying together, Bay Middleton being smaller is somewhat more energetic and will do some soaring if the weather is right, Domino tends to be more inclined to walk on occasion! These birds show beautifully how well adapted the hawks are for living in woods and forests, and their temperaments are so good that they love flying in front of the visitors.
Is a male Saker, or to be more correct a Sakeret, he is a dynamite flier, in the early and cooler part of the year he tends to stay reasonably close and will stoop vertically at the lure (and the ground!) which is tremendous and breath taking to watch, but somewhat scary if you are the person swinging the lure underneath him as he plummets towards you. Once the weather warms up he will thermal fly, and can be miles away, which means he is often very difficult to see, he probably does the most amazing stoops, but we often miss seeing him until about the last six feet!
Is a grumpy, bad tempered, but tremendous to watch Egyptian Vulture. On a good day he will circle the flying ground, above the trees showing how amazing the vulture family is. Bred at Bristol Zoo, he was sent to Chester to join their Egyptian Vulture breeding programme, however having been hand reared he thinks he is a human being and does not like other Egyptian Vultures, and consequently he beat them up, so eventually he came here. Occasionally he beats up the staff when they are cleaning his aviary, but he is great fun to work with, and great to photograph.
Never to be forgotten, Mozart was not a member of the flying team, but he was oldest trained bird at the Centre is a Eurasian Eagle-owl. Mozart was hatched in April 1974 and, as a four week old youngster was reared by Jemima Parry-Jones.
He started his career with humans by going to college with Jemima. He attended the Royal Academy of Music daily, arriving in a cardboard box which was his first home, carried on Jemima’s lap each morning on the London Underground. There he delighted British commuters by raising his head over the top of the box and staring at them with large orange eyes, and on occasion turning his head upside-down to make sure he was seeing things correctly. He grew quickly as owls do, and soon learned that if he walked up the side of the box he could tip it over. From that point on, his life became much more fun, although not always from Jemima’s point of view. Young owls, when tame, are very curious and like most young things, like to put items in their mouths, or in his case beak. Pencils, shoelaces, electric cables and other things were gently but firmly removed, and he was given crumpled newspaper balls to play with and destroy. He scared the students greatly one day when he had got tired of playing and gone to sleep – lying face down, with his legs stretched out behind him, looking remarkably dead. However he was not dead, but fairly annoyed at being woken in a panic. He continued to grow and grow and eventually to start to use his now large wings until at the end of the summer term in his first year, he could almost fly. He now weighed four pounds, stood nearly two feet high and had a wingspan of close to six feet.
Luckily as term time was over, Mozart and Jemima returned to the Centre and Mozart began to be what he has spent the last nearly forty years being, a superb bird for teaching and educating all ages about birds of prey and owls. To start with he was tethered on his own house, and surveyed the rest of the Centre from the top of an A frame compartment. Later in his life he had his own specially designed aviary. Mozart was one of the most handle-able birds we have known, and would tolerate things that others will not. As a general and important rule we do not stroke the birds we work with; mostly they do not enjoy it, and it is not good for their feathers. However on some special occasions we do allow it. Mozart was perfect to introduce to parties and groups of blind children and adults, who are able to ‘see’ him by touch. There have been times when this tolerant and charming owl was literally hidden by the hands of children, feeling his shape and size, his large and sharp talons and even having small fingers in his ears.
Those who had the pleasure of meeting him so intimately have never forgotten the experience. Mozart was bonded to humans and to Jemima particularly, and like a wild bird, he liked to prove what a good mate he would be, so he was very vocal. During the breeding season presented Jemima and the staff with food on a daily basis. The dead mice and rats were tactfully put back in his enclosure when he was not looking. European Eagle-owls have been known to live to over 50 years in captivity, however Mozart got severe cateracts during his sojourn in South Carolina, and although he was operated on in 2007, slowly his eyesight deteriorated. Finally on July 4th 2012 it was decided that he no longer had an acceptable life style and he would never have survived another winter, he was totally blind, he could not always find his food and was beginning to lose weight, it was time to take the hard decision and let him leave this life. Neil Forbes was in total agreement and on that evening Jemima and Neil put Mozart down at the age of 38. He left this life a gentleman of the first order, a gentle owl, and a huge huge hole in the lives of the staff at the centre. He is buried in the lawn just outside his aviary, never to be forgotten.
Neil Forbs from Great Western Exotic Vets
International Centre For Birds of Prey
Present the perfect course for raptor keepers, falconers, zoos keepers, demonstrators, educationalists in raptor understanding and owl keepers.
‘Management of birds of prey for health and longevity’
One Day Course
Presented by Neil A Forbes DipECZM(avian) FRCVS RCVS and European Specialist in Bird Medicine
Two dates available
Sunday February 5th 2017
Saturday April 1st 2017
0900h – 1630h
At: International Centre for Birds of Prey
Newent, Gloucestershire, GL18 1JJ
Cost £85 for one day
Includes lunch, refreshments + comprehensive A4 course notes
Please phone to book at: 01531 820286