A short history of the ICBP through its many metamorphoses
In 1966 the Glasier family, Philip Glasier, an internationally known falconer, his wife Bill, and their four children, Jemima,(that would be me) Anna, Nicholas and Dinah, along with 12 birds of prey, 10 pigeons, five dogs, two cats, a donkey called Lotus Blossom, a goat called Jasmine and a tame deer fawn called Rua moved from Melbury Osmond in Dorset to Boulsdon House near Newent in Gloucestershire.
The plan was to open a public facility that was a specialized zoo, containing nothing but nocturnal and diurnal birds of prey and to teach the general public about birds of prey and their value in the world. Included in these aims was to teach falconry to people who wanted to learn how to train, fly and hunt with birds of prey. So on May 25th 1967 The Falconry Centre opened to the general public. Here follows a brief history.
1966 The Glasier family move from Dorset to Gloucestershire to start The Falconry Centre.
1967 May – the Centre first opens to the public, six days a week and 2/6d (old money!) for adults to come in and 1/3d for children! For those of you too young to remember that is 12½p and 7p to visit! The first falconry course started just before we opened, with a man called John Llewellyn who sang at the top of his voice every morning.
1967-8 Foot and Mouth outbreak, Centre had to close, the whole of Gloucestershire smelt of Jay’s Fluid, the disinfectant used. As there were three deer, one goat and a tame sheep at the centre, they were at risk.
1968 Kestrels first bred at the Centre, the breeding had started. This was our first species
1968 Bird numbers and aviaries slowly build up as do visitor numbers and people coming on courses. The courses were five and ten day courses, the Five Day was £15 for the week and the Ten Day was £25.00!
1974 European Eagle Owls have a good breeding year with three young and one is taken to be hand-reared. Mozart went to college with jpj and became a very well- known owl and a special part of the family.
1976 Common Caracaras first bred at the Centre. Several years later a hand-reared youngster called Pandora joined the flying team. Lanners breed and Peregrines breed.
1979 Prince Philip visits the Centre and Egyptian Vultures and Indian Tawny Eagles are first bred this year. JPJ visits Zimbabwe (Rhodesia as it was known at the time) for a collecting trip and brings back 6 pairs of African raptors.
1981 JPJ leaves the Centre for 18 months, gets married and works lecturing in Surrey, Sussex, Kent and London. Mozart goes missing in the coldest winter on record since the 1940’s. After 71 days he returns safely of his own accord in the spring.
1982 Philip Glasier and his wife retired to Scotland. JPJ and Jo, her husband returns to the Centre in December to take over from Philip Glasier. The imminent enforcing of both the new Wildlife and Countryside Act and the new Zoo Act decides PEBG to retire.
1983 The implementation of the Wildlife and Countryside Act. The first bird to be ringed and registered in the UK is Sable the Golden Eagle at The National Birds of Prey Centre, she keeps her new cable tie ring on for approximately 10 minutes before removing it. JPJ becomes Director of NBPC in April.
1984 The Peregrine Fund (Tom Cade) sent Jim Weaver to assist with breeding techniques at the Centre. First bred Black Sparrowhawks this year
1985 The first Secretary Bird is bred at the Centre. She is called Treasure and is hand-reared. She is trained and delights and educates the visitors during the summer months by killing a six foot rubber snake with her feet. 1986 African Pygmy Falcons first breed at the Centre. These tiny falcons weigh in at 5 grams at hatching. JPJ finally buys the Centre from Philip Glasier.
1987 The rebuilding of the Centre started this year with the building of the Eagle Barn. This purpose built barn houses 12 pairs of eagles and was opened by the Princess Royal 1988 Next comes Barn 2, built ‘in-house’ and housing buzzards and small vultures, at the same time a workshop was built to make construction easier. This year the Centre changed its name to The National Birds of Prey Centre. The collection, ideals and aims having broadened beyond just being The Falconry Centre. JPJ’s Husband leaves for different climes, Jemima buys the Centre for the second time!
1990 American Black Vultures breed at the Centre for the first time. Over subsequent years the young are hand-reared and make an excellent team working together on demonstrations.
1991 Finally the Verreaux Eagles breed after a twelve year wait, a world first, with a British first in the form of Gymnogenes or African Harrier Hawks being bred in the same year.
1992 After a four year break in building to consolidate, the rebuilding programme restarts with the building of the small raptor block of aviaries and Barn 3, also known as the falcon barn. This building incorporates the Education Centre and is sponsored by British Aerospace. It was opened in September by The Princess Royal.
1993 The much needed Indoor Hawk Walk is built to house the tethered trained flying birds during the cold winter months. The birds are housed here in warmth and comfort, making the winter much pleasanter for both birds and handlers.
1994 The owls get their turn with the Owl Courtyard being built during the summer of this year. 19 aviaries are home to a wide variety of owls including Spectacled Owls, Brown Wood Owls and Great Gray Owls. A new Loo (WC) block is included and much appreciated by all.
1995 Steller’s Sea Eagles arrive from Kamchatka. These are one of the four species of huge eagles that inhabit our world. They are beautiful and impressive and, like most of the fish eagles, very noisy. Barn 4 was completed this year, along with the small Owl Block.
1996 A year of tidying up and replanting the gardens which now look stunning at most times of the year. Also arriving at the Centre were two very unusual injured wild birds, both albinos, a tawny owl and a kestrel. Neither can be released back to the wild as they get attacked by corvids and the like. Both will live their lives out at the Centre. The kestrel has joined the flying team; her name is Sole.
1997 January 6th an outbreak of Fowl Pest (Newcastle’s Disease) is discovered and the Centre is within the 10 mile surveillance zone. Within 24 hours of the notification all the birds are vaccinated. A three month period of watching the outbreak spread, get to within 1 mile of the Centre, and having the road closed, ensues. A nerve racking time, as the collection was at threat. The Centre’s thirtieth anniversary year is celebrated by the Hawk Walk being extended and re built, along with ten new aviaries for flying birds. The only birds left to re house now are Mozart and three other working owls. The 50th species to be bred at the Centre arrives this year – a Striated Caracara .
1998 After a wait of thirty three years the Centre finally breeds a golden Eagle. Sable one of the imprinted females lays five eggs and one is successfully fertilised by Artificial Insemination. The young female is reared by Common Buzzards who cannot understand why their child is growing so huge!
1999 Two more species bred this year, the first Aplomado falcons in the UK and a very common, but much wanted Turkey Vulture. Two of the bird staff work for eight months of the year in Japan on a contract, which is renewed for the year 2000. The director receives and MBE (Member of the British Empire) for services to Bird Conservation. She also gets made Zoo Forum Chair – a government appointment. The first Osprey is brought into the Centre and survives to be released sent by plane to Africa so it did not have to do the migration.
2000 Sable the Golden eagle at NBPC died in early Jan this year. Four more species were bred in 2000, and as usual, we had a horrible wet summer. Seven birds went to the South Carolina Center for Birds of Prey as a trial run prior to potentially moving more birds in the future – this team of fully trained demonstration birds went via Canada for quarantine and then JPJ and the Director of SCCBP drove to Canada and collected them. They all settled well and started flying by the end of January in their new surroundings. Sadly Shovel the burrowing owl did not survive two months, It was a learning experience and one that points to imprint birds being more susceptible to stress related diseases than parent reared birds. JPJ had seven trips abroad this year. Katherine Hinton started as assistant to the Business manager and the courses and experience days increased in popularity.
2001 Foot and mouth disease hit us again– literally only 500 yards away, as luck would have it, JPJ’s small flock of Shetland sheep had been given away the year before or NBPC would have been closed. It was a difficult year and the staff are greatly to be thanked for taking a wage cut for six weeks to help us through the most difficult period, also the locals who pulled out the stops after the government had screwed up so badly and we had good numbers of visitors over Easter. We also had a summer for a change. The breeding season was a poor one, and very sadly we had some special birds die, but we got through the year with a sigh of relief.
2002 Started wet, wet wet, why is it called global warming – it should be called global wetting in Gloucestershire. The breeding season is going OK, we have two more labradors – Indigo and Rush to join the family. Easter was passable, but not brilliant and we are hoping for a hot as hell summer to give us good visitor numbers and good flying demonstrations. Several trips to South Carolina and to India on the vulture conservation programme.
2003 JPJ told the staff in January that she was going to be leaving at the end of the year as she was going to join with the South Carolina Center for Birds of Prey in a merger. She asked them to keep it to themselves for a while. The press had hold of it within three days. This had an adverse effect on the visitor numbers this year because many thought it was now closed. JPJ firstly advertised the house and some of the land, hoping to keep the Centre intact, however planning permission for a house to run it from in the workshop area was refused and Mrs Parry-Jones was accused of trying to profiteer. So she put the whole place on the market and found a buyer. Richard Jones joined the Centre in October as he was going to come as the full time vet as a part of the merger in the US. In December 2003 the move, due the following month, was postponed for nearly a year. The excuse being that West Nile was a problem however the real fact was that nothing was even started for the birds to move to the US. Richard decided not to come, a very sensible move in hindsight.
2004 A difficult year, very few visitors, because all thought the Centre closed. JPJ had to use all her inheritance funds from her father to keep the place going. SCCBP agreed to pay this back in the future (they reneged on this). JPJ found a new buyer, gave letters of recommendation to all staff that wanted to leave and helped them to find jobs. She made sure that the rest were to still be employed. The permits were reapplied for, JPJ with great efforts from friends and volunteers, got the boxes built for the shipment of birds at a cost of $10000. Got 2 tons of equipment for the new Center bought, paid for and packed up. Got her furniture packed up and sent to the US in a container at a cost of $28000. On November 13th 2004 187 birds of prey, 6 dogs, tons of equipment, Annie Millar and JPJ got on a plane with enormous help from friends, vets, CITES People and James Cargo. At 6.30am the following day they arrived in the US to be met by SCCBP. The birds were placed in quarantine and JPJ tried to settle in the US. In the meantime the new owner took over the National Birds of Prey Centre
2005 Finally all the aviaries, none of which had been ready on the bird’s arrival in 2004, were completeEd, and the birds moved into their new home by the end of January 2005. For the rest of that year JPJ worked with the birds and staff and volunteers at the supposedly new Center. It had no paths, no signage, no loos, no welcome center, no car park, no education building, no hawk walk, nowhere to tether trained birds. By the middle of 2005 it did have a new lake and an island, which was incredibly useful, although for what we were not sure. She was paid less than her youngest member of staff in the UK and less than two members of the South Carolina Center for Birds of Prey. She did the work of her youngest staff member in the UK. She helped with fund raising, trained birds, tried her utmost to get things going, but failed. By August 2005 she went to the Board to ask for help, as nothing was going as planned and all promises appeared to be broken. The Executive Director Jim Elliott was telling her how to look after her birds, how to fly them, how to do guided tours and demonstrations. By the end of the year they had still failed to find a workable solution that was acceptable to JPJ
2006 On March 14th JPJ gave up, having had no support from the Board, and finding Jim Elliott impossible to work with, he was only interested in her working for him, no with him, and having her birds, she said she would leave and go home, although she in fact had no home to go to. She did what she considered to be the decent thing and offered to go, but leave enough birds for a viable public collection. From then on the Board and Jim Elliott’s behaviour deteriorated from being unsupportive and difficult, to behaviors that ended up being vicious beyond belief. Apart from trying to legally keep hold of the collection, they forced JPJ to give up the care and responsibility of the birds, evicted her from the trailer she had spent $19300 upon. Tried to keep her equipment, stole some of it. Banned her dogs from the Center, stopped her flying birds for over a year, the longest period she had not flown and handled birds for 40 years. They refused to let her have the medical records of her own birds unless she could prove she needed it for quarantine purposes (that showed real concern and care for the welfare of the birds), she was never allowed the husbandry records. Jim Elliott tried to get her banned from walking her dogs next door. JPJ total costs for the non event had by this time reached over $400k, the Board offered $75k and refused to help get the birds back to the UK, leaving the collection stranded. However undefeated, (they misjudged the tenacity of the British), she put up with all the brutal behaviour, spent five trips to the UK looking desperately for a new place to start again and finally with the help of good friends, old and new, found and bought a 21 acre apple orchard in Herefordshire.
2007 Permits to get from the US government, to export the birds, Permits to import from the UK Government, Permits to quarantine the birds. Health certificates, all the paperwork for the dogs. Organising the furniture back to the UK which had never even been unpacked apart from the piano when the ivory was taken by USFWS. Fumigation of the boxes. Making sure that the plans were in for the holding aviaries for the birds in the UK. Getting the quarantine quarters sorted out. All this in a climate of vicious and vindictive behaviour on the side of the SCCBP and its Board, with the notable exception of the Clinic staff. The original bird staff volunteers of SCCBP were sacked for supporting JPJ, and these people worked tirelessly to help where they could. Without them the future would have been bleak. Still unpleasantness continued. The astro turf carpet needed in the boxes to take the birds home was removed, even though JPJ discovered that Jim Elliott had removed $33,000 from her account some for the SCCP and some for his own personal use, without her permission. Her bike which she used to get around the birds because she was banned from using the golf carts mysteriously disappeared. Equipment that had been bought and brought by JPJ also ‘could not be found’. June 14th birds, dogs and jpj shipped back to the UK. Birds arrive in Hereford where they are quarantined in two huge light and airy warehouses. They get through quarantine, but stay in the warehouses until January as the new temporary housing at Eardisland has to be passed for planning and built. Wettest summer on record, severe flooding in Herefordshire and Gloucestershire and many other places. August weather is nice, lots of clearing on the site. Winter is wet and windy through to the end of the year. The birds are doing well in the warehouse and the Barn Owls reared one young! Alasdair joins as the only staff member in November. JPJ joins village church choir and goes carol singing on the coldest damn day of the year!
2008 Wet and windy to start with, the Indoor Flying Arena was finished and the move of birds from Hereford to the site started. New temporary aviaries were built in the old shop barn, all the tiny birds moved, then their aviaries taken down and re-erected in the flying arena. The first group of medium birds moved early Jan. Eurasian Griffon Vultures laid an egg on Jan 6th – it was fertile! February, the second barn, to be an extension of the café and a new education building in the future, but starting as temporary housing for the birds was finished. JPJ moved out of freezing cold barn into mobile home, dogs were pleased. Birds moved each week and aviaries moved two days later. Barn Owls laid, as did Mugwort the Tawny Owl and the Eurasian Griffon Vultures laid a second egg. All birds moved and quarantine cleaned and cleared March 14. Got out team of birds for flying, Shanny, Kariz, Falcons, Hard Tackle, Hare, Eagles, Lambrusco, Theft, Deception, Yellow billed Kites, London, Doctor Foster Harris Hawks. Had six weeks to get them ready for the Falconers Planning permission granted for new Centre at Eardisland but the conditions on the permission meant that funding was impossible. The funding owed jpj never came through, from US/Europe. Summer was OK, flew at five different shows, and did a couple of weddings and corporate days. Going through capital very fast now. June NBPC comes on the market as a private house. JPJ discusses with bank and they are more interested in backing that because it is bricks a mortar and a known entity. Funding still not through, although promised in August, on promise of funding jpj puts in offer for Centre and it is accepted October 2nd exchange of contracts. By November 10th funding still not through and looking very unlikely so JPJ informs NBPC owner and the completion date of 28th Nov passes without funds. JPJ faces suing for default on contract, and losing of the collection, the property at Eardisland and her belongings, the dogs and her life’s work. December 7th met the Chenevix-Trench family, who step in at the last minute and lend the funds to buy the Centre (miracle). December 17th completion on the contract and the huge move back starts. The birds stay at Eardisland until all aviaries are cleaned, repaired and ready.
JPJ and the dogs move back to Newent on New Years Eve, the house is freezing, but the joy to be back is huge. There is tea and dog food and that is about it!
2009 Cold, colder, very cold!! On a serious look round the huge task of getting the place back on its feet – or even good enough to get the birds back looks daunting, but on Jan 2nd the volunteers start to arrive. All through January people come from all over, from as far as western Canada and as close as the Forest of Dean. Two bird staff plus JPJ. Volunteers stay in the house and everyone eats there. Its hard work, but by February 1st much has been done, aviaries have been revamped, in some cases rebuilt and two thirds of the birds are back. The Centre opens on time. The new café staff have done a superb job getting the café clean again and refurnished and up and running. Thank goodness now the volunteers and staff can eat there instead of the house! Jan is back in the shop and running the office from there too. A new computer is installed – the old one was out of the ark! Birds are flying. Alasdair stays at Eardisland to look after the remaining birds while the aviaries at Newent are finished for them. March - Alasdair leaves to get ready to go to Japan, JPJ drives daily to Eardisland to feed the eagles and vulture still there. The cleanup goes on apace. March 27th the last of the birds come home – hooray! Charlie Heap comes down and makes a new room next to the café in the pets corner (which used to be an aviary) very cool, looks great. Incredibly dry weather all through until Easter!! But Easter is not bad. Some of the birds have eggs. The Steppes Eagles laid four at Eardisland which came over to the incubators here, sadly they did not recycle, but Simon hatched and reared all four babies! Work continues on and the volunteer base grows, many become good friends. March -Holly Cale joins the bird team. May -Adam Crisford joins the bird team and Mick leaves to get back to his old job as work is pouring in again. Visitors are thin on the ground. 75000 leaflets are placed around the country. Birds flying well, more joining the teams. Shows have started as well. July and August – visitor numbers increasing and experience days are selling. Experience days are also now running. Staffing is tight, but we continue on and the volunteers make all the difference. Both flats are repainted and re carpeted and Simon finally has a decent place to live, Adam has the other flat – Holly has her own in Ledbury. Charlie has to come down again to help with the leak and the floor problem in the café. Charlie and JPJ decide to get drunk as the problem is huge, but next two days and lots of work fixes it, thank god for Charlie! Game Fair comes and goes, birds fly well to brilliantly and as the weather improves in August the Eagles come into their own. Young bird join the team. Sept and autumn arrives almost on the 1st! Great autumn colour, cooler days, but lovely sunshine and filming for Autumn Watch for the BBC. Kate Humble is great to work with. Rain through November, but owl evenings start well and surprisingly none are unbearable with rain. Close December 1st, run a five day course and met some really nice people on it. Richard HH comes back to help with the electrics, what a star and what a brave man, has nice Labradors too. Three puppies arrive through the year. Sedge first, Patterdale Terrier and a great success, could have sold him 100 times over! Acer next, lovely working lab pup, very sweet, very athletic, very much a chewer!! Sorrel last, just before Christmas, show stock, beautiful puppy, very demanding and very nice. But sadly on August 19th Arabis died, she had been very ill, we will miss her dreadfully. December very cold, end of year, cold cold!
2010 All staff back in Jan 4th, start work on flying birds, snow on Jan 5th stop work on flying birds! Indoor Hawkwalk in great use over December and through to March. Snow holds up everything but Mozart's new block rebuilt by mid-Feb and drainage of all paths and aviaries almost finished by mid-March. Work on weighing room extension (stealing two aviaries to do it) starts.
Next was moving the huge statue of the Golden Eagle given to us by Eagle Star Insurance when they got taken over by Zurich, who have a very boring Z as their logo. Mike built a lovely round plinth for it, borrowed Mark Davies tractor and moved the eagle onto its new perch!! Very smart it looks too, that led to building new speaker boxes out of the rest of the bricks, we used up all those brought over from Eardisland. Next came drainage in the field, we are particularly good at ruining the grass here, but it always comes back! After that the play area was removed and the ground levelled and reseeded ready for us to do a new one, with I hope a really cool Owl Maze as well. Then followed the clearing of the top pond and the enlarging of the bottom one, and that was a serious mess which is still not finished yet as the field needs rolling. At the same time Richard started on the new lighting system for the Owl Evenings ably assisted by John and Anabelle, it took some serious hole digging, which I was particularly good at, I think we did 50 holes!! We then did the block walls for the two compost heaps to keep them neat and stop the dogs and various wildlife from dragging the contents all over the field and ended up the year and started 2011 with new fencing where it was needed. Again the breeding season was not a great one however we did manage to breed the first Steller’s Sea-eagle to be bred in captivity in the UK and Simon hatched a baby Griffon Vulture, who has turned out to be charming. She had a tough start as a tendon slipped while she was growing, but Neil Forbes, excellent avian vet that he is fixed her!
All birds did well this year, flying was good, weather was OK, autumn was beautiful, winter was very cold, much colder than 2009, we had to put plastic up in front of nearly all the aviaries to keep the birds warmer. Designing heated perches for next winter without fail. Visitor numbers were up and the place is starting to look as good if not better than before. Horses are well, two arrived, so the stables also got a reroof and a paint job. All puppies full grown and doing well, only four Christmas decorations eaten!
2011 Another very cold start to the year, the snow all went on the day after Boxing Day, the real Boxing Day it was so cold that the hairs in my nose froze! January was dry but still cold and so we were late starting up all the birds again for opening in Feb. Started on the revamp of the loos, took longer than anticipated, particularly as Cremorne buggered off for a week and we spend hours and days chasing her. However we got them going just after we opened, and there was still the one in Charlie’s room. I went to India and Nepal mid February for ten days, all meetings and travel to launch SAVE, the new group put together to try and fund raise to Save Asian Vultures from Extinction hence the name. Owl evenings went well. James Wilson came from SC to help for a week. Still very cold by March. Had a good Easter and numbers were up Feb through to June, and then a drop in July which is a shame, not sure why. James and Mary Catherine came over in July and stayed a week, they both got a suntan!!! The weather stayed incredibly dry all through until about a week before the falconry event, we had maybe three or four days with rain. The price of hay is high because of it! I sold Henry and Dante, both are doing well, and bought Mollie, 15.3 Thoroughbred, who is charming, quite bouncy, but very sweet. We built a maze in the children's play area and a completely new play area there, plus one in the top half of the wood. We re-gravelled all the paths, put paving stones in front of the weighing room and across one of the lawns, built three new aviaries, extended the shelter in the field and heaven knows what else The breeding season went well, we bred Steppes again and two baby Stellers Sea Eagles. We also bred two Tawny Eagles but lost both the young which was devastating. However we bred one Aplomado Falcon and three merlins, two Lanners and two Yellow billed Kites and another baby Griffon Vulture, so things are looking up on the breeding front. The Falconry Event in September went very well and we will do it again next year. Rush has been ill but is recovered with a big scar on his side. All the others are fine. Although I miss Nettle and Arabis a lot. Aster is still well with his family in the east and Lilly is still with Arthur although he is dreading the day when she is not. Simon has bought a Harley Davidson Motorbike, a good friend said that at 40 you are just about old enough to have a motor bike! Adam is going on a biking holiday in Guatemala! Holly went on a course on record keeping in Zoos and enjoyed it, Robin went to Scotland on holiday and Mark is taking some time with his older son in the October half term. Simon is going to India at the end of October to set up the incubator room and check everything is working and look at the Centre at Buxa with a view to setting up the incubation there. I am going out in November for ten days, oh and I passed my Personal Alcohol Licence or whatever it is called, so we can sell wine and beer here. Owl evenings are on-going October, November and December, with our new Great Grey Owl Rink Hals on duty this year. We have the outdoor hawk walk nearly all insulated now and are planning for another hard winter.
TO BE CONTINUED