11 Dec An Update On 2020.
What a year it has been.
I hope you can forgive us for not updating the news section while we all negotiate our way through Covid-19.
We fly birds in the countryside. That’s something that we have been able to continue unabated. We do so, here and at venues all across the country for a multitude of purposes. The problem is, we haven’t been able to do so for clients or guests. When you add too that the seasonal nature of the business, and you have the perfect storm. We haven’t been able to earn money since autumn/winter 2019.
Our perfect storm gathered force as we were battered by floods. Our property hasn’t been flooded at all since we took residence here in 2000. 2020 has seen us flood no less than 5 times between August the 11th/12thand December 4th2020. The damage has been catastrophic, the clean up and replacement/repair operation has been monumental.
Our financial future has been secured with a combination of public help (we thank you all), government support, the insurance claim after the floods, and the late revenue created from our breeding project.
Our welfare and bird care standards have been secured through the incredible work by our team here and some help from friends and family (you all know who you are, and thank you), all pitching in from feeding us through the night as we manned pumps to slow the water ingress, to installing the internal furniture in aviaries after they were rebuilt/repaired following the floods, and the general cleaning and welfare jobs that are present every day anyway. All this under the complications of physical distancing and other Covid-19 safety protocols.
The rebuild following the worst flooding is entering its last phase – the human work areas, left until last because the human consideration is secondary to the birds needs. Hopefully our life will be free of building and repair by the close of January 2021.
It would be easy to think that that’s it, but no. 2020 had lots more to throw at us. Spinal surgery for one of the bosses, knee surgery planned for our longest standing member of staff, and best of all, the annual migration of birds into the UK for winter has brought a nasty strain of Avian Influenza to the country. More biosecurity, more restrictions, another limitation on our ability to work and this time, no support from government!
This little disaster story doesn’t touch the smaller issues, like for example the person who pulled up to our gate, took a quick free look at our birds, got back in their car, reversed into our new van causing significant damage, got out, took a look, then got back in their car and drove off! All caught on CCTV and fantastic images of the people, but sadly we can’t read the car registration number, so another financial hit for us and our insurance. Scumbags!
The main thing is we are here, healthy, stronger from the experience of 2020 and ready for an amazing 2021. The vaccine looks like being the panacea that we hoped for and the key to our future.
In the midst of all this, we had the amazing success of breeding White Bellied Sea Eagles for the first time. Not just the first for us, but the first in captivity outside of Asia (where they were bred for a very short time at just one facility). A tremendous achievement that we are very proud of, especially when we were told that we would never get the foundation stock into the country, and then, that we would never breed them. You know what they say. Never Say Never! The adults are nest building and copulating again now so we hope to repeat the success again this breeding season. Despite their Asian origins, these birds breed slap bang in the middle of our winter – just to make things more difficult!
Another bright spot on the dark page that is 2020 has been our new male White Tail Sea Eagle. He was bred in The Czech Republic, and the breeder brought him to the UK, and also bought a young Verreaux Eagle from us that we bred here and was raised by Mia, the Golden Eagle belonging to our friends at The Dorset Falconry Park. Both birds are very happily settled in their respective new homes.
Dylan, as we called the White Tail, is doing well, and has just started developing his fishing skills and is now taking fish from water. These are (dead) fish that we throw in the water to catch his attention at this stage. Finding water to train him over has been easy during this year of biblical floods, meaning that this work has been happening over huge sections of flooded land here on the farm where we are located.
This pretty well encapsulates the awful year that we have endured with everyone of you around the world. Abridged this account may be, but at least it drags our news pages up to date and we’ll try hard to keep the page current as we go forward.
More than ever before, we hope that many of you are interested in what we do, and that you might buy a birds of prey experience day gift voucher for someone this Christmas, or maybe plan a day to enjoy an experience here sometime in 2021. More than ever, we need to see you, and every single person we see we are more grateful to than ever for supporting us and our work through joining us and our birds for a day of flying our very special team of birds of prey.