Working with animals can be one of the most rewarding jobs. Countless people have told me what a wonderful job I have and how lucky I am to have it and they’re right. I love working with these incredible birds and there’s rarely a bad day.
When things are at their worst though they can be heart-breaking. As you know we lost ASBO earlier in the season which was devastating. In August we lost Izzy too to an age-related condition that meant there was no longer anything we can do to care for him. After a solid 20 years of flying with HCT and his last with us, he’d experienced it all – rain, wind and shine flying for visitors young and old.
Coincidentally Stuart had only mentioned a couple of days previous to Izzy getting ill how amazing it is to think how many faces he’s seen in all that time and how many different people he’d worked with. He was a pioneering member of our flying team here too of course and one who did us so proud at everything we asked him to do. A bird which we all will miss, Izzy was a very special bird and shall be a tough act to follow. Phoebe, a 15-year-old female Harris’ Hawk has stepped up to the role on our Hawk Walk experiences and is doing really very well. Izzy couldn’t be replaced but I’m sure Phoebe will continue his work in style!
Emma also started training a Merlin during the summer. His name is Chip and he has just started to fly to the lure in demonstrations. Merlins are our smallest native falcon in the UK and they fly like little rockets so he’s been keeping Emma on her toes. She let me have a go at swinging a lure to him the other day and it was breath-taking. If you’re local or a Friend, then do make the time to come and see him before the end of the season.
Next on our agenda is Halloween which is a big one for us. The lights have been set into place over the past week or so and the owls are going to be starting ‘rehearsals’ in the next few days. We have moved the location of Twilight Owls this year to the Old Rose Garden Arena which will be much better for us operationally and easier for the birds too. It’ll mean their routine at night is much the same as during the day except it’s darker! Ash, the Great Grey, will also be making his winter debut in these displays. I’m very much looking forward to getting him going again after his summer rest (although I would have liked him to have moulted a few more feathers before coming out again. He’s moulted a grand total of two I think!).
Ash and Andy came up from HCT last month to discuss our ongoing development plans and what we want to achieve over the winter. It looks as if we have loads of work to do building aviaries and renovating the older ones but it will all be worth it. It’s likely we’ll have a few very exciting additions to the team in 2017 too! Watch this space…