The little people

I’m not going to lie its hard work trying to get everything done. Setting up as a charity has been a life long dream but it doesn’t make it any easier getting stuff done, if anything it makes it worse because the expectations are increased now we have some form of platform to work from.

The biggest issue will always be raising funds and then where to direct these funds, its a hugely competitive area, charities and fundraising and we are just small fry at the moment. I have to admit that one of my weaknesses several friends have pointed out to me in the past is how blase I am when it comes to money, its not because I’m rich (I’m certainly not)  it’s because it doesn’t rule my world. I get asked how much to do a talk and I say make a donation of whatever you feel necessary when maybe people need some direction. This is partly also because I don’t want Raptor Aid to be exclusive to just those that can afford to make a set donation. I’ve been to some schools for instance where the head is probably on a six figure salary and then I’ve been to another school where they won a scarecrow designing competition and with the prize money paid for us to come in and carry out workshops because they couldn’t afford it otherwise.

This also worries me because although we don’t take captive birds into schools there are many organisations that do and we have found the cheaper ones are the ones which often don’t have the correct paperwork in place (Insurance etc), have poor welfare and ethical standards and are giving out bad inaccurate information. There are amendments in the Animal Welfare act taking place as we speak which we hope with the support of the wider bird of prey captive community will protect the birds.

One of the biggest issues I personally find with many people using birds of prey commercially is they don’t see the birds as individuals and by that I mean individuals with their own personal needs and cognitive abilities. It’s easy to turn individualism with animals into anthropomorphism and that would be wrong. I mean that when an event or school books an ‘owl man/woman’ or something similar to visit they often (not always) check for public liability, risk assessment and provide hand gels for the humans but they never stop to think about what the birds might need in terms of personal space and respect. It still amazes me how many can find it acceptable to pass any individual animal around a large group of people repetitively and find this acceptable for the animals individual needs and overall welfare.

It will be interesting to see how the amendments to the welfare act play out and we will keep you updated as we find out more. What can you do? well as March turns into April and we move into the summer months, if you see a bird of prey (or animal exhibit) please stop, take a step back and ask yourself whether you feel it is being carried out ethically and with the welfare of the animals in mind. As always if you have any concerns let us know.

The nest monitoring season is upon us, there will be Tawny owls and Ravens already sat on eggs so we will start checking them in the next couple of weeks. Last week I got excited as I thought we had a pair of Ravens moving into the local church yard, they are about today flying around but sadly I don’t think they have nested as it’s been very quite the last couple of weeks. The bad weather played havoc with us visiting Scotland to start our annual Golden Eagle monitoring, we now have a potential trip back out to the Philippines getting in the way so it won’t be until the eagles have chicks in nest’s before we can make it up which isn’t ideal for finding active nest’s. The trip to the Philippines is a bit up in the air, I can see it being a last minute flight if it does happen but I can explain more in another blog, what I can say is the chick from the image I shared previously is doing well and if you haven’t been on our Facebook then get on there and check out the brilliant clips of the film made by Cornell on the Philippine eagle!

On the topic of cold weather, last night I went out to monitor Long Eared owls at a site near to my home. I went with a friend who I’m not sure took to monitoring this species of owl, there’s a reason LEO’s are so under studied in the UK, because it was freezing and dark and we didn’t hear one! Nearly two hour’s stood in the cold pitch black on the edge of a plantation meeting a moor isn’t most peoples idea of a night out. They have bred in the area though in the past and we’ll need to do a few more nights to make sure we don’t miss anything. Maybe I’ll do a Vlog to show you all next time.

As always there is a load more things I won’t tell you for fear of them not happening but this year is going to be fun trying to get many projects off the ground and collaborating with people. I decided when starting Raptor Aid as a charity that is the way forward, collaboration and education, you don’t need money you just need passion!

Get out and watch them birds!


P.s apologies for no pictures, I’ve got a new phone with no images on it, in fact I can’t work how half of its functions work!

Update Part 2: What’s planned?

So its out there and we have started a new chapter as a charity so what is planned for the near and not to distant future. Its all very cliche saying its a new chapter but that’s precisely what it is, I have to admit that many things have sat in a notebook until we hopefully got the charitable status so now its time to add another cliche and put the money where our notebook is………. maybe I got that cliche wrong?

So top of the list is all the boring stuff like writing new policies, risk assessments, arranging suitable public liability insurance for the things we want to carry out, sorting out a better bank account that works better for the charity and a lot of other hum drum but important bits.

Onto the fun stuff we have several things in the notebook and the diary already, next week we are off to do our first official public talk as Raptor Aid on our work with the Philippine Eagle Foundation and we are pleased to announce we have our next trip planned for the Philippines. In April we will be heading back out to the Philippines to carry out the incredible task of climbing to a wild eagle nest site so that the foundation can fit a GPS transmitter to monitor the chicks progress when it fledge’s. How exciting is it to think that as you read this there is one of the rarest birds of prey in the world rearing its chick 150ft up an emergent tree in the Philippine forest.

Incubating wild Philippine Eagle

Wait how high is that tree!!!! Its OK though last week we managed to prove some of our tree climbing credentials by passing our tree climbing and aerial rescue NPTC assessments so that’s another tick in the box.

How high

We are also going to be pushing forward with our plans to work with schools on various levels, to begin with by offering free school assemblies to engage the children and teachers in bird of prey conservation. We are also trying very hard to get our nest box scheme up and running for schools to take advantage of, this is proving tricky though as its another little baby I’ve nurtured for a long time and it has to be just right before I launch it and we are also relying on other people who we trust and understand in Raptor Aid’s beliefs. We hope that once its right and we are happy the nest box scheme will be one of our flagship conservation projects in the UK which will also spread into global conservation work. The global aspect of schools is our dream of linking school children from around the world to talk about the birds of prey they find in their country and the conservation work carried out by partners and friends of Raptor Aid.

Science fair

We have a couple of UK projects under wraps that until we seal the deal and get the green light we will keep to ourselves but we can say they will engage people in live bird of prey conservation and education – that’s a promise.

The final area we are working on is the captive bird of prey world and how we can help improve the welfare and ethics of birds of prey being used commercially. Last year we monitored four online UK bird of prey for sale sites and gathered data across 7 months, the data makes for depressing reading and we will publish our finding’s in due course. We are also about to publish our own guidelines for people using birds of prey commercially outside and not covered by the Zoo Licensing act. We have been pleased to see governments in the UK have started to take a stand on the lack of legislation facing the commercial use of animals in general but care needs to be taken to make sure it can be implemented and function properly. We have also been asked to develop a leaflet that can be handed out to the public highlighting good and bad practices of captive birds of prey so we will start that soon. Every week we still get contacted by concerned people who have seen potentially poor welfare or ethical standards involving birds of prey, we try to address these as best we can by contacting the organisers of the event with our advice sheet for booking and using birds of prey.Poor standards

Along the way we of course need to raise funds to make the work of Raptor Aid possible, no one will be receiving a wage and so all fundraising and donations can go straight into the projects we are working on.

Update Part 1: EXCITING NEWS!!!!!

Hello everyone,

I hope you are all surviving the cold winter winds and sleet/snow we are currently getting hit with! Apologies it has taken a while to write, well 2 months in fact but I promise you the hard work we have been finishing off over this time has been well worth. I can finally announce that Raptor Aid has received full charitable status in England and is now recognised as a charitable incorporated organisation by law (CIO) charitable number 1177127 which is a HUGE step forwards in the work we want to achieve for birds of prey.

This has been a long road for myself (Jimmi), and I wanted to take you for a bit of a trip down memory lane. I’ve always been madly passionate about birds of prey in both captivity and the wild, over the years my love for them has matured into wild bird of prey conservation BUT my initial roots with birds of prey was heavily embedded in working with captive birds. Its what I’ve been lucky to do since about 12 years old before slowly moving into conservation work and monitoring wild birds of prey. In January 2011 I started a blog called Raptor Awareness where I would share news, images, stories and other bits of bird of prey information from around the world. This blog based on ‘hits’ became very popular and ran until 2015, I enjoyed writing the various pieces for it immensely and have to admit that was the seed that grew into Raptor Aid today.

I still wanted something to showcase the good and the bad birds of prey faced around the world but I also wanted to get people actively involved or encouraged to take an interest. I can still remember four years ago sitting in my flat whilst working at the International Centre for Birds of Prey where I had a pair of African White Backed Vultures for neighbors writing the first pages of Raptor Aid with the wonderful help of my friend Linda. That was the birth of Raptor Aid as I remember it.

I want Raptor Aid to go further than I ever will and to be a force for good to inspire future generations to want to care for birds of prey and their habitats and so the only sensible thing seemed to be gaining charitable status. It has been a long arduous task, and I must thank one of my Trustee’s Steve Watson for at times single handedly getting the charitable application over the line! It really has been mammoth task to make sure the Charities Commission were happy with everything and is a serious feather in Raptor Aid’s cap moving forward. To me it not only gives us longevity past my lifetime but also transparency and accountability for all that we do.

This is a new chapter now though, I have purposefully held off pushing Raptor Aid’s ideas and plans over the last two years until the charitable status was in the bag. Now this is achieved we can really push on, the hard work begins and we would love for you to join us.

I personally will be stepping away from any work with captive birds of prey so that I can focus on the work of Raptor Aid and to make sure there is no conflict of interest’s with future work we have taking place. I would also like to personally take this opportunity to thank friends and family who have helped and supported me with the vision of Raptor Aid and for yourselves for following and supporting the work so far.

Watch this page for Part 2 on what we have planned in the near future and Social Media for so much more instant bird of prey news!

Yours in birds,

Jimmi Hill

Founder & Trustee

Raptor Aid

February 2018

Persecution problems

A little a later than planned sorry about that.

The RSPB released their annual bird crime report a few weeks ago and as you might imagine it doesn’t make for great reading when it comes to birds of prey in fact its all pretty much based on birds of prey and the continued persecution facing them. This blog actually coincides with a talk I went to last night by head of investigations at the RSPB, Guy Shorrock for the Gloucestershire Raptor Study Group. It was free talk and was fantastically well attended with over 100 people present, I’ve come across Guy on several occasions but never met him so it was great to meet him briefly and hear what someone with 26 years of investigations and detective work had to say about life at the sharp end of wildlife crime.


GRMG (c)

Who are the RSPB Investigations team? Well from what I learnt last night and have previously heard they are a small team of 10 members of staff within the RSPB’s circa 2000 staff who are committed to uncovering and helping police fight bird persecution. When you hear some of the details Guy shares its quite staggering what they achieve despite not having the same powers as our police forces and they are often showing the Police how to do it. It is also worth bearing in mind that what makes up the Bird Crime report is only the tip of the iceberg, as Guy mentioned in his talk he made the shocking statement that the worst estates he knows could be killing upwards of 200 birds of prey a year and some of the lesser estates 100 birds of prey. He demonstrated this with one particular case study of an estate where they had killed 102 Buzzards in one year along with other species (Based on the gamekeepers vermin diary).

I have personally experienced first hand the animosity which gamekeepers have towards raptors, one of which told me in no uncertain terms to stay away from his shoot and that he wouldn’t think twice about killing Buzzards around his release pen and there’s nothing I can do about it. In some respects he’s not wrong, it is incredibly difficult to police these quite corners of the countryside. In the 2015 Birdcrime report there is a pie chart covering 176 cases of convicted persecution cases from 1990 – 2016, from these case’s over two thirds were uncovered by the RSPB Investigations team alone. Many cases don’t make it to court including incredibly ones that have shown someone on film shooting a Hen Harrier.


RSPB (c)

We could spend all day on UK raptor persecution but there are some blogs who do it so much better so if you want to learn more check out the Bird Crime report 2016 here and visit Raptor Persecution UK blog here. You can also play a part though by keeping your eyes open whilst out in the countryside and reporting anything suspicious to the RSPB Investigations Team here.

In other news for Raptor Aid we have been busy with the formation of a new raptor study group in our home county of Cheshire. Our first meeting was well attended with a fantastic mix of ages, experience and backgrounds. We have already been involved in the start up of one raptor study group so know the tremendous hard work that goes in to making it a success. We need the young and old raptor enthusiasts of Cheshire to pull together to make their group work. We certainly have to much on our plate to do all the leg work. We have also been advising a couple of people on projects and further chasing and pursuing our own unique nest box plans, I would say watch this space but its just seems to go on and is getting very tedious.

Whilst down in Gloucestershire we managed to put up three of the final nest boxes we had as part of the Little owl nest box scheme for the GRMG and gave 4 more to Gareth and Gordon in the group to erect at sites they have in the county. The three boxes I placed up were all in and around the town I used to live and have fond memories of so it was really nice to drive around and see familiar places. One of the sites was a lovely old orchard which the county is famed for and a favorite for Little owls, I haven’t seen or heard Little owls there but it was classic habitat and the landowner was made up to receive a box. Lets see if my intuition proves right over the next couple of years for that site.


Raptor Aid (c)

I also couldn’t resist taking a look at a couple of Tawny owl boxes and checking a Goshawk territory/nest site. There is no chance of really disturbing the birds as we are out of the breeding season but I came across a massive wind blown tree in the woods, it reinforced why we don’t climb in windy weather! I did a short video on it all which you can check out on our Facebook page.


Raptor Aid (c)

Don’t forget now is the time to replace/repair, tidy up or even put up a nest box for the coming season, feel free to ask us if you need some advice. Make the most of the winter and get out watching the birds, we’ve already been treated to daily Sparrow hawk sightings and the local Ravens are getting particularly vocal so it won’t be long before they are showing off their incredible courtship aerial displays.


New Goshawk territories 

Its Autumn already!

Where does it go? The time that is, it’s the middle of October already and I’m not sure how we got here already and a lot has happened since I last wrote and some bits haven’t happened that we hoped might of. As I type this storm Ophelia is gusting through strongly so I doubt I will hear the local Tawny owl or Little owl(s) calling this evening. Even though the monitoring season has finished for 2017, but if you are like us at Raptor Aid, we are constantly out looking and listening for signs of birds of prey to monitor and document and one species locally that we have slowly uncovered is the Little owl. Over the last year despite living in this village for 20 years I have managed to locate 5 territorial pairs, 3 of which I know have produced chicks in the last year.


Autumn and Winter is the time to get out and check, repair or replace nest boxes so we will be getting round as many as possible. We have the local pairs of Little owls to provide nest boxes for but also several of our Barn owl boxes need replacing which is no mean feat as they are hefty boxes and some a decent walk to. Tawny owl boxes will need to be checked for the usual squirrel damage and to evict any leftover drey’s ready for prospecting or returning birds. Don’t worry if you don’t get to clean a box out, Tawny owls are hardy birds and will easily displace a tough mammal like a squirrel if they want to use the box but try not to visit Tawny owl boxes after January in case you disturb and scare off a Tawny owl planning on using the box. 


We said goodbye to our migrant raptors and in particular the Hobbies we have been monitoring in Cheshire. We spotted our last Hobby on the 26th of September but know a friend has seen one a bit later on the Wirral but there is no doubt these birds will have made their way to the continent and further south into Africa. We managed to locate 4 nests this year which is no mean feat with other raptor workers locating further nests which we hope to compile into an individual species report for the county. We pray that these fantastic little falcons survive the continued onslaught of migrating birds across Europe and parts of the Middle east as we have seen this year due to the fantastic work of CAB’s documenting this appalling slaughter. Click on this link if you are unaware of what takes place in certain countries to see some of the shocking videos by CAB’s. *Warning these videos contains shocking images of birds dead and being shot*



The persecution for birds of prey sadly takes place closer to home and anyone who has read this page before will be aware of the ongoing illegal persecution of raptors in the UK. This hasn’t subsided with more cases of direct persecution coming to light over the last couple of months including shot Peregrines and Buzzards. Just as shocking is Natural England’s continued lack of transparency in the Satellite tagging of Hen Harriers in Britain. Due to increased pressure details have just been released with figures of how many harriers were tagged between 2002 – 2017 and their current status. Since the release of this report of the 158 Hen harriers tagged only 6 are still definitely known to be alive, some may argue don’t raptors have a high fatality rate as juveniles but it smells a bit strange that most of these birds have vanished off the radar completely? What might be a bit more telling if we were allowed to see where these birds we found dead or where there last fixes were transmitted from? Plotted on a map might give us a clue on what is really happening to these birds but why don’t you have a read of the ever fantastic blog Raptor Persecution UK and make up your own mind.

The report is available here.


We have been busy with the captive birds which has meant sadly we couldn’t make it out to India or the Philippines for a conference. We also had a wild Peregrine in for rehab that had fallen from a nest and damaged its wing. We got the bird flying free and she was slowly getting fitter but then out of the blue she took a turn for the worse due to a respiratory condition that the vets couldn’t help her and she had to be euthanised. It was an incredibly sad end but what annoyed me most about this case was a couple of peoples narrow views and lack of trust regarding the keeping of a wild bird in captivity for rehab and using falconry techniques to get it better. I’m not against peoples opinions of animals in captivity BUT when someone is spending time, money, extensive knowledge and contacts to get a bird better and for release its a little frustrating when it is all questioned and you get squeezed on releasing the bird before it even fit enough to survive. There is probably a whole other guest blog by friends who spend 365 days doing an incredible job rehabbing wildlife and our raptors in particular – I’ll add it to the list.


The charitable status is still on going but we are very close to sending the application off to the Charities Commission and this is down to the fantastic work of one of our trustee’s. We really can’t thank him enough! Its a bit of a lifelong dream to be involved in the creation of something that will benefit birds of prey hopefully on a global scale for many years to come and we have so much planned once the charitable status is signed off – fingers crossed of course! We will be moving away from working directly with captive birds of prey to focus on conservation and also the current issues faced by captive raptors in the UK. Watch this space!


Going forward we are involved in yet another raptor study group initiative with the re birth of the Cheshire group. I am young enough not to have been about for the first birth and now a friend has decided it would be good to bring it back. I personally felt a bit hesitant as I know the incredible hard work that goes on behind the scenes of the Gloucestershire Raptor Monitoring Group but I think the county needs a central point for data collection, brain storming and support for future raptor field workers. The first meeting takes place in November so if you’re from Cheshire and want to be involved or need help finding your own local raptor study group just drop us a message.


Monitoring Goshawks under licence – Gloucestershire

On the subject of the Gloucestershire RSG, this year we were involved in a very exciting film project with the award winning author Helen McDonald and a follow up programme for her best selling award winning book H is for Hawk. There are hundreds of reviews online if you’ve not read or heard of the book but 10 years on from the passing away of Helen’s father the BBC Natural World series wanted to produce a follow up one hour documentary on Helen with a new Goshawk. This also included the filming of a wild Goshawk nest, GRMG members played a pivotal role helping the camera men get stunning shots of displaying Goshawks but also access to the elusive birds nest which they filmed from incubation through to fledgling chicks! The filming of the nest was by a bit of a hero of mine, James Aldred a wildlife camera man and tree climbing expert for the BBC, this guy has climbed some insane trees all over the world including Orang Utans in Borneo and Harpy Eagles in South America – he has a book out now titled ‘the man who climbs trees’ and its a great read!

So the filming and editing is all done and you may spot a certain Raptor Aid man climbing the tree to the Goshawk nest to lower them down to Helen McDonald and our good friend and Goshawk guru Robin for ringing. It was great to work with Helen again and be part of the production the programme air’s on BBC 2 this Thursday (19th) @ 9 pm.

H hawk

OK that’s enough for this blog! We hope you’re all well and thanks for reading and remember just because the nights are drawing in doesn’t mean you can’t still see your local raptors! Only the other day we watched two juvenile Peregrines playing, a male Sparrowhawk hunting a hedgerow and a Kestrel hunting a field margin – it’s a great time to watch stuff!

Yours in raptors,



We’re still rolling

I’m sure you haven’t been clinging to your iPad or mobile phone waiting for an update on the world of Raptor Aid – We’ve just been so bloomin busy with several things so I will try and get you up to speed with how the summer is panning out and what we have been doing.

Well the wild bird of prey monitoring has been in full swing her in the UK, we have pretty much signed off all the nest sites and boxes we need to check and we are now into the final furlong of chasing those pesky small migrant falcons – Hobbies. The hours I have spent stood in fields not seeing anything certainly outweighs any glimpse of the bird themselves but that’s what makes it so addictive because “the glimpse” which could be only a single syllable call or the flick of a wing behind a tree and gone is what hooks you to persevere. Its behavior like this that makes the Hobby one of Britain’s hardest raptors to study and gets them the nickname “Little Houdini” but don’t let that put you off! August and September is the best time to get out and find successful noisy nestlings to give you a head start for next year. We will make sure you get a full break down of the season in a future blog.

We are also incredibly busy behind the scenes trying to get Raptor Aid charitable status, the reason behind this is twofold, not only to make the work of RA and any money raised to forward the conservation of raptors globally but also safeguard the future of any hard work we are create or are involved with. I suppose critics may say its all about getting money easier and dodging taxes but this couldn’t be further from the truth, not only are the charitable guidelines incredibly strict  (which it should) but getting the organisation charitable and sustainable is going to be the biggest challenge. We still have our captive bird of prey team to take care of (Wings Bird of Prey) and this is proving to be incredibly busy so that also impacts on the set up of the charity but 21 beaks need feeding, and exercising before anything else is achieved. Despite the captive birds now being a complete separate operation the bigger plan would be for Raptor Aid to have no direct connection with captive birds of prey other than lobbying and developing guidelines for better welfare legislation both with private keepers but especially commercial enterprises using birds of prey.

Sadly since we have put our head above the parapet about organisations using birds of prey commercially we have received several correspondence from worried individuals who have seen certain organisations that have birds in poor condition with worrying welfare standards and of course the dreaded poke and stroke that birds are put through in order to fulfill a human desire to touch and in return line the pockets of the organisation (we have blogged about this previously and no doubt will in the near future). In the first instance we are contacting venues and organisations directly asking them to review their practices and questioning the ethics of what they are offering – this often falls on deaf ears so in the long term we will continue developing guidelines and lobbying for tougher legislation on the ownership of birds of prey in the UK. We are also half way through monitoring bird of prey for sale pages in the UK and it is proving to be another eye opener with over 100 adult birds of prey being sold each month – we will be completing a full report in the new year once we have compiled all the data. If you see anything just make sure you gather plenty of information and images of your concerns and feel free to forward them to us confidentially.

We have a couple of trips away planned for August and October – August the plan is to visit two brothers who are working to rescue and rehabilitate Black Kites in Delhi, the issue lies with Indian culture and their love of flying man made kites and the wild Black Kites colliding with the strings which are often left hung up in trees or directly on a flying kite. This can cause horrific injuries to the birds and the brothers are doing everything they can to try and help each individual Black kite along with many other species. Another thing they are finding is metabolic bone deficiencies in the Black kites due to their huge population and poor diet from scavenging they are receiving huge numbers of young nestlings which fall from their nest each year and have this debilitating deficiency based on the poor diet they are being fed from primarily rubbish dumps. In October we might be making another trip to the Philippines for the Asian Raptor Conservation Network conference and to maybe carry out a couple of workshops at the Philippine Eagle Foundation. This trip isn’t confirmed though as we may save the airfare for the breeding season and a potential nest site visit in the new year.

We are carrying out some of our own rehabilitation work at the moment with a juvenile wild Peregrine in our care. Sadly this bird took a crash landing on one of her maiden flights and was found grounded with a damaged wing. She was taken to a wildlife hospital where they had the bird checked over by a vet and x-ray’s carried out. Luckily no breaks and after two weeks of box rest the Peregrines wing is back to normal but sadly the bird has missed vital flying and learning time with her sibling(s) and parents. We were asked to come and give her a test flight to see if she was fit for a quick release but unfortunately she barely managed to get off the ground more than 20ft so it was deemed irresponsible to just leave her to chance. We will use the knowledge we have training and getting captive birds of prey fit and get her fit, flying free and also hunting before the end of the summer and then release her back to the wild. Since helping the wildlife hospital we have also added bird of prey rehabilitation to our plans for the future, and hope to work closely with the local wildlife hospitals and vets to assist with any raptors they have admitted.

I should also do a round up of what everyone else is doing in the world of raptor conservation but I will leave this for a separate blog this week sometime. In the meantime enjoy the nice weather and don’t forget there is possibly a pair of Hobbies that need finding and recording – get out and enjoy the outdoors.



Philippine Eagle Foundation part 2

The second installment of the trip to the PEF is long over due so apologies, the nest monitoring season is now in full swing so I’m writing this blog thinking I should be outside looking for my local pair of Hobbies. Anyway……….

During the second week in the Philippines we were treated to more behind the scenes of the breeding progamme and aviaries containing the all important breeding birds. Currently there are around 28 birds paired up or in adjacent aviaries creating pair bonds, the foundation has both natural breeding pairs (birds left in an aviary together to breed naturally) and imprinted birds that are artificially inseminated. The brains behind this side of the foundation is the wonderful Eddie Juntilla, Eddie can be seen in the photo in part 1 and has been at the foundation for 30 years (maybe a little more) and is the coolest guy to hang out with. His knowledge and experience with the eagles speaks for itself, Eddie has seen 28 chicks come into this world and survive to fledging and either enter the breeding programme or be released into the wild. During my visit, Eddie and the team had successfully hatched Chick 28 and I was privileged enough to spend time hiding behind a screen watching Eddie and the team rear this chick whilst its new aviary was being built.

One of the highlights for me on this trip was getting a guided tour by Eddie around the breeding aviaries on two occasions and seeing his incredible relationship with the imprint birds. This was proved by the aggression shown towards me whilst outside their aviaries as a complete stranger and yet Eddie would walk in talking to this huge angry imprint eagle and she would completely calm down allowing him to approach her and lift her tail as if part of the breeding season (I was there after the breeding season). Growing up one of my vivid memories of the Philippine eagle was a video on the internet of this man with a leather hooded coat and a large leather mitt on his hand allowing a male Philippine eagle to jump on his mitt rested upon his head so that he could take semen from the bird. This man was Eddie himself and the eagle was the star of the show Pag-Asa the first captive bred eagle who Eddie has raised from a chick, what a treat then to stand in front of a Philippine eagle wearing the very coat and mitt used by Eddie with the great man himself.

After changing the equipment on some of the birds that the education team use during tours and talks we had a meeting with the education team, breeding team, Jayson Ibanez head of conservation and Dennis Salvador the director of the foundation with the view of implementing a training regime for the staff to follow to get some of the birds flying free. Some of the staff also needed training along with the birds so we had a lot to fit into the final week so we got cracking. The first thing some of the staff had to get their head around was weight loss in order to get the birds to fly to them, I went out to the nearest town and bought an industrial set of weighing scales for the birds to be weighed on and the staff got to grips with weight management and the initial part of training the birds.

The birds they had to train included a Serpent eagle, Brahminy kite, White Bellied sea eagle, Philippine hawk eagle and Giant scops owl and of course the Philippine eagle previously trained called Imbulog. Bong was going to oversee the whole training of the birds and development of a bird show after my departure and he also had the job of training Imbulog, that was going to be a long project as most eagles prove to be and it was shame I wouldn’t get to see her progression (I’ll have to wait til October). The birds were already well manned having been handled every day by the staff and it didn’t take long before the Brahminy kite was jumping to the fist, the hawk eagle proved to be tricky and the Serpent eagle was a little on the heavy/lazy side. The star of the show was the White Bellied sea eagle who quickly took to jumping to the fist and then flying on the creance (training line) and before I left we managed to get flying free between the staff. I personally felt this was really important as I had been told that this had become a stumbling block in the past and an area of training that a lot of people get stuck at -when to let the bird fly free! We got past this and I saw a believe in the teams eyes that this is achievable and they did it.

I don’t have any regrets from the trip but if there is one thing I would like to do next time we are in the Philippines with the PEF is to spend more time out in the field with the conservation team and the local indigenous people. I did get a small taste of this when I spent a day out in the field with Jayson Ibanez at the oldest known Philippine eagle nest site looking for eagles and meeting the local groups who live alongside the eagles. Sadly the nest this year had failed on the one egg they had laid which meant I had even less chance of seeing my first wild Philippine eagle but to be sat in a wild eagle territory with two guides and Jayson it just didn’t seem an issue – this wasn’t about twitching it was about the experience. Jayson is in the same league as Eddie, a true legend in the plight of the Philippine eagle having been involved for over 20 years its in his blood and to be out in the field with him was real honor and at that moment I knew Raptor Aid was helping the right project and long may it continue.

Just over two weeks flew by and I suppose that’s a sign of a great time, I want to take this moment to thank all the staff at the Philippine Eagle Foundation for making me feel so welcome and allowing us to create a working link. Going forward we will hopefully be back at the foundation in October for the Asian Raptor Network Conference and to continue setting up links with the PEF. We already have several UK schools who are interested in connecting with schools in the Philippines relating to bird of prey conservation and if you think you know a school who would like to get involved please just let us know.

Thanks for reading!