This may have been a short month, but as usual there were WI dates on our calendar; first was our coffee morning in the sports pavilion for a chance to get together for a chat. Two days later and five members of our walking group strapped on their boots to walk around the lanes of Longparish. We were lucky to see so many snowdrops on our way round. Afterwards we adjourned to The Cricketers for lunch.
Last time we saw this month’s speaker, Tom Morath from the Hawk Conservancy, we were restricted to seeing him on the screen only. We were confined to our own homes at the time and had to have a virtual talk, this time he could attend in person, sadly without any birds due to avian flu precautions.
Since we last saw him, Tom has changed roles and is now Deputy Head of Living Collections. He considers himself very lucky to be one of a minority of the population who gets paid for doing a job that he absolutely loves. He was introduced to the world of birds by his grandparents at a very early age and began working with birds in his early teens as a part time, weekend, volunteer where he learned to develop a rapport with the birds. In 2015 he was lucky enough to get a job at Muncaster Castle in the Lake District in the Hawk and Owl Centre. He has also worked in Kimberley, South Africa where he was involved in the preservation of the Vulture population.
The red kite is now a common site in our skies, but Tom reminded us that The Hawk Conservancy was involved in the project to re-introduce the birds to the UK. Obviously, it has been very successful.
His slide show took us through the history of the Hawk Conservancy and from very humble beginnings it now attracts between 60,000 – 70,000 visitors a year. They have a restaurant and are licensed for weddings. With the aid of his slides he showed us some of the birds who had been long-time residents. He also talked about other activities that the Hawk Conservancy Trust is involved in, particularly conservation and research and specifically vultures. Once again, he mentioned the dangers to the vulture population. As an indirect result of elephant poaching for their ivory, we were reminded that certain species of Vultures are critically endangered. They are being deliberately poisoned to prevent them leading the authorities to the bodies of the elephants and thus the poachers. Vultures have also been poisoned indirectly, as they eat the carcasses of farmed animals that have been treated legitimately with modern drugs which it has been discovered are harmful to them.
When he came to the Hawk Conservancy one of his requests was that he brought with him his owl Sage who he had had since he was a teenager. Sage is still there with him. Tom now splits his time between here and his home county of Northamptonshire.
Our President, Lynne Lucas, advised members of the various opportunities coming up in the following months and there were plenty of sign-up sheets available for members to add their names to if they wished.
Our next meeting is on March 30th, and also sees the return of a previous speaker, Judy Theobald. We are reminded in our programme that Judy is a light-hearted speaker who should make us laugh. As usual we will be in the Village Hall for a 7.30 p.m. start.
09 March – Coffee Morning – Sports Pavilion at 10.30 a.m. (£2 to include refreshments)
11 March – Walking Group
16 March – Supper Club
30 March – Monthly Meeting – Abbotts Ann Village Hall : 7.30 p.m.