To box...

Vacant possession... this local nestbox is currently un-occupied
but a fresh pair of Barn Owls is nesting (in a barn) nearby

To Box or Not to Box…

As you may know, we have our fingers in a number of pies – or perhaps I should say nests – here at the Suffolk Owl Sanctuary, included in which is the East Anglian Nest Box initiative. With your help & support we have been running the scheme for a number of years now and with the kind permission of the farmers concerned, our nest boxes have been erected in various farmland locations in the area providing nesting sites for Barn Owls, Kestrels and Little Owls.

This is the time of year when we begin to check the nesting boxes to see whether or not they have been used, and carry out repairs & cleaning where this is not (currently) the case. As it happened, the first box we checked - located on a farm in Stonham itself - brought us good news and not so good news. The not so good news was that it hasn’t been occupied this year, but such is the way of things. The good news is that on the same farm, there is a previously unsighted pair of barn owls nesting in a disused farm building and since this is a more natural thing to do, it more than makes up for the empty nesting box! Both parents have been seen taking food into the building, which is fantastic news.

A great Hobby

This Hobby as an injured wing, so we hope to help it get back its
powers of flight by first training it to fly to the lure, and then releasing it at a later stage...

In one sense, it’s a real shame that the raptor hospital here at the Sanctuary is rarely un-occupied. On the other hand, it’s always a real buzz for the team when a bird is rehabilitated and hacked back to its natural environment. Last week a quite unusual little visitor was brought in to us for some TLC - a Hobby. This is a species of small falcon often mistaken for a large Swift because of its rapid, graceful flight. This little chap was found on a grass bank at Shotley, near Ipswich and it appeared that he had flown into a telephone wire. At first there was some concern that he had a broken wing: thankfully, that wasn’t the case, although a consultation with the vet did confirm a fractured humerus and his ability to move properly is partially impaired.

So our plan is to try to get the Hobby back to full fitness by training it to fly to the lure, so that the falconers can ascertain when & if the wing is one hundred percent healed. If the bird makes a full recovery, then he will be returned to the wild: if not, the Sanctuary will provide him with a safe, caring home in one of our aviaries. For a wild bird he is astonishingly laid back and seems to be quite at home already on our conservation officer Dean’s glove.

And finally… A Quick Egg Update

After a rather manic breeding season, the last of our raptor eggs has finally hatched. Our proud Snowy Owl parents ultimately produced seven young, of whom six survived. This is pretty remarkable given that mum ‘Snowdrop’ is eighteen years old and dad ‘Norse’ is seventeen: to quote manager Andy, ‘Not bad for two old timers!’.

Pretty Maids (?) all in a row.... five of our six Snowy Owl chicks all from the same clutch
illustrate the different stages of growth due to their staggered incubation...

To finish, here’s a small fascinating raptor fact for the week: did you know that owls incubate their eggs from the moment they’re laid. This is unusual behaviour, as most birds will wait for the whole clutch to be produced before beginning to incubate them. In the case of our Snowy Owls, there was a ten day difference from the first chick to the last and since they are fully fledged at around fifty to sixty days, the disparity in size is quite amazing - as you will see from our picture!