A Tightrope-Walking Raptor...

Fascinating Raptor Facts
A couple of weeks back, I was enchanted to watch one of the amazing flying displays that take place at the Sanctuary every day between April and September.



One of the most intriguing raptors in this particular display was Pungu our Bateleur Eagle, who would hail from Africa in her natural state. The Bateleur is also sometimes known as the Serpent Eagle, so no guesses for what her favourite snack in the wild would be. Bateleur is a french term (so I’m reliably informed by Andy, who is a mine of information about these things) which means ‘tight-rope walker’. This was a name given to the eagle by a french chap, who noticed that the Bateleur had a rather strange method of slowing down when in flight. He discovered that this raptor uses a peculiar rocking motion, which reminded him of a tight-rope walker balancing with a pole and rocking from side to side. The Bateleur Eagle is the only raptor to adopt this odd behaviour, which is due to the fact that it has an extremely short tail and therefore can’t use its tail, as other raptors do, as a breaking mechanism.

Being a serpent hunter is a dodgy buisness, but Pungu has two very special techniques that make her very adept at this. First, her very short tail allows her to be the only raptor that can walk backwards, which means that she can stay well out of reach of a striking snake. Secondly, she has an amazing crest that she can fan out so that any successful venemous attack will just hit her feathers, thus protecting her from being poisoned. Pungu is also rather partial to a bit of sunbathing. When it’s sunny, she likes nothing better than to fan out her resplendent wing feathers to absorb the sun – she looks for all the world as though she has a pair of solar panels attached! Quite a captivating raptor, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Essex Wildlife Country Fair
Over the weekend, the Essex Wildlife Trust hosted their Wildlife Country Fair at Abberton Reservoir. Andy our manager attended for the fourth year running, to promote the Suffolk Owl Sanctuary. Originally, we were invited to the fair after the Essex Wildlife Trust gave us permission to release a Short Eared Owl on their nature reserve at Great Wigborough. The owl had come to us in an exhausted state via the Raptor Trust after landing on an oil rig on the North Norfolk Coast. It was flown to us by Western Helicopters and then, once it had recuperated at the Sanctuary, taken to the nature reserve.

This year Andy took May the Merlin, who was a super attraction to the many bird watchers attending the event. Although she is a native raptor to the UK, many bird watchers have never seen a Merlin up so close before. He also took our old friend Auckland, the Boobook Owl (our consumate show professional) and two of our babies, the Asian Brown Wood Owl chick and the Southern Faced Scops Owl chick. These were a fantastic draw for kids as they are respectively only four and five weeks old. It was an excellent event, thoroughly enjoyed by all.

Raptor Baby Boom Continues

It has been a wonderful breeding season here at the Sanctuary and we are really chuffed with how many sturdy little chicks our raptors have produced. Just to give you a brief update, the first of our Snowy Owl eggs started pipping last Saturday and hatched the following day. This was rapidly followed by a further two hatching on Tuesday and then Thursday.

Lilly our Little Owl has been sitting comfortably on her clutch of three, two of which decided to brave the outside world on Wednesday of this week. We are particularly pleased with these little fellas; they are second generation to the Sanctuary as we bred their mum Lilly back in 2004!

The Lanner Falcons produced their second clutch of eggs, two of which proved to be fertile. We were very excited when one hatched on Sunday last, closely followed by the second on Wednesday of this week. All in all, a fantastic week for raptor babes.