Owlery Explorations

The current academic year seems to be flying by all too fast and the recent half-term holiday meant that our latest Adventure Activity Day for children temporarily changed its timing from the regular Saturday slot to a more family-friendly Thursday.

Our latest adventure was about everything and anything to do with owls - a subject about which we definitely know something (though certainly not everything) about here at SOS!  However, the increased use of the internet at home and in most modern schools meant that our young Adventurers where well primed on the subject even before they arrived!

The day began by discovering what our visitors thought they already knew about Owls, and a bewildering array of fact & fiction presented itself! 

One particular notion seemed to predominate, this being the idea that all owls are nocturnal. So with this in mind our group took a tour of the Centre to study the many amazing owl species housed at Stonham and dispel this and some of the other inaccurate facts that surround these beautiful birds!  Once the major errors & rumours had been addressed and plenty of new facts learned, it was time to deal with the fiction - a fertile prospect, given the many owl myths and legends that can be found in all parts of the world!

Perhaps one of the most common misconceptions about owls is that they are supposed to be intelligent & wise.  This arises from the legend that “Athene”, the Greek Goddess of Wisdom was reputed to have an owl as a companion.

In fact, none of her inherent wisdom appears to have been passed on to her feathered friends though as we found out, there is a very good reason for this lack of brain power!

The eyesight of an owl is so important to its livelihood in terms of locating & hunting its prey that its eyeballs take up a huge amount of space within its skull. This literally means there is very little room left for a brain!  So whilst owls are undoubtedly beautiful creatures which are superbly adapted for their individual lifestyles, they are in fact not the most intelligent of raptors!

As well as examining the keen eyesight of the owl, we also went on to have a look at some of the other anatomical curiosities that they are particularly well known for.  These included their ‘hearing’, their ‘silent flight’, and their ability to ‘create and cough-up owl pellets’ - a subject which, gruesome as it sounds, always fascinates children of all ages.

And talking of pellets (the undigested parts of an owls previous day’s meal), feeding habits and children, due to it being the breeding season our young adventurers also got the rare opportunity to see our baby Snowy Owl chicks being fed: as luck would have it, the first of a new clutch of eggs had hatched just a few days beforehand. At the time of writing we currently have five Snowy Owl chicks from our breeding pair, Norse & Snowdrop, and we are expecting the remaining eggs to hatch very soon - we will of course keep you posted!

Having spent lots of time learning about owls, it was then time to get on with the fun stuff, when everyone got seriously creative and a little bit messy! For this Activity Adventure I asked the children to create some owls of their own in clay, the idea being to incorporate as many of the physical features, characteristics and attributes of owls as they could possibly remember!  A wonderful array of ceramic owl-ey creations emerged as a result and many thanks must go to Christopher Soule of the pottery based here at Stonham Barns, who kindly agreed to ‘fire’ our creations for us.  Watch this space to see if our models survived the process!  

Finally, we enjoyed a fantastic mask-making session where we let our imaginations run riot and launched many new species of owl onto an unsuspecting world, many of whom were so colourful that they would not have looked out of place at a Masquerade Ball.

If you would like to take part in our next OWLERY ADVENTURE DAY which takes place on 16th August 2007, e-mail me as per the address below to reserve your place!