On the road...

Educating people about birds of prey and the importance of their conservation is right at the heart of what we do here at the Suffolk Owl Sanctuary. We are especially keen to invest time in today’s youngsters, as they have such an important role to play in the future.

In our blog a couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how we aim to enthuse school children about birds of prey, when they visit us at the Centre. Sometimes however, it isn’t possible for schools to come and visit us, so we take our Wise Owl Road Show out to the schools.

Each school has different requirements; the children may be studying a particular period in history, or the day may have a more science-based focus, or it could be simply a day for getting to know all about owls. Whatever the theme, we aim to tailor a visit to what each individual school needs.

At this time of year we can often take young owls along
to see the children, which always causes delight

As a general rule, a school visit includes a talk from one of our fully trained education and falconry staff about birds of prey and about the Suffolk Owl Sanctuary’s three key aims: Conservation, Education and Rehabilitation. Most sessions with a class or group last about an hour to an hour and a half, which allows plenty of time for a quiz or drawing competition, or a more topic-related activity. The most exciting aspect of our visits of course is the chance for children to see one of our striking birds of prey, as it will be the first time many of them will have seen a raptor so close.

We have several birds who are absolute gems when it comes to school visits and each has their own personal charm. Auckland our Boobook Owl (whom you may have seen mentioned in previous blogs) is a seasoned pro and his diminutive size and cute looks always provoke oohs and aahs of admiration. Sometimes we may take Bali our Asian Brown Wood Owl along with us; or Baloo, our Indian eagle Owl - both of whom have stunning looks and are a perfect foil size-wise for Auckland. At other times, we also take Josh the Harris Hawk, to demonstrate to the children some of the differences between owls and other species of raptor.

Josh, one of our Harris’ Hawks, is often used to show youngsters
the difference between owls and other types of raptor

Just recently, Andrew and I visited Dickleburgh Primary School in Norfolk, where the children were having a special Eco-Day. They were all wearing green and were split into their house groups to take part in a carousel of eco-friendly activities, of which we were one. The focus of our visit was mostly concentrated on conservation and we took Bali and Josh along with us to help explain to the children about different birds of prey and about the work we do at the Sanctuary. The children were full of questions and enthusiasm and genuinely enthralled when we took the birds out of their travelling boxes. This time of year also brings a special bonus, as we have lots of fluffy young owl chicks at the centre and we were able to take along a young Wood Owl and Barn Owl, much to the children’s delight.

The highlight of the day was at the very end, when all the children assembled in the hall and sat in two rows with a gap between them. We hadn’t told them that we were going to fly one of the birds, so it came as a real surprise and a treat for them when Andrew put Bali on his perch and walked to the other end of the hall. Despite never having flown in a school environment before, Bali took it all in his stride and wowed his audience with his gorgeous looks and superb, gliding flight. A brilliant day, which both the children and we thoroughly enjoyed.