Waifs & Strays

On our last blog, we wrote about the exciting events going on at the Sanctuary over the hallowe’en period.  On Hallowe’en Sunday itself however, as well as the pumpkin trail and fancy dress, there was some additional tension behind the scenes, but not for such a good reason.

Paula, our American Kestrel, recently went walkabout -
to the consternation of us, and twitchers nationwide!

Back in mid-August, we told you about a very special little lady who came to reside at the Suffolk Owl Sanctuary, our female American Kestrel Paula.  As anyone who has seen an American Kestrel knows, they are really tiny, usually weighing in at around 3oz – as small, if not smaller than some of our native songbirds.

All our resident birds live in spacious aviaries, with plenty of foliage to roost and nest in. This can mean, though, that the birds aren’t always easy to spot and so it was that when one of our volunteers went to clean out Paula’s aviary, she slipped over his shoulder and out of the door before anyone could stop her.

Paula isn’t one of the flying display birds, otherwise it would have been much easier to tempt her back to the glove.  As it was the falconers tracked her through our local village, trying desperately to entice her to come down, but General Manager Andy soon came to the conclusion that they were just in danger of driving her further away.  With much reluctance, they decided to call it a day in the hope that she would find her way back when she was hungry.

A couple of days passed and there was no sign of her, but on Wednesday morning, the phone began to run red hot at the Sanctuary, with numerous sightings of an immature female Kestrel at Landguard Nature Reserve over on the East coast.  The fact that the bird was wearing a yellow ring confirmed that this could well be Paula.

Conservation Officer Dean was very quickly on the phone to one of the bird ringers at the reserve getting directions and made his way to Languard with all haste.  A number of twitchers had spotted the Kestrel by this time, which thankfully made it easy for Dean to locate her once he arrived at the reserve.  She was obviously quite hungry, as she showed considerable interest in the food he offered her from the glove, but she was still intent on being coy.  However, as luck would have it, there were some strategically placed mist nets on the reserve, which are used for safely catching birds so that they can be ringed and, specifically at this time of year, for checking on migratory wading birds.  Paula flew off straight into one of these and was soon back in Deans’ safe hands once more.

Paula's mate, Fred, appeared pretty concerned and kept a watching brief for the return of is partner

With Paula safely tucked up in her travel box, Dean returned to the Sanctuary, where Paula was given a thorough health check to make sure she hadn’t sustained any injury throughout her adventure.  Her lovesick boyfriend Fred had been calling for Paula since her escape, so he was very happy when at last they were reunited in their aviary once more.

Although only the tiniest of birds, Paula nevertheless made a pretty big splash in the national Press with her story - for more
click here to see how The Daily Telegraph reported it.

One Short-Eared Owl - Far From Home!

Betwixt & between, this Short Eared Owl pitched up on an oil rig in the middle of the North Sea

A couple of days later, we received an interesting e-mail from Stewart Green who works on a ConocoPhillips Oil Rig way out in the North Sea, about 50 miles east of Scarborough. He attached a photo of an Owl that had landed on the rig earlier in the day and the question was, what sort of Owl was it? We were able to verify that it was a Short Eared Owl, a long, long way from it's natural habitat of marshlands and moorlands, where - unusually for an owl - it is a ground-dweller.

We have heard nothing since but hoped that it managed to return to terra firma in the UK or somewhere in Europe without too much hassle - whereever it set foot again, no doubt it was one tired owl by then! For more on the Short Eared Owl,
click here.