Easter Week Events

On fine form

Andrew & Ash “stand by for take-off” before the display

After a very slow start, spring has finally sprung and the Sanctuary’s spectacular displays have gotten off to a ‘flying start’ as a result of the good weather over Easter weekend and through the Easter school holidays.

With our colleague Maz temporarily indisposed for a few weeks, young Andrew stepped manfully into her shoes (if such non sequiturs are allowed on the SOS blog) to give his first flying display of the season - an occasion about which he was feeling a little nervous, having not given a display since last year.

But the boy done well. To begin with he flew Ash, the Sanctuary’s Common Buzzard, who obligingly soared and swooped and showed off her graceful aerial skills to the audience. At the end of her flight, Andrew gave Ash a whole chick so that she knew her display was over and so that he could safely put her leash, swivel and mews jesses back on.

At this point, Ash showed a classic behaviour common to all birds of prey when they have food, called ‘mantling’. This is where a bird of prey spreads out its wings in a defensive ark, to protect its food from other possible predators. Although hand-reared birds like Ash are completely at ease with their handlers and look to them as their source of food, it’s still a natural instinct to protect their dinner from being stolen. Some of them elect to hold on to their prey until they’re back in the quiet and safety of their weatherings, where they can eat it undisturbed.

Beneath the magnificent feathered wingspan, the common buzzard
is ‘mantling’ over the tasty morsel in the falconer’s glove

Andrew also flew Baloo, one of the Sanctuary’s Indian Eagle Owls, who is always a favourite with visitors because of his stunning plumage and vibrant orange eyes. If you shut your eyes as Baloo flies, his wings make no sound at all due to the comb-like ends to his wingtips, which allow the air to pass through them noiselessly. This is an extremely important tool for hunting, as an owl’s prey is unable to hear the owl approaching and the element of surprise can mean the difference between having a meal or going hungry.

Eye See You - Andrew and Baloo, the Indian Eagle Owl have their eye on each other

The flying displays at the Suffolk Owl Sanctuary are intended to inform our visitors and to give them an insight into the needs of the various raptors, as well as the importance of their conservation. In addition, during the demonstration the falconers try to replicate the way that each type of bird of prey would hunt in its natural habitat, thus enabling them to follow their natural instincts as much as possible and demonstrate the diversity of hunting techniques used by birds of prey. As an owl Balloo likes to fly from one perch to another, swooping low across the showground to illustrate one of the ways he would hunt by silently quartering in the wild, where as some of the falcons in our displays are flown to the swing of the lure to demonstrate their aerial prowess of hunting other birds on the wing.

Baby update

As you may well know if you’ve been keeping up with our recent blogs, the breeding season is finally in full swing here at the Sanctuary. Two of our European Eagle Owl chicks are now just under two weeks old, having hatched on the 7th & 9th of April respectively.

They are looking extremely well fed and snug in the incubator, having had round the clock care from General Manager Andy. Apart from keeping the chicks in a secure environment, the incubator also regulates their temperature, starting at 35 degrees and being turned down a degree or so each day until the chicks are acclimatised to room temperature. It’s a time consuming business hand-rearing chicks as they need feeding every four hours and can easily overheat in the incubator if they are sharing it with a sibling.

Inside the warm confines of the incubator, these week-old
Eagle Owl chicks are ensured a trouble-free start to life

A third European Eagle Owl chick was born on 15th April and is still with its mother. Doing it this way helps to ensure that all the chicks receive the care and feed that they need to survive.