Little Pussy Willow

As most of our readers are aware - our beloved Barn Owl “Willow” sadly passed away last December (2006).

He was a well known and much loved member of the SOS team.  We have done our best to inform as many of those who kindly adopted Willow as possible of his demise, but if you failed to receive notification, please accept out sincerest apologies.

As a result of the high numbers of enquiries we received about Willow’s death, we thought it fitting to erect some form of memorial to him as a mutual token of respect to a wonderful bird that had a special place in the hearts of so many people.

We felt that perhaps a living memorial would be the most fitting tribute and so there was only one logical choice - a dwarf Pussy Willow tree. This has now been planted at the Sanctuary and we have had a commemorative plaque put alongside so that all are reminded just how special he was!

What made him so?  Well, he was born on the 11th May 1999, bred here at the Centre, and was hand reared by one of our original falconers, Gary Butcher.  Willow just happened to hatch on Gary’s birthday and so a bond between them was instantly formed.

Gary was originally convinced that Willow was a girl and regularly referred to him as “my little girl”. The debate continued for sometime until some kindly visitors to SOS offered to pay the cost of a DNA test to determine ‘her’ true sex.  And as we now know, the results confirmed that ‘she’ was in fact a ‘he’ - which just goes to show that we don’t always get it right when it comes to determining the sex of birds! 

Besides being truly wonderful in appearance and beautiful in flight, Willow was also well know for his ability to hunt for himself - a rather unusual trait for a hand-reared owl.  But the ‘wild-flower meadow’ at the back of the flying ground provided an ideal hunting ground for him, the tall wild grasses the perfect spot for hunting voles - a favourite delicacy of all Barn Owls!

Willow’s unbroken voleing record was the catching of not one but two wild voles during a single public demonstration one summer.  Although this feat was not an intentional part of the display, it did admirably demonstrate the way in which Barn Owls hunt in the wild for the benefit of our visitors.

But life goes on and so do the needs of the Centre, so for those of you that wish to continue to support us by adopting a Barn Owl at the Suffolk Owl Sanctuary, please click here to adopt
COBWEB, who has taken over the gauntlet (literally) from Willow - and will be seen daily in our flying demonstrations from the 31st March 2007. Your continued generosity will be much appreciated by all.