First signs of Spring...

Signs of spring

At long last, not only are we experiencing the odd rays of watery spring sunshine, but also there are definite signs that things are on the up temperature-wise in the woodland walk. Only small signs; this time last year we had primroses in full bloom and bluebells & red campion showing their first signs of life. This year things are a little behind, but none-the-less, there are some hopeful signs of green pushing their way through the frosty ground.

The other telltale sign that spring is finally on its way is that some of our owls have been getting positively broody. In fact not only broody, but two of our couples are already incubating, which is brilliant news. Our Asian Brown Wood Owls Meluka & Bekash and our European Eagle Owls Rhiea & Sam are already proudly nurturing their eggs. As yet we don’t know how many – General Manager Andy prefers to leave them undisturbed - but we will keep you updated on their progress and also hopefully be able to bring you news of many more happy events in the months to come.

Mews news

The new Mews Room is now virtually complete - the addition of a few more easy-to-clean
plastic panels will make the daily wipe-down a less arduous task than hitherto

Having worked hard to finish the new falconer’s hut, complete with office, incubator room, food room & staff room, the falconers are now well on the way to completing the new mews room, which is where the birds who spend their days in the weatherings will then be able to rest, safe and secure during the night in their new boxes. The boxes are especially designed with the correct type of perch to suit each bird and aerated doors. The mews is also where the birds are weighed daily to ensure that they are kept at the optimum weight for their health and well-being.

Sadly, you can’t win them all

So far this year, we have had a few heartening stories to report on the hospital front, but it is an unfortunate fact of life that not every bird brought in to us can be rehabilitated and returned to the wild. One case in point was an adult, male Sparrow Hawk, which was brought into the Sanctuary last weekend. A lady who was taking her dog for a walk had found it and it was in a rather sorry state. Close examination of the bird showed that it had a broken wing, so Conservation Officer Dean kept it warm and quiet in the hospital. Unfortunately, Sparrow Hawks tend to be very nervous birds and this one was unable to cope with the shock of the incident and passed away during the night. Not the ideal scenario from the Sanctuary’s point of view, but sadly you just can’t win them all!

First flight

On a lighter note, I had an unexpected bonus at the Sanctuary today, which was a real treat. Until now I’ve handled the birds to the degree that I’ve had some of them on the glove and am now reasonably proficient at tying the falconer’s knot to put a raptor on its perch. But I’ve never actually flown a bird before, so it was with some trepidation that I agreed when falconer Maz suggested I give it a try. The best bird for a first timer, said Maz, is Baloo our Indian Eagle Owl. Now, when you’re 5 ft nothing as I am, he looks mighty big. In fact I did think my arm was going to fall off as I walked, with him on the glove, up to the flying ground. And I did think when he first flew to me from his perch that it would feel like half a ton of elephant landing on my arm, but truth to tell he was actually as light as a feather. What an incredible thrill to see such a stunning bird gliding smoothing and silently towards me, magnificent wings outstretched and have him land delicately on my glove before soaring majestically off into the air once more! Obviously I’m going to need rather a lot of practice before I’m even halfway proficient at flying a bird-of-prey, but what an exhilarating experience – I can’t wait for the next time!