Well, what a day! I feel a long blog coming on and recommend a loo break at Intermission
Today of course was the day we were due to receive more owls to join the collection at the new site for the Scottish Owl Centre. Negotiations and plans over the last weeks/months have come to fruition with 14 new owls arriving this morning. I had been looking forward to seeing them for a long time and was so excited I could barely sleep last night! Like a kid waiting for Santa to arrive with presents I kept looking at my clock and trying to get back to sleep.
Our courier must have had a good run, collecting birds from several different collections from as far as southern England, and driving through the night to reach us. He said to expect him at 7 a.m. but changed this to 5 a.m. – the roads must have been clear all the way!
Well I wasn’t there when he arrived, managing to sleep at least that hour, but I went into the centre at 7. The Milky Eagle Owl pair and the American Barred Owl pair had been put into their aviaries as soon as they arrived, but the rest of the owls were still in their boxes waiting for me to sort them into their new homes. This was like a combination of Christmas morning and a ‘pass the parcel’ game, as some of the boxes were labelled and some weren’t. I could guess that the largest box held a Spectacled Owl, the next largest an African Wood Owl… but all the other small boxes I had to open and check. It was quite a bizarre experience! I set about distributing them one by one, waiting a few minutes to watch if a bird was introduced to another already in the pen just to make sure they didn’t fight.
All of the introductions went well but the one I had to laugh at was the Tengmalm’s Owls. I have said before that these are my favourite of all the owl species and the female here has been a really lovely bird that I have enjoyed seeing each day. They are a very placid bird normally and I hoped she would remain that way once her new mate was released into her aviary. Now when I say ‘her’ aviary it has only been hers alone for one night, so not really long enough to become possessive of it as her territory. When that is the case there is often a good possibility that the resident will attack the newcomer to drive it away. Happily this little owl behaved exactly as I expected; it took her a minute to even notice him sitting on the same perch as her! When she did she blinked in surprise, fluffed up her feathers a little then shuffled a tiny bit towards the new owl. The new owl was more concerned with his new surroundings, barely glancing at her. Seeing that there was no bust up I moved on to the next ‘delivery’. (When I passed by the Tengmalm’s next I saw them sitting about an inch apart, evidently friends already).
The American Barred Owls were the one species I had never worked with – or even seen – before. I had read a lot about them and seen videos on the internet but only been able to imagine what they were like ‘in the feather’ so to speak. Seeing them today was really exciting to me, they are stunning birds. I will talk more about them in another blog but here’s a photo to be going on with!
Along the Wee Owl corner of the centre I released a Striated, or Pallid Scops Owl, a Common Scops Owl, a Sundas Scops Owl and a Pearl Spotted Owlet. Along with the two species of Screech Owl and the pair of Indian Scops Owls we have a really good representation of the really small owls – but there was one even smaller yet to come! Our pair of Ferruginous Pygmy Owls will be in a temporary pen until their aviary roof is completed but these are really really small owls, one of the smallest species in the world!
On my wanderings to and fro with boxes of owls I checked up on some of the other owls that we moved or introduced last thing yesterday as well. Our African Spotted Eagle Owls settled really quickly to their new and much larger aviary. The male had spent the night glaring at the MacInders Eagle Owl (a much larger owl) in the pen opposite, but when he flew over to sit beside the female he suddenly spotted that in the pen beside the MacInders there was something even larger! Our new pair of Milky Eagle Owls paid no attention to their neighbours and were occupied exploring their own new aviary. They are great looking owls and I can already see the markings on their faces that are different from the only other pair that I have worked with – oh, but I have met another Milky of course, Sarabi! She was in good spirits this morning too, singing away in her aviary. We did wonder today whether her song might spur the pair of Milky’s into joining in with her. Maybe in time…
* Intermission * Here, hopefully, is a link to a video clip I recorded today of Sarabi singing away merrily. The link should go through to the Scottish Owl Centre Facebook Page, but if it doesn’t now you know where to look! https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=3523990222433
I had another moment of amusement on my wanderings too. Back in our trained bird area we have temporarily housed our female Boobook Owl until the roof on the tropical zone is completed. It hadn’t really occurred at the time that she was now in the pen next to Bruce, also a Boobook Owl. He is one of the flying display birds and over the last couple of weeks has been calling away for a mate. I had to laugh today as I saw his reaction to now actually having a female next door; suddenly he lost his cool and didn’t know what to do with himself! He stayed staring at her all morning poor lad! I can’t help but sympathise as I’ve been there, done that many a time myself haha!
Well, the rest of my day was spent putting catches on doors and other little jobs as I stayed on hand to make sure there were no fights or panicking owls as the banging and clanging of building work continued around them.
The last task of the day was to release the last of our new arrivals into an aviary. I had kept him boxed up in a quiet spot until the site quietened down, but at the end of the day I opened the door and let him into his new (temporary) pen. This was an interesting time as this is a very unusual bird. Not an owl I might add!
So I shall leave you tonight with a sneaky peek at the most unusual member of our collection. This is Woody, a Tawny Frogmouth. These are not owls at all, but are often called owls in their native Australia. I shall say more about him at a later date but for now will leave you with a picture as I head off to bed. Enjoy, and goodnight!
P.S. There are one or two more new photos in my Flikr album, link found on the Blog front page