It was a beautiful day here in West Lothian today. Clear blue skies and sunshine made it a great day to be out and about, although it started off chilly with frost and ice on the ground.
Volunteers Jo and Barry joined me today and were a great help putting together the shelves for the Scottish Owl Centre gift shop. The shelves arrived ‘flat packed’ and required assembly, which we blitzed through until lunch time.
Out in the sunshine we spent most of the afternoon putting up more branch perching in another couple of aviaries. Catching up the Chaco Owl and Striped Owl and taking them through somewhere quiet we removed the old temporary perches and put up new branching that will be better for them in the long term. These owls are presently singles that we hope to find a mate for this year, but as they are on their own and the pens have been quite bare they can be very jumpy, feeling exposed. With new perching they will feel more secure and have more options than just flying about in a panic when something unusual happens nearby. The Striped Owl has occasionally caused itself an injury to the ‘cere’ just above the bill as it bounces off the mesh at the front of the aviary. I planned out the new perching to hopefully prevent this behaviour and make the bird feel more secure. When we released the two owls back into their aviaries it was good to see them use the new perches, and to sit where we aimed for them to sit out of choice. They looked good from the outside of the aviary too so it’s a ‘win win’ all round.
Feeding the owls today we saw more interesting behaviour from some who are courting or nesting already. The Milky Eagle Owl and Great Horned Owl males were attentive as food was put in their aviaries, their role in the partnership being to take food up to the nest for their mate (and owlets hopefully).
After seeing the Northern Hawk Owl mating behaviour yesterday I was pleased to see/hear that the female is now making the ‘begging’ call that triggers the male into bringing food. This is the noise made by owlets and in many owl species the female will make the call before laying eggs to almost program the male that he should respond to that sound with food. As I said yesterday I have high hopes that the Northern Hawk Owls will be nesting by the end of this week.
Over in the Ural Owl aviary we saw the female sitting in her nest all day again. Today she was sitting lower, lying on her front rather than perched on her feet in there. She got off the nest at feeding time and exchanged calls with the male. It could be any day now that she will begin to lay eggs, we hope!
Woody the Tawny Frogmouth is a different kettle of fish, as they say. He is settling in well to his new home after the initial strangeness of it all. He is much more relaxed through the day and seems to have settled into a pattern for feeding. He still needs to be hand fed every day so today I instructed Jo and Barry how to get him to sit on the glove and how to feed him. A small group of guests invited to look around the centre passed Woody’s aviary just at the time he was being fed so I gave a short explanation of the bird and his eating habits. It was very pleasing to see that he didn’t seem to worry that a group was present, continuing to feed even while we all stood around. It would be great if he will keep this up in front of the public and would be great if volunteers felt able to include his feed in part of a short talk. All is good with Woody then.
We have a very busy week ahead this week, with our Zoo license inspection on Wednesday. It was really good to have help from Barry and Jo again today and tasks that would have taken me days to accomplish were done in a day. I’m sure everything will be ready in time on the keeper side. Still lots to do though so I’d better sign off and get some sleep!