There has been a rapid change in the weather here in Scotland today. While there were brief showers of rain today, the weather forecasters have been warning for a while now that there could be snow by Tuesday. Today the temperature dropped quite dramatically. It looks like there could be heavy snowfall tonight and light snow showers during tomorrow. Then again it could be sunny. ‘Welcome to Scotland!’ was what the locals commented with a wry smile. It is hard to believe people were putting on sunblock and I was refilling owl water baths that had evaporated in the heat just a few days ago.
As you would expect, this weather is not much fun to be out and about in, so it was a quiet day at the Scottish Owl Centre visitor-wise.
Those that braved the cold wind and rain did see the first flying demonstration at the new site by an old favourite from the Campbeltown centre. Tiger the Brown Wood Owl was the very first owl that flew in the very first demonstration at the centre in Kintyre. In the last couple of days she has been ‘starring’ in the photo booth for visitors to have their pictures taken holding her. This helped acclimatise her to meeting a lot of people after the move from her first home.
Today she re-enacted that very first flying demonstration, where she sat still for ten minutes then did just one flight for a round of applause. At least today’s single flight was a long one, right down the arena to the far end!
We were pleased with her performance all the same, and hopefully she will now gain more confidence with each outing.
In between displays today I flew Prince the Ashy Faced Owl in a training session, and Dylan the Barn Owl. Prince is still a fair bit over his target weight so doesn’t fly that well just at the moment, but he is getting better and today was more reliable. I had to call his name and shake a chicken leg about for him to see where I wanted him to fly to. Practice, practice, practice.
Dylan is another of the original display team from Campbeltown, being the very first owl trained for shows (although Tiger was the first to fly in front of the public). As you can imagine he has a very special place in everyone’s hearts. Now he is ten years old, and we recently discovered that the old chap is losing his sight. The new flying arena is a lot bigger than the arena he has been used to for ten years, and with only partial sight he can’t always find where he can land properly. This was distressing for us to discover, but it doesn’t seem to bother him. Dylan has always loved flying in the demonstrations and is still very keen to fly, only now he gets confused as the world must be a bit fuzzy.
I encountered a Barn Owl that began to lose his sight in my last place of work. That bird reached the age of between 17 and 19 years old, and managed to get around his aviary well enough as long as there were no drastic changes made to it. I am absolutely positive that Dylan will be no different. He has moved ‘home’ into a new aviary three or four times recently and it must be disorientating. We will now keep him in one place and allow him to get to know his home again. I am also sure that he can keep flying in the arena if we adjust his routine and our expectations a little. Today I flew him the length of the display arena but in shorter flights. He is a lovely owl and very willing, just a little confused! Calling his name and shaking a chicken leg, I made a bit of a fuss of telling him how well he was doing and cheering when he flew and landed on a perch, or followed me (before I went too far and disappeared into the mist) and hovered above my glove, finally landing. Barn Owls use their hearing more than sight when hunting, so by talking constantly to Dylan, he can follow where I am. I believe that this exercise will be good for him physically (exercising the muscles of the eye as well as general fitness) and psychologically (owls do become ‘depressed’ if there are big changes to their lives or health, and that health can go downhill rapidly if nothing is done to help). I’m sure that Dylan not only will live a good long life still, but will have good quality of life if we make appropriate plans for him. He may not make the ‘A Team’ flying displays now, but he will be a star in his very own informal shows and for school groups. After all, he is a little star.
Right well I’d better get to bed, I could be making snowmen tomorrow! G’nite!