Firstly, thanks to everyone who commented and enquired about our ill female Long-eared Owl. She made it through the night, but barely. She had eaten a little of the food I had left for her, but was sitting on the ground in her aviary. She remained there all day, moving position occasionally but not able to get up to a perch. I thought that each time I looked in on her she would be gone but she did hang on through the day. By closing time I had decided to put her into a carrying box and keep her indoors tonight. The weather has been a crazy mix here in West Lothian, with glorious sunshine in the morning being split in the afternoon by wintry showers. Brief hail and attempts at snow passed through as the afternoon went on and the forecast overnight is for the temperature to drop below freezing. I didn’t want the owl to be outdoors in that. I left her in the carry box in our Prep room with some food cut up into pieces. She may not make it through the night but at least she will have shelter, security and dignity. I will check on her first thing in the morning.
I was feeling quite wiped out and glum today, perhaps through worry about the Long-eared Owl. We have over 80 owls in the collection at present, but the health and welfare of each and every one of them is on my mind every day. It’s hard not to get attached when you are watching for and feeding them all every day. I don’t know if this is healthy but I wouldn’t want to change; better to care a lot than not enough in my opinion.
I was able to build a nesting area for our Snowy Owls this morning, thanks to having new volunteer Linda around to hose and clean aviaries while I worked in the Snowy pen. Snowy Owls are one of many of the larger owl species that nest on the ground, so I tried to build a natural looking low screen of rocks in a corner. Part of their courtship involves the male taking food to a selected nest site and performing an odd little dance with his wings half folded, making strange pig-like sounds with the food still in his bill. Now there is a nest site I hope he takes the hint. Today he spent a lot of time snoozing in the sunshine!
My talks today didn’t have their usual zest as I lacked the energy, but the owls I flew all performed great. Prince is really getting the hang of it all now and I completely trusted him to be in the right place at the right time. I flew Kenya for the second time too, and like yesterday she zipped around the arena. Sarabi added to her repertoire by flying down to a bench or the ground and showing her funny walk. Seeing her swoop down just inches over the heads of the front row of the audience still puts a big grin on my face though, and seeing the reaction of the audience themselves is just magic. Oulu the Great Grey Owl is another one that does this in her performance, and I look forward to flying her eventually too. We have such a diverse team for our shows I’m really enjoying getting to know them all one by one.
On my rounds feeding the collection this afternoon I got a really good view of one of the Great Horned owlets. The pair of them are doing well and just getting to the size where their heads can be seen over the front panel of the nest ledge. I was pleased that the female didn’t immediately cover her owlet up as I slowly advanced to take a photo, and the owlet seemed curious to see what I was doing too.
Our Little Owls have finally discovered the nestbox I put in their aviary earlier this week. On my feeding rounds I saw one of them peeking out of the hole at the front of the box. Fingers crossed they decide to breed this year too.
The two Tawny Owls are still sitting in the nestbox they share, both sitting on eggs. Food is disappearing from the ground where I put it each day so at least one of them is eating, but after the problem with the Long-eared Owl I am keeping a special eye on them and their food intake. Normally, a female will sit on eggs for as long as she can without a mate taking food to her, then she will abandon the nest and seek out food. In the case of these Tawny Owls we could either let them choose to stay or leave when they are ready – then boost the amount of food supplied, or we could intervene and remove the eggs. Doing this though may cause them both to just lay more eggs to replace the first ones lost, and this could weaken them further. Better to let nature take its course but be watchful for their need for more food. These owls are younger and stronger than the Long-eared Owl. I also wouldn’t be too surprised if one female covers both clutches of eggs while the other nips out to eat. I have seen Eagle Owls and Brown Wood Owls do just that, so you never know. One thing I do know is that owls are amazing and complex creatures, how could I not love them?
Right, I’m signing off. As always, ‘til tomorrow goodnight owl.