Well summer finally arrived with style. The BBC news tonight is saying that Scotland had the hottest places in the UK today and I can believe it. We had at least 22 degrees Celsius here but I think I can almost guarantee that the hottest place in the UK today was inside our Rainforest Realm!
Before I go further I must mention that I am still having difficulties with my blog service. Maybe I keep trying to log on when everyone else is hammering the server, but for whatever reason when I try to log in I get a message saying the site is unavailable. To get around this problem we are in the process of upgrading our official website, and my blog will be incorporated into that. Along with more powerful software for me to write my blog in we have a dedicated server just for our site, so I won’t have to compete with the many members that WordPress boasts. We aim to get this new service up and running in time for the Scottish Owl Centre’s official launch date in June – more on this when I have more info.
Back to the news and weather desk.
Two days of sunshine here in West Lothian has been very nice, with today hotter than yesterday. The owls have been making the most of the heat and many have been seen sunbathing in their aviaries. Some seek out the perch in the sun, others get down onto the floor and spread their wings to squeeze out every last drop of feather strengthening vitamin D. Not all of them love the heat though, most obviously the Snowy Owls. A bit of sun is okay but the temperature was just a bit much for them today. They sought out shade and shelter behind the big rocks in one half of their aviary. They are able to find some shade at either end depending on where the sun is in the sky during the day, and they have water to drink and keep them cool too.
This was one of the priority jobs for myself and the volunteer keepers today. We regularly checked that the water dishes had water in them, and those in which it had evaporated were topped up. I think our Spectacled Owls, Ural Owls and Tiger in our trained display team were very grateful of this as they all took the opportunity to bathe and cool down. Tiger bathed right before it was her turn to perform in the afternoon show! Normally this would mean the bird would be too waterlogged to fly but Tiger flew just fine. When Sarabi the Milky Eagle Owl flew she seemed to have her own hot wind preceding and following her slow and steady wing beats. It was quite the experience and reminded me of the hot sirocco winds of Southern Europe and Africa.
We’ve had some more disappointments from our breeding birds. Our Brown Wood Owl female was seen out of the nestbox one afternoon and was still off the next morning. I checked the box to find a single egg, stone cold and abandoned. Removing the egg and leaving the aviary I later checked inside and was dismayed to find an owlet in there. One theory I have is that the owlet formed well up to a point where the weather was particularly cold – we had a few minutes of snow even last week remember – and even in the warmer environment of the Rainforest Realm it would have been cold. This female has not had any luck in breeding in the past, having panicked during her first attempt and killed the owlet. This dead owlet today was particularly disappointing for us as this season is proving pretty awful so far.
To add to this, today I checked the African Wood Owls in the aviary opposite the Brown Wood Owls. Their eggs were due to hatch the day before the Brown Wood’s so were also a couple of weeks overdue now. I found broken eggshell beneath the box but inside I found the female still sitting on a single egg. This far overdue it looks like this is another infertile egg.
Tomorrow I will check on the African Spotted Eagle Owls as they too were due to hatch their three eggs around the same date as the Wood Owl pairs. I can’t help feeling there are more infertile eggs in that box too.
Oh well. Such is the way of things when working with breeding programmes for birds or any animal. We still have other owls on eggs and I’m thinking that our Tengmalm’s Owl and Burrowing Owl females may have laid eggs this week. Our Mottled Owls and Ashy Faced Owls are coming up to their estimated hatch dates in the next few days. The year isn’t over yet and neither is the breeding season – after all, the weather just improved! Our fingers remain crossed.
On a brighter note; Sam the American Barn Owl is doing fine. The six week old owlet seems to have a smaller appetite lately, but I remember the last Barn Owl I helped hand rear going through a similar phase. Up to now all the effort has gone into growing big and tall, now things slow down a little and the work goes into growing feathers – so not as much food is needed I guess. We still take Sam out into the displays each day and each day the owlet is walking a little more, either for food offered or to go over to the nearest humans to investigate their footwear. Sam seems to be going through that phase that all children go through where feet are the most interesting things in the whole world! It is quite comical to see this young creature look at human feet or shoes then look down at its own feet and back again. In a time of disappointments from the breeding birds it is good to have this little one around to lift the spirits. :)
Sam had a first experience of being in an aviary this afternoon, as I put the owlet in one of our empty places for half an hour just to let the owlet get used to it. The ‘Prep’ room has been awfully hot these last two days and I decided that the owlet would fare better outside. At least in the aviary there is shade and a refreshing breeze. The little owl took it all in with ease. This aviary will be Sams home once old enough, and is right next to the entrance to the Rainforest Realm, so plenty of people will get to see him/her.
I’ll leave you tonight with a pic of Sam in the aviary. Signing off, see you next time, gnite!