Monthly Archives: January 2015

When the wind blows…

Copy of piccie for trystan (3)A wise man once said ‘there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing’. From the wisdom of the Big Yin, thoroughly Scottish Billy Connoly, we certainly needed some good clothing in the last week. Storm force gales followed by snow then followed by yet more severe gales hit the centre and are still doing so.

 
My first thought in weather like this is whether the birds are okay, then are the aviaries ok too, has there been any damage? The morning after hurricane force winds hit the Scottish west coast, dissipating by they reached us but still ferocious, I expected more than just a bit of roofing felt to be lifted off a roof. We were lucky, and the aviaries are pretty solid.

 
IMG_8407baThis was the first real test of our newest aviaries, only occupied over Christmas. As you can see from the photo, birds like Altai the Siberian Eagle Owl sensibly make good use of the shelter area to keep away from the worst of the wind, rain and in this case, snow. The aviaries passed the test with flying colours.

 
IMG_8419baThe gales and blizzards hampered the construction work on the next aviaries but didn’t stop us completely. Unfortunately the foundation posts I spent the weekend digging and cementing in were in the wrong place, but hadn’t set anyway so were easy to pull out! Despite a bit of two-steps-forward and one-step-back, we finally began to put the structure of the new Burrowing Owl aviary together yesterday.

 

On the owly front, our recently arrived Barn Owls – one white and one black – have been doing fine despite their first week living in an outdoor aviary being in some of the roughest winter weather that Scotland could muster for them. They are very friendly so far, and we soon discovered that they are already pretty well trained to fly to the glove, they do it in their aviary eIMG_4831ven if you haven’t got any food with you! As an experiment we took them into the flying display arena to see how they’d respond. They flew to the glove for food pretty well. I don’t think it would take a lot of time or effort to train them up for displays. This would mean we can elaborate our talks about why colour is important for an owl. We might think that an albino or a melanistic creature is beautiful, but would it survive in nature? Come along to our shows this year and find out what we reckon ; )
See you next week, take care and wrap up warm!
Trystan.

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How Come It Never Rains… It Only Pours?

Well in the week since the last blog we’ve had a lot of rain – and yes I know these blogs always talk about the weather sooner or later, but we get rather a lot of it here in Scotland in winter! All of our work is influenced by what weather we get, that’s the breaks when you work outdoors I suppose.

I mentioned last week that we are building new aviaries this year. All of this rain has delayed me cementing the foundation posts in – the holes fill to the brim with rain water!

In a break i10924152_10205129011658616_1649785349031857467_on the cold and the wet, we took the opportunity to catch up our female Siberian Eagle Owl for a little beak trimming. In the wild the prey of these birds could be carrion that has been out in the elements for days, and the act of ripping through the hide and picking pieces of meat off the carcass would keep the owl’s beak sharp and shaped. In captivity our bird is fed d10887386_10205129029179054_8149616581248372051_oead day old chickens and her mouth is big enough to swallow one whole! This means her upper mandible grows overly long and we have to intervene to cut and file it back into shape so she can keep eating. It’s a tricky job for volunteers and staff to do so we only do it when really necessary. Luckily no fingers were lost in the operation!

 

The weather has also delayed the release of the wild woodpecker handed to us before Christmas too. A little male Greater Spotted Woodpecker, one of last years I suspect, he flew into a window and was stunned. I had our vet give him a look over as I was concerned that there was weakness in the right leg and wing. Just a bruise or sprain perhaps, but the bird has been gaining strength daily and is now ready for release. We just need a break in the wet weather! I’ll get a photo when we get chance to let it out into the wild in the park.

 
IMG_4833We had two other new arrivals this week. A pair of Barn Owls given to us by their owners in Fife arrived late Wednesday evening. They are currently sitting in the sheltered area of the aviary that Kara the Turkmenian Eagle Owl has lived in for the last couple of years. (She is still settling into her new aviary at the front of the centre by the way!) That a centre like ours has Barn Owls arrive isn’t that remarkable, but when one is a regular coloured bird and the other is melanistic they look very remarkable indeed… Melanism is where there is an unusual abundance of the dark pigment, melanin, caused by a genetic mutation. This makes this Barn Owl look ‘black’ but it’s really more like a mix of dark grey or brown with a tinge of caramel on the facial disk. Very unusual certainly, but the owl probably doesn’t know it looks any different than its white-fronted companion. We’ll give them some time to get settled in and moult into a new set of feathers ready for Spring.

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Okay time for me to head off. See you next week, send us some dry weather!
Trystan.

New Year New Blog

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2015 is here! So too is the return of the Senior Keeper’s Blog, absent for the last couple of years, the blog is back to keep people informed of what is happening at the Scottish Owl Centre, particularly during the period the centre is closed to the public in January.

 
We are opening Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th of January of course, for the last weekend of our Winter Wonder Owls themed event. Each day has a shortened opening period, and just one flying display, but the display is themed around the Owls of Winter and how the chilly season affects the owls of the northern hemisphere.

 
Back to the blog though, it is my aim to keep writing updates of the projects going on at the centre this year. We have a lot planned and a few surprises in store too.

Traditionally, centres like ourselves close over winter and do the major maintenance jobs. Our big white owl signpost suffered some damage in a storm and so needs major repair work before we open in Feb. We are continuing with the work to replace some of the original materials used in the build of the centre with newer and more durable ones. Some of the plywood panels used wIMG_8398bahen the centre was built three years ago have been splitting as water gets into them. This not only looks unsightly, it threatens to cause holes in aviaries, which will not do at all. New natural coloured wooden boards or planks have been used here and there around the centre over the last year. The British Owl section has seen such repair and replace work as has the aviary beside the entrance to the Rainforest Realm. This was the aviary where Kara the beautiful Turkmenian Eagle Owl lived. She has moved into one of the new aviaries built next to the reception and gift shop. She and Altai the Siberian Eagle Owl, and Moose the Canadian Great Horned Owl moved there for Christmas, and have been settling in since.

The Rainforest Realm is another area we aIMG_4690re working on this year. One of our volunteers began to refurbish with the Black Banded Owls enclosure last year, and the natural looking ‘slab wood’ with bark covering has made a big improvement to the aviary. We are awaiting delivery of more of this wood and we will use it all around the walls of the Rainforest feature. Hopefully this work will not only make the feature look nicer, it will help the owls living there feel more relaxed as they camouflage better. This might mean they feel ready to breed in 2015 too. This would be fantastic as we have a pair of tiny Ferruginous Pygmy Owls who seem to be bonding well. The chirping of tiny beaks would be wonderful!

More construction work. The aviaries already mentioned, where Kara, Altai and Moose have moved to, were the start of a new generation and new style of aviary in the centre. These three enclosures were built in-house by staff and volunteers, mainly led by long term volunteer Ian Clarke. We like the look of these new pens, and intend to build more in that style. Our next project has already begun down at the opposite end of the centre. We have begun to dig the foundations of a new aviary tagged onto the MackInders Eagle Owl aviary. This pen will house a pair of new owls that we haven’t had in the collection before; a pair of Aharonis Eagle Owls. They are beautiful looking birds, a sub species of Eurasian Eagle Owl that inhabits the MiddIMG_4688le East. I have worked with them in my previous job, but they are becoming very scarce in collections in the UK, and I hadn’t seen any mention of them for some years. We were lucky to locate a centre with two pairs, and have arranged to bring the older pair to Scotland. With any luck their aviary should be finished in time for our opening in February. As you can see in the picture, we have a lot of tidying up to do before we open too! It will be a very busy month for us all!

 
IMG_4694So that’s where we’re at at the moment. I aim to keep this blog going weekly, but there may be one or two in between if anything exciting or big happens!
See you next time, and Happy New Year!
Trystan.