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 in 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 dead 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.
We 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.