Tag Archives: burrowing owl

Trapped Under Ice

It has been a busy couple of weeks since my last blog. We’ve been getting the centre ready for re-opening to the public – which we did successfully on Feb 1st – training our display birds, and continuing to build our new aviaries. The trained owls performed wonderfully in the first displays. We also received some new owls this week, very exciting!

IMG_8560bbAharonis Eagle Owls are a sub species of Eurasian Eagle Owl, and in the wild they live in the semi desert and mountain regions of the Middle East. They are smaller than the Eurasian and a sandy yellow with dark spots. They represent an intermediary stage between their larger cousin and the smaller paler Pharaoh Eagle Owl species found from Saudi Arabia around to northern Africa. They used to be quite common in UK collections but I hadn’t seen or heard of any in the last 8 years. Towards the end of last year I was surprised to find a centre with not one but two pairs. We arranged to bring one pair up north but needed to build them an aviary. Through asking around the network of owl keepers in the UK, there appear to be a few places with single birds and people are now interested in pairing them up. It can be quite easy for birds to become ‘out of fashion’ to the point that they vanish from aviculture. We have our fingers crossed that our new pair breed of course. I’ll keep you updated.

The long period of sub-zero temperatures has hampered our building work that’s for sure. Snowfall is one thing to contend with, but the temperature has been below freezing for long enough for the ground to become as solid as concrete. Even the gravel and woodchip in our aviaries has been frozen solid, which along with frozen pipes and taps means we haven’t been able to clean aviaries with much success either. But this is winter and what we expect, so we’ve slowly but surely continued with our work.

sunday 017The structure of the new Burrowing Owl aviary is complete pretty much. I’m working on the interior landscaping a bit at a time, as the materials are frozen, but once there’s a thaw I’ll get stuck in properly. We’re trying to design this aviary to include a nestbox camera so that visitors can view what is going on inside the nest – hopefully we will learn about Burrowing Owl domestic life! We need to build a viewing booth on the front of the new aviary to complete the outer structure. In the meantime our Burrowing Owls are still in their original aviary. The reason we’re moving them is that I’ve been unhappy with the lack of sunshine they receive tucked around that corner, and the corner with the nestbox gets so wet and damp I’m sure that is the reason the eggs do not hatch in there. We have hatched them in our incubator however, so we know they are viable. In the new enclosure I’m hoping the design will make the nestbox much drier, and with the camera we might see the female Burrowing Owl hatch her own eggs for the first time.


Over to the other end of the centre again. 20150204_094151Those Aharoni Eagle Owls are temporarily living in the aviary where our Indian Eagle Owls have been housed. (The Indian Eagle Owls have moved closer to the reception building in our re-designed entrance area). The Aharonis are able to watch us build their new home, and are quite vocal about it too! The aviary is taking shape now, after this photo was taken we managed to get most of the roofing beams and connecting beams along one side in place. By my next blog we should have the structure done, hopefully.


IMG_8576bbAn extra special new owl arrived in the last week too. A female Vermiculated Fishing Owl. With less than half a dozen of these remarkable owls in the whole of the UK we are privileged to have this female at our centre. She’s most certainly the only one of her species in Scotland. Our hope is that the collection she came to us from in England will breed a male this coming season, and we will be able to pair them up. Fishing Owls are native to Africa. Unlike the Fish Owls over in Indonesia they are small and have neither ‘ear tufts’ or a facial disk, such as most other owls who hunt by sound. (Eyesight is more useful for hunting fish that can’t be heard underwater!). They have bare legs with scaly toes, like those of an Osprey, to help hold on to slippery prey. I have been fortunate to work with this species before and am really happy to see one again, she’s a beauty!

Right, time to sign out. See you next blog. Keep warm!



The title about sums it up really. Last night was the coldest it’s been since I moved up here, temperatures down to – 3 or 4. Suffice to say I couldn’t do much in the way of cleaning the owl centre when all the hosepipes were frozen solid, but I did hope that it might warm to a balmy + 2 degrees long enough for me to do something in the middle of the day. I was tidying around, as much as you can tidy around a building site, when I noticed that the temperature had indeed risen above zero. Near the Burrowing Owl and Wee Owl Corner I saw a jet of water shooting up high into the air!

I got over to the scene to find the Burrowing Owls peeping out of the nest burrows, glaring at me accusingly as if it were MY fault there was suddenly a geyser outside their aviary. It was a good thing I was wearing my waterproofs already as I’d have gotten more than a cold shower as I turned off the tap and shut off the spray of water.

Thankfully that was the only incident involving water pipes today.

My now daily Meet’n’Greet with an owl today was with Prince, an Ashy Faced Owl for those of you new to this blog. He was desperate to get out of his pen when I was down the corridor from where he is temporarily staying so I chose him for the walkabout. He shouts and shouts for attention but when he gets it, and goes outside, he is as quiet and still as a mouse – kids eh? He’s the youngest of the trained bird team so it’s to be expected he wants to see what’s going on more than perhaps the others do, but once we step through to what will be the Indoor Display Arena he sits quiet and good-as-gold. He is getting more and more used to this walkabout in the big wide world with each time we go on our little outings. In Reception today he was settled enough to remember his belly was empty and call for food a couple of times. He is a great bird and it will be hard for me not to make Prince my favourite.

With Prince back into his aviary I went off to do the food rounds. The temperature was dropping once again by the afternoon, having only very briefly entered positive figures. Finding the right time to feed a collection of owls can sometimes be trickier than you’d expect. Some owls hunt in the day, some hunt at night. If you put feed out in the dark, some owls may be waiting until daybreak for food… but if you put food out too early in winter it will freeze, and only the owls that eat it in daylight get food that isn’t rather crispy! As it is, on my rounds with the feed bucket today I could feel the food getting less soft and squishy almost by the minute. With another night below zero predicted tonight there may be quite a bit of crunchy unfried chicken in the aviaries in the morning. Good thing there’s more food defrosting indoors!

Right, that’s me for this blog, I’m off to hide under a duvet. Til tomorrow, g’nite!