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!
Aharonis 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.
The 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. Those 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.
An 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!