Tag Archives: eurasian eagle 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!

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An Eggstrordinary Day

Today was an excellent day for a number of reasons. Firstly, and most importantly for anyone anywhere in the length and breadth of the British Isles; it was SUNNY. Again! I expect we will have to pay some pennance but today was the second sunny day in the same week! Such things are not supposed to happen! So I hope everyone made the most of it!

To push the pun to it’s boundaries we made an EGG-ceptional discovery today, something that says that the Scottish Owl Centre is here and it’s ready to make it’s mark!

Okay I promise that’s the last time I’m going to use the EGG pun, at least in this post. I think it’s fitting and worth letting me off though as today we found that the Siberian Eagle Owls have an egg – just the one, and so far it was unattended by the female during the day – but we have an egg! To say we’re pleased is an understatement. The centre is still a building site after all! (In case you were wondering, there is some Eagle Owl food lying next to the egg – a day old chick. Food offerings are given by the male to the female, who takes the offering to the prepared nest site. If a male can provide food to his partner it is a good sign he will provide food for their offspring when they hatch.)

As I have mentioned in previous blog entries, the owls in the newly relocated Scottish Owl Centre have been calling each night. Barely a month has gone by since their relocation from Campbelltown on the Mull of Kintyre over to the new site in West Lothian. The upheaval must be tremendous for birds that are very territorial by nature – whether they are wild or captive living birds. Even so the new location is evidently good enough for some of them to make the most of the mild weather and begin the courtship process.

Siberian Eagle Owls are the largest owls in the world. A subspecies of the Eurasian Eagle Owl, they reach sizes even greater than their nominate Bubo bubo bubo. As you can figure from their name they are used to cold climates, but the mild temperatures we have been experiencing in Scotland and all across the British Isles this winter must make these birds feel like this is Spring!

Having said that, the ‘Owls of the World’ book by Klaus Konig and Friedhelm Weick, the tome by which I and many owl fanatics set as THE WORD on owls at present, says that Eurasian Eagle Owls will lay eggs in late winter, sometimes even at the end of January. Our birds aren’t that far out if you consider the mild temperatures. They often nest on the ground or on cliff ledges, making a scrape in which they lay their eggs. In the aviary we had noted that a scrape had been created but it had looked untouched since it’s creation. Eggs left unattended in the wild may well end up as lunch for the many ground dwelling opportunists in the region, but in an aviary in Scotland I think the egg is safe.

Now then, whether the EGG will hatch is another thing altogether. The pair have been in this location only between less than two months, and have only been together a matter of four or five months maybe, so expecting them to breed so soon is expecting a lot anyway. So what will happen to the egg? Well, either it is fertile or it isn’t. Eurasian Eagle Owls – and Siberian Eagle Owls of course – lay between 1 – 4 eggs, normally at three day intervals… according to the book. So there is a good chance that Egg is infertile but so far there is no way of telling without interfering too far. We will all just have to wait and see what happens over the next few days; will there be another egg? Will the female sit and incubate them? Will they be fertile and hatch? We will all have to watch and wait and pray and see what happens! Either way it is a great start for the new Scottish Owl Centre in 2012!

As for the rest of the day, well what can I say that could compare to the first egg laid in the new centre – while building work is clanging away through the daytime? Well with more clanging and bashing the centre is coming along nicely now the majority of the contractors are back at work after the holiday season. An estimate of two weeks has been given for completion of the indoor areana, which would be excellent. After that a roof is needed for the Education area, so there is still much to accomplish. If the birds are coping well enough to begin their breeding season regardless of such disturbance then it bodes very well for when the centre opens to the public!

Ah well, with all that excitement I think I need a lie down. I shall leave you with some photos of Prince that I took today during a little walkabout round Polkemmet Country Park. I hope you enjoy them, goodnight!