Saturday 5th November 2011
The week started very busy, and ended very abruptly in that on Monday we were snowed under with visitors as it was Halloween, the following day on November the 1st, the 2011 visitor season had finished. Muncaster had become a ghost town, (no pun intended), overnight.
The Sunday and the Monday weren’t as busy in terms of numbers for the spooky owl tours, which meant that on Sunday the 30th there weren’t any bookings for the 6pm owl tour. This allowed me a few spare minutes for some ‘tomfoolery’. I sat on a bench near the path facing away from the visitors coming into Muncaster. I sat very still, decked out in my Halloween finery and by now customary war paint. Most people just walked by, but on few occasions’ people were asking each other; ”is it real?” whilst at the same time sidling up to me. “No it’s not real”. “Yes it is, I think the hair is real”. At one stage a woman is peering into my face, (it is dark at the time), when I pounce shouting “BOO!” The ensuing screeching, panic and mayhem were well worth the effort. I managed this same prank four times in that half hour.
I was feeding down in the Breeding Ground this morning, and whilst feeding the Southern Horned Owls, (never one of the friendlier species), I was greeted with the usual threat display from this year’s juvenile. An Eagle Owl’s threat display is a sight to behold, with their arched wings emphasizing their size, and their eyes signalling dark intent. On this occasion the threat display started is it was obviously intended, only whilst executing this particular display, no doubt for my sole benefit, the look of dark intent suddenly changed to a look of mild panic, thereby somewhat spoiling the overall effect of the threat display. The wings were still arched, but the owl now proceeded to shake its head from side to side, while its eyes were positively bulging in their sockets. By now I knew what was going on, but a growing sense of morbid fascination compelled me to observe the bird expel an enormous pellet. Once expelled, the bird sat up straight, smacked its beak with a look of; ”that’s better! Better out than in”. The Threat display was forgotten.
Yesterday saw the arrival of another juvenile hedgehog. This yet another case of one being born too late in the season to have gained enough weight to survive hibernation. This individual had been dubbed ‘Elmo’ by the people who found it. Elmo has gone to my back garden where I have overwintered young hedgehogs for the past three winters. All being well it will be released in April of next year.
I have included some more photos from the 2011 Halloween season, as well as some photos of Elmo.
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The World Owl Trust is a member of the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) and the European Association of Zoos and Aquariums (EAZA). The Trust relies on a dedicated membership, visitors, donations and legacies.