Saturday September 11th 2010
A date we will no doubt remember for a long time to come. Despite watching the news this morning, it had left my mind until I typed in the date. It’s peculiar how certain things trigger a memory. It’s almost like a programmed response. Visitors often ask me how, when in the past we were involved with release schemes involving captive bred birds, owls learn how to hunt without the guidance of their parents. I try to explain this in a way that doesn’t just use the term ‘instinct’, as this can be used to ‘not’ explain, if you get my drift. It would appear that a certain type of animal, owls included, namely predators, respond to particular stimuli such as movement. Other predators such as reptiles and mammals have the added advantage of smell to rely on, in locating their prey. Owls and most diurnal birds of prey don’t have the ability to locate their prey by scent, so they rely on their eyesight more than most other types of predator. When an owl gets hungry, it goes into hunting mode,and sudden movement in their preferred habitat will trigger an automated response. They will react in a way which doesn’t require conscious thought. This is how I would explain ‘instinct’. I suppose another term for this might be ‘genetic predisposition’. How does an owl know when to breed without being told when to? The answer might be explained in the same way. ‘They just do’. For these reasons owls are ideal subjects for re-introduction into the wild from captive bred stock, which is why we carry on the work we do.
On the Owl Centre side of things, nothing much has happened this week. It was the aftermath of ‘Bill and Bob’s gig’ at the weekend, and also the school holidays have finished, which is reflected in the attendance of the audiences at Meet The Birds this week. Suddenly the audiences have become small again, and the large audiences have become a fading memory. The year has moved on from a time of promised potential, to a time of reflection on things that have come to pass. A melancholy, but not unpleasant time, as the small audiences we do have, are very responsive to our message. Of course this is all helped by our bird ambassadors, who are by now well versed in this year’s routine. Speaking of which, Metro/Fidget is coming along very well, as I mentioned last week. He is getting to grips with what is required of him, and his response on the lawn is getting quicker by the day. For some reason he is still wary of the perch stumps we put out on the lawn for MTB, so we are giving him as much exposure to them as possible, to teach him they are no threat. I will leave you with a few photos of one of his training sessions this week on the front lawn.
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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.