December 12th 2009
This week we have managed to partition off, one of the larger aviaries in our off-view part of the collection in the ‘Breeding Ground’, better known by Muncaster estate as ‘The Walled Garden’. The ‘Breeding Ground’ was named so on the assumption that if owls were given peace and quiet, they would therefore feel more secure and might then breed more successfully than up in the public part, which obviously due to the visitors and permanent staff presence, (from an owl’s perspective), suffers from more disturbance. this was a mistaken assumption; the owls in the ‘Main Display’ ended up becoming ‘de-sensitised’ to all the frequent distractions around them. It seems that in nature most species have the ability to learn to ‘filter out’ that which isn’t a threat to them, even if they might not understand what is happening in their immediate surroundings. In the ‘Breeding Ground’ our birds didn»t always get the opportunity to learn this, and consequently any disturbance, even just feeding them, was highly traumatic. As a result of this, for many years, the breeding results in our ‘Main Display’ were consistently better than in the ‘Breeding Ground’. More keeper presence in this off-view area has now rectified this problem; breeding results have now caught up with the ‘Main Display’. While on that particular subject, I think the Indian Eagle Owl eggs in the ‘Breeding Ground’ have hatched. The female was briefly off the nest, and I was able to put a ladder up against the outside of the aviary and look in. The light wasn’t ideal, as it was getting near dark, but I think I saw something ‘fluffy’ move about ever so slightly. The adults behaviour is consist ant with a possible hatch, as the female is definitely brooding something, and food intake has increased. So fingers crossed.
The new partition I mentioned at the start of the blog will house one of our hospital inhabitants, namely the wild kestrel, which is getting nearer a possible release. As I write, our long term stalwart volunteer and sometime member of the board of trustees Terry Evison, is fitting a feed table. As there is now a suitable weather window the kestrel will move today.
Sparky has had another visit to the vet as we were worried that he had lost a lot of weight. his flying weight is at or near 300 grms, which is his ‘lean and mean’ hunting weight. In winter he should be weighing considerably more, approximately 340 grms. He had a test done on a blood sample which was taken from him, which showed no abnormalities. His faecal sample revealed however that he needed worming. This was subsequently done. He was also put on a precautionary course of ‘metranidizole’ tablets. He is showing signs of being more energetic and appears more alert which is encouraging.
Our male breeding Southern Horned Owl from the ‘Breeding Ground’ was also taken to the vet’s with acute breathing difficulties. This turns out to have been a bacterial infection, as opposed to a fungal infection such as ‘Aspergillosis’ and has responded well to injections with a ‘broad spectrum’ anti-biotic. All being well, he will be able to go back out with his mate very soon.
Hilary, our conservation officer, has this week managed to successfully re-introduce a Tawny Owl back into the wild that came to us suffering from possible concussion. It was released at a nature reserve in an old disused quarry further up the coast. It is always nice when there is a happy ending for all involved, not least of which the owl itself!
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