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Monday 22nd December, 2014

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Wulf’s Blog


November 21st 2009

‘When The Rains Came’ Seems like an apt enough title, considering that apparently the heaviest rainfall ever recorded in the U.K, fell on Cumbria on the 19th of November 2009. We were lucky and escaped lightly; there were floods to the north and south of Muncaster. The main drive from the entrance however had turned into a fierce torrent of water no doubt excaserbated by fallen leaves ‘damming’ the water against the perimeter fence along the duck pond. Most staff were advised to leave early while roads were still passible. The problem was that here in south west Cumbria the rain hadn’t even started falling in earnest yet, at least not until after 4 p.m.!

The following morning I came in expecting the worst, i.e. floods everywhere and many casualties, but no, I sometimes think we don’t credit owls with any common sense. Whilst it is fair to say that in ‘confinement’ or should I say ‘captive environment’, owls don’t always find the answer on how to deal with their surroundings, therefore needing keepers to help ‘smooth over’ any potential prolems in their environment. In their ‘natural environment’, their ‘genetic blueprint’ combined with experience provides them with answers to most things. Sometimes there is an overlap, even in captivity they instinctively know the answer. When I came in on Friday morning on the 20th of November 2009, there was not a single owl that had sat out in the rain overnight! All of them were bone dry! The bottom path in the breeding ground may well have been a ‘canal’, but their instinct obviously dictated that it was in their best interest to remain under cover, whereas under normal rain conditions one or two individuals in the collection would almost certainly have been out ‘rainbathing’ as this helps to condition their feathers.

On the off-season work front, the owl garden nest boxes have all been cleaned and are now ready for the next breeding season.

The Ashy-faced Owls in the main display are now overdue, as their eggs should have hatched about nine days ago. The unseasonal time of year may well have something to do with this. The Indian Eagle Owls however, are looking good, as I have mentioned in a previous blog, they are not unknown to breed as early as this. I recall a conversation I once had with a previous keeper here at the centre. The date was October 31st 1998, the keeper’s name was Cindy. Cindy said “Wulf, would you mind having a look at these Bengals”, (at the time ‘Indian Eagle Owls’ were known as ‘Bengal Eagle Owls’), “I think they are definately getting fruity”. “No” I said, “owls don’t breed this time of year”. Famous last words! Always expect the unexpected.

Chocolate the European Eagle Owl was a rather surreal site on the front lawn yesterday as what with the lawn having large puddles of water on it, she was ‘skimming” the surface of them, looking almost like a Sea Eagle hunting for prey whilst flying from glove to glove during her free flying session.

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