Recently the boys and I visited the Barn Owl centre, it is very near home yet we had never been. It is not like other bird of prey centres I’ve visited, this place is all for the birds and their welfare. It is a registered charity dedicated to conservation, education and bird welfare.
It was a boiling hot day when we visited, and some of the birds were sulking a bit – but to be honest so were my sons so fair enough birds. I couldn’t fault how the birds were treated though, and they all had plenty of water and food.
First we met Paddy, a sweet looking 11 year old female barn owl. We walked along a tunnel-like corridor towards the flying barn, which had old cinema chairs and a big screen they use for education. Paddy sat on a beam at one end of the barn, and was a bit grumpy when people entered the room late.
Paddy was being invited to fly to the handlers glove, and to the perches at either end of the barn. This means she flies directly over your head – so close you feel her wings swirling the air through your hair.
Paddy is far from robotic, and had herself a little strop a couple of times. If she doesn’t like something she stands on high perches and just stamps really fast in protest. I do love animals with personality.
Paddy had had enough flying about for the audience at this point, and it was suggested we ignore her (like you might if a child was having a tantrum) whilst Vince gave us a talk about owl and hawk welfare. I personally was deeply shocked to learn that more barn owls are kept and sold as pets than actually exist in the wild now in Britain. Looking at Paddy I can definitely see the cute, loveable factor that makes people want to keep these beautiful creatures as pets BUT people don’t know how to look after them properly – all the well meaning love and care in the world is great, but if you don’t know what you are doing sooner or later that poor pet Hedwig is going to become sick or so bored it starts to go a bit crazy. Should owls be pets? I say NO!
You can find plenty of owl facts on the BarnOwl.co.uk website.
THen we met Kaln, the eagle owl and my heart just melted. Everything in me wanted to hug this beautiful lad and never let go, well until I looked at his massive feet. Those talons are impressive!
We also met Shelley, a very clever little Harris hawk.
Vince and Shelley have a real bond, and she was eating from his hands and playing with him as he sat on the floor. It was lovely to watch, like a boy and his beloved, faithful old dog. I don’t speak bird, but you could see the trust and respect between man and bird.
Thanks to all the staff and volunteers but special thanks to Juliette and Vince.
Disclosure: Myself and my boys were invited in to meet Vince and his team, and we received free entry to the barn owl centre. I was under no obligation to write about them but I think they are well worth the standard entry fee.
All photographs in this post (except the final two small images) were taken by my son D.