Saturday, 8 September 2012

Suffolk Owl Sanctuary and Birds of Prey Centre

"But those who hope in the Lord

Will renew their strength.

They will soar on wings like eagles."
- Isaiah 43:1

...and eagles' wings are huge and made for soaring in thermals effortlessly. This was once again demonstrated to me at Suffolk Owl Sanctuary. They have a variety of birds of prey and owls on display not only in caged aviaries but also in open spaces so we can see the birds without a fence in the way. I also watched a flying demonstration which allowed me to take photos I never thought I would get with the lens I have.  

This first lot of birds were in the open pens with black walls which made the photos all that more dramatic!

I have never seen a red kite in "the wild". They were brought close to extinction but thanks to a protection program they can be found in areas of Wales, England and Scotland. 

I think this was a type of buzzard but I can't remember. Oops. Note to self, write down names of birds next time!

 This is Ash, the common buzzard.

This is the Ferruginous Buzzard, I can't even pronounce that!

No one could ever forget this lovely falcon! The peregrine. Sadly we didn't get to see the peregrine fly in the display later, that was the job of the African Lanner Falcon which strangely enough I had never seen in South Africa!

The Spectacled Owl, Cecil looks like a granddad with a sense of humour even though he is only two years old!

He looks a bit like a gorilla here!

I have seen one of these in "the wild". While waiting for the bus one night a barn owl swooped over my head. Beautiful animals. They look more calm, relaxed and friendly than some of the other owls.

This guy was little on the grumpy side

This was not the European Eagle Owl but the Indian Eagle Owl, I think. He was very protective of his area! His name is Baloo. He's very good at changing his shape so it's a bit confusing comparing him with a photo of him flying later on! Whereas the European eagle owl has a darker front, this guy has a white chest.

This is the European Eagle Owl.

 The star of the day had to be the Bateleur, Pungu. She's quite young so the red on her beak is still pink but it will darken with age. She knows she's beautiful and liked showing off while waiting to fly for us! She was also sunbathing in the beautiful warm sun, something she would get all day in winter in parts of South Africa, nevermind summer!

I think this is the Tawny Eagle. He reminds me of a story I wrote at the end of first year of university about an escaped lamb told by the birds watching. Mr Taw Nee was one of the reporters.

This was one of the falcons showing off.

The African Lanner Falcon

The tiny kestrel is often seen hovering over fields near busy motorways in England.

Not sure what type of owl this was but he didn't like the sunlight!

The great grey owl from Winnie-the-Pooh!

This little guy was enjoying the sun!

This happy snowy owl is called Snowdrop and her mate, a much larger snowy which refused to look at the camera, ever! was called Norse. Poor snowdrop, what a name! But she seems happy enough.

Another snowy owl also with a norse-sounding name, can't remember it though.

As my bird book says, "note the staring eyes" of the Little Owl. Why couldn't they call it a pygmy owl to make it less confusing?! Oh well. The last time I saw a little owl he was half hiding behind a tree stump and I only had my little lumix camera to photograph him. This time I had a fence in the way. One day I will get an unobstructed view of a Little Owl.

This Saker Falcon did not want to stay still once he had spotted something in the sky. Not sure what he spotted though! He's got a very intense stare.

So after looking around the centre and stopping for some lunch we joined the rest of the visitors to watch the flying demonstration and guess who was first to fly?!

That's right. Pungu, which apparently means agility.

Pungu is a type of snake eagle, that means she eats snakes. Her lovely collar of feathers prevents snakes from biting her neck but if they do get through those feathers the skin underneath is dead so the bite can't do any damage.

Showing off again.

Balancing like a gymnast on that little plank, ready to fly when the falconer calls.

Baloo, the Indian Eagle Owl was next to fly. He wasn't in top form and decided not to listen to the falconer! And my camera wasn't in top form either as the lens took too long to focus for what could have been some great shots if they were in focus! But I managed to get some good shots of Baloo anyway.

I stood right next to one of his landing posts and I don't think he liked me very much!

The falconer having a good chat with baloo about his bad behaviour!

Baloo being a typical kid and not listening!

Told you he didn't like me. That is one mean stare!

And for all his trouble he gets a lovely mouse.

The tail is always last to go. Can you spot it?

A bird I have seen many times in England, in fact one of the few birds of prey in England that I can identify immediately: The Common Buzzard.

And the last bird to display for us was the Lanner Falcon. He started off by doing a bit of sunbathing! Did I mention it was a lovely sunny day?

The Lanner displayed his flying technique for us when he finally came back from his thermal.

Having spotted the lure he was ready to dive.

Enjoying his catch!

At the end of the demonstration we were able to go closer to the Lanner and watch him while he ate his treat, a day old chicken. Warning if you are at all squeamish you might want to skip through these photos.

 Birds of prey were not the only animals at Suffolk Owl Sanctuary. They have recently acquired a family of meerkats from Colchester Zoo and they have a forest area for red squirrels to run free without fear. Unfortunately the red squirrels were too fast for my camera so you'll have to be content with seeing the meerkats and few other little treats.

Anyone remember Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers? Well this is a real chipmunk and he doesn't look like he's doing any rescuing unless there's some sort of bug stuck in that stick...

And no these guys don't have a Russian accent. They probably have very Essex accents because these guys are from Colchester Zoo.

The babies haven't yet learnt how stand on their tiptoes!

I take it meerkats don't eat garden spiders, or the garden spider hasn't yet figured out where he has made his web!

Please can we come up, we can't see. Please! Please!

How do we get up there?

Food! Food! Food! Food! Food! Food! Food! Food! Food! Food! Food! Food! Food! Food! Food!

What about mine?

No idea what this is but it's really yummy. A little chewy but tasty all the same.

I would recommend a visit to the Suffolk Owl Sanctuary for anyone who has a day to spare in Suffolk. It's definitely worth the trip but if you can't get there then this documentary I found on youtube will give you some of the information we were given on the day.

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