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Education officer Susan Jones brings us up to date on what’s happening at the Suffolk Owl Sanctuary

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Suffolk Owl Sanctuary has had a busy month. Since reopening in April our birds have enjoyed having an audience again and we’ve had many lovely comments from visitors about the work we’ve carried out while closed, and how glad they are to be able to visit again.

During lockdown, some of our staff became Dementia Friends, a campaign by the Alzheimer’s Society to raise awareness and help support those with this disease. Within a week of us reopening, this had started conversations with visitors, some of whom knew someone with dementia. We have always tried to support those with additional needs or disabilities to enjoy their visit to us. If you require additional support to visit us, please don’t hesitate to give us a call so we can make arrangements for you.

In addition to reopening to visitors, the easing of restrictions has enabled us to run educational visits face-to-face for the first time in over six months! Our education team has already delivered sessions to schools and groups on site, as well as off site as part of our outreach programme. Bookings are continuing to come in and we urge any teachers or group leaders to enquire as soon as possible to ensure we can accommodate you.

Tawny owlet with a surrogate mum in the Raptor Hospital (47298413)
Tawny owlet with a surrogate mum in the Raptor Hospital (47298413)

Our Virtual Sessions continue to appeal to groups further afield, and we are looking forward to hosting our first international session next month. . . a Harry Potter-themed All About Owls talk to Cubs and Beavers in Oman.

The Raptor Hospital has seen an increase in admissions, most notably from collisions with vehicles in the first few weeks of lockdown restrictions easing. We had five birds brought in within two weeks which were found on roads. Thankfully, there were no broken bones and all have made progress in their recovery.

We have regular visits from avian specialist vet Elliott, of Aquila Veterinary Services Ltd, and on his recent visit, he examined the hospital patients. A buzzard was admitted in a very poor state, suffering from an oral infection. However, after a few hours of critical care it seemed to pull through and has continued to make progress. Two tawny owls brought in have similar eye injuries from vehicle collisions. Thankfully, they appear to not have damaged the retina, and should recover given time and treatment. A kestrel which came in with severe head trauma and subsequently dropped some feathers following the incident (a sign of stress) was given a clean bill of health and has been released near where she was found. We have also recently released a barn owl and a little owl who were victims of road accidents. All three of the released birds were given a BTO metal ring on their legs before release. This means that should these birds be seen or found in the future, we’ll be able to see where they’ve gone and whether they’ve successfully bred (as all three species are commonly encountered in nest boxes).

Owl pellet dissection remains a popular activity (47298418)
Owl pellet dissection remains a popular activity (47298418)

At this time of year, we usually get a number of calls from concerned members of the public about baby birds, in particular owls. Tawny owlets are known for leaving the nest before they can fly, known as ‘branching’. They are quite adept at climbing and usually stay near the nest box or hole, up in the canopy of the tree. However, in windy conditions they may fall to the ground, which is when they can get into trouble. We will always advise to leave them alone, but monitor from a distance, unless they are in danger (from dogs, cats or traffic). The parents will know where they are and should continue to feed them until the chicks are able to climb back up the tree. If the chicks are injured, or there is no sign of the parents, you should call a rescue such as ourselves for advice.

Taking baby animals into care is always a last resort, but we have trained staff and all the necessary equipment and facilities to ensure they get the best possible chance of survival. We currently have a tawny owlet in the hospital.

If you are concerned about a sick, injured or abandoned bird of prey, please call us on 03456 807 897 choosing option five to speak to our hospital team.

Boris an ashy-faced owl enjoying the audience (47298416)
Boris an ashy-faced owl enjoying the audience (47298416)

Suffolk Owl Sanctuary is open 7 days a week between 10am-5pm and we host two flying displays and meerkat talks every day. To find out more about our beautiful birds and what we do, and to pre-book admission, please call 03456 807897/option three or visit owl-help.org.uk.