UK 2019 Day 4: Owl Be Home For Christmas

Posted June 20, 2019

May 12, 2019

We kept our schedule as flexible as possible for this trip, making many decisions on where to go and what to see the evening beforehand. We tried to make the trip a mix of tourist destinations and “local” living, with varying degrees of success.

One event we did schedule in advance was an owl encounter at the North Somerset Bird of Prey Centre [map]. This facility rescues animals in need or abandoned with a focus (as its name suggests) on birds of prey. They also have a selection of mammals and other animals.

Our encounter included close-up looks and interaction with five different owl species, some local to the area, some not. I’ve loved owls since I was a young child, and my wife and I both have a soft spot for raptors in general.

All the owls loved having their breast feathers stroked and were generally well behaved and in excellent health. These birds were rescued or rehabilitated and certainly have found a happy home at the Centre. Here are the owls we met, with lots of bonus shots of yours truly (a rare enough thing for this blog)!

Dottie_00
Dottie is a Little Owl.
Dottie_01
Little Owls are Britain’s smallest owl. I was surprised to find out they are an introduced species (19th century).
Cherish_01
Cherish is a Eurasian/North American Barn Owl. These lineages are considered conspecific, so she is not a genetic hybrid in the usual sense.
Cerberus_01
Cerberus is a Tawny Owl.
Cerberus_05
Close up of Cerberus, showing his facial disk and dark eyes, both adaptations for night hunting.
Pedro_01
This is Pedro, a Mexican Tawny Owl. He also liked having the back of his head scratched.
Hercules_01
Hercules, the aptly named Eurasian Eagle-Owl.
Hercules_03
There is something almost magical about holding an owl on your arm.
Hercules_04
Hercules’ orange eyes are adapted for crepuscular (dawn and dusk) hunting.

 

Hercules_05
Hercules’ talons are about the span of a person’s hand. 

After we all got to hold and interact with the owls, we each took part in a flight/hunt demonstration. Cherish was held by a volunteer on a perch a few dozen yards away, and we each held a piece of chicken in one hand and our other, gloved hand out as a perch. Cherish would then quickly fly and swoop up to take the chicken. This happened so fast that neither of us had an opportunity to get our cameras or phones out for a shot! Darn…

Bonus: Christmas Dinner at the Thomas’

When we returned home we had a lovely Christmas dinner with Ruth’s parents, Paula and Eric, in their downstairs flat. We had turkey (smoked on Darrens’ Kamado grill), roasted potatoes, Brussels sprouts and more. We finished with Christmas Pudding for desert and pulled open Christmas Crackers. It was festive and fun, and I can’t say enough how generous, sweet, and kind Eric and Paula are to have done this for us. They had also decorated the entrance to the house with the Union Flag and American Flag to welcome us.

Christmas_in_May
Christmas in May (photo courtesy of Paula Thomas)

 

Flags
A warm welcome (photo courtesy of Paula Thomas).

A full stomach and a full spirit, what more can one ask for?

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