Saturday, 23 August 2008

Little Owl release

The Little Owls in this post started life in the wild, they have been found as orphaned (or what ever reason) and taken to Secret World who we work with closely.

Finally the sun came out, and with the forecast looking good for the next few days it was time to release the Little Owls, a species which in the wild have had their best breeding season for over a decade here in southwest England. They came from Secret World (go to the link page at for Secret World website), and given to us to release back into the wild. They have been in the portable release aviary now since July and the only thing stopping us from releasing them sooner has been the awful weather conditions. I had placed rotten logs in their aviary so they can teach themselves to catch insects and indeed this they had all achieved very quickly (I know this because I check their pellets regularly). I must admit to feeling guilty not releasing them sooner, but I wanted to give them the best possible start. In other words just a few days good weather. Now finally its come and so at 1830hrs this evening I placed their food not on the inside of the aviary as normal but this time on the outside, ensuring that the release hatch door was fully opened and secure so they could get at their food and of course when they did collect the food they would be free. Of all the worlds Owls, the Little Owl (Athene noctua) is the Marx Brothers of the Owl world (very comical yet intelligent). Within 10 minutes one the owls came out to the hack board, it could see its food, then ran along the board picked up food and ran for its sheer life back in the aviary. The release method I'm using is called soft release, this method I have been doing for along time. The soft release method means of course they are under no stress to leave, they are free, yet nothing pushes them. There are some pictures of this activity which I will put up with this post, but do look at the pictures taken around 2045hrs. OK I know there awful quality as its getting dark and the ISO on the camera is running at 3200, but one of the Little owls is now on a fence post some 50 metres away from the release aviary, that means its out and its hunting looking down into the grass from the fence post. Interestingly when this Owl spots me taking its picture where does it fly for security? The release aviary, as in back inside. This is good and does mean they know the now opened release aviary is place they can trust. As the weeks go by the amount of food that is put out for them will be reduced and they will become more self supporting. But of all the Owls and Bird of Prey we release Little owls have to be one of the very quick adjusters to life in the wild. I will update on how the gang is doing but for tonight they have now been left in peace to acclimatise to the new world that awaits them. I know some people will say "why didn't we telemetry track them" my answer is, we would love too, but can't afford too at present. We do however carry out monitoring of all released birds using Hawk and Owl Trust volunteers who are brilliant at taking up positions around release sites (sometimes in the dead of the night and reporting in their observations). I will update on the gang when I have some more information in the meantime here's the pictures from tonight. If want to donate towards telemetry tags or want to become a Hawk and Owl Trust volunteer please do let me know.

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