Posted on April 13, 2005.

Birds of Prey are cool. As stated in one of my earlier posts, I've got a Bird of Prey experience day coming up (which I won), but today we went to The Suffolk Owl Sanctuary as a family, which has served to whet my appetite for the day I have coming up. After wandering around for forty minutes, we went to see the ferret racing with great anticipation. Disappointingly, it was too wet for racing, but they were still shown to us, along with a kestrel up close, which they even used to demonstrate their hovering technique. It was the most well trained of the birds and it was amazing to see it hover so close. We then got talking to the guys who were doing the show (about the 'Owl Man' at Frinton - he takes his owls to the beach when the weather is nice) and the conversation turned to a Harris Hawk chick which they are currently rearing in their office and they took us to see. It's lovely; four weeks ago, when it was born, it was the size of it's own head currently, and in six weeks it'll turn into this.

We were then told of the story of Fetlar, who was a snowy owl that they owned that escaped one day (it was driven from the owl sanctuary by a flock of crows). They tried to catch it, but through the RSPB's idiocy ("We can't lend you any mist netting - you might kill a songbird" "Yeah, a songbird is going to fly across an open field with two men on one side and a snowy owl on the other") they didn't. They finally got a plan that was going to work, and then found it dead underneath what had become his favourite perch in a caravan park. This was half a mile from the nearest road, and only the back of him was dirty. Under his chin there was a hole. Not from a gun, as that would have been much messier. They took the carcass to a vet. The diagnosis: road kill. This version of events means that he was hit by a car with a spike on the front, removed himself, flew half a mile to his favourite perch, and then fell off the back into the dirt. Not likely. The vet also suggested a struggle with a predator, but no unicorns have been sighted in the area. They were distinctly unimpressed with this vet, who at one point started cutting feathers to look at the would, and seemed surprised when was told that you can, in fact, pluck feathers.

It turns out that the week he died, a gang of men who are known to roam the east coast with crossbows were spotted, and this fits all the facts. Apparently, they use them to hunt with, as they are far easier than shotguns to hunt with, and you don't need a license. They haven't been found, and I get the impression the vet has never been used again. We thanked him, and killed 40 more minutes looking at the birds (there was the cutest Tawny owl you've ever seen and a bird known as a Seriema - a bird with, bizarrely, eyelashes). We then settled in for the proper show of the afternoon, featuring a common buzzard, a snowy owl, a (badly behaved) tawny owl and a falcon who's particular breed escapes me; it was doing its second display ever, however, and performed admirably, and was rewarded justly.

All in all, it was an excellent day out (only marred by the terrible cold that I currently have), and I can't wait for my day in the summer holidays (which has since been rearranged so that I can be a prefect at the Lashings vs. CRGS cricket match. Both will be great!