Hawk and Owl Centre – May 2017

Hawk and Owl Centre – May 2017

Another month gone by and another mention of Herriot our Steppe Eagle! This eagle never fails to amaze or wow me every day, apart from the other day when he over wowed me! Last month I wrote about how he was in a thermal and soared for 30 minutes, now I didn’t think he could top that in a demonstration until a couple of weekends ago. It was as hot as a summer’s day.  Herriot decided to thermal effortlessly for just over 2 hours!!! Putting a stop to the demonstration and specking out (a term bird staff uses where their birds go so high and far you can no longer see them) over the Esk valley! Cue visitor regular questions and words spoken, “will it come back?”, “do you ever lose any?”, “will it fly at night?”, “he’s obviously not hungry”, “hahah it’s still flying?”, “how long will he be up there for?” “You know what they say, don’t work with children or animals”. Now I appreciate it raises a lot of concern for visitors as a Steppe Eagle is flying free at about 900ft in the sky and has been for two hours, but when you have a sweat dripping into your eyes, a receding hairline exposing your forehead and sensitive ears that burn easily when the sun is scorching down on the beautiful meadow flying arena, the last thing you want to hear is “hahah it’s still flying”! However he looked stunning up there and with the help of a reliable telemetry system and bird staff team getting the rest of the centre and flying team sorted, I could relax and focus solely on Herriot and there wasn’t a inkling of doubt or worry in Herriot not coming back! As my wise master Jedi used to say “Teamwork makes the dream work!”. Herriot came stooping back into the perch just as the 4pm Heron feed started. Now as much as I’d love to watch Herriot soar for two hours, it’s not good every day for visitors watching the display. So we pulled Herriot from the demonstration team for a week to re-train and re focus him on coming into us on command, fingers crossed it seems to have work, watch this space for the next blog!

Phoenix’ training is going really well. He now makes an appearance making visitors say “ahhh” in the ‘World of Owls’ demonstrations at 11:30am. Phoenix is less of a fluff ball now and grown flight feathers and tail feathers, this means that he has also started to learn what his wings are for and can now fly, well sort of! He’s developed and fledged so well that he no longer comes home with us and is now staying out and living in an aviary. The decision is made when young owls live in aviary by what I call ‘the kitchen counter test’. If their flight feathers are formed and they can easily get up and down from the kitchen counter it’s time. It’s crazy that around a couple of month ago when he was a week old weighed in at 160g and was smaller than the size of coffee cup to today weighing in at 908g and working in demonstrations!

Phoenix in ‘World of Owls’ display – photo credit Sheila Ivison

Phoenix was the youngest member of Muncaster Hawk and Owl Centre’s flying team until two days ago when we had an arrival of new team member. A four week old Long-Eared owl. This is a stunning species of owl, that is also a native species that can be found in parts of this country. When they fly, their style of flight looks like a barn owl crossed with a butterfly and a bat! We have yet to decide on a name, but will hopefully soon decide on one. My niece and nephew saw a picture of the young owl and want the names “Fluffles or Flappy”. Emma is thinking “Darwin”. Anna is thinking “Leo” and George is thinking “Batman”. I wanted to go with the usual “Dave”! Once again, training starts young and he will be coming home with us every night until he completes the kitchen counter test. When he calls he sounds like a squeaky gate that needs oiling. Oh and yes he is a HE, unlucky for Emma and Anna but we have another boy on the team! We’ll keep you updated on No Name Yet progress.

 Young Long-Eared Owl

Every blog I always talk about birds and they are our lives, but I wanted to take this opportunity to thank people. Firstly the forestry, gardening and building team that are doing a fantastic job of the centres new aviaries, they’re like little worker ants never stopping and have lots of other work on the estate to do but the Hawk and Owl team appreciate their work that they do for us and it’s always a top job.

I also want to thank the Hawk and Owl Centre volunteers, Dawn and Tammy. Dawn is our long term volunteer and is always happy to give up her time two days a week. And Tammy is our newest volunteer who has been with us for over a month now and also gives up her time two days a week! It’s always nice having them both in as they’re very passionate about the birds and always have a smile on their faces, even when it’s raining! If you’re interested in volunteering and being a part of the Muncaster family send an enquiry to our volunteer coordinator on curator@

I’m going to finish this blog now as the squeaky gate is starting to call for his dinner!


2017-07-07T14:48:23+00:00Falconers Diary, Latest News|

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