Sunday, February 07, 2010

England Again!

Me with Chocolate the European Eagle Owl during "Meet the Birds" (photo by Trystan Williams)

Wow, it's been ridiculously long since I last posted. A lot has been happening in my life as well as Alice's! So I'll begin to start catching up on my sorely belated posting.
I spent the second half of October in England as part of my Bush Leadership Fellowship. I stayed with Tony Warburton (founder of the World Owl Trust) and his partner Jenny Thurston. The goal of my trip was to see a variety of owl centers, from good to bad, to give me some very clear ideas of what I do and don't want to do when I create a North American Owl Center in Houston, Minnesota.

Tony put a lot of thought and effort into crafting my itinerary, and when all was said and done I had traveled about 1,000 miles. But wow, was it worth it!! I got all kinds of great ideas, talked to phenomenal and passionate people, and had great discussions about it all with Tony.

While I was there I visited Furness Owls, Yorkshire Dales Falconry Centre, the Hawk Conservancy Trust, the International Centre for Birds of Prey, and Dave Bellis (the best private owl breeder in the UK.) But I spent the most time at the World Owl Centre...the facility Tony started.

The World Owl Centre is located at Muncaster Castle in Ravenglass in the Lake District. It is phenomenally beautiful there, between the castle and the grounds. Throw in the owl centre and it's like I was in heaven.

I was lucky enough to spend two days working with the keepers there (Wulf, Michelle, Trystan and Vicky), learning how they care for the owls, observing (and even getting to participate in!) the daily Meet the Birds program, asking them all kinds of questions about Great Horned Owl behavior and vocalizations (they breed South American Horned Owls there, so this was awesome from my perspective of conducting a vocal study on the species!), and more.

I spent time with their Conservation Officer, Hilary Lang. While I was out with her she checked on some Barn Owls at a mining museum along the sea and in a farmer's barn. It was interesting to see how the people there all seem to be so interested in helping owls!

I also spent a lot of time on the road with David Armitage, the Collection Manager. He was the one who did all the driving to all the other facilities I visited. I do have to say it's a whole different ballgame in England since you can buy, sell and trade owls there. And since the owls are captive reared, it's much easier to train them to fly for audiences. It gave me lots to think about.

I can't even begin to give details on this whole trip or I'd find myself writing a book. Suffice it to say it was a trip of a lifetime (although I think this is the third time I've had a "trip of a lifetime!") I owe an ENORMOUS thanks to Tony for arranging this all and for graciously and generously hosting me in his home the whole time (and thanks to Jenny too!!)