Last weekend, S, his dad and I went to Manydown farm in Basingstoke because I’d heard that they were going to have some feathered visitors – Owls from Hilltop Birds of Prey.
Anyone who has been following this blog for a while will know that I’m interested in owls. Anyone who knows me in real life will know my owl handbag that comes everywhere with me. You may have also seen my post about the rare breed farm and owl centre.
Whilst owls are wild birds, as someone who can’t see them, I’m always interested in getting closer to those birds that are comfortable with it, so that I can find out what they look like.
The birds from Hilltop Birds of Prey have all been rescued from somewhere, so they have not been specifically bred or taken from the wild. They may have been bought for children by parents who didn’t do their homework first or realise that an owl is not a pet that needs no looking after. They might have come from a zoo. Each one has its own story and I’ve put the link to Hilltop Birds of Prey at the end of the article.
These birds live at Hilltop Farm with other rescued animals such as a couple of donkeys and a rescue dog.
Meeting the owls
The first owl that we met was Jackson, a tawny owl who was only a year old. This made him the youngest of the owls there, but he is fully grown. He is still getting used to people, and although he perched quietly when we met him, he wasn’t quite as chilled out as some of the others who, like a dog, would just relax and let you stroke them for ages!
Fun fact: Tawny owls have short wing spans, which makes it easier for them to hunt in woodland.
Next came Wispa, the Little Owl. She was a little owl, but that is also her owl type. At over 10 years of age, she was a mature lady, and was very comfortable being handled. She was very small, but then being a little owl, that’s not surprising.
Fun facts: little Owls are between 21-23 cm long, with a wing-span of 54.58 cm. They were introduced to the UK in the 19th century.
When Wispa went back, the next thing I heard was the flapping of some big wings! So I guessed the next owl we would meet would be larger.
And it was – it was Yorkie, the European Eagle Owl. She has powerful wings, but isn’t bothered much about flying. She knows her food will be provided, and she was happy just to sit there being admired!
Fun fact – the European Eagle Owl is the largest species of owl. They liv all over mainland Europe and there are a lot of them in Scandinavia. They are also breeding more in the UK now.
The final bird, whom we didn’t meet, but who was also there was Fox, the Peregrine Falcon, whose official name is fox’s Glacier mint. You may have noticed the confectionery theme of Wispa, Yorkie and Fox’s Mints!
There was no entry fee to see the owls, but you could make a donation to support the running of the centre and looking after the owls. Mike was happy to answer my questions about where the owls came from, what they ate, how they got along (very well seeing how close they were together), and where they lived (each in their own space).
Find out more about the owls
The owls are not usually at Manydown –they just came for a visit.
This is the link for the Hilltop Birds of Prey website, which is not open to the public. So if you want to go and visit, you need to sort out the details in advance.
The Manydown shop
While we were there, we also bought some things from the shop, including some diced beef for a stroganoff, some sage and onion sausages, and some lamb kebabs. All very good quality and reasonably priced. Oh, and caramel shortbread, which I can also recommend for a sugar hit! They have a good range of meats, ready-to-go snacks, sauces, chutneys, biscuits, cakes, tarts – and there’s a Facebook page for the farm shop too.
What is your favourite type of owl?
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