Families: The Scottish Owl Centre
WHO WOULD have thought a teenager would be afraid of pushchairs? However, the teenager in question is Sarabi, a 17-year-old milky eagle owl who lives at the Scottish Owl Centre in Polkemmet Country Park.
There are three flying demonstrations held daily, and it is during one of these shows that we learn all about Sarabi, who is slowly overcoming her fear of buggies.
The displays happen within a purpose-built indoor arena. This means the unpredictable Scottish weather doesn’t play havoc with the aerial displays. Trystan, the chief handler, explains that as Sarabi has been raised in captivity, the noises she makes are still those of a young owl asking for food from its parents. She manages to behave at our session, flying between posts on command, in return for chicken treats.
Another character we meet is Broo, the four-year-old, Eurasian eagle owl. Rod Angus, the centre owner, explains all about this species as Broo swoops low over our heads, delighting us all.
With me today are my partner Graham, my daughters, Eve and Hope, plus Jared, one of Hope’s school chums. We are all impressed by Broo’s aerial skills, but equally enchanted by her comical walk to return to her carrying case at the end of the session.
Next up is Lofty, the three-year-old barn owl. As she soars overhead, we learn all about her habitat and her prey.
Flying demonstrations over, there is then an opportunity for a closer look or to pay a little extra to get a photograph taken with the stars of the show. However, we head off to find out more about the native long eared owls. They look as if they have been stretched, with a permanently surprised expression and the brightest orange eyes. I also like Hosking the tawny owl, although he is hiding in the nest box. Tawny owls are the ones responsible for the iconic twit-twoo sound, the male bird answering the females’ initial call.
We are treated to a rare sight of the great grey owl hopping down for a drink. He then puts his head on one side before giving us a very hard stare indeed. He can catch voles, even if they are hidden under 30cm of snow. Two snowy owls look delighted to be soaking up the sun, in their sheltered walled garden enclosure.
There is even a rainforest area with a mottled owl with a crazy feather hairdo, stripy banded owls and tiny ferruginous pygmy owls and the delightfully named southern boo book owl, named after its unique Australian call.
Who would have thought there could be so many owls, from all around the world in one place?
The Scottish Owl Centre is open seven days a week, from 10:30am-5pm; adult tickets cost £7.50, children aged three-15 cost £5.50; family tickets for two adults and two children are available for £24; www.scottishowlcentre.com; for further ideas for family days out, see www.visitwestlothian.co.uk
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Weather for Edinburgh
Tuesday 21 May 2013
Temperature: 6 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 12 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 3 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: North west