Saturday, 14 March 2015

March 13 The UEA

I was invited by my brother's fiancee's family to the UEA (University of East Anglia) for a lecture called 'The Wonderful World of Owls'. A falconry group from Yorkshire has brought their owls to show and tell us all. The lecture was to give us a guided tour of the world's owls and what makes them unique and popular. There was an owl representing each continent as well as video footage of other owls from across the globe.

Barn Owl
Our first owl of the night was from much closer to home, the barn owl. It flew over our heads like a white ghost. It gave us a demonstration of how silent it can fly. Those rounded wings are covered in special feathers that have fringed edges to reduce turbulance and cut out sound while it is flying. It flies past us without us knowing it is coming. It's face is like a satellite dish, able to detect the faintest rustle. It's large dark eyes sat in the centre of this white dish stares at you intently. It has something human about the look of an owl. It is probably why these birds are well loved.

Snowy Owl
Our whistle stop tour of the world's owls take us next to the Arctic with a snowy owl. Snowy owls are as white as snow but they don't need to hide from predators as they are fierce protectors of their young. These owls have attitude! They can even fend off wolves by dive bombing them with their talons out. Living in a tree-less environment, you have to be bold. But I find it sad that this tough bird is more well known for appearing in the Harry Potter movies as a clumsy messenger and not as an Arctic survivor.

Burrowing Owl
The Americas have many amazing species of owl. Brought out for us next was tiny but full of character. Burrowing owls are small, speckly brown birds that dig burrows in the American deserts. We were told that they were like the bird equivalent of a meerkat as they stand together above the burrow looking for danger. We were shown a clip of a group of burrowing owls doing just that but with one owl digging. The soil flew into the faces of the ones standing behind. This made everyone laugh.

Before we were shown another owl from another continent, the falconers brought over a basket. Inside, were two fluffy baby barn owls. They seemed to be a hit. Everyone in the room went 'awww!!' One was slightly bigger than the other but both were still small and covered in their baby downy feathers.
Baby Barn Owl

After the 'Cute Factor' left, we continued our owl tour with a Boobook owl representing Australia and  an Asian brown wood owl. The finale had three of the biggest owls in the collection on display, a spotted eagle owl (from South Africa), a great horned owl (from North America) and the biggest of all, a European eagle owl. It was a good lecture and I think everyone has learned quite a lot about owls tonight. What fascinating birds they are. No wonder people love owls, me included.

Boobook Owl
Asian Brown Wood Owl
Great Horned Owl
Spotted Eagle Owl
European Eagle Owl

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