Owl baby boom at Baytree in Weston

New star Murray in action in the outdoor arena at Baytree Owl and Wildlife Centre. Photo (TIM WILSON): SG070416-109TW
New star Murray in action in the outdoor arena at Baytree Owl and Wildlife Centre. Photo (TIM WILSON): SG070416-109TW
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Easter eggs at Baytree Owl and Wildlife Centre have brought some tiny bundles of joy into the world.

March-July is the centre’s busiest season for the hatching of baby owls, known as owlets.

Photographed the day they were born  a Eurasian Eagle Owl and Peruvian Striped Owl. SG070416-100TW

Photographed the day they were born  a Eurasian Eagle Owl and Peruvian Striped Owl. SG070416-100TW

Our photographer Tim Wilson captured shots of owlets less than a day old, including a Eurasian Eagle Owl and a Peruvian Striped Owl, when he visited the centre at Weston on Thursday.

There were 16 babies in the brood (incubator) room that day.

Visitors can watch the babies through the brood room mirrored-glass windows, but some can also be seen in the Gift Shop as Mark places a box in there around now.

Owl centre boss Mark Birdsall said: “Generally, when we get to the end of April, May or June there’s 30-40 babies knocking about at once.”

It’s weird teaching a bird how to fly. In the wild, they learn from their parents by watching them.

Mark Birdsall

Some are kept at Baytree while others go into breeding programmes at similar centres around the country, which is vital for the conservation of rarer species.

The centre’s oldest resident, Gracie (28), helped out with the baby boom by sitting on an egg and hatching it ... but she didn’t get the hang of feeding her young charge so it was back to Mark to hand-rear the owlet.

Once hatched, owls grow rapidly – like Murray the Indian Eagle Owl, who was 12-weeks-old when we photographed him in late February.

Murray was well into his training then to make his debut in the centre’s daily 1.30pm flying displays, which began on Good Friday, and he’s doing a great job.

An Indian Eagle Owl aged two-and-a-half weeks. SG070416-102TW

An Indian Eagle Owl aged two-and-a-half weeks. SG070416-102TW

Mark taught Murray to fly inside a polytunnel and now the young bird is learning more skills in the great outdoors.

Mark said: “It’s weird teaching a bird how to fly. In the wild, they learn from their parents by watching them.

“Indoors he’s fine, but it’s different out in the weather when it’s windy – he doesn’t always know when to put the brakes on and when to stop flapping. He’s still building his confidence.”

Murray joined the flying display team following the devastating theft of Kevin the Great Grey Owl in mid-February. News of Kevin’s theft was shared by nearly half-a-million people on Facebook. Mark believes the iconic owl was stolen to order and may never be returned.

Owl centre boss Mark Birdsall with Murray, who made his flying display debut on Good Friday, SG070416-112TW

Owl centre boss Mark Birdsall with Murray, who made his flying display debut on Good Friday, SG070416-112TW

He says: “A day doesn’t go by without someone asking about Kevin.”

Previously ...

Great Grey owl Kevin stolen from Baytree at Weston

Police probe theft of Kevin the owl from Baytree at Weston

‘Teenager’ Murray is the new star among the frequent flyers at Baytree Owl Centre

Baytrees oldest resident, Gracie (28).  SG0704-114TW

Baytrees oldest resident, Gracie (28). SG0704-114TW

A high powered torch is used to check development inside an owl egg.

A high powered torch is used to check development inside an owl egg.