Undoubtedly, if you’ve read our blogs before, you’ll know that the Sanctuary is a bit like the Forth Railway Bridge, in constant need of repair, updating and sometimes good old fashioned replacement. Rain, snow, frost and the vigorous winds of Suffolk have all played their part in continually undermining the fabric of our substantially wooden structures, none moreso than one particular block of owl aviaries which - being on the edge of the wide open spaces of our flying ground - bear the brunt of our brisk nor' westerlies!
Being a charity, the tremendous support we receive from donors to help us maintain the centre in good order is vital and therefore we were very grateful last year to be given a donation specifically for restoring this particular suite of aviaries.
They were definitely beginning to look somewhat dilapidated and so, having planned, costed, drawn up the blueprints and sourced materials, Andy and the team began digging the footings. The concrete arrived with perfect timing late in January, the whole 4m very kindly donated by Eastern Concrete, to whom we are once again indebted for their continued & generous support!
Many thanks go too, to our regular volunteer Pete Ruddy who generously donated his time to lay all the blocks for the aviaries’ foundations.
Once the team had barrowed the concrete into the footings, Dean set about levelling it whilst the rest of the gang began proofing & painting wood in anticipation of the erection of all seven new aviaries, which should be completed in a few week's time, providing 5-star accommodation for all of our flying demonstration owls, including the newest member – Cecil the Spectacled Owl.
Keeping Up with the Wider Picture
A couple of weeks ago, we were invited to attend a meeting about the wider benefits of farming in the local area. We receive a lot of support from local farmers, who often allow us to put up nest boxes on their land or to release rehabilitated wild raptors on their property, so General Manager Andy thought it would be useful and informative for an S.O.S representative to attend.
The evening was hosted by URSUS Consulting, on behalf of Sustainability East (a group including Government Office, Defra, Natural England, NFU & CLA) and as well as ourselves, there were representatives from the local ramblers association, local organic and conventional farmers, country land owners and parish councillors.
The discussion focussed on aspects of concern such as increasing levels of soil erosion and looked ahead to the future priorities in farming in particular relation to food production, irrigation, fuel, wildlife and pest control.
Some changes are already being made, for example Rape fields in the area are now being directly drilled rather than ploughed, which not only cuts the farmers’ fuel costs by 50%, but also means that the stubble from the harvested crop provides an abundance of food for the local wildlife. Current thinking suggests that the future will bring wetter winters and warmer summers, thus giving rise to the need for the conservation of water during the winter to enable effective irrigation during the summer.
From our point of view, obviously all these factors have an impact on the local wildlife, including birds of prey, which generally speaking are at the top of the food chain. This in turn helps focus the work we do here at the Sanctuary, especially with regard to the rehabilitation and release of wild raptors. As it’s really important that we keep our finger on the pulse, it was very useful to be able to add our voice to what’s important to us locally and to take a hand in influencing emerging government policy.