Early summer is generally an extremely busy time for the Suffolk Owl Sanctuary’s raptor hospital.
This is the season when baby owls and other birds of prey which have fallen from nests swell the numbers of regular casualties, including chimney falls, road traffic accidents and cases of malnutrition and exposure.
Generally, the tiny patients admitted to the hospital ward are merely in need of regular food, protection from predators and time and space to build strength in order to progress to the
rehabilitation aviaries at the centre and then to a hack box in the seclusion of nearby habitat.
“Hacking out” is a term used for the gradual release of young birds back into the wild. This is done by establishing a protected nest box, which offers free access to a terrain of optimum subsistence. Over several years, the sanctuary has developed a network of private local hack sites, each managed and protected by a guardian landowner. These generous individuals will help our team by spending time feeding and observing the young birds being released until full maturity and strength gives them the confidence to strike out from the hack box and gain full independence.
However, the recent prolonged spell of hot, dry weather, has had a marked effect on the numbers of young birds being rehabilitated and then put out to hack. Indeed the weather has had a devastating effect on every tier of the food chain, meaning that even those predators at the top of the chain such as owls and other birds of prey have been compromised.
Drought conditions dictate that the small mammal population will be diminished - in turn, other birds and animals dependent on this food source will also experience a reduction in numbers of young. We're currently witnessing that smaller numbers of progeny are being recorded as our volunteer team begin the annual survey of our wild owl nest box scheme.
It is hoped that this trend will revert to normal once weather conditions become less extreme.