Today we welcome the first chapter in a weekly diary from Kirkleatham Owl Centre, giving you a behind the scenes tour of the centre. Read about the birds in training, and get up close and personal with the other residents, including the meerkat and porcupine families

Let us introduce ourselves. We are Kirkleatham Owl Centre, located in the historic Kirkleatham village, near Redcar and, founded in 1990, we are the world’s oldest dedicated owl centre, although these days we have a lot more than just owls living with us.

The Northern Echo:

A resident Great Grey Owl

The centre is home to owls, vultures, emu, and bird species from across the world. We have our family groups of meerkat and porcupine and in and around the centre are many "wandering’’ birds, peacocks, guinea fowl and chickens which spend their time picnicking with visitors.

The Northern Echo:

A member of the centre's meerkat family

We are involved in a lot of educational work across the North-East and North Yorkshire and schools regularly visit us here at the centre, and we also go out to schools, taking with us many of our animals.

We undertake rehabilitation work with sick and injured birds of prey and we support conservation projects both abroad and here at home with our Wild Kirkleatham project.

The Northern Echo:

One of the birds of prey at the centre

We are mainly volunteer-run and we have a large dedicated (and somewhat eccentric) team of volunteers ranging in age from 16 years to, well, a tad over 70.

This year is our 30th anniversary and we had lots planned, but a little thing called a global pandemic happened and plans for celebration went out the window and focus shifted to making ends meet with the doors shut, no visitors and no source of income.

The last few months have been tough. A handful of people have continued working, after all animals still need caring for regardless of what is happening in the world outside and food and veterinary bills still need to be paid. We have lost much of our season and like all outdoor attractions we are very seasonal, the winter ahead will be tough.

The Northern Echo:

One of the owls you can see at the centre

However, we will hopefully reopen in the next few weeks and look forward to welcoming visitors back.

And we will be writing this diary each week about life at the centre from some of our biggest animal characters, exciting animal births, our volunteers and much more – life at the centre is never dull.