Today we are back at Kirkleatham Owl Centre, giving you a behind the scenes tour. Read about the birds, watch their progress in training, and get up close and personal with other residents, including the meerkat and porcupine families. This week we look at the centre’s rehabilitation work.

Here at Kirkleatham Owl Centre wildlife rehabilitation work with sick and injured wildlife is a very important part of what we do.

We have always carried out rehabilitation work with a whole host of different species – although in recent years we have had to streamline it a little. What was in the early days mainly owls and birds of prey resulted in members of the public bringing us all manner of wildlife, from seagulls to squirrels, bats to blackbirds, an otter, a deer, we even had someone turn up with a seal in the boot of their car. Not surprisingly we don’t have anywhere to put a seal.

The Northern Echo: A cuckoo recovering at the centreA cuckoo recovering at the centre

These days we care for birds of prey, ducks, corvids (crows, magpies) and hedgehogs and this is made possible by a dedicated group of wildlife “rehabbers” who we work with each of whom focuses on a particular group of animals, be it ducks or hedgehogs and so on. This has made things much easier and far more efficient, though we are still happy to offer advice to the public regarding other creatures they may find injured or sick.

The Northern Echo: Baby hedgehog recuperating at the centreBaby hedgehog recuperating at the centre

During lockdown it was very, very quiet on the wildlife rehabilitation front, in fact for a number of weeks we did not have a single animal brought to us, just a few phone calls for advice, then within days of lockdown being lifted we were inundated with wildlife – almost all of it baby owls.

Lockdown being lifted coincided with the time baby owls were leaving their nests. This is always a busy time for us and the problem is that baby owls, tawny in particular, mainly leave the tree hole they have hatched in before they are fully feathered and often before they can fly.

The Northern Echo: The new arrivalsThe new arrivals

Members of the public often find a small fluffy baby owl sitting on the ground and, with good intentions, they then pick them up and bring to us or somewhere similar, but our advice is always the same – leave them where they are. They may look very vulnerable but mum and dad will be around, will care for them, protect and bring food to them on the ground, If they are sitting in the open, maybe on a footpath, scoop them up and pop in some undergrowth nearby,but parents will care for them.

We had six baby tawny owls brought to us this year and offered advice over the phone regarding about six more. The six that were brought to us at the centre are now in an aviary together at our friend’s farm getting ready for release, which is usually around mid August time.

They have what is known as a "soft release’’ – the birds live in the aviary, then the door will be left open allowing them to come and go while food will be provided for them for a number of weeks until they learn to be self sufficient.

We tend to get about tawny owls a year brought in, which is a fair few – our record though is nearly 50, but that was many years ago and we simply don’t get those numbers anymore, which is the result of a big drop in the population of tawny owls, or some other reason that we are not aware of.