What a hoot! Baby owl joy

Baby barn owls Beverley and Howard.
Baby barn owls Beverley and Howard.
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The Bird of Prey Centre at Swinton Park near Masham has welcomed the arrival of two baby barn owls during its breeding season.

The pair, aged three to four weeks, have been named Beverley and Howard – after the town Beverley and Castle Howard – and more arrivals maybe on the way with four eggs still unhatched.

Baby great grey owl, Willow.

Baby great grey owl, Willow.

“We’re really pleased,” said assistant Mandy Abbott, who works alongside her daughter and centre manager, Sophie Abbott.

It is the third year the centre has run a barn owl breeding programme with chicks born in both 2012 and 2013.

According to the Barn Owl Trust, 2013 was a particularly poor breeding year for the birds but Mandy said anecdotal evidence from visitors to the centre suggested numbers in the local population were on the up.

“The two hard winters were a real struggle for all the small birds of prey but this year they are all really picking up – there’s been a real increase with the mild winter we’ve had,” she said.

The centre now has six breeds of owl following the latest arrival, which it has bought – Willow, a baby great grey owl aged about six weeks who is just learning to fly.

The Bird of Prey Centre is running children’s falconry lessons on Wednesdays at 10.30am throughout the summer holidays. For more details phone Swinton Park on 01765 680900.