My wife is mad about owls and every holiday plan has to include a search for an owl centre either en-route or where we are staying.

May 2014 - A family of Tawny owls in and around our garden

After years of visiting owl sanctuaries, and hearing them locally but never seeing them, for about a week we had them in oak trees at the bottom of our garden and in neighbours gardens.

Initially I could hear a very quiet hooting one evening and looked up to see an adult. Almost immediately another adult flew in, seemed to give the other one something, which then promptly flew off to another oak a couple of gardens away. For a couple of evenings it carried on like this, with the one adult hunting in the gardens.

One day we heard blackbirds and crows making a fuss and we could see a large adult in our tree. A day or so later my wife was really excited to see a young owl in the same tree - small, grey and fluffy, where it stayed for a couple of days. More trouble with crows, trying to mob the adult who was keeping them away from the young one. Every now and again the adult would turn and attack the crows, and eventually they flew off and left them in peace. A couple of days later we see the second adult again, the young one still in the tree, when a second young one arrived in broad daylight! Noticeably bigger than the first one, but still grey and fluffy. They gradually moved from tree to tree down the road over the next couple of days and out of sight.

Then about a week later at 9pm a right carry on out the front this time with two crows really going at the adult, we really feared for its safety. The smaller young one was on a rooftop nearby, thankfully the crows were giving all their attention to the adult, who every now and again really turned on the crows and did seem to be able to look after herself.

August 2012 - Shuttleworth Birds of Prey Centre

Our first time here, didn't know of its existence until we started planning a trip to the Shuttleworth Collection. Odd to find this so close to a working airstrip, but they have a huge number of birds and there was an excellent flying display. Flying two and three at a time, of all kinds, with an excellent commentary. Highlights were when a Peregrine cross went into a stoop during its display, and a pair of 'freelance' Red Kites were soaring overhead during the display. Very busy, with several groups having booked special events, including archery and rifle shooting (not at the birds, one hopes).

July 2011 - a return to Turbary Woods

Less birds flying this year as they were displaying at two shows elsewhere, but in compensation we had the opportunity to don the glove and receive them, as well as a guided tour of the enclosures, including a visit to a rare Goshawk recently received, which is normally off-limits to the public. Another really enjoyable visit.

August 2008 - Turbary Woods Owl and Bird of Prey Sanctuary, Preston

We have never come across such enthusiastic and informative people as at Turbary Woods, and every one is an unpaid volunteer. Lots of birds and a superb flying display that lasted about an hour and a half, we spent most of the afternoon here. We had to leave just before the end as we were en route to Skipton and the chief handler was so concerned we were going to miss one of his favourites - a Tawny, he went and fetched the owl and brought it over to show us especially.

August 2008 - Thorpe Perrow Arboretum

Not just one owl sanctuary on the Saturday, but another on the Sunday. A beautiful setting in what was originally the walled kitchen garden of Thorpe Perrow House, another fine set of birds and a fine display putting a Saker Falcon through its paces amongst others. Something we hadn't seen elsewhere was the opportunity for the Navigator to hold a Barn Owl, which thrilled her to bits.

May 2008 - Rutland Falconry and Owl Centre

Quite a good display of birds, although no facilities and the portaloo is best avoided (loos at Rutland Water car parks nearby). It was just a 'lunch-stop' on the way to Norfolk, but in the end we ate elsewhere so didn't stop long enough for the flying display.

May 2005 - Suffolk Owl Sanctuary, Stonham Barns

Suppliers of the Owl Barn mail-order catalogue

October 2003 - The International Birds of Prey Centre, Newent, Gloucester

A lovely site on the borders of Gloucestershire and Herefordshire. Superb flying displays, very informative, and the peoples favourite was probably the burrowing owls. Lots of bird barns dotted here and there so you are never sure what you are going to find next and have no idea of the size of the site from the ground. At the end of 2003 the owner is leaving and taking about 3/4 of the birds to a new project in South Carolina, USA, so the new owners will have their work cut out to give as good value for money. However there are so many birds there at present it is quite possible that there will still be the same variety of species, just not so many examples of each.

July 2003 - Cheshire Waterlife Aquatic and Falconry Centre Blakemere Craft Centre, Northwich, Cheshire

Quite a small site but some nice birds and an interesting flying display, made an ideal spot for a picnic on a hot and sunny day.

October 2002 - Otter, Owl and Wildlife Park, New Forest

During our 2002 visit to the New Forest we visited here for the first time and were impressed with the variety of wildlife including owls and the spacious and beautiful surroundings they were kept in.

May 1999 - New Forest Owl Sanctuary, Ringwood in Hampshire

We were taking part in the inaugural New Forest Run staying in the area at Brockenhurst. As well as ponies with foals right outside the hotel bedroom window we found an owl sanctuary near Ringwood. We were on the run at the time so only had time to spend about an hour there but plan to go back in 2000 for a longer visit. We did.

July 1998 - Kirkleatham Owl Centre, North Yorkshire.

We missed the flying display but got to meet the baby owls.

Other links:

The Owl Barn online shop Owls in mythology
Owlcam. Fascinating account of the building and use of a nesting box fitted with a camera. The Owl Pages
The Hawk Conservancy and Country Park, Andover, Hampshire. Includes Owls.