...and breathe!

August 1, 2022

Well, here we are pretty much at the end of yet another extremely busy baby bird season. Yes, there are still a few nestlings around (mainly wood pigeons as pictured in this report), and of course the migratory birds such as the house martins and swallows. The swifts have already started their migration southbound in many areas.

I have seen many wildlife rescues suffering real hardship this year with the knock-on effect of the Pandemic; very limited numbers of volunteers and of those good volunteers whom had to be restricted due to space limitations/regulations ... many have found 'new interests' and not returned to helping save those wild bird lives.

A further knock-on effect of this means the Sanctuaries having to limit their own intakes so they can cope with the number of staff/volunteers now available, and thus in June/July of this year I have seen more rescues 'closed to new admittances' than for a long long time. Hopefully as August proceeds, this will ease as the young birds progress, then we can get back to sorting out the walking wounded and once again collectively return huge numbers back to the wild.

Many thanks to you all for your continued support of Three Owls.



Drs Rest 15 acres of wild flowers

July 19, 2022

I could smell the clover before i got there! 15 acres of wild flowers, i counted 15 swifts and house martins hunting overhead. The Brown Hares are loving that clover, i nearly trod on a leveret - i expect there are others 




The Meadow Reserve

July 19, 2022

Just two acres with incredible bioderversity The new hedge is huge now. Home to Linnets, Whitethroat and Songthushes. Housemartins have moved in attracted by the mud banks round the new pond to make their nests.

Cheers David 


Hot weather - help!

July 13, 2022

A huge number of calls these past few evenings regarding birds struggling in the heat over recent days. As always, access to clean water is as important to our wild birds and animals, just as it is for us and indeed our own pets.

There is an added problem for the migratory birds such as swifts/swallows/house martins, as the mud which 'sticks' their nests to the walls of our houses and outbuildings, is in grave danger or drying out prematurely, which the result that the nest comes crashing to the ground.

You may also find other birds struggling in the heat; if you find a bird which has collapsed, it can often be revived using a sugar-water solution (half a teaspoon of sugar dissolved in a mug of water - to get the correct consistency). Depending on the type/size of bird, it may open its beak for your to drop the water in, or you may need to dip the birds beak into the liquid, or (if a small bird) run the liquid along the crack of it's beak, whereupon it should get a taste and open its beak for some more.

Keep the bird confined and on a towel while it recovers from the heat - don't forget the air holes in the box, and keep the box in the shade.

If feeding the wild birds with dried mealworms - please remember to soak them for 30 minutes first; otherwise the parents may feed them to their young and leave them severely dehydrated as the nestlings cannot get out for a drink themselves.

Many thanks for caring.



The report of the 2022 Manchester to Blackpool Bike Event by John Thorpe.

July 11, 2022

I'm sure the majority of you will be delighted to hear that I survived the annual test of grit, tenacity and padded underwear, and am here to recount this tale of cycling derring-do for your delectation. As I am always at great pains to say, the opinions, comments and any controversial remarks are entirely my own, and are made without apology and are not necessarily the opinions of the Trustees of Three Owls. Anyone of a nervous or delicate disposition should perhaps read something more gentile or take a sedative prior to reading!

        As always, the event seems to roll around all too quickly, particularly so this year, and I realised only a week or so before the event that I needed to get my act together and my entry form filled in. First job was to check with my friend Les whether the date was convenient for him, since for the past few years he has been kind enough to meet me in Blackpool and transport myself and the trusty bike back to Bury. Fortunately it was fine, since his other half, a keen gardener was going to Birmingham on a horticultural related trip, so I did not need to book transport back with Bike Events. Not that I have any criticism of their facilities, it simply meant that the cost could be saved.

              Next job was to make sure that the cycle was fully functional and in running order. Since it is kept indoors and not used a huge amount, it does not suffer from the elements or excessive wear and tear. However it never does to be complacent and so everything was checked over. The main problem was the back tyre, which of course supports a lot of weight, with the rider and any 'luggage'. I had grown increasingly unhappy with the tyre I have used for the last two occasions, as I mentioned last year, and it's anti puncture capabilities were, I felt, somewhat overstated, given that I'd had several punctures to show for it.

       Although spending money is never something to be taken lightly nowadays, I enquired with the chaps at Halfords, and was recommended a super-dooper one which has a double skin, and came highly recommended by one of their very experienced customers. The price tag of thirty four pounds was a bit eye watering and I almost needed a lie down in a darkened room and liberal supplies of sedatives and Southern Comfort! However if it lasts and does the job it's an investment, and anything that can save time and effort on a long ride is worth it. It certainly had a decent amount of tread, something most of the other slimline tyres distinctly lack in my experience. 

        It does seem ironic that you have to pay more to get what you got as standard years ago-there's a moral there somewhere! Anyway the tyre was duly fitted and seemed fine, and the chain was lubricated with some stuff which I use on my motorcycle chain. The axles, which are so thin it's amazing they don't snap with  the pressure on them, were treated to a liberal application of silicone grease, which I picked up for a very nice price at the car boot sale. I didn't realise how costly it is normally until I did an online check, so had the immense satisfaction of getting a bargain and using the best!

                The day before the event I gave my rabbit, Robbie, as much time indoors as I could and had an early night, something I haven't done for a while I must admit. As I always do, I got his breakfast ready in advance, my own breakfast and the food for the tortoises, to save time in the morning, I gave the bike one last check and was glad I had done, since in my haste, I'd put the front wheel round the wrong way, and the little magnetic piece which helps the cycle computer to read the speed and various other calculations, was on the wrong side. Thankfully this was easily solved, but it only goes to show we can all make mistakes.

        Next morning I was up at 4.00 am and after doing everything necessary for the animals, left the house at 5.30, hoping that I didn't get any punctures on the way into Manchester. As always, this does allow me to relax and let the muscles get into a rhythm, and thankfully I had a trouble free ride, arriving at The Piazza at Salford Quays an hour later.

      There were already a few riders there as well, of course as the Bike events staff setting up the facilities for the start, which was due to be 7.30'ish.I asked whether my friend Rick, 'The Voice of the Ride' was around, but like last year he wasn't, and the staff member said they'd had complaints from the people who lived in the flats that there was too much noise with the commentary, so they couldn't use a microphone this early.

         It isn't the same without his brand of wit and deadpan humour, and it feels as if a bit of the fun has been eroded because of the location. I have to say that my own preference is for the car park at the Manchester United ground or the Town Hall Square.

              I had made a laminated sign with the words' 33 in a row', and managed to get one of the staff to pose with me for a piccie, so that there would be a record of the fact. Given that I don't know how long the event will continue into the future, I might be a bit premature in saying that this record is unlikely to be equalled or beaten, but I feel fairly confident in saying it anyway. Put another way of course, you could say that no one is going to be insane enough to put themselves through it every year for over thirty years, and perhaps that's a comment on their sensibility and my lack of it!

       I got talking to a group of Philippine riders who were doing the ride for the first time, and tried to pass on a few little tips and wrinkles I'd learned over the years. Nice bunch of lads who were obviously very proud of their homeland, as evidenced by the messages on their riding shirts. It does seem that the event is attracting a more diverse range of entrants than it used to, and while I have no time for the 'woke' obsession with diversity, it's no bad thing for the ride and its image.

                     After picking up my information pack and making a few last minute checks, (mainly were the tyres still inflated!), I joined the bunch of riders at the start and left at 7.15 am. Unbelievably my ride very nearly ended before it had started, since someone in a car parked by the side of the road, opened their door as I was riding past. The culprit was actually a rider, as evidenced by his clothing, and I pointed out how stupid his actions were - or words to that effect!

          As always it's a good idea to just settle down quietly in the early stages and not go too mad in wasting energy (especially when it's in short supply anyway!), and I settled down to set a steady pace which I hoped would allow me to get to the other end in one piece and with all my body parts still attached!

               As we negotiated several roundabouts, my mind went back to 2020, when I did it entirely alone and in the dark for the first hour or so. I managed to lose my bearings and waste precious time, and it did bring a sense of appreciation for the help the Marshalls and others give the riders in terms of direction and taking the worry of navigation off their shoulders. The route was pretty much the same as last year, and headed northwest through Salford and Astley Green, before swinging north through Leigh and Atherton and on to Westhoughton. About an hour into the journey I felt there was something not right with the front wheel, and pulled over to check it. Naturally I'd had a puncture, and thankfully had brought along several inner tubes ready to fit. I'm pretty good at this by now, but anyone who says they enjoy having punctures and taking wheels off on the road is a masochist! I only lost ten minutes thankfully, and carried on, but did note that several riders did ask whether I was OK- an improvement on last year when quite a few sailed by without bothering. It's not just a matter of  manners, but it could save someone a lot of time and stress, since not everyone is experienced, and many do not carry repair kits or spare tubes. Of course this is foolish on a long journey like this one, but as we all know, there are a lot of foolish people about.

           I certainly didn't agree with all John Wayne's statements or attitudes, away from the screen, but I did read a great quote, attributed to him which said; ' Life is hard - it's even harder when you're stupid!'

On the subject of great Wayne quotes, another one was uttered when he attended a university debating event, and was asked by one of the students if the hair on his head was real. He was quoted as saying 'It sure is son, it's not my hair but it's real hair!'

               It's a  strange feeling, probably only really appreciated by other experienced cyclists, that when you've had a puncture, you spend a lot of time 'feeling' the way the tyre runs on the road, as if you're expecting but not wanting another puncture. The weather had by now turned warmer, after a bit of a cloudy start, and looked set to be a good one. I always ride better when it's warm, since I feel so much better, and a good mental attitude is all important when you're exerting yourself like this. We arrived at the lovely country park Haigh Hall (pronounced 'Hay’), and I took a break from 9.50 to 10.20. It's so tempting to take longer, but there's still a long way to go, and given that, like many of us, I'm basically lazy and will take  the easy option of a rest if there's one going, I've learned over the years to be strict about this. Taking on fluid and food is important, especially on a hot day when perspiration is an issue, and I was tempted by a nearby ice cream van. I got a large tub with all the trimmings, and I have to say it was some of the nicest ice cream I have ever tasted. Made by Holden’s, it was home made, and it tasted like it- if anyone from Holden’s reads this I will accept a consignment of ice cream in return for the advertising if you're feeling so inclined!

                I also spotted of all things, an original Chopper bike, complete with high level handlebars and classic seat. I couldn't help being nosey and asked the man who was riding it whether it was comfortable over a long distance such as this. He said it was, and had had a few modifications, such as chain and gear set up. He had a shoulder problem in his left arm, and the handlebar set up meant he didn't have to lean forward and put strain on it. I've seen all sorts of bikes over the years, including a penny farthing on this year's event, but I don't think I've ever seen a Chopper before. The originals had a gear stick on the frame forward of the seat, which was revolutionary at the time, but unfortunately caused several injuries to the nether regions of riders if they braked suddenly and shot forward onto it!.Later models left out the gear lever, which was a great relief for all young riders!

      There was also a father and daughter taking part. He'd done it for around fifteen years but this was her first attempt, and I thought what a great test of character for her, and something to remember, even if she never does it again. Kids are far too mollycoddled now, in my opinion, and it would be a great way to teach her independence and a sense of self reliance.

      It was time to leave so I wished them a safe journey and walked back up to the road to set off. On the way I got a great photo of huge metal bee, which was a symbol of Manchester's intolerance of violence, and marvelled at the time it must have taken to construct it.

        The last section of the road through Haigh Hall leads to the main road where I turned the bike's nose left and onwards to Preston, via Standish, Coppull, Charnock Richard and Chorley. The weather was simply superb, and the occasional breeze made riding such a pleasure. I couldn't help thinking of the long hot summers of my childhood in the fifties, and how the whole day seemed to stretch out in front of us endlessly, with a promise of fun, adventure and probably skinned knees and a few bruises. It's a miracle any of us are still here!

             It was on this section that I encountered four lads standing by an upturned bike by the side of the road, and shouted to see if all was well. "No', came back the answer, and I pulled over to see if I could help.

On enquiring what the problem was they told me they'd been there for about half an hour trying to get the chain back over the cogs on the back wheel, and get the wheel back in place. I offered to have a look, and gave a few words of advice as the positioning, as one of the lads tried again. Amazingly it went back on first time, and they all treated me as if I'd worked miracles! I did point out in the interests of modesty and accuracy that I'd not really done anything, but they wouldn't have it, and when I said I'd got a chain splitter with me if they'd needed it, it was greeted with rapturous cries of "He's got a chain splitter!'

               I left basking in a certain amount of unwarranted adulation, but hey you take compliments where you can find them!

       Before too long we reached the start of the carriageway which runs in a straight line for several miles into Preston and the docks area where we take a break. Although the day was fantastic, I still adopted the tactic I've worked out over the years with this stretch of road-head down and just keep pedalling steadily. The reason being that it can become very fatiguing if you allow yourself to think too much about how long the road is. The road runs through Farrington Moss on the left, and it must be an interesting place to visit for a walk, but of course there was no time for such luxuries on the day of the ride.

              Finally, we negotiated a couple of roundabouts (always good fun when joining with other traffic!) and set off down the road into Preston, reaching the dockside area at 12.30. I had a twenty minute break, just enough to eat, drink and stretch, and then back in the saddle again for the last part of the journey, which takes riders through some lovely villages and little communities in the flat countryside of the Fylde. Just as riders set off on this section, there is a steep little road which is flanked by an open park area to the right, and the smell of warm grass brought the temptation to get off and lie down in the sun, but of course that would mean one probably wouldn't want to get back on again!

           This is probably the most scenic part of the trip, especially on a glorious Summer day ,and the fields, hedges, farms and cottages on either side of the road make it a joy, even if the legs are a bit stiff at times! The villages of Cottam and Treales were almost 'chocolate box' perfect in the sun, and it was easy to be lulled into relaxing too much and hitting the potholes and bits of rough surface. You can never truly relax when cycling, because things can go very wrong very quickly if you do, and all it takes is a wheel wobble and a miscalculation while passing someone and you can find yourself shaking hands with a hawthorn hedge- not something I would recommend!

       I was observing the way some drivers negotiated passing cyclists, in the wake of the changes to the Highway Code, which call for six feet of space, and while I'm all for sensible safety measures, I've no time for making changes simply to make it look as if one is doing something to earn one's no doubt substantial salary working for the Ministry of Transport! In reality you can't carry a tape measure around with you, and common sense is all that's needed. Some drivers seemed almost to be afraid of passing cyclists, and as a result were too hesitant and held up everyone else behind them. Equally as always, some of the riders showed about as much sense as Matt Hancock near a security camera, riding four abreast and refusing to move over, and even straying into the opposite lane. I don't defend bad riding simply because I’m also a cyclist, and I don't particularly have any sympathy with the people who think they can ride all over the road and get away with it. Personal responsibility isn't a big thing with most people I'm afraid.

                I glanced over to what I think was a nursery on the right, which had a sign outside reading 'Open as usual', and not long afterwards we passed Kirkham Prison. Just as well they haven't got a similar sign outside-it might create the wrong impression!  Warton was next, and then we began the final stretch which runs along the west coast to Lytham. The lovely Green area with its iconic windmill, much photographed and beloved by generations of holiday makers, loomed up on the left, and again the temptation to get off and have a lie down on the expanse of warm grass in the sun. This stretch can be a real trial on a day when the weather isn't so kind, and the onshore wind is fierce and unrelenting. I've known years when it was better to get off and push than kill oneself trying to battle against a wind that was pushing the bike backwards! Luckily this day wasn't one of those, and the wind was mild and cooling. At a set of traffic lights just before this, a lady rider remarked 'well we're on the last leg now',   'Yes," I replied, 'but the bad news is it seems to go on forever!' 'Oh don't say that", she said with a hurt look. What could I say; I'm not going to lie!

              The sky was blue and the heat was hitting us like a wall along this stretch, which truly does seem to last forever. I've spoken to drivers, who've said the same thing, and they've got an engine to take the strain! I have to confess that the muscles were beginning to feel it a bit at this point, but with the end, if not actually in sight, but at any rate imminent, I gritted the teeth and just kept up as steady a rate as I could.

                  Holiday makers were strolling along the greens and the sandy dune areas by the side of the road, and I couldn't help but think how nice it would be to be able to take your time and not hurry, but I had a schedule, and was aware that my friend Les would be waiting for me. Although to be honest he was quite happy watching the world, and the girls go by, and had probably forgotten all about me!

         There were a lot of parked vehicles along this section, and it's always a bit of a strain on the nerves because at any time someone could throw a door open carelessly and spoil your day in the worst possible way. Some of the day trippers were wandering around the road like lost sheep, and riders had to be aware all the time, even with salty perspiration running into their eyes and temporarily blinding them, as had happened to me a few times en route.

          Gulls wheeled overhead and seemed to be leading us into town. I love the calls of gulls, and it's one of the things I miss about not living on the coast. The smell of the sea on our left, and the promise of crossing  the finish line were great incentives, although on the negative side, the red coarse road surface in Blackpool means you feel every bump, and it can feel unsettlingly like a tyre is on its way down at times!

            Finally the road ended and the final few hundred yards towards the finish line beckoned. Summoning the last bits of energy, and not wanting to look too much like an old man on a bike, I changed gear and pressed on towards the line, being cheered home by people lining the route (well to be honest they weren't just cheering for me, but I have to have some illusions!). As I crossed the line the commentator said " There's another finisher ladies and gentlemen-they've all done well to do it in this heat', and then added ' And a nice coordinated yellow jersey and bike!"

       I raised an arm in acknowledgement and rode off to the right to the little park area by the Glitter Ball to collect my certificate. I found that they weren’t giving them this year, but instead received a medal, which was very nice, but I do like the certificate-there's something official about it! I made my way down to Les, near the Pleasure Beach, and found he'd obligingly got a couple of cans of Guinness, purely to boost my iron levels of course. Even slightly warm it was very welcome, and we had a rest, watched the world go by and then repaired to our usual cafe for a meal and some strong tea. Then the journey home, which was only marred by the fact that the glorious blue skies above us on the motorway were desecrated with about twenty criss-crossed 'chem trails '(Geo-engineering trails) from aircraft.

           I hope this has been entertaining and that if you feel so inclined, you will sponsor my efforts for the benefit of the excellent work which Three Owls do throughout the year for wildlife and the environment. I have done my bit; I now commend my efforts for your consideration. All being well, I will attempt a 34th event next year, but for the time being will put my feet up and top up my iron level while listening to Classic FM!


Ride no: 3550

Mileage 77.2 miles

Number of riders: Probably 4000 plus.

Ride time 7hrs 50 minutes total, minus 1 hr 5 mins for breaks etc - 6hrs 45 minutes travelling

John Thorpe


John Thorpe's Sponsored Bike Ride 2022

July 3, 2022



         It is that time of year again dear readers, and I must first apologise for the late write up before the event. Time seems to have gone nowhere, and I realised the other day that I hadn't checked the date for the event this year. It is actually next Sunday the 10th of July, and therefore I thought I had better be quick and do a piece for the website so that Nigel could get it in, in advance.

         This time will be my 33rd consecutive event, which says a great deal about my mental state or, if you're being extremely charitable, my intestinal fortitude and dedication! Last year's event was disappointing from the sponsorship perspective, and I do not intend to dwell on the reasons for the lack of support. As always I do the ride for my sake, to test myself for another year, and of course to raise funds for Three Owls, which I'm proud to have been associated with for so long.

         It is not my business to tell anyone whether they should or should not support my efforts, that is entirely for them to decide, and that is as it should be, of course. My motivation is exactly the same as it has always been, and any support of my efforts is of course fully appreciated and never taken for granted, either by myself or Nigel and the other Trustees. Likewise, as I always have said, the opinions in my write ups are entirely my own, and in previous years people seem to have appreciated them all the more for the humour I try to inject, and the honesty of my comments. For those who do not, I can only say, to quote an old saying "He who tries to please everyone, ends up pleasing no one".

            Regardless of the level of support, I will be pitting myself against the road and the uncertainties of the ride, but it would be all the more satisfying if readers showed their support in the customary manner.

            At the end of the day we all care about the work of Three Owls, and  I do what I can within my means and abilities, I would respectfully ask that supporters do the same.

Best wishes to you all, and I will hopefully survive to write up an account of the day in due course. 

John Thorpe


Banks bird count May 2022

June 20, 2022

Many thanks once again to Rob Yates for his skills and for getting up so early to accompany David Unwin to do this count The Barn Owl was not seen that morning but on several evenings prior, also many owl pellets were found under a post in the meadow

30 species!

Blue Tit, White Throat, House Sparrow,

Wren, Barn Owl, Cornbunting,

Magpie, Robin, Starling, Linnet

Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Blackbird, 

Song Thrush, Swallow, Oyster catcher,

Dunnock, Collared Dove, Pied wagtail,

Skylark, Longtail tit, House martin,

Grasshopper Warbler, Blackcap, Lapwing,

Meadow pippit, Shelduck, Greater Spotted woodpecker,

Sedge Warbler, Great Tit 




What was in a big Barn Owl Pellet

June 20, 2022

So a few days after the bird count with the help of my grandson Leo (aged 8) I dissected out the largest of the Owl pellets. First we soaked it in cold water and then teased all the fur appart and found an amazing number of tiny animal skulls -TEN!!

This is how Barn Owls deal with all the indigestible fur and bones of their pray, they cough it all up as a pellet!

The large skull is a rat, then eight field vole skulls and one with very different teeth - a shrew. Leo cleaned them all veery carefully to make the display you see here.


Have you noticed....?

June 19, 2022

This year there is a huge shortage of baby blue-tits. We usually have at least six of the nine nesting boxes in use on the Home Reserve; this year just one box has been occupied, and only six of the chicks have fledged.

Why, you may ask, as there are still a similar number of adult birds around?

Quite simply, there is a lack of food. For some reason, there are very few greenfly around this year - and this is the main diet for the young tits both in the nest and when fledging. Quite why this has happened is something of a mystery? It is however common for adult paired birds to restrict the size of the brood, or even abstain from nesting if they feel there is insufficient food available to sustain them.

The robins have increased in number, the wrens seem to be static as do both thrushes and blackbirds. The larger birds such as the jackdaws have flourished this year, and with the young having fledged just 9 days ago, already the parent birds are relining the nests to get another brood in this year.



Back in service

June 11, 2022

Thank you to you all for persevering whilst the Helpline had limited service. Certainly we fairly packed in the WhatsApp and messages in the interim and returned any missed calls as soon as we had the facility to do so. It has been good to see the service coming back upto speed.

The website has been handling huge numbers of inquirers; many of whom have been sent from other organisations and charities around the world - it is rewarding to know that our work is universally appreciated.

Many thanks also to those enquirers who give us an update as to how 'their' bird has fared after following the advice they have received. We do have decades of experience to base our knowledge on, but that doesn't mean we are not accepting of new ideas, so please do offer suggestions if you have found an alternative idea that has worked for you, in regard to wild bird care.



Time for an overhaul...

May 31, 2022

It's been about 8 years, so rather overdue... so I'll be giving the Helpline an overhaul over the course of the next week. Handling calls, messages, emails, and now WhatsApp messages and videos it really does work hard and serves the charity very well. The upsides will be a much fresher service and better able to assist the enquiries as they come in, the downside will be a restricted service which may mean difficulty in getting through on voice-calls until the overhaul completes.

If you can't get through on the phone line, please do try WhatsApp or email/messages; we will endeavour to help in any way we can, though there may be a delay in responding. We are 'between broods' at present, and calls have dropped off through the past week, and should remain low for around another 7-10 days, before the next lot of nestlings become fledglings - and we see them bobbing around on the floor again.

Please DO make full use of the Website; it is an absolute mine of information, and the Trustees are adding to it all the time to enhance its facilities and help wildlife and their rescuers even more. It is currently handling around 2000 new weekly visits from around the world. Many other rescues and sanctuaries do refer people onto us - which is great as 'knowledge is best when shared'.



Absolutely Buzzin'

May 29, 2022

That's how things were on the Home Reserve today; quite literally 'millions' of bees and other insects on this nature reserve; feeding and cross-pollinating all the trees, plants and flowers which help make this site the true wildlife oasis that it is.

The photo is from one of the multi-occupancy sparrow nestboxes; which this year plays host to a wonderful collection of Tree Bees; perhaps relations of those from previous years which usually use one of the tit-boxes further down the reserve. At least they will have more room in this one! I was saddened to read this week that the life-expectancy of the bee is only around 1-2 months; let's hope that those residing with us have a happy and healthy time, as the work they do on the Reserve is what helps keep it in such vibrant and healthy condition.

Thanks go to Mr Sullivan for constructing the box, and to Jennifer for donating it to Three Owls.



Please look but don't touch

May 28, 2022

It's the time of year again when all the tawny owlets leave the nest a good few weeks before they are able to fly. This is usually caused by a bit of over-exuberance when mum and dad return with food, and the youngster tumbles to the floor.

Worry not however, they are designed like little 3-wheelers and using their beak and very sharp talons, can climb straight up the tree trunk and back onto a branch. However some do prefer to live on the floor while they grow up, and other than being moved off a path or roadway to the back of a broad-leafed tree - they should be left where they are. Mum and Dad owl will continue to feed them whether they are on the floor or in the tree.

The photo in this report is just one of several dozen we have advised on this year alone.



biggest ever Orchids In Three Owls Wood

May 28, 2022

WOW! I went down to the Three Owls Wood today and orchids everywhere!! also the biggest they have ever been! Looks like our regenerative agriculture experiment with the Winter sheep really paid off. They ate out all the undergrowth so our orchids could see the spring sunshine 



PS I have no idea why the photo is loaded sideways!


Duckling time again

May 8, 2022

We're now on the 2nd main brood of mallard ducklings. Many however are inadvertantly taken away from their mothers by mistake, when they should have been left with mum for the best chance.

Occasionally they fall prey to cats or herons, and sadly some are also orphaned by mother being killed when escorting them across the roads

These days it is not uncommon for ducks to hatch out their eggs under a bush in a garden, up to a mile away from the nearest safe waterway. It is rare that they nest TOO far for the ducklings to walk, but they would certainly appreciate a human escort along those busy roads.

If you DO have to catch mother and babies; catch mother first and put in one box, then babies 2nd and put into a separate box. This is to stop mother panicking and trampling the babies to death.

When you reach the waterway, release the ducklings first, and they will group and shout loudly. Then release mum and she will fly directly to the babies and take them away from you.




May 2, 2022

Year after year the geese here at the farm sit and nothing happens This year the two sisters tried something new -a shared nest, sitting side by side guarded by our huge gander, and it worked: Two perfect gozlings!! sadly when they left the nest next day a third gosling was half out of the egg. I transfered him to my coat pocket for the next day while he 'fluffed up' and with bated breath reintroduced him to the flock. Initially though the gander was pleased and very gentle 'the mothers' were grumpy but a week later all three babies are growing well




cheers David  


Extra help this year...

April 30, 2022

If you have cause to ring one of the many wildlife rescues whom we work alongside this year; do not be surprised to be directed to our very own Website for further assistance in locating an alternative wildllife rescue centre near to where you are.

Lots of rescue centres and bird sanctuaries are only just struggling to get back on their feet after the Covid pandemic, and many are short on staff and volunteers.

One of the knock-on effects of this is a limited amount of time for telephone conversations - when the various rescues know that the information being asked of them is readily available online...on Three Owls very own website.

Simply look to the top of the main page, and click on the tab marked "Finding Your Local Rescue Centre". This link suggests numerous different sites to help you (and your casualty) in their hour of need.

With Three Owls operating out of EIGHT different sites in the UK, sometimes people are confused and turn up at one of the six Lancashire reserves with injured birds, whereas it is only the two Cumbrian reserves that have hospital facilities alongside. Again, the website link comes into its own in locating the nearest wildlife hospital able to assist.

Thank you for caring about the wild birds around us.



Thanking us, thanking you

April 23, 2022

Some lovely feedback received this week from our colleagues at the Barn Owl Trust in Devon. Many of you will recall how we had to transfer the resident owls down to their care when we had to close the hospitals and aviary operations on the Rochdale site back in 2010.

They still, after all this time have a good number of these birds in their care, and a number of which will now be pushing 30 years of age. We have continued to financially support these birds in their care, and although we are always gratefully thanked for each contribution, it is very much appreciated for them to make such a public gesture of Thanks by printing the pictured article in their very popular Feedback Newsletter for Spring 2022 (Issue 67). Barn Owl Trust

It is through your own kind donations and legacies that we are able to continue not only with our own much-needed work on our reserves and our Helpline and information services; but also continue to support like-minded established organisations in their own work with wild birds.



Absolutely gutted...

April 14, 2022

Getting in from work tonight there was an eerie quiet on the Home Reserve. Yes, there was birdsong from our usual crew, but the happy chitter-chatter from the heron nest I had been so longing for was not there.

With a heavy heart, I trod down to the bottom of the reserve where the heronry is, and was saddened to see the nearly 3-week old chick was lifeless on the floor. Under examination, the chick was well-formed and a good weight, so an accidental death looks to have been the cause.

The nest is some 60-70 feet up in the tree-tops, and I am wondering if the nest has been dislodged during the winter storms, as it did seem to be lobsided looking at it from below. Herons don't build a new nest every year, but simply add more twigs to an existing nest - and consequently eventually they do sometimes come crashing down as they are so heavy.

I can only hope that there are other nests in operation not yet with chicks, as the silence is now deafening.



First major release of the year!

April 10, 2022

This was the first large-scale release of the year; all birds nursed back to full health over the winter, and being released at Three Owls Wood just in time for this years' breeding season.

Alas for photographic purposes, the first 66 birds all whizzed off before I was able to take a photo! However number 67; the Red Legged Partridge was happy to pose for the camera whilst calling out to our resident flock - which he strutted off to join up with.

Many thanks to both Meltham Wildlife Rescue and Hebden Bridge Bird Rescue for their care and attention over winter to these casualties.



Shhh...fingers crossed

March 27, 2022

Earlier today, I could hear the chitter-chatter of newly-hatched heron chick(s) on the Home Reserve. This is the correct time of year for them to hatch, but with last years' failures, I am hoping that was just a blip.

Certainly following the publicising of drone effects on the wild birds, other than the usual police drone I haven't seen/heard one in the valley since then.

Fingers crossed.



Give it time ....

March 5, 2022

It was a phrase Mrs Watkinson, the Three Owls founder often used to say to me ... and how right she has been proved time and time again. Today, on the 27th anniversary of her passing, it was lovely to see just how benefitting these words were in regard to a Buzzard I have been helping treat in West Yorkshire.

Admitted with totally paralysed legs and unable to feed, it has made small but steady progress and here we see it ready for onward transport to Knoxwood now standing, flying, and self-feeding (albeit still on cut-up food just at present).

Many thanks to the RSPB officer for bringing it in, and to Kathy at Meltham Wildlife Rescue for giving it the hospital care and aviary space as it has recovered over the past few months. Hopefully, it will be fit to return to the wild later in the Summer.



2022 Newsletter published!

February 26, 2022

Some good news to brighten your day...

The newsletter for 2022 is now available to download and read; follow this link to read and enjoy!

NB you can read ALL of the online newsletters via the link (which is also available at the bottom of each web page).

Those supporters who have requested a hard paper copy... it's in the post!

Happy reading, Nigel


The Marsh Reserve; water!

February 12, 2022

I was so excited to go down to our new marsh reserve to find it looking like an actual marsh!! The recent rains and digger work have resulted in a big change, look!

The actual water is quite large -about half an acre so far. Next is sowin the area with wildflowers suitable for a wet area .


from a very excited David 


Progress on the new reserves

January 24, 2022

Happy New Year!!


For the last few weeks we have been working to 'improve' our new reserves from a wildlife perspective. 


Here you see a huge digger starting a pond. I had tried myself but the results were a little dissapointing, it leaked so we just ended up with a hole rather than a pond! This time we have dug another hole nearby to mine some clay so our new pond can be clay lined. Fingers crossed!


Elsewhere we have planted an area of 'scrub' -lower trees and bushes like Hawthorne, Blackthorne. Privet and Dog rose. This forms a habitat different from actual woodland and one this is in short supply. We are so grateful to volunteer Simon Tobin for helping with the biodegradable matting and tree shelters. 


Lastly we have a new bridge over one of the drains -so welcome because it shortens the walk to work on the land by half a mile. 


We have seen brown hares twice already this week and lots of Whooper swans fly over the reserves twice each day.


Cheers david 


Super news

January 23, 2022

I am pleased to report that the road traffic accident tawny owl we have been assisting in rehabilitating over the past five weeks, finally returned fully fit to the wild a couple of days ago.

It is a very special feeling for all rehabilitators when the life you have nurtured, and often saved from an untimely death, is able to return to the wild and fly free again. A huge well-done to Kathy and her team for their efforts with this and all the wildlife in their care.



Enough was enough!

January 16, 2022

We have persevered with a malfunctioning Helpline signal for far too long, and last week '3' finally admitted that they could not guarantee 'when' or 'if' the mast which was damaged would ever be repaired, despite the engineers working on it for over three months. They suggested the damage may have occurred when the mast was upgraded to 5G.

They had reduced the monthly cost down to a tiny figure, but as I explained - whether it was £1 or £1million made little difference when we couldn't get a signal when around the Home Reserve and in the Office, although it did work on some of the other Reserves.

Reluctantly, '3' agreed to release us early and at no cost from our contract, as the fault was at their end, and tomorrow we will switch networks back to O2 who have always provided good coverage in this area - albeit at a higher price. The phone number as usual will remain the same.

My grateful thanks to everyone for sticking with us during this difficult period, and making extensive use of email, text, and WhatsApp in order to contact Three Owls and to continue to help the wild birds around us throughout the world.



Some good news to start off the New Year

January 3, 2022

A number of people I have spoken to recently have been avidly following the progress of a Tawny Owl admitted on 12th December last year.

Found as a heap of feathers at the side of a lane in West Yorkshire and pretty much devoid of life, I have been guiding and advising Kathy and her staff at Meltham Wildlife Rescue as to its needs and ongoing requirements, every few days, as I have nursed many such casualties over the years.

I am therefore thrilled to report that following one-to-one care over the past three weeks, the owl is making significant progress and now regained full sight in both eyes. He will be going out into the aviary in around a week, and we are aiming to release back to the wild in the 2nd half of this month.

Top marks to Kathy for believing me that such a repair and rehab was possible, no matter how poorly the bird was on admittance. Also for being an excellent pupil and following my guidance to the letter, and for providing and maintaining an ICU cage for an extended period in the hospital. I'll give an update when the rehabilitation and release is finally completed.

Knowledge is best when shared!



Happy New Year to you All

January 1, 2022

May I kick off 2022 news by wishing each and every one of you a very Happy New Year. Let us hope that it brings us all happier and healthier times than the pandemic troubles of the past two years.

So far the winter has brought us few issues with frosts/snow, and just a few days with rain/flooding/gales in parts, but on a whole has been very mild. Mother Nature of course will do as she pleases, and we will do our best to continue to provide help and assistance to the wild birds in whatever way they require it from us.

As I write this, just the one inquiry so far (it's only 9am) for a bird traumatised by last nights' fireworks - there will be more as the day progresses and people start to move about. Given all the calls for climate change I am surprised that fireworks have not yet been outlawed given the noise and pollution forced upon our environment. I will take a walk around the Home Reserve later today, and will collect the usual fallout debris from the fireworks which have dropped upon the nature reserve from the surrounding fields and properties, to ensure that nature does not choke upon them or use them for nesting materials this season which could prove harmful or fatal for the newly hatched chicks.

On a brighter note looking forward we have lots of work planned for this year on several of the nature reserves; the Home Reserve will be having a professional assessment for the current trees, as a number have been damaged by the winter storm Arwen, which will leave space for new trees to be planted. Those trees which cannot be saved will be repurposed with some log-stacks; which in turn go on to provide both 'homes' and nesting-sites, and the grubs and insects which will reside within, will go onto provide a foodsource for years to come. Both Doctor's Rest and the Marsh Reserves are continuing to be developed to create the habitats needed to protect and enhance the welfare of the species which are under threat in those areas.

Finally, if you have any rooted Christmas Trees which you would like to donate to assist with our tree planting/replacement at Rochdale; please get in touch.

Wishing each and every one of you all the Very Best for 2022.



Eternally Grateful ....

December 27, 2021

Those were the words presented to me earlier today, when speaking for the first time to the family of two of our departed subscribers.

I had set aside the day to update with the latest donations received, both just prior to and over Christmas. There was a lovely gift received at 04.22 on Christmas morning and I mused as to whether it was after a late night out, or perhaps an early morning riser like myself.

Our late supporters' relatives introduced themselves as "the family of ..."; a lovely couple who had supported Three Owls regularly for decades, then fell on harder times towards the end of the 1990's. At that time, the newsletter was obtained through an annual subscription of £10, rising to £12 a few years later as costs to the charity rose accordingly. I can still remember their letter coming to say that they still wished to support us, but could no longer afford to do so as every penny had to count. Recognising genuine hardship I thus created a concessionary rate for those I felt circumstances dictated, and thus we were still able to correspond at least twice-yearly until the end, and as always we find other ways that people can support us than in a monetary sense.

Whilst I knew they (and others) appreciated being able to keep in touch through their own level of contributions, it was pressed home today just how much this gesture had meant, and the difference it had made to the couple's lives, has left me very humbled, as I feel Three Owls is and always has been, a team effort.

At Three Owls we do not seek recognition for our work with the birds and wildlife and everything that comes with it; nor do we expect to be rewarded for such ... we are content with the wonderful way that Nature itself rewards us in taking a scrap of feathers into our care, feeding, mending, nourishing it until it is fit to fly free again once more. Any genuine rehabilitator will be able to tell you of the special feeling when releasing something back to the Wild, which having been given the correct care and treatment, is able to regain its true wild-life once more.

Furthermore our increased work on the nature reserves provides and enhances the habitat for so many endangered birds, and also gives us secure locations to release rehabilitated wildlife onto. It to is extremely rewarding to see barren land or perhaps a horse-field, or even intensively farmed land - turned into a thriving nature reserve for numerous species to dwell within.

It's been another busy day at Three Owls with requests for assistance coming in from many different quarters. As I am typing this, another mute swan has come down in a field due to the fog in West Yorkshire; it is walking well and if it doesn't take off again shortly, should be fine overnight and will get going again at first light tomorrow.

The website continues to be very busy and people now use our "Find your Local Rescue Centre" link from numerous other information sites around the Internet.

Well, had best leave this here ... the next Newsletter will need writing in the next fortnight!



A very Merry Christmas to all our supporters

December 25, 2021

We would like to wish ALL our supporters from around the globe, a very Merry Christmas / festive season, and a huge Thank You for all your support during 2021, in what has been another trying year.

One blessing has been in the extra support given to numerous wild birds throughout the lockdowns; let us hope that this human support continues throughout the winter and notwithstanding any new freedoms permitted.

My grateful thanks to John from Rochdale in taking this lovely photo for us.



Don't believe everything you read online...

December 22, 2021

It has been brought to my attention today that Google have relisted Three Owls Bird Sanctuary & Reserve on their advertising portal after a number of years of absence. It's a free listing which they had made up - however following a flood of calls today for everything from dogs, cats, a chinchilla, and even a parakeet; I investigated this evening and have corrected the errors I could find. Hopefully this will help keep the lines clear this Christmas for the genuine wild bird rescue calls to get through. We are still persevering with the limited mobile Helpline reception in Rochdale; it is sketchy, but on an improving trend.

If anyone notices anything online regarding Three Owls that concerns them - please do get in touch. We do not pay for any advertising, but still get a steady stream of assistance requests from around the globe. The current edition of this website has received over 4.8 MILLION visits in recent years.



Bird Flu

December 19, 2021

It's a subject very much in the news at present, and a hot topic between all the wildlife rescues too.

Of course bird flu is around all year round, but we tend only to hear about it it the news when the poultry farms are nearing capacity with full-grown birds ready for the Festive table. While an outbreak can be catastrophic for all the birds in any one farm, there is also the risk it could spread to wild birds and then transported around the country.

All the rescue sanctuaries we work with have their own protocols in place to protect their resident birds, and some may deem in necessary to stop casualty admittance if there is a local outbreak, or perhaps restrict admittance to those solely coming from vets where the bird has been checked out before being taken to the rescue. Please be patient with these organisations - if one infected bird is admitted, it could be the death-knell for EVERY bird on those premises; the Rescue Sanctuary is simply doing its duty by those currently in their care; to protect their welfare, and not simply obstructing an admittance.

If your local rescue is not admitting, then use the links from the top of our main page to locate your nearest alternative wildlife rescue organisation.



It's Easy...Fundraising

December 5, 2021

Well Done once again to our stalwart fundraisers, who shop online via the easyfundraising website; a further cheque totalling £45.28 has just been received in the office - with the damage from the Storm last month very much in our minds, this could not have come at a more welcome time. Please do bear us in mind when shopping this Christmas.

Thankfully no-one connected with Three Owls was hurt - yest there is damage but this can be repaired/replaced. We still have limited reception on the Helpline, and Three Network cannot confirm when the mast repairs will be completed. We will persevere for the time being, though I have to admit it is frustrating when O2 presently offer a better service - what this space...



Storm Arwen

November 27, 2021

Well, it's been a wild night we endured, especially the early hours of this morning.

It's now 8.30pm and the electric has finally come back on, having gone off around 1am this morning. The mobile phone signal is none-existant at present; callers are simply reporting a buzz and no dial-tone, or it just reverts to the voicemail. Please use WhatsApp in the meantime, or send a message, and I'll either collect/return your messages or we may get a signal when out of the area. Please be patient; all the networks bar O2 are currently down.

The Home Reserve has taken quite a battering, and we have 11 trees either badly damaged or down altogether. One of the standing-dead trees that the woodpeckers nest in, was so violently shaken that all of the bark has dropped off - yet still stayed standing. However others have been felled or the trunks completely snapped.

I will have a tidy-up in the New Year and sort out any repairs needed once the felled trees have dried out a little for logging-up. At least I can create some new bug shelters from some of the logs - which in turn provide food and shelter for some of the residents on the nature reserve.



Quite a lotta beak!

November 21, 2021

Many people have seen an adult gannet either in person or on the television, as they dive headfirst into the ocean from heights of upto 100 feet in order to catch their food ... but not so many have seen a juvenile gannet such as this.

Equally beautiful plumage; the adults have a lovely rich creamy-white body with pale yellow head and black wing-tips...not forgetting those piercing slate-blue eyes. The beak is razor-sharp - designed to hold onto a slippery fish, which forms the vast majority of their diet, though they do also eat squid and shrimp on occasion.

Here we have the juvenile which is a sooty brown mottled plumage, which becomes increasingly white over the five years it takes to mature. Although not yet full-grown, our gannet today was already a good two foot in length (24"), but when full grown can get to 36-43" in size; equivalent to that of a goose.

Today we were transporting it up to the hospitals at Carlisle, ready for release in a couple of days time; it had been found crash-landed inland in West Yorkshire, and Meltham Wildlife Rescue had looked after it and been building it up on a rich fish diet to prepare it for life back at sea.

We have cared for many gannets over the years at Three Owls, both those who have passed through our care and been released back to the wild, and occasionally those who chose not to return but to live out their lives in a large aviary with cliff feature and running pond. They eat a fair amount and would happily eat full herrings (swallowed whole, head-first), or even 'make do' with a dozen sardines or mackerel.

Our grateful thanks to both Kathy at Meltham, and George, Emma & Glen at Knoxwood for their assistance in her care and return to the wild.



New recruits on Doctor's Rest reserve

November 8, 2021

We have 15 acres planted as a wild flower meadow but we need to get rid of all that growth over winter so the spring flowers can see the Sun, so pleased to have 52 volunteers to do this for me, Sheeps! 

cheers David


The Winter Workers arrive at Three Owls wood

September 27, 2021

Following the success of last years experiment in regernerative agriculture that saw orchid numbers boom we have taken delivery of 11 Cheviot sheep, our Winter workers. They will eat out much of the undergrowth over the next few months, clearing the way for the spring flowers 

Cheers David 


Autumn struggles

September 26, 2021

We are receiving a large number of requests for help from both members of the public and rescue sanctuaries for poorly pigeons/doves and finches. These are all struggling just now as the weather changes to cooler and damper conditions; due to a condition called Canker, which if caught by a bird that isn't 100% fit, can often prove deadly.

In years' gone by, it could be treated to some effect by Spartrix or Harkers tablets. Before that, we used to use Emtryl until it was banned in the 1990's for use in gamebirds. These treatments were better than nothing, but we only found approximately a 45% success rate.

Following some in-depth research, we discovered Ronivet manufactured by Vetafarm; and haven't looked back since. This has been like a wonder-drug and saved literally thousands of lives - just in our hospitals alone, and I would reckon a recovery-rate of around 95% even for some really severe cases. However please DO follow the dosage instructions carefully as it is a powerful medicine.

I know many sanctuaries repeately seek our advice on treatments, and the Website has become a mine of information for so many people, so I am sharing this information in the hope that many more lives can be saved.

In the meantime, please can everyone ensure that the bird feeders and water dishes in our yards and gardens are thoroughly cleaned at least weekly, as it is mouldy food which causes the majority of Canker cases, which is then easily transmitted to other birds of any species at the communal drinking/bathing areas.



Where is my nearest Bird Rescue?

September 25, 2021

This is a question we are often asked, as many organisations direct people to us when their own facilities are full, or are simply too busy to take repeated calls - especially these last two years when staffing restrictions has meant each organisation is stretched to the limit.

We can understand that people are stressed by the time they get to us; their own local rescue may simply have an answerphone message, however we sadly don't have a magic wand to fix everything and today's volume of calls from the South Coast simply means that one rescue is full and we urge you to travel onwards to either the next nearest sanctuary, to a wildlife-sympathetic vets, or to contact the RSPCA for assistance. Note that the RSPB are not able to assist with injured birds, it is the RSPCA who advertise that they are there to stop the suffering of birds and animals.

So, to find your nearest Wildlife Rescue or Bird Sanctuary, please follow THIS LINK or click on the tab at the top of this main page.

Thank you for caring about the birds and wildlife around us.



BIG news not one but two new reserves !

September 15, 2021

Due to a very generous legacy from Mrs Shelagh Moorhouse we are so delighted to announce we have purchased two plots of land to develop into new reserves.


The first is 15 acres of land in Banks near to our Meadow reserve. We have a 'head start' here as for some years now we were paying the farmer to leave some of it fallow to help the field vole population build up to support the local Barn Owls. So we were absolutely delighted to actually buy the whole 15 acre field to ensure this and far more can continue! We have taken advice from the RSPB who asked us not to plant big trees here as the open aspect is needed to make it harder for crows to attack the lapwing and skylarks that nest here already. The plan is along regenerative agriculture lines: a summer wildflower meadow, a late crop of hay and sheep overwinter. The seeds are sown now and flowers appearing. The sheep arrive at the end of October. Brown hares have already moved in!


The second plot is smaller at 3.5 acres This land is also near our Banks Meadow reserve but is very different in that it is low lying and floods a lot, so the farmer struggles to drain it. We plan to develop this as a 'marsh reserve' The 300meter wildlife hedge is already planted as are 100 goat willow trees and some wildflower seeds. A family of English partridge have already moved in and I have seen Snipe a few times now. We hope to dig ponds next and perhaps a reed bed Here is a photo of the first wild flowers on this land for a very long time. 


 I told you this was big news!




Getting there...hopefully!

September 1, 2021

Helpline issues...update

We are advised that the transmitter upgrades should complete on 6th September, and enable us to make and receive calls and data once more when in the Home Reserve locality, so fingers crossed this will go ahead as advised.

If it doesn't happen, then we will look to change networks as this has been going on too long now. The phone number however will always remain the same.



Helpline Issues

August 23, 2021

We have been struggling with intermittent service due to a faulty transmitter near the Home Reserve at Rochdale since 2nd June this year. Most of the networks bar o2 seem to be affected. However in the last two weeks, the signal has been pretty none existant within the village, and we can only get a signal when tethered to someones WiFi or near the office broadband.

The transmitter IS being repaired (we are told), but no timeline being given for when it will be completed. So, please do bear with us if the phone just goes straight to voicemail, as when we do get a signal the calls pile-in! - we are managing to receive messages via WhatsApp in a more timely manner, and of course messages will return-send as soon as the phone locates enough signal. The Helpline does of course operate fine when out of the affected area, including on the other reserves.

Fingers crossed we are back to full speed very soon.



Taking it Easy-fundraising...and Thank You

August 20, 2021

A huge Thank You to you all for your continued use of the easyfundraising site when shopping online. We have received a further cheque this month of £21.72, making an overall total of £1220.43 raised via this site so far.

By a long way the taking out of Home/Car Insurances through this site raises the most, and donations of £20 to £35 each time are not uncommon. Sometimes you can couple this with a comparison site and save yourself £££'s into the bargain. Many people will be switching their gas/electric suppliers soon too - many of these suppliers will also donate via easyfundraising too, and using this referral link can raise an extra £5 for us when you reach your own first £5 raised.

Please do continue to support our charity in this way; quite literally, every penny counts!



The 2021 Manchester to Blackpool Bike Events ride by John Thorpe.

August 12, 2021
Well, dear reader, it is that time of year again, when I regail you with tales of 'derring do' (whatever that really means), suffering and ultimate triumph on the road to Blackpool from Manchester. As always with my little literary effort, the opinions expressed are my own and not necessarily those of the Trustees of Three Owls. As you may recall, the event was cancelled twice last year, resulting in me  making the trip single handed and taking a few small scenic detours ( known to some as getting lost!) along the way. It should never have been cancelled in the first place, but be that as it may, this year's event was scheduled  for Sunday the 4th of July, and thankfully took place. My number was 739 and my start time 7.30am, so  as in every other year, it was going to be an early night on Saturday  and an early morning on Sunday. The  early night was not appreciated by my rabbits, who are used to staying up until  after midnight, but needs must.

        I had  serviced my trusty bike a few days before, using the  stand I bought for a very nice price from Lidl a few weeks ago. I can definately recommend them, as they bring the cycle up to a good working height and allow all round access.The chain and gears got a good degreasing (always fun )  and seemed much happier for it , which is more than i could say, since I then had to degrease  my hands! As is my normal practice, i had not trained for the event and other than very regular walking exercise and a clean and blameless life, I relied on muscle memory. Not what I would recommend  to anyone else, and no doubt from a medical standpoint it would be classed as virtually suicidal, but it seems to work for me and  since this was my 31st official ride (plus one  unofficial last year), my body, such as it is, seems to tolerate it quite well. As I'm fond of saying, my body is a temple.......ruined and full of rats and monkeys! I was a little suspicious of on road physical problems this year, since I had a nasty attack of bursitis in my left knee earlier in the year, which left it looking like a vexed tomato- red and angry! Caused, I'm sure by inadvertently kneeling on something sharp and dirty while doing a  job for a friend- lesson being to be more careful and avoid kneeling on small, pointy and infected objects.

           I was  up at 4.00am, fed the animals and myself, in that order of course, and out of the house at 5.00am. Thankfully it was a decent day , after a night of wind and rain, and I must confess to thinking that it was not going to be good while lying in bed  listening to the rain on the window. As always it is a balancing act as to how much 'stuff' to take for the trip. Such items as tools for emergency use, are a 'no brainer', but weigh heavy and therefore have to be selected with care. Food is also essential, as is fluid to avoid dehydration, but again, a balance has to be struck between weight, which slows the bike down and puts a strain on the wheels and tyres, and necessity. Even after all these years i don't always get it right, but I try!

          Thankfully the roads were pretty clear and as always I use the ride into Manchester to warm up and find out if my aging body is happy to be put through it again. Slow and steady is the order of the day, no sudden moves and no pulled muscles- there's a long way to go after all! Also I thankfully had no punctures, unlike a couple of years ago when I had several before getting to Manchester -as you can imagine I was not a happy bunny and the language would have stripped paint off a wall!

         I got to the starting point with plenty of time to spare, and it was at this point that i realised that the gel saddle cover, which I had taken such pains to secure to the saddle before setting off, was not there, and after internally berating myself with some more paint striping language, I realised that it must have slid forward with the movement of riding, and slipped off somewhere along the road. Of course i had no chance of finding it at this point, and just had to accept that i would have to replace it. Given that I'm very careful and don't like to waste or lose things, this was doubly annoying, but someone found a really good condition gel saddle cover and started their day on a high!

       There were already a fair number of riders at the start point in The Piazza in Salford, in the complex which now houses the BBC and other companies responsible for a lot of the rubbish that passes for entertainment now, and since I was early , I collected my route map etc and set off at 6.45. Sadly this year I was not able to have my picture taken with my yellow suited friend 'The Voice of the Ride, since he was nowhere to be seen. Upon checking with one of the Bike Events staff I found out that he might be there later, but that in any case they had had complaints about the noise made by his announcements and corny jokes (no worse than mine it has to be said!) from the people living in a block of apartments next to the BBC. Given that the event only takes place once a year I would have thought this was a bit ridiculous but then again we are perhaps dealing with 'luvvies' who are used to being pandered to.

           All was going well until about ten minutes into the ride, as we crossed  a raised section of road, whereupon I got the sinking feeling known to all riders when the tyre exhales sharply and runs on the rim! I could barely believe it and since it was the back tyre,it was more of a pain than the front, since one has the chain and gears to deal with too. Upending the trusty steed, I whipped the tube out and put in another( I carried several just in case), only to find,after pumping it up, that it wouldn't stay up, and therefore must have been 'nipped' when being put in place-an easy thing to do, even when one is being careful. Feeling increasingly frustrated, I put in another, which thankfully stayed up, and then had to put the contents of the pannier bag back in place before setting off. I have to thank one of the motor cycle marshalls for stopping and asking if he could help-as it turned out he couldn't, but the thought was there. I would make his acquaintance later on, but more of that to come.

              I set off again , probably running twenty minutes late by now, and just hoped there would be no further interruptions to the trip. It's a  uneasy feeling riding while almost waiting for  something to go wrong, but hoping it doesn't, and the further away from home you are, the more uneasy it gets. Thankfully the tube held, although there are quite a few stretches of road where, due to the texture of the material used on the surface, it can feel like the tyre is losing pressure. We wended our merry way through Boothstown, on to Leigh, Atherton and Westhoughton, where I once again stopped, not,thankfully for a personal mishap, but to help another rider who was on the pavement in the main street, with his bike up ended and looking very sorry for itself. He was glad to see someone stop and the problem was with the chain, which had broken a link. He could hardly believe it when I said I actually had the tool to take the link out and repair the damage, and I was looking forward to getting  the job done quickly and basking in the warm, self satisfied glow that comes with being a 'Knight of the Road'!

       Unfortunately fate , as it frequently does, took a hand, and as I was trying toget the link out, the projection on the chain tool snapped off, rendering it worse than useless! The same motorcycle marshall had , by this time, pulled up and recognised me from the puncture. I pointed out that we would have to stop meeting like this or people would talk!

   Unfortunately he didn't have the chain splitting tool in his tool kit, so arranged for the cyclist to be picked up and taken to Haigh Hall, where Darren would be able to sort him out. He was very grateful for my help anyway, and  at least he didn't have to pedal all the way there so every cloud has a silver lining! I have since bought a better quality chain splitting tool!

         Thankfully I was making good progress and the knee was holding up very well, which was a great relief. The day was brightening, and the temperature was very pleasant, not too warm, not too cold. I personally don't mind the heat but many people don't do well in it. I should have been born in a warmer climate! Soon the entrance to Haigh Hall came into view, and since I'd walked up the steep road which  leads to it, I pushed the bike over the infamous cobbles at the entrance. Picturesque they may be, but they can also inflict serious damage to the nether regions if one is not careful, and there are many miles to go  at this point! The  long, steep inclined road which runs through the grounds is great to just coast down and save some energy, but is also a trap for the unwary, since there are leaves on the surface, sharp bends and trees and shrubbery waiting to claim those with more bravado than sense. I stopped at the refreshment point near the portaloos, to take on some nourishment and fluids, and one very needy rider, wearing the shoes with metal cleats on the soles, which engage with the pedals to lock the foot in place; walked briskly over to the loo and opened the door. As he stepped inside, he slipped on the shiny surface , flipped onto his back , and disappeared behind the door rather dramatically!

       I rushed over to see if he was alright, and a disconcerted voice from the bowels of the loo (unfortunate phrase if ever there was one!) assured me he was. He emerged shortly afterwards, a  lot more cautiously than he'd gone in. At this point another rider passed  me and asked if there were any other toilets than the portaloos. Since I'd heard someone  else ask the same question previously , and had heard the answer, I was able to direct him to some around the corner of the building.

      'Will  I need a mask?' he asked. 'It all depends on how bad it gets in there' I replied. Thankfully he had a sense of humour! 

    I'd got to Haigh Hall at 9.45 and left at 10.15- I find half an hour goes very quickly, and if I spent any more time out of the saddle I might be reluctant to get back onto it!  On my way out of the park I stopped to say hello to Darren from Pilkingtons cycles, who was busy repairing a bike under his gazeebo  by the side of the path. It was nice to meet up again since we hadn't seen one another for at least a couple of years. He sold me the bike I'm still riding after all these years, so it was good to be able to show him I'm looking after it! I pressed on through Standish , Coppull and Charnock Richard, Chorley and Leyland, getting a nice rythm going. The cleaning of the chain and gears which I'd taken so much trouble over, was paying off, as the bike was running very smoothly, and the sun was out, giving us all a lift to the spirits.

                The long haul into Preston loomed ahead, and as always down this dual carriageway it's a matter of just putting your head down and keeping going steadily, for it never seems to end. Thankfully the field  and open spaces were green and sunlit so were a nice distraction to the effort.

         There were a few unexpected detours, due to new roads, which definately weren't there in 2019 and 2020, and one stretch of road which we've always gone down to get to Preston Docks,was blocked off totally. I got to the docks area at 12.05, and just as we arrived it started to rain, the first serious precipitation we'd seen so far. although it didn't last very long, it was the sort of rain that gets you wet, to quote Peter Kay! There was a rather tatty looking telephone kiosk, minus door , close to where I'd stopped, so I availed myself of it and ate my snacks under cover until the rain stopped. Amazingly the phone was still in order, ( I couldn't resist the urge to check it!) something of a rarity nowadays.

              I left at 12.25, feeling somewhat refreshed, although slightly damp, and the sun soon came out again as I pressed on north and west towards Kirkham, going through some lovely little villages and groups of houses along side the road. At Salwick I stopped at Gracemire Farm to get some fresh, cool raw milk from the honesty kiosk at the farm entrance. I must admit it tasted great and gave me an energy boost as well as some much needed hydration. On to Treales, Kirkham and Warton, taking the coast road into  Lytham St.Annes, passing the famous white windmill on the extensive greens to the left, I could feel the end was not too far away. Of course, even though this is definately the latter stage of the ride, it isn't over until the morbidly obese lady sings, to quote the phrase, and the road into Blackpool seems to go on forever, just at the time when one's energy supply is waning. the weather was lovely and couldn't have been better really, but nevertheless the nether regions were looking forward to getting off the saddle!

      Head down and teeth gritted, I pressed on , and eventually saw the promenade area, cordoned off to traffic, which leads the weary riders to the finish line opposite the Giant Mirror Ball , A small but select crowd lined the route, offering claps and vocal encouragement, and as I crossed the finish line, at 2.30 pm, the commentator (not my yellow suited friend sadly) said 'Well done that man, there you are ladies and gentlemen, there goes a gentleman of a certain age proving that cycling keeps you fitter than going to the gym!'

         How he knew I was a gentleman (highly debateable I would think!) and what he meant by 'a certain age' I'd rather not contemplate but since I don't get  many compliments I'll take what I can get. Breaking  with tradition this year, there were no young ladies handing out completion certificates as the riders crossed the line, and when I queried this, was told that they felt it too risky in terms of infection spread. We got a rather nice medal instead, but the logic of handing an envelope over at the start but not a certificate at the end is frankly, like so much over the past year or so, beyond me. I rode on  to the area near the Pleasure Beach, where my friend Les was waiting, having very kindly come through for the day to bring me back. Of course a superbly fit athlete of my age could easily  have ridden back but I didn't like to throw goodness in his face! To be honest I did feel pretty good this time round, and remarked to Les that if I could have had half an hour break and something to eat and drink, and a helicopter to take me up to Morecambe Bay, I could have done the eight mile Cross Bay Walk straight after the ride. Unfortunately since I'm neither rich or famous, the helicopter wasn't an option, but I did the walk a couple of weeks later and thoroughly enjoyed it.

       I covered approx.78 miles during the day, and  the knee was absolutely fine, a real bonus. I thank you for your past support of my humble efforts, and hope that you will be able to support them this year once again, at a time when nature needs us more than ever. All being well I will  be back next year to repeat the whole exercise once more, but for now my best  wishes and appreciation for your support and encouragement.


John Thorpe

A bruising day's work!

July 27, 2021

When asked last week what would I be doing on my week off-work, I replied "a spot of weeding" .... perhaps I should have mentioned there was just under 4 acres to do!

This was on the Home Reserve at Rochdale where the site has seen a massive spread of Himalayam Balsam throughout much of the land. Although the plant itself prevents no physical danger to the reserve residents, it does crowd out all other growth on the reserve floor through blocking light to the ground and it grows very tall and densely.

A huge thank you to Andrew Evans for assisting me today - and coming all the way over from Marsden specifically for this task too; we achieved a huge amount and he spotted one of our well-camouflaged residents too. At least we managed to finish 'this' shift before the thunderstorms and downpours arrived!



Northwards once more

July 4, 2021

This was actually LAST weekend, but this is the first chance I have had to update the website;

One of the most majestic birds of our skies, a Peregrine Falcon had been taken to a vets in Sheffield, where it was kept for around four weeks whilst it mostly recovered from its injuries. They had been in touch already with Emma at Knoxwood who had agreed to take it in - it just needed transport!

Alas, it had missed a trip northwards by one day when we were notified of its travel requirements, so it was the following weekend that we arranged for an overnight stay at Meltham Wildlife Rescue in Huddersfield from where we collected it and took it up to Knoxwood for the remainder of its recuperation.

Although the vets advised that the wing had been x-rayed and shown no breakage, it was definately dropped so could have done with being strapped to support the wing while it healed. Alas, both Peregrines and Kestrels do have to be A1 to be fit to be released back to the wild, so we will have to see how this one fares - it will have the very best chance available at Knoxwood (no pressure Emma), so it's fingers crossed for the birds' onward care up there.




The 2021 Manchester to Blackpool Bike Ride by John Thorpe

June 30, 2021
Having only recently confirmed that the event is taking place on Sunday the 4th of July this year, I am a little late with my appeal and write up - for which my apologies. I am working on the basis that this information is correct, since it does state online that the event is going ahead, but obviously cannot be responsible for any changes which might occur out of the blue. I will be setting off from Manchester at 7.30am and as ever will hope that the fates are kind in terms of punctures and other unforseen problems - although taking precautions against them anyway! I'm feeling fine and touch wood, the problem I had with my left knee has subsided. Given the fact that I've twice walked round London on demonstrations in the past few weeks, without being crippled, I take it as an encouraging sign, but will be taking it easy and listening to my body along the way, as I always do.


    This has been a very weird and frustrating time for all sorts of reasons, and perhaps the last thing people need is to asked to make donations to charity, but I make no apology for asking for your understanding and generosity once again to support the work of Three Owls; which is as vital as it has ever been. Every donation will help, and you have all been so generous in the past that I know you will rise to the occasion for us this year. I will of course be producing an account of the day for your amusement and edification, and will look forward to writing this after the event.


Best wishes and thanks in advance for your continuing support.


John Thorpe

Can you help?

June 17, 2021

We are spending many evenings and weekends transporting birds between rescues at present, and our carriers have taken something of a battering.

Might you have a spare carrier languishing in the shed/garage/loft that is no-longer needed? We could certainly put it to use, and any surplus could be passed onto the very grateful wildlife rescues that we work with.

I've put up a photo of the carriers we usually use - but anything you can spare would be greatly appreciated, as would any of the Snugglesafe microwave heat pads so crucial when transporting the tiny fledglings or birds in deep shock.



Definately an 'Owl Year' for 2021

June 6, 2021

Almosy every other call today seems to be about a baby owl on the floor; of course for every british owl other than a barn owl, that's quite normal and they should be left well alone - unless in immediate danger and then only moved off the path/road to the rear of a broad-leafed tree where they will await their parents return at dusk.

I've used this photo to show the difference between the tawny owlet and the barn owlet; lots of mis-identifications at present, but it has certainly kept WhatsApp busy with queries coming in from around the globe. Indeed, more queries now come through via this medium than through email - which is fine with us, as reception via that app for some reason often better, and photos certainly are received more quickly.



Bee Kind Hives

May 26, 2021

Great excitement in Three Owls Wood today, Matt Somerville of Bee Kind Hives came to install our freedom hive. The idea is you give honey bees a perfect home but DON'T steal the honey, instead leaving the bees to do their job as a normal part of nature. As i'm low carb this is particularly apt and i hope you agree it looks great. Now we have to wait for a swarm to move in!


Cheers David   


They are back!!

May 23, 2021

Hurrah- The Marsh Orchids are back in force!! looks as if the winter grazing with sheep has helped. I counted about thirty of these beauties yesterday. To think there was just one a few years ago.  By helping birds we also help an entire habitat. The sheep (and their droppings) attracted hundreds of starlings, eating off the old grass left more light for wildflowers. #RegenerativeFarming 


Well, the Baby Season is very much upon us now...

May 9, 2021

As advised last week, I was transporting a heron-chick up to Knoxwood yesterday. The weather was rather glum on the way up, but the welcome heart-warming, and it was great to see the bird swiftly admitted into their care for what will be the final stages of its rehabilitation. People may ask “why take it all that way, when you could have reared it in Rochdale?” Yes, it could have been reared in most sanctuaries; however with any such predatory bird, there is an extra responsibility upon the rehabilitator to ensure that the orphaned bird is not imprinted (made tame) in any way, as this could prove fatal not only for the bird, but for any human/smaller animal it comes into contact with.

When we had the hospitals in Rochdale I would see a number of such imprinted birds each year; where people had found and reared birds at home and then put them back in the wild. Alas, many of these would be killed by cats/cars/people/weather or even other birds within the first 48 hours of being free, as they had no knowledge of what to do and their feathers were not weathered having been kept inside peoples’ houses. The ‘lucky’ few would make it to our doors, where we would do our very best to rehabilitate – this often took months of work and even then was not successful on every occasion. Alas, Corvids (magpies/crows/jackdaws/jays) are particularly susceptible, but when released in a semi-tame state, can prove deadly to people especially infants, as the bird gets mixed-up between instinct and what it has ‘learned’ from its ‘keeper’. The bird instinctively knows to peck its parents’ beak to be fed. Alas its foster parent is a human, so upon release it flies round looking for something familiar and often finds a child. The danger then is evident and it will fly to the child and intend to peck at their beak (their nose) – hence the bird is immediately a huge danger and castigated (and often killed) for it, when in actual fact it was the ‘fault’ of the keeper not taking it to a qualified wildlife rescue in the first place.

The day was also filled with assisting numerous people from around the country with their own wildlife concerns; from mother duck & ducklings found in a garden, to starling chicks in the garden, to various cat attacks on numerous birds, and baby owls on forest floors. All standard enquiries at this time of year...




An incredibly busy time

May 2, 2021

Quite apart from the growing number of calls for assistance from the general public / vets / other rescue sanctuaries, we have been very busy with releasing and relocating birds of late, now the worst of the winter weather is well behind us. Yes, there will be the odd flurry of snow and morning frosts, but they will not last like they did earlier in the year.

In the last 7 weeks, we have done four trips north to the hospitals and reserves at Wigton near Carlisle, in order to give rescued birds the very best chance of a full and successful return to the wild. It is hoped that we can do a further trip next weekend to relocate an orphaned heron chick, as while the rescue it resides at just now can cope with the current stage, we have to ensure that it doesn’t imprint which could render a successful release non-viable in the weeks to come. The team up at Knoxwood have the facilities to complete the birds’ upbringing and with our reserves alongside and their own heronry in the treetops above, it is an ideal location for this rehabilitation to complete. We will of course fully load the car with other items to help them save/raise money in the process – thank you so much for all these donations.




Sad news from the Home Reserve

April 17, 2021


It has been very noticeable over the last 12 months, that mirroring the number of people flying drone aircraft on the playing fields near to the Home Reserve, there has been a marked reduction in the number of herons using the reserve as a place of safety to live in the treetops.

Even more so this Spring, when on 10th April the first of the heron chicks were heard in the nest, followed the following day by the cries of the second. Alas, this joy was short-lived, as the nest fell silent within the following five days, and clearly the chicks were no more.

This is not to say that the drone operators have directly killed the chicks (this year I suspect the continued frosts late into the year may have claimed their fragile lives), but clearly the herons airspace is no longer the place of sanctuary it once was. In 2020 alone, we found 11 drones (or parts thereof) having crashed onto the nature reserve. Stern words have been had with the operators (where known), and they each now know of the damage they have caused. This is the first year in decades that we do not currently have any heron chicks on the reserve; we can but hope that the parents will lay a fresh clutch and that people will keep their aircraft away from the wildlife - and the Reserves in general.



An insight into some of the work you never see...

April 4, 2021

People often seem to be amazed when around me regarding the highly varied number of calls/emails/messages from around the globe seeking assistance for wild birds in distress. Sometimes I do surprise myself at how easily I can recollect a treatment from a similar circumstance – even when it has happened many years or even decades ago. However, given that I have been doing this for over 43 years; I should be pretty good by now! Certainly it is getting busier now and my evenings are usually speaking with other rescues and vets regarding treatments and viable operations, the weekend calls are often from the general public who have found their local rescue phone either fully engaged, or alas the rescue is temporarily full. Many times, I find these birds did not NEED admitting anyway, and I am able to advise how to care for the bird where found – and it is rewarding when people do update later to say to both our joys that the advice given/received was successful and the bird is safely back in the wild. Remember to look at the ADVICE pages on this website to find a wealth of information to help in the majority of cases.

The photos attached to the report are a pair of very different scenario broken wing x-rays, sent onto me for evaluation and advice by different vets.

The first is a straight-forward break which is fairly common, and can be successfully repaired to enable 95-100% repair and it is rare that the bird cannot be returned to live a full life in the wild, even in the case of such as kestrels or barn owls which need to be able to hover.

The second is a very nasty break where the wing is completely smashed. Sadly in this case, there was no kinder option than for the bird to be put to sleep.



Happy Easter

April 2, 2021

So delighted today to visit Three Owls Wood and find these Cowslips In fact i found 14 more so well established now! Also a smart pair of Canada Geese om the pond behind them where the frogspawn has all hatched now into tiny tadpoles. Happy Easter  



Some you win....

March 28, 2021

The picture accompanying this article shows the result of a Barn Owl having had a heavy collision with a lorry. Alas it's top beak is broken and is pushed in, to the degree that it is damaging the flesh on the inside of the lower beak.

With no vets locally able to attempt this repair - not everyone has had the opportunity to gain such experience to effect a lasting repair as strong as the original; so it was an evening dash over to Meltham Wildlife Rescue last Thursday night in order to carry out the procedure with the result you can see in the second photo - which I was pleased to be able to attain.

The owl also had a broken wing which the vets kindly x-rayed for us the following day, and it was hoped that we could pin this as soon as the bird was strong enough for the operation.

Sadly however, and despite Kathy's expert care, the owl passed away overnight on Saturday - the impact of its injuries was simply too much for it to carry on.

On a brighter note, following my usual Sunday visit to Meltham to advise on current treatments for those needing specialist care and to help with staff training, I was able to take a full van-load of donated foodstuffs from the Home Reserve at Rochdale up to our most northerly Reserves and the hospitals of Knoxwood Wildlife Rescue at Wigton near Carlisle. This is SO welcome to the team up there; all their charity shops have now been closed several months, and funds are very much at a premium ... and still the casualties continue to pile in.

Thank you SO MUCH to everyone for their continued support, and I hope with the lockdowns starting to ease this week, we can all look forward to 'more normal' days ahead.



In Remembrance of Greg Townsley

March 21, 2021

With much sadness I report on the passing of a very dear friend of Three Owls; Greg Townsley. A regular visitor to our Home Reserve throughout the years, and only a couple of days since we last saw him too, makes it hit all the harder.

Our grateful thanks to his mother Lorraine for her thoughtfulness in requesting that all donations in his memory were to come to Three Owls, and a wonderful £210 has been received to date. As expected, the funeral was very well attended with friends and family from the UK and abroad.

A larger than life soul at 6'8" tall, who was taken from us all too soon, and even now I miss the doorbell ringing as he frequently came with gifts to share. Every person I have spoken to has heaped lots of support and happy memories of Greg , and continued what everyone knew; a kind thoughtful and generous in kind soul, who is already very sadly missed in all quarters.

Rest In Peace, Greg.



A Heartfelt 'Thank You' from the Geriatric Cyclist!

March 7, 2021

Nigel messaged me with the final total for the Manchester to Blackpool Bike Ride this year, which is  1,066 pounds I believe, the second highest we've ever raised. Well I say 'we' because of course you've really raised it, since it is your money which makes up the total. This year was somewhat unusual to say the least, and I strongly suspect that 2021 will be exactly the same. I could write a much longer article on the real reasons for the continuing situation, but I'll stick to the point for the sake of brevity. I feel it likely that I may well do the same thing again this year, but I'll be delighted if I'm proven wrong.

        I will certainly pay more attention in my planning to the knotty problem of getting out of Manchester in the first place, and avid readers will know that due to minor technical difficulties (I got lost!), I wasted a lot of time at the start of the ride, when in the dark and with almost no one around, I rode round and round the scenic (hardly!) byways of Manchester city centre.

           I will of course keep everyone updated as events unfold, but in the meantime I would just like everyone to know that I really do appreciate the support (and as I get older I may well need to invest in one!) you all give me and trust that this finds you well.

Best wishes,

John Thorpe.



John Thorpe's Sponsored Bike Ride Grand Total

February 27, 2021

Well, what a fantastic response from you all; an amazing £1,066 in total was raised in donations to Three Owls in support of John's solo bike ride last July. All had seemed lost at one point when the Ride was cancelled due to the Pandemic, but one not to be beaten was our John who made the ride solo (and even took in a few extra miles). Thanks must also go to Les Horton and Jon Chaston for bringing him back again!

I kept the fund running into the New Year, as lots of people asked for their New Year donations to count towards his total, and wow what a superb amount this has grown to be.

Thank you again for your wonderful support, and a HUGE thank you to John too for his wonderful efforts in the saddle - we will make sure that every penny raised goes on to support the wild birds in our care now and in the future.



Volunteer of the month!

February 14, 2021

Many thanks to our 'Volunteer of the Month' Mathew Tobin for braving the ice and wind today to plant 25 Goat willow. The ground was frozen hard so this was no mean achievement!

Cheers David 


RSPB Annual Birdwatch

January 31, 2021

Don't forget that this weekend is THE time to put aside an hour to observe what birds you have visiting your garden over a 1-hour period (you choose the time).

See RSPB Birdwatch

We decided to have 8.15-9.15am this morning, soon after it got light and when everyone was hungry after the frosty night. Food we used to encourage was wild bird seed / sunflower hearts / crushed peanuts / fatballs / dried mealworms.

Birds observed were;

Blackbird (m) 7, (f) 3

Blue Tit 2

Coal Tit 1

Collared Dove 10

Dunnock 4

Great Tit 2

Jackdaw 17

Long Tailed Tit 3

Magpie 4

Nuthatch 3

Robin 5

Wood Pigeon 11

Wren 1


These were taken at home, not on the Home Reserve - or numbers would have been much higher (and been cheating!)



A busy start to the New Year

January 17, 2021

An uplifting start to the New Year this week with the (very) early arrival of the Greater Spotted woodpeckers on the Home Reserve each morning, busy drumming away to create their nesting holes for this years' breeding season. I don't think I've ever known them start so early in the year before; an early Spring....we can but hope for, as winter has been very much upon us so far this year with frosts, fog, and some snow. The herons will be laying their eggs in the next couple of weeks too - rather them than me sat up in the treetops in this weather!

I have been very humbled by some lovely messages, letters and emails received from supporters following receipt of the Newsletter, many of which have been accompanied by a very welcome donation.

Alas, I have however been saddened to hear of the passing of several supporters too, and we pass on sincere condolences to families and friends of those departed.

This week has seen some deep snow in many areas of the UK, though thankfully not long-lasting and has not impacted too harshly on the birds on the reserves. We have a further weather warning for heavy rain this week - but Mother Nature tends to be better prepared for such events that us mere humans anyway!

Many thanks to John from Rochdale for taking the photo in this report for us.

Take care, Nigel


This'll cheer you all up!

January 10, 2021

Here we go, the latest Newsletter is now available to read online or download here if you prefer. You can also click on the Newsletter link at the bottom of any of our website pages. This is jam-packed with all the very latest news, and been produced in double-quick time with our wonderful Printer even working on New Years Day to get it ready super-quick. Considering I only sent it through to him at 10.40pm on New Years Eve, it really has been quite a feat.

Those supporters who have requested a hard copy - yours has gone in the post today, so you should receive it very soon. It has been surprising this past year to find something of a reversal than in previous years, with more people requesting to move back to preferring a hard copy than to read it online. Possibly people find they spend too much time staring at screens these days, and our Social Bubbles can then easily share. With it being some 18 months since the last edition, I have included an option-note with some copies to check if a paper copy is still required - I don't mind posting them out if that's how people prefer it; I find it easier to pass around the family than trying to read one on a screen anyway.

You will soon see that being in Lockdown doesn't mean a quiet life; all areas of the sanctuary work have been kept very busy indeed!

This is a bumper issue of some 40 pages covering 2019 and 2020 in full; I hope you enjoy reading it, as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Thak you all for your continued support. Take Care, Keep Safe and Well.



Earth stood hard as iron

January 9, 2021

The pond at Three Owls Wood has been frozen over for nearly 2 weeks now. A record! I was refilling the bird feeders there and found Fox poo right underneath I wonder what that means? In the depth of Winter it is difficult to believe the Snowdrops and Pussy Willow will be out soon

Happy New Year



A Happy New Year, one and all.

January 1, 2021

I would like to wish all our friends and supporters a very Happy New Year for 2021, and hope that you each enjoy health and happiness throughout.

Thanks go to John from Littleborough who has sent in this lovely photo of a Wren in full song. The support that Three Owls gives out also goes far and wide, saving wild birds' lives throughout the UK and abroad.

The Winter 2020/21 newsletter went to the printers late last night and contains the very latest news. It will be available to download from this site later this month via the Newletter link at the bottom of each page. Those supporters who request a hard copy will receive theirs in the post.

Take care, and thanks again for your ongoing support.



Merry Christmas one and all

December 25, 2020

May I wish you all a very Merry Christmas in what has been a very strange year for us all.

Thank you for your many cards and donations this year, and I hope that you will each have a peaceful festive season wherever in the world you are reading this from, and look forward to a happy and healthier New Year for us all.




Please be careful with your bird-feeders this winter

December 12, 2020

With winter now truly upon us once more, thought should be given to your choice of bird food - if you are able to help out in this way at this time of year.

There are a few points to note;

If feeding peanuts, do not give whole nuts as these can stick in throats and choke a bird. They can also clog-up a crop causing a condition called sourcrop, where the food goes off in the crop; is unable to be digested and poisons the bird you were trying to help. If you do choose this type of food, use a feeder where the bird has to peck at the nut to release it in bits, or feed half-nuts, or grind/smash them up yourself.

If feeding seeds, then either do so from a feeder and change the seeds once a week if not consumed during that period. If feeding on an open table, then only put out as much as can be consumed in an hour, and if possible feed twice-a-day.

Fatballs are ideal for all of our resident garden winter birds and most of those who choose to visit us. Please DO NOT use the netted type, to avoid the injuries caused to the chaffinch in the photo in this article. If yours ARE netted, then remove them from the nets before putting the balls out for the birds. These can either be suspended in hanging feeders, or if you have larger birds visiting such as crows/magpies etc or even pheasants, then put on the floor / tables whole which will help reduce the number of birds flying off with a complete ball - though the larger corvids will still manage it. For the smaller birds you can crumble these up on the feeding table.

Mealworms (both live and dried); only put out on the ground/table as much as would be eaten in an hour. If you choose to use a feeder, then be mindful that if they get damp, will quickly go to mush. As with the seed feeders, the containers need emptying and thoroughly cleaning out each week to prevent mould and disease setting in.

Remember that it is important to provide clean, fresh drinking water at least daily - more often if below freezing during the day. If you struggle to stop the water freezing, a small rubber ball bobbing in the bowl can sometimes help - but please never add any chemicals or salt to the water as you can end up poisoning both wildlife and pets through such actions.

Thank you for supporting the birds and wildife around us.




Many thanks for your continued donations

November 29, 2020

As can be seen in the photo in this report, we have been blessed with your ongoing support in what has been an incredibly difficult year for us all.

The van has been well-loaded with donated food for our journeys upcountry to our most northerly reserves where one of our hospitals and many resident birds relocated to - now over a decade ago. Each journey also usually includes a number of casualties which need ongoing hospital care not afforded by our other sites.

Social Distancing and Covid precautions have been added to our already strict procedures, in order to protect our colleagues at Knoxwood Wildlife Rescue who manage our Cumbrian reserves for us. Alas, due to various lockdowns this year, I have been unable to visit the Southport reserves, so have left the reporting of these to David as he is our local Trustee to these sites.




What's wrong with it?

November 22, 2020

This is probably the most common question we are asked!

Often these days, rather than either a phone call or turning up in person, we receive either photos or videos by email or WhatsApp along with a description of the casualty condition/symptoms. A short video clip can often reveal much more about the situation, and has the benefit of being able to see how the casualty is able to move .... or not as sometimes the case may be.

The wood pigeon in this article was reported as being unable to fly, however we were able to see it had clearly sustained a head injury by way of the blown pupils.

Given time and hospital care, such injuries can be sucessfully treated and the birds can again be returned to the wild.





Sanctuary training continues apace

October 31, 2020

I have often repeated during my info sessions with colleagues; "Knowledge is best when shared", and it is lovely to hear back especially from other rescue sanctuaries about their successes when using methods new (to them) which have proved lifesaving for Three Owls casualties admitted in the past.

The photo with this report shows a pigeon with a broken neck; so many times we had previously been told there was "nothing that could be done", and the bird was painlessly put to sleep. However back in the 1990's I tried a new method with a juvenile blackbird following a heavy collision; and this was to prove a game-changer and saved huge numbers of such injured birds we admitted ever since.

With Three Owls now spending even more time assisting other rescues both in the UK and abroad, it is lovely to hear back from these Rescues of their successes in order to further enhance the advice we can share with others.

The pigeon in the photo went on to make a full recovery, and has been returned to the wild.




Twitter answers an important question

October 12, 2020

While mowing round Three Owls Wood today i was surprised to find five incredibly hairy caterpillars despite the cold. Perhaps their fur coats helped? I had no idea what it was so turned to Twitter Within just 20 minutes the answer from @gmtord -a Ruby Tiger Moth ! 


Here is the adult Ruby Tiger

October 12, 2020

As it happens I took this photo of an adult Ruby Tiger last year on the reserve, so i knew we had them. thanks Twitter 

cheers David 


John Thorpe's Sponsored Bike Ride 2020 write-up

September 23, 2020


 It's safe to say that so far 2020 has been an extraordinary year, for all the wrong reasons, and one which has tested the patience of the British public as never before. Peoples’ lives have been disrupted  beyond belief, in my opinion, for much darker reasons than most people would believe, but that is something the reader must seek out for themselves, and my purpose here is to recount the event which I thought would not actually take place due to 'circumstances beyond my control'. The official Manchester to Blackpool Bike Ride was scheduled to take place in July, but was postponed until September and then cancelled amid concerns for 'safety'. Don't get me going on that subject please! For this reason it was very difficult to prepare a piece for the Three Owls website as in normal years, since we could not be sure that the event would occur, and I apologise to my readers for this.

            When I knew for a fact that the official event was not going ahead, I had a stark choice, either to abandon it for this year, my 31st consecutive participation in the 60 mile  test of  life, limb and groin, or to go it alone for the sheer hell of it and of course for the benefit of  Three Owls. I chose the latter, and then had to work out a course of action, finally plumping for Sunday the 20th so as to give subscribers, and others the chance to find out about it and decide whether or not to participate. I have already written of my little motorbike reccie of the route prior to the event, and hoped that, on the day, I could find my way reasonably well. You would imagine that after thirty years this would be second nature, but don't forget that we see the route, which isn't always the same, once a year, and have Marshalls, signs and all the infrastructure of the organisers to allow us to concentrate on the riding and not the navigation.

         As usual, I went over the bike from stem to stern, and it was while greasing the axles that a thought occurred to me. Since this doesn't happen very often I paid attention to it and suddenly realised that because the ride was now setting off early in the morning in September, it would not be light, as it would be in July, and I would be riding in the dark for at least an hour and a half. Now I'm not afraid of the dark by any means, but I confess to being distinctly 'windy' about being on the roads in the dark. It's dangerous enough in broad daylight, when you can actually see the potholes, broken glass whacking great cracks in the road surface that delight in buckling wheels and jolting tender parts of the anatomy!

         There is actually a Manchester to Blackpool Night Ride, and I know a few people who've been on it and say it's really exciting. I'm sure they're right, but I'd be a bit concerned about having a puncture or mechanical fault and not being able to see well enough to fix it! Perhaps they have special floodlight units patrolling the route to aid stricken riders! Anyway, my thoughts turned to lighting, and whether or not I had sufficient for safety's sake. The addition of a small but powerful torch strapped to the handlebars, coupled with my existing wind up headlight and rear light promised to be sufficient, and I hoped for the best.

          With military precision I assembled my provisions, tools, spare inner tubes etc etc, and on the  Saturday night even went so far as to put my porridge in a pan in the fridge to save time in the morning!

The alarm was set for 4.00am, and I had an early night, much to the disgust of my two rabbits, who are used to being up until at least midnight! The alarm went off on Sunday morning and I sprung eagerly out of bed (if you'll believe that you'll believe anything!). The animals had to be fed, in the dark, much to their surprise, and I made last minute checks of the tyres, lights and anything could fall off, work loose or explode!

             I left the house at 5.00am sharp and set off, with not a little trepidation, for Manchester, hoping that I didn't get a puncture on the way. Thankfully the day was fine and not too cold, and there was almost no traffic around. It's an odd feeling in a sense, to be absolutely alone in a venture like this, and the sense of personal responsibility is sobering without the back up of the event organisation. A bit like a trapeze act in one sense, the same actions with or without the safety net, but with potentially very different results!

                 When I reached Manchester I headed for Deansgate, which has been blocked off, I believe as part of a grand scheme to make a one way system around the city. From several people I've spoken to, including Nigel, the difficulties in navigating around the city are horrendous, and  I try to avoid it now unless absolutely necessary. I skirted the barriers and carried on down towards the Old Trafford football ground , encountering a rather surprised fox  along the way, who lolloped like a huge hare from the bushes to my left to the centre barrier and sat watching me as I passed with a shocked expression!

        Reaching the football stadium I paused to take a couple of pictures, just to prove I'd actually been there, and set off on what I could remember of our usual route. Now you have to remember, dear reader, that we normally set off in daylight, with lovely Marshalls at every roundabout and junction to avoid any chance of riders getting lost. There were no Marshalls this time, and without labouring the point, I got lost and wasted the best part of an hour trying to find the road to Boothstown! Following the golden rule that anyone you ask for directions is either a stranger to the area, doesn't speak English or hasn't a clue about the area they live in, I drew a blank four times before finding a shop where a very helpful young man directed me back to the Trafford Centre and a road sign which I'd missed when I first passed it!

            As you can imagine, by this time, my nerves and confidence were a bit strained, and I was very glad to be on a road I recognised at last. Leigh, Atherton, Aspull and Haigh Hall were now the targets, and thankfully as the sun came up I could dispense with the lights, which had served their purpose well. I got to Haigh Hall at  9.15 and had a twenty minute break .It was very tempting to rest for longer, but given that I'd already wasted an hour, it was perhaps better to move on. The Covid-19 parking sign amused me no end. Not only do we supposedly have a virus that can count how many people are in a room, can leave people alone up until 10.00 o'clock and then go ballistic at the stroke of ten, but now owns a car! Clearly the pandemic business is paying dividends - for some.

           The day was shaping up nicely, and the sun lifted my spirits, as it never fails to do. I sometimes wonder if I have reptile ancestry, as I seem to come to life in the sun! Given that I had barely been on the bike in the intervening twelve months, the legs seemed to remember what they were supposed to do and I settled into an easy pedalling routine. The miles  clocked up as Standish, Coppull, Whittle -le-Woods and Bamber Bridge came and went, and  the last two were a deviation from the normal route, since I decided to make up a bit of time by  taking a slightly more direct route. I got into Preston and looked for the signs for the docks area, which seemed to be thin on the ground. I eventually found one and gratefully followed it, only to find that the signs ran out! There does seem to be a feeling in this country that as long as we put one sign up, people will inherently know the way when they come to a road junction!

            More by luck than judgement I arrived at the docks, and gratefully got off the bike to find a waiting ice cream van. Now my body is a temple (albeit ruined and full of monkeys!) but on this occasion I gave in to temptation and ordered a large cone with a flake and every  variety of sticky sauce I could think of - I'd be lying if I said it didn't taste really good! I had a twenty five minute break and then pressed on, going north. I had the intention of going to Kirkham, then Freckleton and round the coast road to Lytham and Blackpool, and stopped to ask a couple of other riders for directions to Kirkham. I knew exactly where I was, you understand, but was just getting a second opinion! They directed me down a long and delightful country road, looking for a post office and a signpost to the elusive Kirkham. After what seemed like hours, but thankfully wasn't, I found the  post office and the sign, and set off full of new found confidence. Eventually the road joined another and  I inspected the signpost opposite, only to find that it pointed to Kirkham being down the road I had just travelled on! At this point I gave up the idea of finding the lost city of Kirkham, which had undoubtedly been transported to another dimension, and altered my route to take in some of the beautiful little Fylde villages. We used to use this route years ago on the official ride, and I've always regretted that they changed the route.

        The sun was now well and truly up and the fields were vivid green with a stunning blue sky above. At times like this, my mind turns to the England between the wars, when cycling was incredibly popular and we still had so much of the traditional countryside left. There are still places like the Fylde, where it's possible to imagine what it was like, and to experience the exhilaration of the open road and the sun on your back. In one of the villages, where I stopped for a quick drink from my water bottle, I watched two Wood Pigeons on the pavement opposite me. One flapped and jumped up, as if about to take off, but came to the earth again, only to do the same rather awkward motion again two or three times. At this point I was wondering if it was injured, and what, if anything I could do if it was, when the other bird did exactly the same thing. Shortly after, they both took off and flew to a nearby bush. Obviously they weren't injured, and the only explanation I could think of was that they were performing a courtship dance, albeit one I hadn't witnessed before. Nigel informs me that it's the equivalent of Mrs Woodpigeon saying 'jump' and her partner saying 'How high?"

          The bike and I rolled on through   Woodplumpton, Inskip and Crossmoor, and it was as I rounded a bend that I felt the ominous  repeated rumbling sound from the back wheel that every cyclist dreads- yes, the tell tale sound of a puncture. I had taken several spares inner tubes just in case, and thankfully it didn't take too long to accomplish the switch. To be fair, one puncture in a trip of this length isn't bad, and after the luck I had last year with  them it was getting off distinctly lightly!   

              Elswick was next, another lovely little place, and I thought, as I passed through, how different it would look in the depths of Winter, with ice and snow. There are compensations to living in these places but also difficulties at times. I was very conscious of time now, since I had my friends Les and Jon waiting for me in Blackpool and I was annoyed at running late. Thankfully, a local informed me that the main road to Blackpool was just beyond Great Eccleston, and I carried on through the beautiful square there. It really is stunning and like a chocolate box image of an old village. I believe the village has a long history and a very close knit community, and I can easily understand why anyone would chose to live there,

            Blackpool now beckoned, and I was making good time, even though the traffic was quite heavy in places. I pulled in for a drink stop and saw, approaching in the distance, two horse drawn racing 'sulkies'. I just managed to get the tablet out in time to grab a couple of photos as they trotted by, followed by a long line of slow moving cars! Eventually there was a  sign for Blackpool, which I naturally followed ,and then found myself on a road to Thornton  Cleveleys and Fleetwood! Obviously Fleetwood was just a bit too far north, but I reasoned that I'd be able to pick up the road to Blackpool at Thornton. I'd gone out of my way again, inadvertently and finally got into Blackpool, looking for the South Shore. It seemed to be a day for unfortunate signage related incidents, since when I followed one for the South Shore it led me through a housing estate! I joined the Squires Gate Drive and after negotiating a seemingly endless array of traffic lights (is Blackpool the traffic light capital of the UK?!), all on red, I joined the seafront and finally met up with Les Horton and Jon Chaston, who'd been waiting for me so long they'd both celebrated birthdays and grown luxuriant beards, as well as exchanging their entire life stories!

          It was four o'clock, the weather was glorious on the seafront and I was surprised to find that I actually felt great after eleven hours in the saddle. A passing holidaymaker obliged by taking the picture of the three of us with the Sunday newspaper (proof of the date!)and we found a little  cafe and  indulged in a meal with some of the best tasting tea I've had for a long time. I'm not sure what the iron content of tea is without Googling it, but I had a craving for tea which lasted until the next day. I only realised how much this kind of effort takes out of the body in terms of iron after I went to a blood donors session a couple of years ago, shortly after the ride, and was turned down due to the  lack of iron in my blood sample. Ever since, I've made sure that I replenish the iron, usually with medicinal doses of Guinness, but tea will do at a pinch!

        In spite of the 'scenic detours' (appalling navigational errors!) I'm happy with the fact that I survived Manchester in the dark, and that I did make it under my own steam. What it did show was that we often take for granted the contribution that others make, for example the people who staff the event every year, and it's a great reality check to take sole responsibility for making the trip.

 I should take this opportunity to thank my friend Les Horton, former Chair of the Romany Society, for his valiant efforts in meeting me in Blackpool, providing the chippy tea and running me home afterwards. Not that I couldn't have cycled back but one doesn't like to brag too much, it makes others feel inferior! Thanks also to Jon Chaston for waiting for me with Les. The sun and the passing girls must have been hell but someone had to do it! Jon was going to cycle to Preston, meet me there and come back to Blackpool but he didn't want to make me feel inferior!

 This is my 31st consecutive trip, albeit an unofficial one, and I hope you've enjoyed my tale of the journey, warts and all. The total distance travelled was 89.6 miles. If you feel moved to support our fund raising efforts this year, we would be very grateful for your help, and I live in hopes that the event will take place in 2021.

Please send any sponsorship monies you can spare via the Donate button on this Website; Nigel informs me we have just passed the £200 mark so far, which is very humbling for my sole efforts this year. Whether we can get anywhere near the £1370 of previous years is yet to be seen, but you can be assured that Three Owls will be very grateful for ANY amount we can send their way, to assist them in their much-needed work with the birds. We will keep the fund running until the end of this year.

John Thorpe


New Rewilding Project

September 18, 2020

I have been very excited by the rewilding project at Knepp in Sussex where storks are nesting again for the first time in hundreds of years. The idea is that we add larger herbivores into our reserves to boost the diversity of plant, insect and ultimately bird life. Our plan is Winter only grazing of part of the Three Owls Wood to leave the ground more open for a flush of Spring wildflowers. So we now have 20 new helpers, rare breed sheep, Lonks, who will spend the winter munching though the undergrowth. A bonus is fuel saving as now less mowing of the rides!

More anon

Cheers David   


Lots of Autumn butterflies

September 17, 2020

Update from the Banks Meadow Reserve So many butterflies ! The most i have ever seen. This is because of our pro-nettle management for the catterpillars and also planting summer and autumn-long nectar plants for the adult butterflies. These are Small Tortoiseshell, the Large Tortoiseshell are exstinct now. We also see Comma and Redadmiral in large numbers 




The 2020 Manchester to Blackpool Bike event

September 6, 2020


The 2020 Manchester to Blackpool Bike event.

                       By John Thorpe.

Once again I put pen to paper about, what would have been my 31st consecutive Manchester to Blackpool ride, almost all of which have been for Three Owls. As the more observant among you may have noticed, over the past few months, we have been inconvenienced by the pandemic. I have very strong views on the matter, which I will not bore you with here, but to say the least, I  have seen my fellow citizens behave in ways which even I, as the world's leading cynic, would not have believed possible.

The bike ride was deferred until the 13th of this month, and I only learned in the past couple of days, cancelled and deferred until next year due to concerns about 'safety'. I could write volumes on this over used word, but I won't, since I don't want to bore half of my audience and raise the blood pressure of the other half.

It's been very hard to know what to do amid all this confusion, but I made plans in case of cancellation, which of course I strongly suspected all along, and will now put them into action. A couple of weeks ago I had a ride on my motorbike to try to trace the route of the ride and commit it to memory. You would imagine after doing it for the past thirty years that I would be able to do it blindfolded, but bearing in mind that portions of it have been altered and amended over the years, and the fact that on the day there are signs and marshalls to assist you and stop you from taking a wrong turn, it isn't quite that straightforward.

The first stumbling block was that Deansgate in Manchester city centre was closed for road works, and I thus couldn't trace my usual route to the start point, close to the Man. Utd ground at old Trafford. I had to divert and got lost so joined a larger road and then motorway, coming off at Leigh to try to find the route. I did quite well, but deviated (they can't touch you for it!) before Preston and took a slightly different route. Well when I say deviated I really mean took a wrong turn, but we'll sweep that one under the rug! I found quite a lot of the route from Preston and 'deviated' again before Blackpool, so took the main road into the Las Vegas of the North and then went up to the swinging metropolis that is Fleetwood for an hour. 

I plan to start at Old Trafford and stick as closely as I can to the original route, but if I meander a bit it will just have to be put down to natural curiosity, or if you're being a bit more mean spirited, rotten navigation! Anyway, I plan, unforeseen circumstances not interfering, to sally forth on the morning of the 20th of this month. My friend Les Horton has very kindly agreed, as he has over the past few years, to go through to Blackpool and meet up with me, then bring me home, after a meal and something to drink (although I may forego that one since I'm not prepared to be 'tracked and traced' and leave my personal info. just for the sake of a drink! If my army (probably more a platoon!) of loyal supporters would like to sponsor my efforts this year I would be very grateful, and while I won't have an official certificate to show at the end of it, I will take some photos en route to prove I wasn't simply lying in bed and pretending to do the ride! The cause is exactly the same, although circumstances beyond our control have caused chaos, and I hope you will consider supporting us again this year. This will be my 31st ride, and while it's a bit more daunting to do it literally alone, I'm looking at it as a challenge. We've had challenges before and risen to them, with your help 2020 will not be the year we failed Three Owls. Thank you all in advance.

John Thorpe


A fresh bouquet at Three Owls Wood

September 5, 2020

Further to my earlier article, here is the photo of two of the five juvenile Common Pheasants taking their first steps as they are released to the wild.

As per usual, you can never get a picture of them all together when released, as they quickly split up and just like any youngster - are off to explore!

My grateful thanks to Kathy and her team over at Meltham Wildlife Rescue for their livesaving work in getting them to this stage; we will take the reigns now by providing a safe nature reserve for a protected release back to the wild.



Are we busy? ... Yes!

August 23, 2020

I've been asked recently if we were busy, or had we all been furloughed?

Well, there's no chance of not being busy with animal welfare work - especially that dealing with wildlife. They don't think "I'd best not get into bother/have an accident/lose my parents etc etc"; they all still need the same care and attention as they would any other year.

The difference for a lot of rescue sanctuaries this year has been the sudden drop in volunteers; severely impacting on the amount of work the individual centres can cope with. Often the family-run sanctuaries have found that only the family themselves were regularly and reliably available to work, and has meant very long tiring hours/days for these true champions of the rescue and rehabilitation world.

I have kept in contact with them throughout, and the usual evening and weekend calls have come in unabated from the different organisations throughout the UK; this year more vets than ever have sought advice as to what operations are viable in different cases, as many have found their local rescues were full to capacity yet still wanted to do their very best to help out where they could - which was good to hear.

We were due to relocate a bouquet of five rescued young common pheasants to one of our reserves today; however with the very poor weather forecast for Tuesday/Wednesday this week, this has been put back until next weekend. Fingers crossed for calmer days ahead! We will let you know when this next special release has been able to go ahead.

Many thanks to you all for your continued support of our work with wild birds.


Exciting Bat News, Banks Meadow Reserve

August 15, 2020

Report on bats at Three Owls Meadow Reserve, Marsh Road, Banks, PR9 8DX on 15th August, 2020. Thanks to an invite from Dr David Unwin, I did a bat survey on 15.8.2020 over land adjoining Shore Farm and Flavourfresh Salads’ greenhouses, in company with Rob Yates and his wife Janet. The land is about 2 acres is extent and is comprised of rough grazing land with tall ruderal plants, with ditches and with a moderately sized hedgerow on the western boundary. The weather was ideal, calm, dry and reasonably warm, with a temperature of 18O C at 21.100 hrs. The survey was commenced at 20.48pm and finished at 22.07pm. According to Dr Unwin a bat survey had been done some 7 years previously and, amongst other species, a species thought possibly to be whiskered bats (Myotis mystacinus) had been observed. This species are not that common in West Lancashire. For the survey I used a Batlogger bat detector (Elekon, Switzerland) and the data was analysed using Elekon’s software, Bat Explorer. Results of survey.

Species No recordings of individuals Total no of calls

Soprano pipistrelle



Common pipistrelle






Brown long-eared



Explanation of table. It should be noted that this is not an exact statement of the bats that occur on the land. It is simply a snapshot of what was observed on that particular night. When a bat is flying it is constantly emitted a series of high frequency calls so that a single individual in the case of the soprano pipistrelle was recorded emitting 18 separate calls and so on for the other species.

Soprano pipistrelles (Pipistrellus pygmaeus) aren’t common in this area. The table states whiskered/Brandt’s Myotis mystacinus/ Brandtii) because the two species are impossible to separate by their call and so they have been regarded as a single species. In fact, it is more likely that they are whiskered bats because of the habitat types to be found during the survey. Brandt’s bats are more closely affiliated with true woodland.  Brown Long-eared Bats  (Plecotus auritus) are rarely recorded on bat recorders since their signals are extremely quiet and the observer needs to be within 5 metres of so of the animal, so it is likely that there were more of this species flying over the area, and I did see some bats that didn’t register on the recorder, which were almost certainly this species.

Summary. Since this land is situated in a landscape that is principally comprised of land intensively managed for agriculture,  it is evident from the results of this brief survey that this small plot is “punching above its weight” in terms of providing foraging opportunities for bats.  Since all British bats feed on insects, then there must be plenty of insect prey present. It is especially interesting and gratifying to record whiskered/Brandt’s bats. I have been working on bats in this general area for 35 years and I do not record these species very frequently and most of those recordings haven’t been close to Shore Farm. It is wonderful to see the hard work of local people and Flavourfresh Salads Ltd being rewarded in this way. If only more companies were so wildlife friendly. I will try to keep a close eye on what happens in the future.

Charlie Liggett     C.Biol., M.I. Biol.

Merseyside and West Lancashire Bat Group






Onwards and Northwards!

July 18, 2020

A further journey north today with lots of precious cargo;

Quite apart from the wonderful supplies of food we have received in donations over the past month, we had some VIP's in the form of six nestling birds needing further care at the hospitals alongside our Reserves at Wigton.

The van was already fully loaded with the foodstuffs (this saves the charity between £2-3k each time), and the birds we were relocating were a Sparrowhawk chick (pictured), a Kestrel chick, two Tawny Owlets, a Little Owlet, and a Grey Heron chick.

My grateful thanks go to both Meltham Wildlife Rescue, and Knoxwood Wildlife Rescue each for their parts in saving these precious birds lives.



Ed Volunteer Of The Month

July 17, 2020

We are so grateful to Edward for his battles this month with the pernicious Hymalayan Balsm. An introduced weed that spreads rapidly with the help of explosive seed capsules. It was threatening our Banks Meadow reserve. As you can see Ed has been doing sterling work. He has helped on and off since the age of ten  -thanks Ed! 


cheers David


Flora survey Three Owls Wood

June 30, 2020

Wild flower survey Part 1.

I am so grateful to Sue Bowden and Marion Chappell for their time and expertise in investigating the variety of plants now enjoying the Three Owls Wood site. I had such an interesting afternoon and learnt so much. When i think it was closely cropped grass and now nearly a hundred different species - Just give nature a chance and look!!


Cheers David




Wild Flower Survey Three Owls Wood

June 30, 2020

Part 2: So grateful to Sue Bowden and Marion Chappell for our wild flower survey last week. These Field Scabious were perhaps the most beautiful wild flowers we found. Though i liked the Wild Carrot (it smells like carrot!) and the fragrant Ladies Bedstraw too. We have lots of wild Angelica that will be statuesque in about a month. 

Cheers David


A huge Thank You to all our colleagues far and wide - you are doing a great job!

June 28, 2020

This year we are interracting far more with our colleagues at other sanctuaries around the country who, just like us, work tirelessly throughout the year to save as many wild birds and wild animal lives, often working extremely long hours in our aim to return as many such casualties back to the wild.

This year with the Covid-19 situation upon us all, virtually all of the rescue centres and sanctuaries are having to work with a greatly reduced number of staff and/or volunteers due to social distancing and isolation requirements; yet the quantity of wildlife being presented for care is much greater than ever due to people 'finding birds that cannot fly', or gardening too neatly and disturbing our mammals in their garden homes - meaning parents abandoning their young due to such accidental interference. Alas, many of these birds were needlessly removed from their parents and now many rescues have large number of imprinted birds - some to such degrees that they may never be fit to return fully to the wild. We do always stress to finders that birds needing hospital care need to be admitted asap and certainly within 3 days of any injury in order that bones can be set in the correct position, and baby birds should never be reared on their own to avoid becoming tame - alas this year people have struggled with this due to Covid-19 restrictions and the consequences will be far-reaching.

Sadly one consequence of such shortages has been that many sanctuaries have been unable to run their 'out-of-hours' phone-lines and have had to rely on people following advice on their websites. This has alas meant a number of people resorting to Google and other online search engines, and sadly there is more mis-information on the Internet than genuine help. We know that if you are reading this article, then you will already be assured that the advice is well-founded, and tried and trusted; please do share the information on this website far and wide, and let's try and save as many lives as possible.

Our own Helpline is very well-used, and fully available throughout the evenings and weekends when other rescue advice services elsewhere cannot currently be staffed. With over 120 collective years of wild bird knowledge and experience to share between our three trustees - mainly through our work with Three Owls - we are well-placed to help you out of most situations. As I have always said, "Knowledge is best when shared".

At present, some other sanctuaries may give out our number/website for advice when they cannot advise directly - this is all in order, even though that particular rescue centre/sanctuary may be hundreds of miles away. It is part of this country's network of caring for the birds and animals around us that we work together with the same ultimate goal in mind - to save and enhance the lives of those bird and animals that live around us.

So if you have come to our Website today from a far corner of the UK...or in several cases from throughout the World - then don't worry, you've come to the right place!



PLEASE don't poison the bird you are trying to save!

June 7, 2020

We are receiving a number of calls now from people who have tried rearing baby/injured birds at home during the lockdown, and many have been poisoned and died or suffered terribly due to diets people have 'found on the Internet'. Unfortunately there is more MIS-information online than genuine advice, and just because you found it via Google doesn't mean it's safe.

There is a list of suitable emergency foods under the Emergency Bird Feeds tab on this website, but you should NEVER feed any wild bird on cat food / raw milk / bacon / liver. These four food types cause massive and often irreparable damage to birds, and can leave them suffering a long time often fatally. Please never give salt to a bird either, not directly or mixed in water; it can only be used in water for cleansing external wounds.

Birds with broken or fractured bones need to have these set within 3 days by an experienced rehabilitator or vet. I have seen some birds this year with completely deformed wings where people have strapped them against the body "to stop them standing on it"; this means the wing sets curved in an unnatural position, goes stiff and useless and the bird often ends up falling on its side from where it cannot right itself. There is a great risk also that any wound on the underside of the wing or adjacent body will become infected and not seen until it is too late.

I do appreciate that there are still some sanctuaries that are full, and that people are being asked to travel further - but this is an exceptional year for many reasons. We must all work together for the welfare of the birds and wildlife living amongst us.



Bird survey carried out on Three Owls Meadow

June 3, 2020


Bird survey carried out on Three Owls Meadow, Shore Road, Banks SD399219


The breeding bird survey was carried out at 6.30am to 8.30am on Sunday 31stth May 2020 in clear, but warm conditions. The main criterion for potential breeding was singing males in suitable habitat. The status of each species is for the area and is based on the Lancashire Bird Report and local knowledge.




Wood Pigeon (Columba palumbus) – Common Breeding resident: Breed activity observed.

Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto) - Common breeding resident. Breed activity observed on periphery of reserve.

Dunnock (Prunella modularis) - Common Local breeder:  young being fed and at least 3 pairs observed.

House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)- Common breeder: approx. 20 individuals seen in suitable habitat.

Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrellii) – Common breeder: a pair flew along adjacent service road and called from suitable habitat.

Common Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)- Uncommon breeder: singing males heard.

Greenfinch– Common breeder – minimum of 3 singing males in the area.

Linnet (Linaria cannabina) – Common breeder: Large flock of up to 40 birds plus 4 singing males in suitable habitat.

European Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)- Common breeder: Several small flocks totalling 15 birds plus a minimum of 5 singing individuals.

Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus)- Common breeder: four pairs seen plus1 family party observed feeding.

Great Tit (Parus major)- Common breeder: 3 individual sing males observed plus numerous contacts.

Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)-Common breeder migrant: 5 individuals feeding over reserve plus nests observed on periphery of area.

Common Whitethroat (Curruca communis)- common breeder migrant: 3 singing and displaying males with 2 pairs on territory carrying food.

Eurasian Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes)- common breeder: over 4 males singing.

Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)- common breeder: few birds feeding on reserve no evidence of breeding.

European Robin (Erithacus rubecula)-Common breeder resident: 3 singing males.

Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos)- common breeding resident: two individual  seen feeding.

Eurasian Blackbird (Turdus merula)-common breeding resident: numerous males seen on reserve (maxima 10).

Corn Bunting (Emberiza calandra) – uncommon declining local breeder: single male singing on fence of reserve.

Report compiled by Rob Yates 01/06/2020v1



Elephant Hawk moths on The Meadow Reserve

June 1, 2020

I can never resist trying to get ever better photos of these amazing animals here they are on Vipers Bugloss in the Banks Meadow Reserve near Southport .

Cheers David


Please stop and THINK before touching a baby bird

May 25, 2020

We are receiving a large number of reports from around the country that Wildlife Rescue sanctuaries are being swamped with unnecessary young birds being taken away from their parents and presented at their sanctuary gates when people have found them on the ground. As a direct consequence of this, many have now had to close to new admittances meaning the system is buckling under the weight and people having to travel up to two hours to reach an 'open' rescue. Use www.helpwildlife.co.uk to find your nearest rescue (insert your postcode in the 'location' box).

Please do remember that very few british birds fly straight away from leaving the nest, and many breeds spend up to 5 days walking and fluttering around on the floor before gradually taking to the skies.

Some, such as tawny owlets will leave the nest a full 12 days before they can fly, and will still be mainly fluff with only a few wingtip feathers to show.

Generally however, if 'your' bird has all its body and wing feathers, and can walk or hop around (it will only have a short tail, as there's no room for a long one in the nest!), then it is the right age to be out on the floor. It will progress quickly onto the next stage of its development if left in the garden and allowed to be fed by its parents - which may only be every 2-3 hours, and not the 'every few minutes' as they were in the nest.

If your area is troubled by cats, use the citrus fruit method of cutting each fruit into 6-8 pieces and scattering them around the area you need to be cat-free.

If your cat has brought a bird into the house but it is uninjured and lively, you can give it a drink of sugared water or glucose, which will calm it down, rehydrate it, and give a boost of energy. It can then be re-released back into the garden and observed from a distance over the next 3-4 hours. Put the bird under a bush or hedge so it is sheltered whilst it gets its bearings again.

A large number of rescues use this website as a vital source of knowledge and guidance, so if you have read this advice in previous years - do bear with us. This website has received over 4.6 million visits in the past few years since its last upgrade, and has helped save many thousands of birds lives during that time.

Enjoy your bank holiday, keep safe and well.




Marsh Orchids in Tarleton

May 20, 2020

Im so excited the Marsh orchids are back! I had not expected them as after the dryest Spring ever the is really no marsh left at Three Owls Wood But look the most orchids EVER !! We counted over 20 today










Another Orchid Photo

May 20, 2020

Just to prove there is more than one!



Bird survey Three Owls Wood

May 17, 2020


Bird survey carried out on Three Owls Reserve Tarleton Moss (SD436214)




The breeding bird survey was carried out at 6am to 7.30am on Sunday 17th May 2020 in overcast but warm conditions. The main criterion for potential breeding was singing males in suitable habitat. The status of each species is for the moss and is based on the Lancashire Bird Report and local knowledge.




Common Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus)-Common breeding resident enhanced by commercial raised birds: 12 males found plus 2 females and  predated eggs also discovered.


Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) – Common breeding resident: pair in adjacent field.


Wood Pigeon (Columba palumbus) – Common Breeding resident: over 40 individuals found.


Grey Heron (Ardea cinereal) – Non breeding: feeding visitor to the reserve.


Eurasian Sparrowhawk  Accipiter nisus- Local breeder: single individual seen carrying prey no evidence of breeding.


Eurasian Buzzard (Buteo buteo)- Local breeder: recent colonisation visits the reserve and breeds in adjacent copse.


Dunnock (Prunella modularis)- Common Local breeder:  young being fed.


House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)- Common breeder: one feeding young in nest box.


Common Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)- Uncommon breeder: three singing males heard.


European Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)- Common breeder: Several small flocks totalling 27 birds plus a minimum of 7 singing individuals.


Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleusCommon)- Common breeder: one pair seen plus 3 others calling.


Great Tit (Parus major)- Common breeder: 5 individual sing males observed.


Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)-Common breeder migrant: 15 individuals feeding over reserve.


Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus)- uncommon breeder migrant: one calling from adjacent copse.


Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita)-uncommon breeder migrant: 2 individuals calling.


Eurasian Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla)- Common breeder migrant: 7 males singing and alarming.


Common Whitethroat (Curruca communis)- common breeder migrant: 4 singing and displaying males plus a pair on territory.


Eurasian Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes)- common breeder: over 10 males singing.


Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)- common breeder: birds feeding on reserve no evidence of breeding.


European Robin (Erithacus rubecula)-Common breeder resident: 2 singing males.


Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus)- uncommon breeding resident: one seen feed in adjacent field and flying into reserve hedge,


Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos)- common breeding resident: two individual pairs seen.


Eurasian Blackbird (Turdus merula)-common breeding resident: numerous males seen on reserve (maxima 20).




Proposed future surveys include one night time visit and a repeat full survey on mid-June.




Report compiled by Rob Yates 17/05/2020



Royally thrilled

May 10, 2020

I was absolutely thrilled recently to receive a personal letter from HRH The Queen in response to one I had previously sent.

She thanked me for my own letter and her copy of the Three Owls Newsletter which she had found interesting, also for the Eulogy I had recently written for a great friend who recently passed at the wonderful age of 99 years.

Given the turmoil that the world currently finds itself in, I was touched to receive any response, never mind such a kind and thoughtful personal letter.




So, I was wrong.... we're all busier than ever!

May 1, 2020

I don't mind being wrong at times - it's sometimes the best way to learn...

I had thought that in Lockdown, it would be a quiet time at the various sanctuaries as people wouldn't be able to go out and find birds/wildlife in distress...wrong!

In actual fact more people have been spending time in their gardens and the countryside as they haven't been at work, and consequently have come into contact (and indeed conflict) with mother nature more than ever before. The fine weather during April has exacerbated this and whilst wildlife has appreciated the lack of vehicles on the roads, they have found peoples gardens are not the places of safety as in previous years, and there has been a huge increase in cat attacks of young birds, and children pulling nests of birds from trees and bushes - often more by curiosity than maliciously - but nevertheless the young birds/animals have ended up as orphans being taken to local wildlife rescues who all inform me they are already approaching capacity a full month earlier than normal. This is a worrying trend, and one hopes that with better education by the rescue centres we can quash this before it gets any worse. Of course matters are further complicated by social-distancing at the sanctuaries, which means that interaction between rescuer and sanctuary is somewhat limited.

So, enjoy your gardens and walks by all means - but please remember to respect that Mother Nature ISN'T on lockdown and she needs to get on with this years' breeding season with as little interruption as possible. Although each rescue will always do it's very best; mother and father bird almost always do a far better job, and natural food is much better than what the sanctuaries can provide.

Keep safe and well everyone.



Essential journeys only...

April 25, 2020

We are currently still all in Lockdown, which means only journeys where a threat to life are being undertaken. This does mean the essential vet trips can go ahead, and where birds need remote releases to prevent captive deterioration; this can also be undertaken - though instead of being able to take volunteers/supporters along to watch and learn, each release is a sole journey for now and all socialising is put on hold.

Thankfully we are now in a digital age, and other sanctuaries/vets/organisations (as well as the public) can send photos/videos of casualties found for assistance in diagnosis and suggestions/discussions regarding treatment. I still find it amazing how you can send a video clip down the phone and it's instantly received at the other end (am I showing my age? !!).

One such urgent journey was to move a Red Kite from our colleagues at Meltham Wildlife Rescue and transport it along with a Barn Owl to the hospitals alongside our two nature reserves at Wigton where the staff at Knoxwood Wildlife Rescue will take over their care and prepare them for release back to the wild. Both birds had been under a supported care plan from us, and were at the stage now where they needed to go to the larger hospitals to progress further. On the same journey I was able to take approx 2 months-worth of foodstuffs to support Knoxwood in their work - all kindly donated by the public and collected and stored at the Home Reserve site ready for our next journey North.

The Red Kite is still on the Red List as an endangered species having been hunted to the point of near-extinction in the UK and by the 1960's there were only 20 pairs left. Thankfully due to conservation and an intensive breeding programme the numbers have recovered somewhat, though there is still a fair way to go before they become commonplace throughout the UK once more.

I knew from having nursed Red Kites at the Home Reserve hospitals around fifteen years ago, that they do not tolerate people well, and so only took a quick photo whilst it was in the carrier so it did not panic and crash around. I did well to recall the strength in it's beak and talons; those poor voles etc would not get a 2nd chance! Fingers crossed for a continued recovery; it had been found tangled-up in a tree, and was absolutely exhausted and very underweight; and needed further specialist care in specific housing requirements - hence why the move was necessary.



From hospital to reserve, our work goes on...

April 19, 2020

On a recent trek to Three Owls Wood for a remote supported-release of birds nursed back to health, I was thrilled to see a pair of moorhens were very much at home on one of the ponds there. By the way they were acting, I am sure there will be a little flotilla of chicks in the very near future! It should be noted that these are truly wild birds i.e. not having been released onto the reserve, but simply Mother Nature appreciating the facilities we have created over the last nine years on this site, and moving in of their own accord to set up home.

Also viewed on this visit was one of the buzzards soaring overhead, a miriad of song-birds busy collecting nesting materials, and a number of pheasants strolling around the grounds. I didn't see the hares on this visit, though they may well be tending to their young if they have bred again this year.



Happy Easter everyone!

April 12, 2020

Although to 'us humans', being in Lockdown seems so strange; Mother Nature carries on regardless, and indeed is benefitting in some areas.

I'll try and keep this a positive article - there is too much doom and gloom in the press these days, so let's focus on some of the happier times currently in motion.

Just under four weeks ago, the first two of our heron chicks hatched - up in the Spruce tree-tops on our nature reserve at Rochdale (Home Reserve). These were hatched some 5 days apart, so I expect the intermediate egg/chick was not viable this time. These two however are in fine form, and can be heard frequently when the parents are arriving/leaving the nest, and sometimes simply when having a natter! Being such early-birds; this could foretell either a good summer ahead with a potential for 3 broods, or simply the opportunity to grab some early season good weather before our usual British Summertime arrives! Either was, we can but wait and see.

The reserves are starting to burst into colour now; the snowdrops having been and gone, and the wild garlic now carpeting the reserve floor. The apple blossom is almost finished, the 'thorn species of hedging has greened up nicely, and this week the broadleaf trees are starting to bud.

All around are the sounds of birds building nests (such as jackdaws, blue/great/coal tits, and the numerous greater/lesser spotted woodpeckers hammering away from around 6am until 11am (they are pretty precise!).

The frogs and toads are quite vocal as they too spawn in the ponds; we were involved in a relocation rescue recently, so the ponds are indeed now well stocked for what should prove for wildlife a successful year. Already the sanctuaries are receiving orphaned ducklings in, along with the usual cat-attack baby blackbirds, thrushes, wrens and robins.

Whilst we will all be spending more time in our yards and gardens; please be mindful and keep your distance from any nests - and don't be 'too-tidy' in the garden; that pile of leaves or tangle of weeds may well be someone's home. I was interested to see online last year, that an old boot attached to a fence or wall (heel uppermost) can often be used by a nesting bird - if you try it, please let us know how nature gets on!

Keep safe, and enjoy the weather while it lasts!



Please remember....

April 4, 2020
As we come into the official Summer Season and our wild birds (both resident and migratory) look to raise their families once more, please bear the following in mind;


You will be breaking the law if you disturb a nesting bird; that means if it is building a nest / incubating eggs / young birds in the nest. (Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981)


Fines are substantial if you are found out, and custodial sentencing also possible.


Please check ALL bushes, shrubs and trees BEFORE any pruning/trimming, and if you find anything, then leave well alone. This also applies to work being done to your house/outbuildings.


Would everyone also please bear in mind that wildlife in general has had a very difficult time in recent months due to extreme weather, and they may choose to nest in places not previously used as their own has been destroyed. 


Enjoy your gardens by all means, but remember that wildlife rarely gets a break, and each day is one of survival.



Keep safe, keep well, but don't forget your local rescue centres too...

March 22, 2020

Well there's not much else in the news at present other than the Coronavirus illness that is sweeping around the world at present. We truly do hope that all our supporters and their families remain safe and well and come through it all unscathed.

The work of the sanctuaries and rescue centres carries on regardless, although many that I speak with on a regular basis report a huge drop in volunteers, less casualties being admitted, and as a result, a huge drop in donations this putting their organisations' rescue and rehabilitation work in jeopardy.

In anticipation of a 'lockdown' being forced upon the UK shortly - similar as has happened abroad, we have liaised closely with some of the local rescues to try and ensure plans are in place to cope, and to relocate birds where necessary to improve conditions prior to release - and indeed make space as movements would thus be restricted.

If we are all forced to stay home - please do remember to support your local rescues where you can; they will all have the usual bills to contend with and, though likely a reduced intake of casualties; a considerable drop in income. They will also need the usual supplies so keep in touch with their websites and social media as many items can be bought online and delivered directly to them to support each organisation in their hour of need.

Take care, keep safe, and keep in touch with all.



Twenty-five years on...

March 5, 2020

It hardly seems more than a blink of an eye, but already twenty-five years have gone by since the Sanctuary's founder Mrs Eileen Watkinson MBE passed away on this day in 1995. She was a remarkable lady, with infinite patience for those with a genuine interest, and she deserves great credit for preparing me to carry on her great work to this day and looking forward well into the future.

Having worked on a one-to-one basis with her since 1978, I have been priviledged to glean most of my wild bird knowledge from her; which I use each and every day even now to help save and enhance the lives of those birds living around us. My evenings and weekends are often taken up discussing different scenarios and treatments with both other sanctuaries and vets, as well as taking calls and emails from the general public. Only this week I have been giving guidance regarding pigeons, swans, geese, gulls, and kingfishers - and who knows what the next enquiry will bring.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the expansion of Three Owls; from the single site we operated from in Rochdale to now operating over six sites in the north-west of England. Last weekend saw me assisting at Meltham Wildlife Rescue in West Yorkshire, then transporting five specialist birds up to Knoxwood Wildlife Rescue for ongoing care and rehabilitation prior to release on our two reserves at Wigton.

Whilst at Meltham I was talking to a young volunteer chopping up the lettuce leaves and remarked "that was one of the first jobs that I did when I started at Three Owls, way back in 1978". She was hopefully inspired as to where I am now from that small beginning!

So, a small toast to Mrs Watkinson for all her hard work and devotion; for founding the Three Owls and getting it all off the ground back in 1962, and for laying such strong foundations. Quite rightly she was awarded the MBE in 1992 for this achievement in her work with the birds; an honour which she openly shared with all the workers at the Sanctuary. Her forward-thinking ensured that come what may, Three Owls has been able to continue to help and support those wild birds in distress who need our help, and we are now further able to give onward assistance in providing secure reserve facilities for those birds who need an assisted release when returned to the wild.




Email service resumes!

February 21, 2020

Finally we are back in full swing - and even better than before.

Many thanks to Les and Keith for sorting us out once again.

Best wishes to all



Limited Email Service

February 16, 2020

We have a limited email service as the Helpline is not currently able to send/receive emails.

I will check them in an evening from the office when I get back from work, but if you need us during the day, then please contact us via text/phone in the interim - and one of our trustees will endeavour to assist.

I will update as soon as the issue is fixed.

Thanks for your understanding.



When the winter skies are damp and grey....

January 24, 2020

... a kind thought received can really make your day!

I would like once again to give a Big THANK YOU to the ladies at Knitting Nanna's in Rochdale who have sent us a wonderful cheque for £150 to enable us to further our work with the wild birds.

Although the winter has been kind and relatively mild to us so far, we have February to get through and that month in particular can be quite harsh. Already the herons on the Home Reserve at Rochdale have been re-affirming their commitments to each other, and will over the course of the coming week lay their eggs and start to incubate them - ready for some Easter chicks!

Many thanks once again to the team at Knitting Nanna's, and also to those people who buy the goods from them enable support to be given to worthwhile causes such as ourselves.



New year new trees!

January 10, 2020

A recent, generous bequest has enabled us to buy and plant about 50 new trees at Three Owls Wood  here is one of 12 English Yew trees, possibly our longest lived tree. Other new trees include Holly, Crab Apple and Whitebeam When we arrived at the wood today we were greated by a huge Buzzard. I love their 'keening' cry - a real sound of the wild! Also there were 2 woodcock, and wild Mallard on the the new pond.

Happy New Year!



Wishing you all a Happy New Year for 2020

January 5, 2020

May I wish you all the very best for a happy and healthy New Year, and to thank each and every one of you for your past and present support to Three Owls.

Gifts are always welcome in any form, and we are truly grateful for all that we have received to date - enabling us to continue our much-needed work with the wild birds.

Some comes in the form of money donations by cash/cheque/online through the website. Others are gifts of equipment or foods as requested via these news updates. Equally some gifts come in the form of unwanted gifts/presents, and quality 2nd hand items which we can use for fundraising.

We are also very grateful for those supporters who leave us a bequest in their Will, as these larger sums enable us to undertake greater scale works to benefit an increased number of wild birds. We have been humbled to receive such a legacy from a long-time subscriber just before Christmas, and we will ensure that it is used to provide a lasting benefit to save lives, provide medical care to wild birds in distress, and protect the wild birds we are frequently called on to assist with.

My very best wishes to you all, and THANK YOU once again.



A very Merry Christmas to you all

December 25, 2019

May I be the first to wish each and every one of you a very Merry Christmas, and a huge Thank You for a further year of most welcome support.

It is through this continued assistance that so many of you freely give, that WE are able to continue to help so many of the wild birds around us;

Some of that help is direct in care, rehabilitation and release.

Some is by providing protected nature reserves for both fully fit and partially-fit birds and wildlife to live out their lives in safety.

Furthermore some of this assistance comes indirectly to the bird in distress through being able to assist 'you' whether an individual, company, society, vet, and even other sanctuaries with guidance from our vast amount of experience built up over nearly sixty years.

Long may it continue. Best wishes to you all for a safe and enjoyable Christmas.



Please don't forget the wild birds outside this Christmas

December 22, 2019

As Christmas fast approaches for us all, please don’t forget the birds outside still need your help to survive the long winter. Although it is not too cold at present, the absence of insects and grubs means they are very reliant on us to put out seed, fatballs, and mealworms to help them through until Spring.

If the fatballs you buy have nylon nets on them, please remove and destroy the nets, as each year many birds literally hang themselves or suffer terrible injuries from getting caught up in the netting.

If feeding where seeds can fall to the floor, please place a tray underneath to stop the seeds remaining uneaten and going mouldy. Finally, please ensure there is fresh water available daily (more often if below freezing), and disinfect the water bowls each week. These precautions are to help prevent the transmission of instances such as canker caused by mouldy seeds or unclean water. If a feeder becomes mouldy, then it too should be thoroughly cleaned and perhaps refilled with a seed more readily taken.

If anyone has any spare mealworms (dead or alive!) please let us know as our stocks are running low. Thank you.

Many thanks to you all for caring about the wild birds around us.



International Rescue

December 8, 2019

I often get asked by schoolchildren doing projects, about what has been the rarest / biggest / furthest away etc etc bird that we have helped? Usually I can recall the rarest to date being a Bluethroat; blown across from Eastern Europe by a spell of exceptionally strong prevailing easterly winds. They are a little more common nowadays, but I recall having to look it up to be sure at the time.

I was pleased recently to be able to assist a lady from Dohar who had found a Nightjar on her balcony one morning unable to fly and somewhat battered by the weather. Messages were relayed by her relative in the UK, and a plan of diet and recuperation set up. Alas, I do not know the outcome this time – only a small number of the thousands of people we help share the final outcome, but that feedback we do get is gratefully received, and we can use those results to refine our advice to help even more people in the future. We have admitted a number of these nocturnal birds over the years, with good results for returning them to the wild.

One other that comes to mind was the Bald Ibis brought from Blackpool. The local zoo assured us it was not theirs, and we exhausted all the private collectors we could find. With only around 1000 birds left in the wild throughout the world, we were besieged by the press and ended up with a car-park full of TV crew camped outside in their vans. To their dismay – some 5 days later the zoo did admit the bird WAS theirs, and sent someone to collect it. I decided then that a job under such intense media scrutiny would never be for me – quite how these politicians cope I don’t know? Give me birds and wildlife any day!



Red Legged Partridge release at Three Owls Wood

November 24, 2019

The Three Owls Wood came in for yet another rescue-release of a red-legged partridge to join the growing flock living there in safety. Admitted with a canker infection it responded well to treatment and recuperation at Meltham Wildlife Rescue, and now fully fit has come to join our resident partridge, grouse, and pheasants living freely on this protected reserve.

Thanks to Jennifer attending with me on the day, and for assisting with the release.



Remembering those who gave their ALL

November 10, 2019

As WE remember especially today, all those people who gave their lives for us in the past Wars and Conflicts, let us also remember the countless birds and animals who also gave their lives without question over all those years. November 2019 marks the 76th year since the Dickin Medal was first created in 1943 by animal charity worker Maria Dickin. It is a bronze medallion, bearing the words "For Gallantry" and "We Also Serve" within a laurel wreath, carried on a ribbon of striped green, dark brown and pale blue, and is considered by some as the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross.

Its recipients include 34 dogs, 32 pigeons, 4 horses, and 1 cat, however hundreds of thousands more will also have given their lives in order to help save ours.

The Imperial War Museum have a detailed insight into the work these birds and animals undertook on our behalf, so please follow HERE to read further details on their website.

Many thanks to the IWM for allowing use of the photo accompanying this report.


© www.iwm.org.uk  2019

This Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018 is licensed under the Open Government Licence 3.0.

Open Government Licence logo


Please keep an eye out for....

October 19, 2019

Any poorly birds, especially doves and pigeons, finches and pheasants who may be suffering from Canker. Other predators such as falcons, owls and corvids may also suffer from this illness if they have eaten a body carrying the condition.

This is a nasty condition but fully curable if treated in good time.

If, especially during the winter months you find a bird hunched up and not responding to your approach, then odds are it needs help and may have canker.

This is a cheese-like growth that starts in the crop, ad works its way up the birds throat and into its crop. It is foul-smelling, restricts the birds' ability to feed or drink, and has the sad consequece if untreated of the bird starving to death.

If you find such a bird, please get it along to your nearest bird sanctuary / wildlife rescue so they can treat it with the best possible chance of success - every hour counts in this case.

Many thanks




Farewell, good luck, and hope to see you next year...

September 28, 2019

No, don't worry - it's not me!

I was referring to the growing flock of house martins which have been gathering above our Home Reserve at Rochdale this week. Each day the flock has grown larger and by Friday had grown to around 70 in number (hard to count exactly, as they don't stay still!)

Concerned for the poor weather forecast over the next few days, I was extremely relieved to see they finally flew off yesterday, and hope that they have safely made it down country and across the Channel to warmer climes for the winter months. Certainly the weather whilst I was in London this morning was dry, sunny, and 21°C - quite different to that back in Rochdale where it was bouncing down and only 15°C!

I expect the flock had been encouraged by the still-present number of flies to eat, to enable them to wait for the last of the late babies to fledge. Once the cooler autumn weather arrives and the frosts start, these food sources will disappear with dire consequences for such a bird which needs to eat around 8,000 each day just to survive.

Bon voyage.



Hurrah Barn Owl Success

September 22, 2019

This photo shows what we are all about at Three Owls. I am so very excited!!

A late brood of barn Owls almost ready to go. If you look carefully there is a third chick hiding on the right. Mum is in the center -or is it Dad? Lets hope for a good autumn for them. This nest is a few hundred yards from our Meadow reserve. I designed it specially for the favourite owl food item -field voles. looks like this paid off !!

I am so grateful to my Friend Andy Roe of Flavourfresh Salads for this photo And to Flavourfresh for making our Owl reserve possible

Hurrah hurrah ! 



The end of the baby bird season

September 7, 2019

Well, it's been another VERY busy year for baby birds at our rescue sanctuaries; quite literally tens of thousands of birds have been admitted, and once again a huge number successfully returned back to the wild. Alas, there will always be some who don't make it - but at least both YOU and the Sanctuary concerned tried their best, and indeed made a huge difference.

The baby birds still coming in will dwindle down now to the wood pigeons, collared doves, and just a few of the late migratory birds - let us hope that the autumn weather is kind and allows them to grow up quickly and safely.

The wildlife sanctuaries will actually get busier now with the influx of hedgehogs too small/sickly to hibernate, and people do need to appreciate that from time to time these centres may close to new admittances due to being FULL. Birds generally have a quick throughput in a sanctuary environment; mammals take much longer.

A huge thank you to everyone involved in rescues worldwide - both finders, saviours and rehabilitators.



Elephants on the Tarleton reserve!

August 26, 2019

I was busy mowing the rides of the wood today and saw what intially seemed to be two small snakes !! In fact they were two very large caterpillars of The Elephant hawk moth


Elephant Hawk-moth  Deilephila elpenor


The larvae are usually seen when looking for somewhere to pupate, or when resting on stems in good weather, as they are very large, with noticeable eye markings. They overwinter as pupae in fragile cocoons at the base of plants in loose plant debris/litter, or just below the surface of the ground.


  • Wingspan Range – 45-60mm


Caterpillar Food Plants


Rosebay Willowherb (Epilobium angustifolium), other willowherbs, bedstraws (Galium), Enchanter’s Nightshade, fuchsias and Himalyan Balsalm

cheers David


here is the adult moth

August 26, 2019

I photographed this adult Elephant Hawk Moth on the tarleton reserve last year

cheers David


Bank Holiday heat and it's effects

August 25, 2019

Firstly I hope you are all able to enjoy at least some of the drier weather this weekend; it has been rather wet in the UK at times of late!

A flurry of calls this weekend has prompted me to post this report...

Whilst the bulk of this years' baby season is now over, and the migratory birds are starting to wend their ways back towards their winter homes, there are still some birds nesting and need us to keep an eye out if they get into difficulties.

Although the bulk of the swifts have now left us, to migrate back to North Africa, there are still some stragglers where the parent birds have either nested late, or had a 2nd brood. These birds CANNOT take off from the floor in this country, and should you find one on the floor, it needs urgent help as it cannot help itself nor can its parents help it. If an adult and uninjured, it can be released from an upstairs window (over grass) as it needs to swoop down in order to get speed and lift to get high into the air. Please NEVER throw a bird into the air to release it - this can severely damage a bird both with the upward thrust and the collision back to earth should it not make it. Imagine you being dropped from a moving car onto the road - just because you 'can' run along one and imagine how traumatising it would be to go from ground zero to 20-30 feet in the air. Releasing from an open palm from the upper window allows it to take its time to study its route and take off when ready. An eager to go swift will vibrate in your hand, and have bright eager eyes to show it is wanting to go.

If you find an injured swift/swallow/house martin, it needs taking to your nearest wildlife rescue centre/sanctuary asap as it needs regular intake of waxworms (not garden worms) to repair and survive. (These are the nearest thing to the 8-10,000 flies it would normally eat each day, and its body will accept this diet change without consequence once returning to its natural fly diet.)

The other babies still in abundance are pigeons (wood, feral, and stock doves), and collared doves. These will nest in gardens until the end of September.

If you find a young bird all fluffed up and not moving, it is most likely unwell, and in hot weather like this is will quickly dehydrate. If you give it a drink of some sugared water and pop it in a box on a towel for an hour somewhere quiet, it will usually come around quickly and can be released where found. If in doubt, contact us for further advice.

A phone call from a gentleman in West Yorkshire only yesterday who had found a young pigeon in just those circumstances; he made up the sugar solution thanks to a local cafe and gave it a drink and rest as advised. It was lovely to receive the follow-up call later that morning to say the bird had fully recovered and returned to the wild.



A million thanks...and then some

August 11, 2019

Now I know the website is popular, and lots of sanctuaries and rescue organisations send enquirers over here for help when finding an injured/orphaned/lost wild bird...but I was amazed today to see that since the new site launched in 2012 we have had over Four and a half MILLION views on this website! Total number of views (hits) is at the bottom of each page.

Please do continue to give us feedback for our services; of the couple of hundred or so people we know that we help each week (from responses received), there must be many, many more we don't hear from. Equally, if you find our services lacking in any way - please let us know too, so we have the chance to improve and hone our level of assistance even further.

So, Thank You for all your ongoing support; gratefully received online, by post, and in person. Every time someone helps us, we can turn that around to helping even more people and wild birds over a huge area - even global at times.

Best wishes to you all.




Please give us your support!

August 1, 2019

Open Day this weekend!

Don't forget it is Knoxwood's Open Day this coming Sunday; doors open at 10am, please do give them your support.

You will recall that they continue to look after some of the birds and one of our hospitals relocated from Rochdale in 2010, and we work closely with them on a very frequent basis. They also manage our Watermeadow Reserve and Field Reserve on a daily basis.

Hope to see you there!



There's a weird duck in my garden!

July 17, 2019

Well, it is the time of year for many of these birds!

It's not of course a duck - always look for signs of webbed feet - but a young wood pigeon. They are often mistaken due to the seemingly very long beak when young.

Alas, when nature designed these birds, they nested on the floor in the woods in a dimple or hoof-print and only a couple of twigs if anything formed the actual nest. Now, with the way humans have encroached on 'their' lives, we see often see them in gardens and parks, and sadly as casualties on our roads.

They fly low across the roads just as they would through the woods and fields - alas coming into conflict with modern traffic as in general trees don't move!

When moving into nesting in trees, the poor quality nests were carried across and unfortunately this does mean that on occasion the chicks do come out too soon.

The one pictured in this article was indeed too early, and had most likely been sitting on the very edge of the nest in the recent hot weather and simply taken a tumble. With the finder unable to find the nest to return and many cats stalking around, on this occasion it did have to come into care - though on many occasions this year young birds have been able to stay where found and people simply keeping an eye on them. Mum and Dad pigeon will feed just twice a day; first thing in the morning, and last thing at night.




July 9, 2019

Found under the swallows nest in the eaves of the stables  today. Flies are good for something after all -feeding baby swallows  




John Thorpe's 30th Annual Bike Ride Report

July 8, 2019



Well, good readers, it is that time of year again, when I put pen to paper, or finger to keyboard in this case, to impart the exciting goings on which occurred during the bike ride, which of course I took part in yesterday, Sunday the 7th of July. This was my thirtieth consecutive ride (did I mention this more than a dozen times earlier?!), and I was looking forward to a decent time and a trouble free journey to celebrate my amazing feat. On both counts I was to be disappointed, but more of that later. As always I had gone over my trusty steed with a fine tooth comb in the day or so beforehand, and checked, as far as anyone can, that everything was in order. I came to the conclusion that, as always, the bike was probably in better condition than I was, and left it at that!

              While assembling the tools and spare inner tubes I was going to take with me I tried to plan for the worst, as always, hoping, of course, that the worst wouldn't happen. I figured that probably the worst would be potential punctures, and took the repair kit, levers, some tools and three replacement inner tubes - make a mental note of this, it's important later, as we shall see. Sandwiches and provisions were all ready the night before, and the rabbits , as they always are, were not impressed that I had to put them back in their home early, to give me a good night's sleep.

          I set the alarm for 4.30 and got up not long after this to feed the rabbits and tortoises, before last minute checks, my breakfast, and departure at 6.00am, for the journey to The Piazza at Salford Quays in Manchester, the start point for the ride. I did this in an hour and ten minutes, and was in time to see my old friend Rick, 'The Voice of the Ride' in his subtly coloured yellow suit. We had a few words and got another cyclist to take a snap of us, as we have done nearly every year. He's been doing the job ever since I did my first ride way back in 1989, when thousands of us charged hell for leather out of Albert Square near the Town Hall in Manchester like a somewhat chaotic version of a lemming migration! How I survived that I'll never know.  Rick has had a few health problems of his own, including a broken leg and chest problems, but like the trooper he is, was practising his wit and humorous observations in the midst of a throng of cyclists. Such priceless gems as "We've been informed by the Meteorological Office that there will be meteorology all day today for those with an interest in such things!" Well you get the idea!

               As we were talking, the driver of an articulated truck wandered up looking a bit perplexed and said that he wanted to bring it into the Piazza to effect a delivery to one of the media companies there. Rick pointed out that there might be a slight problem of flattening many of the assembled throng, and there was a deep and meaningful discussion about how no one had told him that the event would be on and he had to speak to someone in authority. Hopefully he got sorted out, but I fancy he had to wait quite a while before the space was free!

        At 7.30 am promptly we assembled at the start line, and to sound of a starting gun and a car horn, wielded by Rick, we were off, through the leafy tree lined streets of Salford. As you may have gathered, the last remark was by way of a humorous exaggeration! The weather was good and mild but there were still a few clouds around and it wasn't anywhere near as warm as it would later become. Unlike many people I love the heat, and always ride better than when it's wet and cold, so I was hoping for better things in the afternoon. The ride passed without incident as we wound our way through Leigh, Atherton, Hindley Green, Westhoughton, Aspull and Haigh Hall, where, as I always do, I spent half an hour refreshing myself with some food, drink and a stretch of the legs. I got there at 9.30 and stopped at 9.35 until 10.05. You may wonder why I try to be so precise about this, and the answer is simple. from past experience I know that if I stop for much longer I will get lazy and want to rest too much-I need to be very firm with myself because I know how fundamentally lazy I am! 

              I parked the bike against a collection of metal beer barrels (these had no connection whatsoever to me I can assure you!) and was in the vicinity of the portaloos, where a fairly long line of people had built up. I'm quite fortunate in that I seem to have a bladder built for endurance, and once, while on a flight back from Galapagos, across the Atlantic, didn’t get up to go the loo for the whole distance! I bet that's a record that hasn't been beaten in a long time. Back to the portaloos anyway, I noticed one lady emerge from one of them wearing a cycling top which had the Heinz Beans logo (as on the cans) on it, and thought it was perhaps an ill omen where portaloos are concerned!

                  We wound our way up Chorley and Leyland, and somewhere along the route in this area, on a hill, I felt what every cyclist dreads while on a long ride, miles away from home, the unmistakable feel of a deflated tyre. I got off and found that the culprit was the back tyre. This is always a pain, since it involves messing about with the chain and cogs, and, muttering a few unrepeatable phrases from the 'Cyclists Book of Quips, Merry Phrases and Foul Rants', I set about replacing the inner tube with a new one. Now under normal circumstances this would not be a particularly difficult task, but as I was to learn, this was not to be the case this time! I got out the three tyre levers which I'd brought with me, which are hard plastic rather than metal, as the rims on the wheels are an alloy, which is damaged easily. I tried one after the other and each one snapped under tension! The tyre itself is very tight and resists being removed, and I now found myself miles from nowhere, with a flat tyre and no way of getting the damn tyre off! Thinking outside the box, I searched the tools I had and found the Allen keys used for loosing Allen bolts (unsurprisingly!).

               This would not normally be a good idea but needs must and I had no choice. After a lot of messing about, I managed to remove the tyre and take out the tube. Ironically the tyre was one which I'd bought deliberately because I was assured that it was very puncture resistant! It's called a Gatorskin, and all I can say is that the gator must have had very soft skin! Given that beneath it, I'd deliberately installed a puncture deflecting layer over the inner tube, it was rotten luck that this happened, but I consoled myself with the fact that out of all the rides I'd done (did I mention that this was thirty?!), I'd had very few punctures, so probably couldn't complain too much. I reassembled the bike and pressed on. Within five minutes I had another puncture on the front tyre!, and had to go though the same procedure again! As you can imagine, dear reader, my patience, not to mention my confidence, was wearing a bit thin by now, and apart from the mental stress, there was the time I was losing to consider. I replaced the inner tube and carried on, to have another puncture ten minutes later, again on the back wheel! This was one of those situations where you actually feel that something is trying to tell you something-perhaps that you should have stayed in bed with a cup of coffee and a good book!

        I fitted the new inner tube and pumped up both tyres as hard as I could safely go, hoping that this would be the end of it, but obviously fearing the worst, with a long way to go before the finish line. I must say that even though two people did enquire if I was OK during the puncture episodes, there were probably a couple of hundred riders who rode past without bothering to find out. Perhaps that says a lot about the way people think nowadays, but unfortunately one day they may need help themselves, and will be pretty disgusted when others ignore them. What goes round comes round as they say. I got to the docks at Preston at 1.20 and had half an hour break here, trying to relax a bit, and taking the opportunity to mend one of the other inner tubes just in case it was needed! Of course I well behind schedule compared to previous years, and knew that my friend Les was waiting for me in Blackpool with my other friend Jon, who lives there. I'd told them that, all being well I would finish between one and two o'clock and we'd have time for a drink and something to eat before visiting a second hand book and record shop of Jon's acquaintance. I called Les to let him know and said I'd be there as soon as I could, wondering all the time whether that might be eight o'clock in the evening at the rate I was going!

         Back on the bike at 1.50 pm I negotiated the lanes which wound through some lovely country villages and farms on the way to Kirkham, Freckleton and Warton, and was doing really well, when near a pub out in the country, a Marshall stepped out to inform us that the road ahead was closed by police following an accident, and we have to take a detour! Now obviously I felt sorry for those involved in the accident, but it did seem at this point that every obstacle you could imagine was been put in my path, and I turned left down another lane  trying to remember the Marshall's words " Look for the windmill pub and turn right."

                The lanes were lovely in their own right, but I must admit I was more concerned with making up time than noticing the fields of drying hay basking in the, by now, hot Summer sun. We seemed to ride for miles before we found the aforementioned pub, and at one point I did begin to wonder if the windmill in question was somewhere north of Rotterdam! At this point we turned right onto another road and eventually got back onto the original route, but it had been a costly detour, time wise. Those who don't cycle probably won't fully understand the feeling of  doubt and apprehension when you are feeling every movement of a tyre against the road, and mistaking the rough surface motion with a deflating tyre, but it can be pretty stressful. Thankfully in spite of all the bumps and rough stretches, the inner tubes held for the rest of the way, but I couldn't afford to relax until I was at least a short distance from the finish. If worst came to worst I would push the bike across the line or carry it, as I did one year when I got a flat in sight of the finish!

                I reached Warton and then we turned onto the coastal road which runs through Lytham St. Annes and eventually Blackpool. At the top of a steep hill, where we turn right onto the main road, a couple of Marshalls, a man and woman, were parked to direct cyclists. I stopped for a brief chat, and she joyfully announced that it was only ten miles to the finish. “Is that real miles or country miles?" I enquired, and she was adamant that it really was. I was a bit dubious about this, and as we pulled up to some traffic light a little way down the road, one of the other Marshalls told us it was definitely 12.3 miles from there. Amazing how the distance gets longer the further you travel isn't it?!The old White Windmill eventually came into view once again on the massive greens area, and the onshore wind was thankfully relatively mild this year, unlike some when it is so strong that it blows you back faster than you can pedal forwards - that would have really 'put the tin hat on things'!

              I must admit I was feeling a bit tired at this point, partly due to stress regarding the punctures, and the last couple of miles seemed to take forever, but eventually the finish line was in sight, and I could see the crowds, which had obviously thinned a bit over the course of the day and had got fed up of waiting for stragglers like me! It's funny how a little bit of positive encouragement can lift your spirits, and I finally crossed the line (there are those who'll contend that I did that years ago!) to a round of rapturous (or rupturous depending on your point of view!) applause from several hardy souls who'd braved the sun and forsaken the allure of candy floss and fish and chips. Apart from the completion certificate and bottle of water, we got a heart shaped metal medal on a ribbon this year, which was rather nice and will fill me with pride every time I wear it to a dinner party!

                  I gathered myself together, drank my water, and made my way along the Promenade to where Les and Jon were waiting opposite the amusement park. After the obligatory shaking of hands, slapping of backs and such comments as 'My God you look like death!” we adjourned to a local hostelry for drinks, and my purely medicinal Guinness. It's the iron content you know, otherwise I wouldn't touch the stuff! The sun was glorious and it was lovely to just sit and watch everyone else expending energy while I relaxed. On the way back to the car Jon pushed the bike for me, and after visiting the loo, I asked him if he'd pretended to be a rider to elicit sympathy from passers -by. He thought for a moment and then said "Well I told them about the hardships of the open road and the sheer guts and dedication needed to overcome them, but that's just the kind of person I am!" I'm not sure whether he was kidding or not but I wouldn't put it past him! The distance covered on the day was 78.3 miles in all, and when you do the calculations, if I hadn't had the punctures but had only taken the normal breaks, I would have been in Blackpool for about 2.15pm, which wouldn't have been too bad. I also managed to get up to 31 mph on the downhill section which I've written about in previous reports, and hope they don't come after me for the extra 1 mph! Anyway I can console myself with the fact that even though it didn't go as planned; I still overcame the problems and pushed on to the end. As Nigel put when I told him about the events "It's only obstinate people like us who'd carry on after three punctures, a lot of them would have thrown the bike in the nearest hedge and adjourned to the pub!" Probably about right.

            I've checked with Bike events regarding the numbers taking part, and they feel there were probably a few under 3,500. Interesting I thought there were more because I had seen numbers on riders which were in the 6000's, but they tell me that they are still using up numbers ordered from years ago when there were more entries, and this can be confusing for the casual observer. At any rate 3,500 is still pretty respectable, and they all deserve a great deal of respect for their efforts.

            I hope you've enjoyed this little tale of adversity and triumph, and thank all of you for being a Three Owls supporter. We couldn't do what we do without your help, and if you can support my humble efforts with your sponsorship, I and the birds would much appreciate it. I'll gird my loins ready for next year, and probably gird my tyres as well, they obviously need it!


News for all!

June 18, 2019

Here we go - lots of requests for this; so I hope you all have time to enjoy.

Feedback (good or bad) is always welcome to help with future editions.

Happy reading!

Either click on the Newsletter link at the bottom of any page, or simply click this link and select which edition you wish to view; Click here


A White Ermine

June 11, 2019

There has been a lot of talk in the news of declining insect numbers, due to the use of insecticides on our crops. I have actually noticed there are fewer flies than when i was young. Here is a very fine White Ermine Moth found on the Banks Meadow Reserve. I really like this photo!

Cheers David  


Please think of the consequences of your actions

June 8, 2019

It is now the busiest month of the year for fledgling birds and, just as in the human world, there are frazzled parents with a million and one things to do, and youngsters exploring and getting into trouble.

Ranging from the tit family whose babies should all emerge from the nest early in the morning, and be flying well by the following evening; the robins and wrens, magpies and crows who need up to five days on the floor before they can fly properly; to the young owls who leave the nest a full 3 weeks before they can properly fly and are often sat at the base of trees, on walls/pathways or in a garden simply awaiting the following night when they will be encouraged by mum and dad to re-climb a tree/wall for their evening meal.

Then, we have the mother duck and ducklings who are often found in people's gardens and on occasion on a busy roundabout. Simply put; we have encroached on their living area so much, there is no safe place near to the waterway for mum to nest so she seeks the safety of people's gardens, and even on flat roofs if well drained. These nests can be up to a mile away from the waterway, and means a perilous journey for mother and her brood which will only be around 24hrs old. If they are 'stuck' and cannot get out, then occasionally assistance is required and mother duck needs catching first and putting into one box, the babies catching 2nd and putting into a 2nd box. Upon reaching the safe waterway, release the babies first, and the mother afterwards. If released in the wrong order, there is a high chance she will desert and you have a box full of orphaned ducklings. Although rescue centres will do their best; generally mum is the much better parent.

Canada goslings can usually be returned to an area where other canada goslings of similar size are resident, as they live in large creches with a number of adult geese looking after them; not necessarily their own parents.

Finally for this month we have all the migratory birds which have come over from Eastern Europe to breed here in the UK. It was heartbreaking this year to hear that at a local stables they had put fly papers up in the barn and within a few hours of the swallows arriving, one had got caught on the paper strip. The glue by design is very sticky and soon destroys the birds plumage, and is very difficult to fully remove without destroying the birds feathers and natural oils in the process. Often the bird will panic to such a degree in trying to get free, that it breaks a wing or leg, meaning a likely death sentence for the bird - and often for any chicks in the nest due to starvation. Though I have managed to mend broken wings and legs in the past on migratory birds, it is sadly only a few and the bird goes through a huge amount of stress as it knows it should be flying and struggles to adapt to hospital life during recuperation. For any migratory bird to survive, it is essential they are 100% fit, and especially with swifts, they are only over here a matter of weeks before returning so the timeframe for repairs is especially short.

Please do read the information on this site before moving a bird unless it is in the road or a cat's mouth; it may simply be doing as it should and mum and dad are simply waiting nearby for you to go away.



Busy times for many sanctuaries

May 26, 2019

We are now entering the busiest time of year for many of the bird sanctuaries and wildlife rescue centres throughout the UK. My evenings and weekends are becoming increasingly busy with calls for help now not only from the general public, but also from such rescue centres who are desperate for assistance with their new admittances; coming across instances and injuries not seen before, and I am always grateful to our Three Owls founder (Mrs Eileen Watkinson MBE), who took the time and trouble to instil her years of knowledge into me, which I have been able to expand and draw upon over the last 41 years.

If, when you ring up you get the answerphone, please do leave a message or send an email, and we will respond as soon as possible. In the meantime do have a read on this website - we have built it up over many years and is now a mine of information which in many instances will provide the assistance you require; without the need to remove the bird from the area where you have found it. We do not have a Facebook page, nor on Instagram, or Twitter; Although these portals can help people, equally I have seen so much damage caused to organisations with online spats, that it is not something I wish Three Owls to enter into - quite apart from the fact I don't have the time to police it all! We will stick to the phone, email and text. It is also still lovely to receive the written letters and cards through the post too - sometimes original methods can be good too!

Please be aware that there is as much mis-information on the Internet as there is quality help, so please do check before feeding birds items which may disable or kill them. Equally, medical advice is best gained from a proper organisation rather than an unknown source.

Sometimes the rescues need rescuing too, and occasionally they become so good at rehabilitation that it outstrips releasability at that site. We have worked with many such rescues in relocation of birds and wildlife not only to our own reserves for remote releases, but have been equally grateful to the different local rescues in the North of England for combining their facilities to share the workload. Only yesterday we relocated two imprinted carrion crows and three tawny owlets from local rescues to our most northern reserves where the staff at Knoxwood will care for them until their eventual release onto our two reserves there. This followed on from another similar trip earlier in the month with two barn owls and two tawny owlets. Our four reserves at Rochdale and Southport are used very frequently for multiple releases. It is important that that such co-operation between the rescues countywide, continues for the benefit of all our wild birds and animals.

Thank you so much to each and every one of you for continued support; it is VERY much appreciated and both saves and enhances wild birds lives' each and every day.



Manchester to Blackpool Sponsored Bike Ride 2019

May 26, 2019


Sitting in the living room (you call this living?!) watching the rain running down the front windows, and suffering from acute depression due to the car boot being cancelled due to bad weather (what's the matter with these people-have they no macs?!), I  thought I would cheer myself up by penning this slightly overdue missive about my annual foray into the world of liniment, punctures and groin strains which is the Manchester to Blackpool Bike ride. It is on Sunday the 7th of July this year, and covers the usual distance of sixty miles or so, staring from The Piazza, Media City and finishing on the seafront at Blackpool. If the word Piazza conjures up sunshine, cafes, sparkling wine and attractive people sitting and admiring one another, think again, after all this is Salford!

      I suppose the gathered throng of expectant riders admire one another's bikes occasionally and might do a bit of calf muscle scrutiny to see whether or not theirs matches up (I don't do this anymore, the disappointment is too much at my advanced age!), but that's about it. For those new to the story, this will be my 30th attempt on the summit, so to speak, and I'm keeping the fingers crossed for a decent day and no mechanical or physical breakdowns, although one more cancelled car boot sale could tip me over the edge!

        On a slightly more serious note, it's quite sobering how quickly the time goes and it seems to get worse each year. Before I know where I am it will be my 35th birthday next year (alright you can all stop laughing, it's not that funny!) and Christmas will have come and gone. This is a special ride for me in many respects, and since the vast majority of the times I've done it have been in aid of Three Owls, it made me reflect on all that has happened over the past few years.

         We all know that Three Owls should still have been operational now as a wild bird hospital and rehabilitation facility, and those of us directly involved will never forget the pain and frustration of those dark days. The work continues and has of course taken a different course with the opening and running of the reserves in various locations, something which would have given Mrs. Watkinson so much joy and satisfaction. In a world where there seems to be no peace and where everything has to justify its existence in monetary terms, I think we stand for something sane and good, and you are all very much part of that. Without your sponsorship, my efforts in July would be nothing more than a good day out with a few bruises and back ache to show for it, but together we can make it actually mean something in terms of the legacy we all leave behind for the natural world, which in the end is all that matters. The Earth can do without us quite happily but we cannot do without the Earth, and hopefully before it's too late, more people will realise this.

            I hope to do the event justice both personally and from Three Owls point of view, and any help you can give will allow us to carry on the work started over fifty years ago by one woman and a small bird. To quote that wonderful song from the stage show 'Warhorse'. We are "Only remembered for what we have done" Let's be remembered for something positive in the face of indifference and destruction. Thank you all in advance and I will write again after the event, assuming I'm still in a fit state of course! My ride number is 4690.

John Thorpe


A first for Three Owls!

May 18, 2019

Last night after work I was walking on the Home Reserve at Rochdale and heard a loud buzzing. Although the reserve is packed full of insects at this time of year, as both trees and plants are laden with flowers, and the floor itself a carpet of bluebells and wild garlic .... this was somehow different.

Tracing the source of the noise (we are not hosting any hives just now), I eventually came across one of the re-enforced squirrel-proof nestboxes had been taken over by the bees and was very much an active hive. Concerned that the box was way too small to support a colony of honeybees, I immediately contacted our bee-expert Andrew who agreed to come over early the next morning.

Dressed in his full bee-keeping suit, I left him with a ladder to do whatever was needed, but was amazed to find him back in the office within a few minutes - "you can't possibly have finished yet; is there a problem?" I enquired of him.

Clearly excited by the find, Andrew explained (to my embarrassment) that these weren't honey bees, but a much rarer Tree Bumble Bee - which for him was a wonderful find as he hadn't seen ANY so far north before; previously Northampton had been the furthest North for this breed he was aware of. They originally inhabit France, but with the recent warmer climes have hopped across the Channel and are working up the British countryside. Thankfully, they happily share our environment with our native bees and there doesn't seem to be any conflict; with our own bees in decline, the countyside needs all the help it can get with pollination for all our plants, bushes and trees.



Babies, babies everywhere!

April 21, 2019

Not only is it Easter Sunday today, but I was everso pleased to see the first of the swallows return to our Reserve at Rochdale. Given that they have just flown several thousand miles to get back here, they were still too quick for my camera so we have one of our rescued blackbirds posing for the camera this time!

The young blackbirds and thrushes are around in abundance just now; please remember that many young birds DO NOT FLY immediately upon leaving the nest, and need 4-5 days of hopping around on the floor learning to fly, being taught by their parents about the dangers in life, and building up knowledge of the different weathers and how to take advantage of such to live a full and happy life.

Please, please do not pick up birds and take away from their parents unnecessarily; they may appear helpless but often mum and dad are hiding nearby and will return to care for them as soon as you have gone. Also fledgling young birds will only be fed by their parents every 3-4hrs, which encourages them onto the next stage of their lives. If in doubt, RING for advice.



Who's watching who?

April 16, 2019

It's been a late one tonight; another hedgehog release over at Three Owls Wood, following their expert care from Sue Lewis and the team at Rochdale Hedgehog Rescue.

The evening started at the hedgehog hospital where we loaded the 16 hogs into the release carriers and carefully stowed them for the road journey to the woodland. Timing was everything and the traffic was kind, permitting us to arrive just as dusk crept in.

The hogs of course being nocturnal, had slept throughout the entire journey, and now with the carriers all in the woodland with doors ajar, they snoozed on.....and on....and on...!

Eventually, some time after my feet had gone numb, they started to awake and ventured off into the big wide world. I took plenty of photos, but chose this one for the article as the look on the hogs face seemed to be saying "Excuse me; who do you think your looking at - we've got things to be doing!"

When finally all had trundled off - all at varying speeds, I was able to return home, pleased that the evening had been another success, giving yet more lives that 2nd chance that they all deserve.



Easyfundraising boost

April 13, 2019

A huge thanks to you all for once again using the Easyfundraising.org.uk website when doing your online shopping this first quarter. All those pennies are really stacking up now, and a cheque for a further £23.47 was warmly received in the office.

We are rapidly approaching our first £1000; so please do continue clicking to support Three Owls - it is all put to very good use for our work with wild birds.



Spring inspections and plans for further works

April 6, 2019

Last weekend two of Three Owls trustees; David Unwin and myself met up at one of our reserves "Old Beech Wood" to look at the work we have achieved so far in sympathetically treating the mature woodland so it can help the greatest amount of wildlife.

We have been clearing vast amounts of Rhododendron bushes, which were strangling off large sections of the reserve and offered the birds residing within, little in the way of food or cover. After two summers of works, over 50% of this invasive plant has been cleared from this huge reserve, and already nature is forging forth with new growth on the previously barren land underneath.

Also on this day, I visited Three Owls Wood to release two pheasants which had been nursed back to health by our colleagues and friends at Meltham Wildlife Rescue near Holmfirth. Alas, they were seemingly rocket-propelled from the carriers, and waaayy to quick for my camera! - all good however for release back to the wild.



One in, one out

March 23, 2019

I was everso pleased to hear in the early hours this morning, the faint cries of a newly hatched heron chick on the Home Reserve. These usually hatch out around Easter-time; so clearly no-one has told the herons that Easter is much later this year! We have four currently active nests this year; there is often a fifth which is a late starter, and that couple usually only have a single brood.

The photo shows the newly discarded empty eggshell, as the parents do their regular housework.

It was tinged with much sadness however, as our eldest rescue dog also passed over Rainbow Bridge that morning too. She has been buried on the Reserve as have all the rescues which have passed on over the years.



Welcome All; we're having a buzz

March 16, 2019

Once again, our Home Reserve has played host to a hive of some 25,000 honey bees supplied by Andrew from Huddersfield. We are very pleased to welcome him back again this year, as the help goes both ways in providing the nourishment for the bees, and also massively helps with pollination on and around the Reserve.

The bees will be with us for at least a week whilst they complete their much appreciated work, before being taken off elsewhere to further their aims in another area. Although the hive currently houses that amazing figure of 25,000 bees, Andrew informs me that by mid-summer the hive will hold around 60,000 bees, as they hatch at the rate of one every seven minutes! (I'm just grateful we don't have a colony of bee-eaters on this reserve!)



And the years fly by...

March 5, 2019

It is now 24 years to the day since Three Owls founder; Mrs Eileen Watkinson MBE passed away, and 57 years in total since she started it all off - with a baby sparrow.

I was down at her graveside on the Home Reserve early this morning before work, thinking of all she had achieved over the years - against the odds. Of the seventeen years we worked side-by-side from starting here myself in 1978. Also all that we have achieved since she passed - and continue to achieve on a daily basis not only on our six nature reserves in the UK, but around the world through the highly varied amount of work that the charity does.

As ever, the support of the public enables us to continue our much-needed work, and last week we received a lovely bequest from the family of a local lady who was a regular visitor and supporter, followed by news last weekend of a legacy to come later on in the year. Thank you so much to each and every one of you, on behalf not only of 'our' birds, but for ALL the wild birds around us.

Just as I've been typing this tonight, a call has come in from another sanctuary needing advice on a casualty they've admitted, and as I've always said; Knowledge is best when shared.



The wonders of nature

March 2, 2019

It was earlier this morning, just before 8am, when I was having one of my frequent walks around the Home Reserve, that I heard a very different type of noise.

I was actually walking around looking in the treetops looking at the male greater spotted woodpeckers hammering away, making potential nest sites for this years' nesting season - however this noise was much closer to home...

The description of it was almost as puzzling as the noise, but I likened it to volcanic springs bubbling to the surface .... Well, I was pretty sure we DIDN'T have any of those, so it was over to the ponds to investigate further....

I was surprised and delighted therefore, to find a number of frogs spawning - something which clearly happens every year, though I have never seen or heard it before.

The photo clearly shows a number of clumps of frogspawn - let's hope they have chance to hatch before the ducks find them!



Early honey bees

February 17, 2019

I was surprised today to see a lot of activity around the hives at our Banks reserve. looking closely the bees were carrying little yellow pollen sacks on their back legs -Where from in February? I hear you ask. Snowdrops i think, if you pick a few and bring them into the warmth they have a lovely fragrance. Crocusses are another possibility. I saw our barn owl get another vole the other day in broad daylight barn owls are very early nesters so its possible it was for a mate sitting on eggs     


Knitting Marvels!

February 1, 2019

A huge Thank You to those wonderful ladies at Knitting Nan's once again.

They have very kindly made a donation of a superb £100 raised from selling their knitted good - this is extra welcome as we urgently need to get out this weekend to stock up on food supplies for our feeding stations, as some of them are needing replenishing 3x daily in the current snowy weather.

It has been lovely this year to see so many of the 'regular faces' back again this winter; Alfred the wood pigeon had been absent for a number of weeks and we were wondering if his time had come - but no, he was back again at lunchtime yesterday with a load of his pals for their top-up.

Regulars now include 30+ jackdaws, our resident crows and jays, numerous robins, wrens, dunnocks, house sparrows, blackbirds, song & mistle thrushes, a variety of tits, and delightfully two pairs of nuthatches. Alas we also have the odd sparrowhawk and buzzard passing through, but thankfully they tend to dine elsewhere, as do the pair of ravens who often fly overhead.

The herons continue to fish in the ponds when not frozen over, though in reality they will be frogging rather than fishing down there. Despite being so close to the heronry, there do still seem to be plenty of amphibians in the reserve ponds, so they must co-exist quite well. Sanctuary for all!



Christmas Tree Appeal - Update

January 27, 2019

A huge thank you to you all for donating your trees this year; we now have FIVE trees in total, which will be going into the ground as soon as the frosts subside. These will be complementing the existing trees at the bottom of the reserve which contain our heronry - within which the herons are already sitting on eggs ready to hatch out this Easter! Brrrr...

**Updated to show one of the young trees with it's winter overcoat!**



John's amazing efforts

January 9, 2019

Well, a huge CONGRATULATIONS to you all; the total amount raised for John Thorpe's sponsored bike ride from Manchester to Blackpool was a magnificent £1156.78, so a massive Thank You on behalf of all the residents of Three Owls. With the colder months of the winter now upon us, this will be marvellous in helping keep our donated supplies topped up to ensure the varied Reserve Feeding Stations have a constant supply for all who visit.

We kept the fund open to the end of the year, as those sending funds from abroad had wanted to include it with their Christmas donations.

As ever, a HUGE Thank You and Well Done to John himself, for undertaking the gruelling ride each year; 2019 will be his 30th consecutive ride .... I wouldn't be surprised to find it's a record in itself!



Christmas Tree Appeal

January 1, 2019

Firstly a very Happy New Year to all our supporters; I hope you have all enjoyed a peaceful Christmas.

I was very pleased last week to receive the first rooted Christmas tree to start off our appeal for more spruce trees. These will be planted out on the Reserve to compliment those already onsite, as they provide excellent nesting and roosting opportunities for a miriad of wild birds.

Rather than have a mass planting session, we will get them in the ground as they come in, to avoid any problems with frost if/when it finally arrives.

Many thanks for your continued support, and Best Wishes to you all for 2019.



Sponsored Bike Ride 2018 update

December 24, 2018
The Staggering Results of the Manchester to Blackpool Bike Ride Appeal.


By John Thorpe.


Talking to Nigel over a coffee recently, I asked about the final total for the Manchester to Blackpool Bike Ride Appeal, and was absolutely bowled over when I found out that it was over £1100 !  This was the best total so far of all the years I have been doing the ride for Three Owls, and is especially gratifying in these hard economic times, when money certainly doesn't grow on trees and people are being bombarded with requests for money for one good cause or another on a daily basis. I am deeply grateful  to each and every one of you who contributed to this Appeal, and who continue to do so year on year. There is always a real danger in any long running event such as this that, to quote the phrase, 'the novelty will wear off', and people will grow bored of the same scenario. Obviously every year is different, and I always try to reflect this in my write-up for the website. Nigel tells me that he gets a lot of complimentary mail about the annual ride report, and even hints that I have a dedicated group of admirers out there waiting eagerly for my next work of literary genius!

           I tend to take it with a pinch of salt of course, but if only a small number of readers enjoy it, it is well worth the effort. The ride for 2019 is scheduled for Sunday the 7th of July, and I have already registered for it, such is my enthusiasm for pain, suffering and linament! As yet I don't know what number I will be allocated, but since this will be my 30th consecutive Manchester to Blackpool Ride, it would be nice if I could get number 30. I'm certainly keeping the fingers crossed that I remain fit and in one piece until after the event, and so is Nigel no doubt! The challenges facing nature seem to get greater with each passing year, and makes the work of Three Owls all the more essential. With your invaluable and continuing assistance, we can carry on the work which Mrs Watkinson started so many years ago. I would like to think that she knows what we have achieved together, and we can be proud that we kept the torch burning for Three Owls in spite of all the setbacks and heartaches we've faced over the years. Anyone can carry on when the going is easy, but it takes a special degree of dedication to pick yourself up from the ground and carry on. That's what we have all done, and we should, at this special time of year, be very proud of that.


John Thorpe

Merry Christmas -a free tree

December 20, 2018

It was such a great pleasure to be able to give a free Christmas tree to The Banks Methodist School this year

-particularly as we grew it ourselves from an eighteen inch high seedling!

We are now having to thin the trees out so it's a guilt free tree!! 

Amazingly as we went to cut it down a Tawney owl flew out of it -I have witnesses to prove it!!! 

Merry Christmas



Getting ready for Christmas!

November 18, 2018

Well, thanks to the never-ending mild autumn, many of our colleagues at wildlife rescues are still able to be releasing adult birds back to the wild, rather than having to keep them over-winter in aviaries due to the usuall hard frosts we would be encountering at this time of year.

We were over at Three Owls Wood in Tarleton today, releasing a male pheasant who had recovered from a particularly nasty wing injury (and was too quick for my camera!), along with the red-legged partridge in the accompanying photograph; perhaps our Christmas Three Owls "Partridge in a Fir-tree" (I don't think we have any pear-trees on that Reserve!)

However, the mild weather IS causing problems for those sanctuaries treating hedgehogs, as they simply aren't hibernating and consequently are getting themselves into trouble due to lack of natural food availability. If you do find one wandering around during the day, then please do contact your nearest wildlife rescue centre for advice as to how best to help it. Local to Rochdale would either be Meltham Wildlife Rescue or Lower Moss Wood Wildlife Rescue. If supplementing theiri diet yourself, remember NO bread or milk, but meat-based cat food i.e. NOT fish-flavoured. Thanks.



Nature's Display

October 14, 2018

Well, we're halfway through October and now the leaves are starting to fall in earnest.

As well as the usual fungi we have reported on previously, we have quite a variety of toadstools this year; three of which I have pictured with this report.

Of course the different media love to report dire weather forecasts, and with suggested four months of snow being banded about for the end of November, we have prepared in advance for whatever the weather DOES decide to throw at us. However, we rarely get the true seasons that were commonplace 50 years ago; no wonder Mother Nature sometimes gets confused and we need to be there to support our wildlife in case they find themselves caught out by an extreme.

In the meanwhile, we shall enjoy the displays she puts on for us just now - I have been watching an adult Jay this week stuffing acorns into hanging baskets and planters. Looking at the collection of young oak trees that were growing earlier this year, he hasn't got a very good memory!



It's Easy....fundraising at its simplest

October 6, 2018

Once again our supporters (that's YOU!) have come up trumps; this time through your shopping efforts online via the www.easyfundraising.org.uk website.

Our cheque just received for the shopping donations raised during the period 1st April to 30th June this year was for a whopping £89.31. If you click on the link above and sign up, once you have raised your initial £5, easyfundraising will add a further £5 to the total .... and none of this costs you anything extra to your purchase.

Everyday shopping purchases done via the site will help swell our funds; so far using this type of fundraising site has raised a total of £870.76, yet not cost anyone an extra penny on their shop. Whether it be the groceries, Amazon or eBay, or even your car/home insurance; most companies are registered with the site to help raise those valuable pennies (and pounds) which we can put to very good use in helping the wild birds around us.

We have new supporters joining up all the time - wouldn't it be wonderful to break the £1000 barrier for Christmas; a time when so many of us shop online in any case.

Thanks for your continued support.



Food for thought, and food for all

September 22, 2018

We are always grateful to receive gifts of any kind; some come in the form of plants/trees/materials for the reserves. Some come in the form of volunteers and/or fundraising events. Some come in the form of money donations and legacies, and some come in the form of foods with which we can support the birds directly on the reserves.

I was thrilled therefore earlier this month to be invited over to Mirfield (West Yorkshire), to collect a huge box of foods specifically to support the birds on one of the reserves this winter. A HUGE thank you then to Tara for her thoughtfulness and now our birds both resident and visitors can tuck in and enjoy the sunflower kernels / mealworms / peanuts.

We are still looking for donations of wild bird seed and fatballs to compliment these kind gifts, so that we can help as many different species of bird through what could be a very hard winter (if the forecasts are to be believed!).

Many thanks once again, Nigel.


Different Reserve, Different Purpose

September 9, 2018

A number of times this year (and again this morning - hence this report) I have been asked for a list of event/visiting times for various reserves across the Three Owls network of sites. I must stress that the only two sites with public access alongside are those managed by Knoxwood Wildlife Rescue at Wigton near Carlisle, and access to them is purely through arrangement by that charity. This site houses our aviary birds relocated from Rochdale in 2010, along with our hospital facilities amalgamated with Knoxwood's own intensive care facilities.

The reserves at Rochdale, Tarleton, Banks, and Mere Brow are used specifically for rehabilitation of rescued wild birds and animals, and environmental conservation - hence access is very limited for the welfare of those dwelling within. Indeed, it is usually only for maintenance or to effect a release that many of the sites are entered at all - it is important that the residents (some rare and highly protected) are safe and undisturbed; after all that is the purpose of a 'sanctuary'. It is through this website and our annual newsletter that we are able to give you further insight into the continued vital work we undertake on these four 'protected' reserves.

Many thanks to you all for your ongoing support - it is through your generous donations that we are able to continue our work in supporting the wild birds around us; saving, protecting and enhancing their lives not just for the here and now but for far into the future.



Always another way...

August 26, 2018

When faced with a problem such as no water for ongoing works at Old Beech Wood reserve, our handyman Stuart was struggling to carry enough water in his little van to complete the daily maintenance works on that site. Thankfully, with generous support from donors including the Walker 597 Trust, we were able to purchase an ex-Water Board clean water high-speed bowser, and transport it full of water from the Home Reserve to our 5-acre reserve at Mere Brow, and then using the Land Rover take it right into the depths of the Wood to where its contents can be best used.

Thank you so much to all our donors who made this purchase possible - this has allowed all our onsite works to continue throughout what has been the driest summer in many years.



There's room for All at Three Owls...

August 18, 2018

Well, we're very much coming to the end of the breeding season now for 2018. The Heronry has done exceptionally well with the hot weather, and we have seen not two but THREE broods in two of the nests, with all the youngsters finally taking to the skies. The one nest which had previously failed each year, finally produced three healthy chicks, and two of these successfully fledged and took to the skies (sadly one did die in the nest).

The small birds have also done well; in fact ALL of the nestboxes have been occupied at least once, and many have reared two broods this year. Thankfully the springs which feed the reserve ponds clearly run very deep, and even in the dry weather this year they have continued to flow - bringing the life-blood through the whole of the reserve, to keep everything in flux.

The photo in this report shows one of the bird boxes which wasn't protected with a metal hole-plate; clearly one of the squirrels hibernated in it last winter, and this year two of our robins have successfully made use of it twice this year to product broods of four and five healthy chicks - now flying freely round the reserve.



A fantastic day was had by all!

August 5, 2018

Well, I have to say it takes something to prise John Thorpe away from a car boot sale .... but here he was accompanying us on our trip to support Knoxwood's Open Day earlier today.

I have to admit; I've never seen the place so busy! The lower part of the Watermeadow Reserve lent itself to an impromptu car park, having only been mown to provide winter food and bedding a few days earlier. There was even a queue to get through the entrance - wonderful to see such welcome support flooding in.

The photo is of John trying out the coconut shy; I would have fared no better, so was happy to stay behind the camera!

I am sure Knoxwood will fill us in at a later date with the full amount raised; but for tonight I'm sure they will be glad when we've all gone home, and both all the birds, animals and staff can finally put their feet up.

A huge Thank You to you all for your support of this event.



Remembering the birds and animals...

July 29, 2018

On a recent visit to our two Wigton reserves, I was pleased to find a plaque commemorating the lives of all those birds and animals who served during the wars; all too often the younger generation 'forget' just how much these animals gave - often their lives - in order we could enjoy the freedom we all keep today.

Whilst on the topic of Remembrance; please don't forget Knoxwood's Open Day next Sunday 5th August - let's hope the good weather continues and brings with it lots of support. Knoxwood continue to care for a number of our former residents from our Rochdale site, and through the use of our hospital facilities and nature reserves continue to save lives each and every day.



John Thorpe's 2018 Sponsored Bike Ride Report in full

July 15, 2018




Well, amazingly it's once again time to put pen to paper and report on my hair-raising adventures on the open road while risking life and limb for Three Owls. Those of you familiar with my annual foray into sensational journalism will no doubt be panting with breathless expectation at the prospect, and I'll try not to disappoint my readership. This was, as some of you will know (because I made such a big deal of it in the pre-ride write-up!), my 29th time in the saddle from Manchester to Blackpool, and as the days went by with glorious weather; I wondered whether we would be lucky on the day. Thankfully the sun didn't let us down, and I was really looking forward to riding in the heat. This may seem strange to most people, including just about everyone I know, since the assumption is that one can't do this sort of energy sapping activity in heat without risking dehydration and death!

Perhaps because I'm a contrary sort or perhaps because my natural body chemistry allows me to do it, I absolutely thrive in heat and really feel alive - I was definitely born in the wrong country! After a day or so of preparation of my trusty bike, which included changing a front tyre, cleaning and lubricating the chain, and generally checking all its nuts and bolts, I was happy that I'd done all I reasonably could to get it ready – of course I was another matter altogether!

As I've said many times in the past, I don't prepare for the event by riding gruelling miles and going to the gym, and while this certainly isn't the prescribed way to prepare, it seems to work for me, although I wouldn't recommend it to anyone else as the correct method. I usually prepare by a lot of walking and trying to eat as well as I can for a week or so beforehand, and I'm very conscious of how much an event like this can take out of the body, even when you feel pretty fit. This was brought home to me a couple of years ago, when, by chance, my Blood Donors appointment was very close to the day of the ride, something which didn't normally occur.

For the first time I can ever remember, my sample failed the iron test and I couldn't make a donation. It was pointed out that I obviously hadn't had time to make up the lost iron from the ride, and this called for desperate measures, including medically prescribed doses of Guinness! Purely for the iron content you understand!

Thankfully the chest infection which had been a damned nuisance shortly before the ride had left me, and much to my rabbits' disgust I had a ridiculously early night on Saturday. Of course going to bed early is all well and good in theory, but when it's still light and sunny outside the drawn curtains, you can't get to sleep and end up listening to Classic FM in the hope of dropping off! The alarm was set for 3.30 am and I sprang out of bed like an Olympic sprinter when it went off. Actually I rolled over, and reluctantly crawled out after reminding myself that I still had the animals to feed and last minute things to sort out before leaving for Manchester. The rabbits looked a bit bemused at being woken up at this ungodly hour, and I apologised to them for the fact that they wouldn't be able to come out until I came home. Oh the cruelty!

I grabbed breakfast, checked the bike in case a tyre had gone down(thankfully not), and just as it was getting light, set off, only to come back a minute later, having realised that I'd left my water bottle in the fridge!

Not a good start but then again I am old and senile!

As always, there was very little traffic on the roads at this time, and most of the traffic lights were on green on the run into Manchester.

It's a nice time of day, before there are too many people out and about, but of course there's always the thought at the back of your mind that a puncture could spoil things, as indeed it did last year. Thankfully I didn't have any problems, either on the run to the start or during the ride, something I was very thankful for I can tell you. No one actually likes changing a

Tube by the roadside unless they have a warped sense of humour that is, and I'm no exception.

My previous reconoitre of the Media City area paid off, and I was able to reach the start in The Piazza area in almost exactly an hour. Preparations were under way for the start, an hour away, and I always find it relaxing to be somewhere well ahead of time, just in case something does go wrong. I found my yellow suited mate The Voice of The Ride, and had a

Couple of photos taken by an obliging coffee stall assistant with my home made '29th Consecutive Bike Ride' poster. I also gave him a copy of the Three Owls magazine to read, and he was very interested, surprisingly, since he was a keen RSPB member himself. We may get another supporter in due course-who knows?

The smell of rubbing alcohol, muscle rubs and Kendal Mint cake filled the air as riders honed themselves to perfection around the Piazza. I had girded my loins sometime previously so didn't see the need to distress anyone further on the day! It's always funny to see the mixture of riders who take part in the event, and I'm sure it must be the same for the other events around the country. There are of the course the athletically challenged like myself, the somewhat corpulent, and the super fit club riders who use the sixty miles as a mild training run! It's easy to poke fun at the less athletically built entrants, but at the end of the day they are taking part, and the majority finish in one piece, having earned some money for their chosen charity. If everyone made the same effort, both for the sake of their health and for charity, the world would be a lot better place.

The time for the off drew nigh, and we lined up behind the tape, snorting with eager anticipation like thoroughbreds at the start of the Derby. Listen if I want exaggerate I will do-it's my story! One large and apparently insurmountable problem stood in our way however, a large road block which needed to sink into its cavern in the ground before we could pass. A couple of minutes of hectic activity resulted in the sinking of the obstruction and the dropping of the tape, over which we surged, only to be slowed down by a man clothed in luminous yellow who slowed us down and told us to keep to the left!

The sun was coming up and the temperature rising, and I set off full of enthusiasm and energy bars, determined to keep up a good, steady pace without overdoing it. I have learned over the years, that pacing is vital, or one is inclined to burn out well before the finish. The sun was warm and we wound our way towards Leigh, through Salford and Astley Green, with a welcome breeze cooling our straining muscles (I was trying to find my straining muscles personally!). Through Atherton and on towards Coppull and Charnock Richard the string of riders pressed on and I had time to notice some of the other riders and their garb. One, shall we say, a wee bit on the corpulent side, chap I rode behind for a while, had a shirt on which had the log 'This guy needs beer!'  I couldn't help thinking a low calorie soft drink might do him more good, but it probably wouldn't have made such a catchy logo!

There's a wonderful downward slope on the road to Haigh Hall, where a rider can either coast down the steep gradient and rest the legs, or as I like to do, pedal like the clappers and see how fast I can go!

I managed 29.5 miles an hour this time, and was impressed by the way the brakes actually stopped me at the bottom - very fortunate I felt, especially since I'd tightened them up the day before! The steep hill leading up to the entrance to Haigh Hall (pronounced Hay) loomed up and I did what any true Englishman with red blood in his veins would do in the face of such a challenge.....I got off and pushed! Save your energy for the important bits is my motto nowadays. I also pushed over the infamous Haigh Hall cobbles, which have claimed many a victim over the years and rendered many a cyclist with a high pitched voice for the rest of the ride!

We reached the country park at 8.35, and stopped at 8.40 for a well earned break until 9.15. They say, food tastes better outside in the open air, and I felt much better after a rest. I asked a passing Paramedic if he'd had any customers yet, and he told me a tale from last year's event which highlighted how dangerous cycling can be if things go wrong. A lady cyclist swerved to avoid a water bottle which had fallen from the cycle in front of her, lost control and ended up in a deep ditch with several fractures in one forearm. She needed morphine and anti clotting treatment, and was airlifted to Blackpool for urgent care. It all happened in seconds, and obviously spoiled her day. Sobering thoughts when one has a long way to go.

The road led north through Standish, Coppull and Charnock Richard, Chorley and Leyland, and even built up areas looked beautiful in the Summer sun. Periodically, we passed people who'd come out to cheer us on, and it's really nice to see them. There were even one or two houses where the owners had left water out for cyclists and chairs to have a rest-very tempting but not a good idea because if you get off you don't want to get back on again!  Soon we faced the long road into Preston and although it was gloriously sunny and the trees and grass were brilliant green, I put my head down and pedalled steadily, trying to keep up a rhythm. A couple of riders wearing pink ballet tutus flashed past (well everyone was flashing past!), and I couldn't help but admire their nerve- well not everyone suits pink do they?!

At one of the roundabouts, we passed a full sized military tank stationed by the roadside with a sign saying 'Made in Leyland' Perhaps I'm a little cynical but I wondered how on earth it had avoided being spirited away and weighed in for scrap! I’m sure it's well secured to terra firma and was certainly still there the other day when I passed it in a friend's car.

Eventually the long, long road came to an end, and we swept downhill and wound our way to Preston docks at 11.00 am. I pulled over and propped the faithful bike up by the railings, ready for a break and a stretch of the legs. In case that sounds a little strange in view of the fact that my legs had been stretched for quite a few miles already, it's worth bearing in mind that the riding position on a bike can lead to a touch of cramp occasionally and it's nice to pose and extend the limbs as if you've been watching a Jane Fonda workout video!

A group of middle aged riders (hark who's using the phrase 'middle aged'!) Asked me if I'd oblige them by taking a picture on a phone to commemorate the event, and I did the best I could in view of the fact that the strong sunlight made it difficult to see the image on the screen. One of the group, a well built rider with a generous stomach allowance was wearing a riding shirt with the logo 'Not Bad for a Fat Lad!' I do like people with a sense of humour!

The water was sparkling in the sunshine, and gulls and cormorants were sitting on the pontoons in the docks, keeping an eye open for the chance of a meal. A nearby notice informs passers-by that there is a tern colony in the docks, quite something for an inland town. Just goes to show that Nature will find a way, given a bit of encouragement, and it made me think about the work that Three Owls has done at the reserves to encourage wildlife. I visited Three Owls Wood with Nigel the other day to photograph the release of a young curlew and pheasant, and was amazed at how it has matured since I last saw it. The trees have grown and the undergrowth shelters so much life, that the transformation is astonishing.

Mrs. Watkinson would have been so proud of what we have all achieved, and the list of species seen on the reserve grows every year.

With so much pressure on the natural world every bit of help we who care, can give, is precious. It keeps me going when the legs get tired and the hills seem steeper than last year - and several did I can tell you!

Like any red blooded Englishman faced with a steep hill, I remember my proud heritage, grit my teeth and ....get off and walk up! There's no point in wasting precious energy at my time of life!

Twenty five minutes seemed to fly by, but with some food and drink in the tank I felt much better and set off again at 11.30 for the final section into Blackpool through the villages and countryside of the Fylde. The route goes past a park, and the sharp left turn reveals a steep rise, not what you need immediately after a break! Still a short walk never did anyone any harm! The sun was wonderfully warm, and I actually did pass a field of grain waving in the breeze this year. Village pubs beckoned, but I pressed on with steely determination - to tell the truth the temptation to stop for a drink was very real, but the legs start to seize up if you don't keep up a steady pace, and I wanted to see if I could get in a little earlier than last year - well we all have our delusions.

The riders pressed on through the pretty village of Treales and on to Kirkham, Freckleton and Warton. At some point on this road, I noticed a farm on the left which had a kiosk advertising Raw Farm Milk. Call me a sucker for temptation but I couldn't resist the lure of ice cold milk on a hot day. It's a long time since I tasted raw milk, but I polished off the whole lot before carrying on, and it tasted amazing.

The simple pleasures are the best!

We soon found ourselves on the coastal road which winds into Lytham, and the road surface immediately lets the rider know that they're nearly in Blackpool. It's a sort of open pored, reddish tarmac which manages to transmit every bump and ridge through the tyre and up the frame to the rider's tender regions-- which after sixty miles can get pretty tender I can assure you! I can only guess that some point in the past, the local Council must have been offered a job lot of red tarmac and thought it would look nice! The other problem is that it gives the impression that the tyre is gradually deflating, and that can be disconcerting to say the least.

This section of the ride, as readers may recall from previous reports, can, on a bad day, be very taxing, since the onshore wind blowing over the extensive green section can almost stop a rider in their tracks. Thankfully this year the day was wonderful and the wind was a gentle breeze which gave some welcome relief from the heat. I was actually feeling quite good at this point, and kept up a steady speed, hoping that it would eat up the last few miles, which always seem to take the longest.

We passed the famous windmill and I noticed the quite extensive area of burned grass which a friend had told me about previously. Apparently someone had been careless with a barbecue kit and caused an extensive burn which the fire brigade had to deal with. The stupidity of some people is astonishing, given the publicity regarding fire danger at the time.

The way people perceive cyclists is obviously influenced by their experience of them, and on the way in to Blackpool I witnessed one of the most arrogant and stupid pieces of riding I have seen in a long time. As we got closer to Blackpool, the number of people increased, as did the traffic, and noticed, up ahead, a family crossing the road. They crossed onto the central island and set off for the other side. There were several riders ahead of me, including a young man of about eighteen, who was riding very erratically and quickly, and while everyone else slowed down when they saw the family crossing, he deliberately speeded up and headed straight for them. At the last second he swerved and missed them by inches. If I could have seen his number I would have reported him for dangerous riding, but unfortunately I couldn't. In the very unlikely event that he reads this, or someone does who knows him, I'd like him to know that he represents everything I detest, both in cyclists and  human beings in general.

We reached the point where the road joins the promenade, and turned onto the closed section which leads to the finish line, and I gathered all the energy I could muster to look heroic as I crossed the line. There was a good crowd gathered to welcome us home, and I raised an arm in celebration as I finished. I did consider raising both arms but since the front end of the bike is lightly balanced, I could imagine the wheel twitching and sending me nose first across the line! I chose dignity and safety over spectacle on this occasion!

I crossed the line to rapturous applause at 1.37pm, an improvement on last year's time, and unfortunately couldn't catch the eye of my mate 'The Voice of the Ride', since he wasn't in the commentary box. A personal greeting would have been nice! I grabbed my completion certificate, water and Soreen bar and headed for the Pleasure Beach, where my friend Les was waiting for me. Some relaxation, a drink and something to eat, followed by a leisurely stroll in the sun, was a great way to wind down, and he kindly gave myself and the trusty bike a lift home.

The final mileage, was 77.8 (including the ride from Bury to the start in Manchester, the average speed of 10.5 mph and the maximum speed of 29.5 mph (well it was wind assisted, down a very steep hill with someone pushing me!)

I checked with Bike Events office during the following week, and found that there were approximately 3,700 riders in the event his year, and that, as far as they knew, this was the 32nd event. Next year will be my 30th consecutive ride, and with luck I will once again be representing Three Owls and asking for your support (unless I can save up for one of my own that is!)

The ride is, I suppose my chance every year to do something worthwhile and prove that I can still physically accomplish it, but more importantly, it proves that together we can make a real difference and leave something for future generations to appreciate. Remarkably, there are photos of me on the ride, which can be seen by going to the Bike Events website, finding the Manchester to Blackpool Ride and tapping the box to look at rider photos. Type in my rider number 3355 and you will be treated to exciting action shots showing every straining sinew and bead of perspiration in glorious colour! If anyone would be interested in the idea of signed photos through the Three Owls website, we would appreciate feedback to gauge whether it would be feasible.

I hope you've enjoyed this report on my exploits, and thank you so much for your continued support for the work of Three Owls. Nigel tells me that donations so far have exceeded those from last year at the same time, and let’s hope that this bodes well for this year's total. I may be the one who makes the physical effort but the supporters make the real difference.

John Thorpe


John's put the pedal to the metal!

July 8, 2018

Well, once again John has completed his sponsored Bike Ride from Manchester to Blackpool in aid of Three Owls. I won't take the wind out of his sails by going into great description now, as he'll be busy writing-up his Bike Ride Report this week, and then we can post it up on here.

Monies received so far in supporting his efforts have just topped the £200 mark; so we are already a fifth of the way to that magic £1000 marker.

Please do dig deep for this, John's 29th consecutive ride.

Many thanks to you all for your continued support.



A New Baby

July 5, 2018

I came accross this baby in the middle of the wood He seems a bit thin, probably too dry for the worms and slugs he likes to eat.

So pleased to find six tiny mallard ducklings on the pond tonight.

cheers David


In The Barn Owl Nest Box

July 4, 2018

Kestrel chicks !!

So excited to find these chicks exporing the barn. In fact there are four, one is just out of shot. Perhaps I need to put up another box on the other side of the barn.

I was mowing the rides today when all the little birds stated alarming- then the reason came flapping by -a fine buzzard !!  

cheers David  


Three Owls Newsletter 2018

July 1, 2018

The latest copy of our Three Owls Newsletter can now be read online by clicking on the NEWSLETTER link at the bottom of any of this websites pages.

Indeed while you are there, you can also read previous copies of Three Owls News dating back to 2011 when we first started putting them online, as well as in paper form.

As ever, the newsletters and everything on this website are copyright; should you see any of it reproduced without our permissions alongside, please let us know as soon as possible.

Happy reading!



The Manchester to Blackpool Bike Ride 2018 by John Thorpe.

June 23, 2018

Hello everyone and firstly my apologies for the delay in writing this - time seems to go nowhere these days. The Bike Ride this year is on Sunday the 8th of July and appears to be following the same route as last year, with a distance of approx. 60 miles - doesn't sound a lot when you say it quickly does it?!

This will be my 29th consecutive ride, and the magic 30th is dangling like an imaginary carrot ahead of me. I'm taking one thing at a time though and concentrating on this one first. Experience has taught me that one can never take anything for granted, and always treat the ride with respect or it will bite you when you least expect it. I've had a bit of a chest infection of late but will be nursing it along and taking things easy - the main thing is to finish, the time is less important - there speaks an aging rider for you! I've been thinking a lot about the work that Three Owls has done over the years, much of it never seen by the public and probably not truly appreciated as a result. Each individual story of rescue and recovery would take the volumes of a library to recount, and I still live in hopes that Nigel will find the time to put the Three Owls story in print some day, to show just how much time and sacrifice went into making it what it was, and in a different way, still is today. I am available for line drawings by the way!

Nigel will probably kill me for saying so, but very few people really know how much time he dedicates to answering phone calls and giving advice to the public and to other rescues, as well as spending time physically travelling to assess birds and give practical help to other rescue organisations. We are both Car Boot addicts I'm afraid, and most Sundays through the Summer meet up while scouring the stalls for elusive must have items, or junk to uninitiated! I often come back to Three Owls for a coffee, a chat and to show him my little treasures - stop it, there are people making up their own jokes!

The number of calls he deals with while I'm there is often amazing, and multiply this over the entire day and you have some idea of the work involved. I know this to be also continued throughout each evening and weekend throughout the year. My point is that Three Owls continues, in different ways, to make a significant contribution to the welfare of wild birds, and other animals along the way, since we frequently find new organisations which may need help or may in fact be able to help us in the future. The rescue community is a living, breathing thing which constantly evolves and hopefully improves in terms of its ability to use the most up to date information in the service of wildlife. Anyone who watched the recent series of Springwatch programmes couldn't fail to be horrified by the figures showing the decline in so many species of wild birds and other animals in our countryside, including rabbits, a species close to my heart. Human beings have inflicted so much damage with so little thought over the past hundred years, and future generations will hold us to account one day.

While none of us are entirely blameless, some of us can honestly say that we tried our best to make a difference where we could. If you can be a part of that in any way you can look yourself in the eye in the mirror and at least know you were part of the solution, not the problem.

Every bit of support you can give my humble efforts will make a real difference to the quantity and quality of help we can offer to other organisations, and ultimately to the birds who are so vulnerable in a world we dominate. Every life is worth saving, and I do believe that in so doing we help to save ourselves, both spiritually and in reality,

 I hope to be able to write my usual post ride report in due course, and thank you in advance for you continued support for both my ride and the work of Three Owls- we have risen above the trauma of recent years, and with your help we will continue to carry the torch which Mrs. Watkinson lit over fifty years ago.

Thank you all.

John Thorpe


PLEASE Stop and Think before touching...

June 9, 2018

....a baby bird!

I am getting alarmingly high numbers of reports of wildlife rescue centres having to close due to being 'full', during what is the busiest month of the year for wild bird rescues.

This is not due to an increase in the number of accident victims, but due to the unusually dry weather, people are spending more time outside, and coming across young birds who are out getting some sunshine rather than sat under a bush as it's usually raining - hence the conflict between people/fledglings.

The danger is threefold;

1. Birds are being removed unnecessarily from their parents, reducing their chances of survival. Even though each hospital prides itself on its standard of care; mum and dad bird generally do a much better job.

2. Hospital space is at a premium at this time for most sanctuaries; very few operate as Three Owls did where we can always get any casualty in, and if necessary open a temporary extra hospital room to cope with demand. If a sanctuary has to close to new admittances, then there is a huge knock-on effect to surrounding sanctuaries who then also are at risk of becoming swamped and having to close to new admittances also.

3. Funding for any sanctuary is always tight, but the cost off specialist food, bedding and medicines stretches many sanctuaries to breaking point. Please NEVER leave a casualty at a rescue without leaving 'something' to help them out. It need not always be money - often they have a website or social media page where they have appeals running for what they specifically need at that time.


The danger is that if the smaller sanctuaries become overwhelmed, then the national animal welfare organisations will simply euthanaise even more of our wildlife, simply to stem the tide of those being diverted their way. This is not said in a nasty way; it is simply what I have observed over thee past 40 years while working with Three Owls.

To give you an idea of figures; I've been manning the Helpline today. Of the 53 calls so far for assistance, only 3 needed hospital help, the others were simply fledglings which were hopping around and learning about life outside of the nest. Please remember that some birds take a full 5 days after leaving the nest before they can fly properly, and so during this intervening period you will often find them in the gardens/yards, verges, fields and woods hopping/sitting around whilst they await mum/dad's next feed (usually every 3-4 hours).

IF you DON'T think 'your' bird fits this criteria, or it clearly has a injury such as a trailing wing, dragging leg, or clear open wound; THEN telephone your nearest wildlife rescue centre BEFORE moving it, so that it is confined for the least time possible. Too many birds have perished because the box/bird was left in the greenhouse/conservatory while people have only later in the day been seeking help.

Of course, there is always the exception to the rule where the bird is in the road or a cats mouth and needs immediate intervention! Obviously you don't then follow national advice of 'put it back where you found it', but again ring your rescue centre who will advise you dependent upon the birds' condition, before transporting it away from the area you found it in.

Sorry for the length of this report, but the list of 'closed' centres is growing by the hour, and things need to be put into perspective.



A wonderful surprise

May 23, 2018

I was thrilled to find in the post when getting home tonight, a lovely letter and most wonderful cheque of £50 from our generous friends at Knitting Nanas.

This is the 2nd year they have managed to raise some funds for us; and this years' superb efforts will be put to very good use to cover the bill for the new trees we have recently planted on the Home Reserve at Rochdale.

So, a HUGE THANK YOU to Ann, Sue, Ann, Karen, Nellie, and Caroline.



A sweet aroma!

May 17, 2018

The Home Reserve at Rochdale is currently a huge sea of wild garlic - and playing havoc with my hay fever!

I have been pleased that it has (with a little gardening help), spread in order to reduce the amount of Himalayan Balsam which was choking off part of the reserve. The garlic is one of the earlier plants to flower thus helping the insects early on in the season (providing essential food for the birds), then dies back to allow other plants to grow later on in the season, so it's a win-win for all the residents on the reserve.



Off to the Wild!

May 16, 2018

We played host to Sue Lewis and 16 of her rehabilitated hedgehogs from Rochdale Hedgehog Rescue during their release at Three Owls Wood in Tarleton this evening,

So fit they all were, that they weren't hanging around for a photoshoot, so I'm afraid this articles photo is of someone's backside!

The woodland here is now well-established and offers perfect habitat for a huge number of species of both animals and birds. I am sure they will quickly settle in and make themselves at home.



Barn owls Newsfash:

May 13, 2018

Great news!! hissing from the barn owl nest box and frantic hunting activity at the Banks Meadow reserve can mean only one thing- CHICKS!! Hurrah

I was watching tonight to see a parent catch a vole in the evening sun about 8 pm I feel so proud that our efforts to help these beautiful birds have been rewarded.

The new hedges are about ten feet tall in places now, and home to many nesting birds including a pair of Linnets - what lovely song




When we grow up....

April 27, 2018

... we want to be Heron Homes!

We are of course talking about the newly-planted Spruce Fir trees which John Thorpe and I have planted over the course of the past couple of evenings.

These trees (fifty in total), should grow tall and proud over the next 40-50 years, and in just 15-18 years be capable of sustaining a extremely weighty heron nest with chicks and parents. We received two further trees from our Christmas Tree Appeal which have also been planted out on another part of the reserve where the two previous trees planted some 20 years ago already support a huge number of nesting birds.



a pair of Kestrels

April 3, 2018

One of the Barn owls was hunting on The Meadow reserve in Banks again and i was hoping to get you all a photo when he flew off -frightened by some crows who also flushed out a pair of grey partridge. Then i noticed this pair on the corner of the Flavourfresh greenhouse -Mr and Mrs kestrel. I have hardly ever seen a pair together like this -one or other is here every day but here they are definatley a pair! Mr has a slate grey head and is on the right.

Before i go- the first swallow arrived today but only one so that doesn't make a summer!

Cheers David   


Eggsellent news

March 27, 2018

I was thrilled to hear this evening the chatter of a newly hatched chick from one of the other heron nests on the Home Reserve at Rochdale. Sure enough, a search of the floor beneath the tree revealed a single discarded eggshell. Let us hope that it encourages the rest of the heronry who are now re-sitting fresh eggs following the winter storms, and over the next few days our 'Easter chick' will be joined by some fellow siblings.

No pics of this little-one I'm afraid; I have no wings of my own to see up there!



Reserve Visits

March 24, 2018

Today I have been on a 'flying visit' to three of our reserves; starting off in Rochdale at the Home Reserve, onto Banks to the Meadow Reserve, and finally onto the Three Owls Wood at Tarleton for a trustees meeting, where we were given the 'guided tour' by David to see first hand all the recent progress on that site.

First the Home Reserve; recovering well from the recent deep snowy weather, the floor of the woodland there is greening-up nicely, and I noticed already two pairs of blackbirds are already well-on with their nesting. Two of the robins followed me round hoping for a titbit, so I overturned one of the rotting logs which enabled them to fill up on the grubs then exposed. A further check on the heron nests revealed two discarded egg shells, but alas a deathly silence from the treetops above. As the babies would normally be quite vocal, I fear they may have perished in the recent very cold and stormy weather (and been recycled by mum & dad)...but I would be happy to be proved wrong if they were simply tucked under a parent keeping warm, and will keep an eye on this over the next few days.

Onward to the Meadow Reserve at Banks; a very different reserve here, with lots of tussocky grass vital for the vole habitat. These provide an essential part of the diet for not only the barn owls, but a host of other birds and animals as David regularly reports. The songbirds were here aplenty, but no sign of the barn owls on this visit - obviously they were tucked up in bed!

Finally, over to Three Owls Wood and meeting up with David (another of our Trustees who manages this reserve for us); it is amazing to see how this woodland has developed from the horse field it was back in 2011. As we walked around the 6 1/2  acre site, we saw a number of songbirds, a pair of buzzards wheeling lazily overhead, and a couple of mallards in the large pond. There were also pheasants a-plenty, and on the way out we saw one of the huge hares racing around - they really are massive! The photo shows David and just some of the tree guards piling up now removed - having nursed the trees through their early years, and now ready to move onto their next home. It has been wonderful to see a true woodland growing up from 18" 'twigs', into the huge trees towering above us today.



Happy memories

March 7, 2018

It was 23 years last Sunday (5th March) that Mrs Eileen Watkinson MBE - the sanctuary's founder - passed away. I have thought about her a great deal of late; sometimes thinking of the interesting and fun times, the joyful times when a rehabilitated bird is returned to the wild, and of the sad instances where such badly injured birds were admitted and couldn't be saved. The knowledge I gained from working with her since 1978 has stood me in good stead, and continues to help others far and wide, indeed on occasion from other countries around the world. Whilst it is unusual for me to be up at 4.30am typing this, I recall that this was the time Mrs Watkinson always rose to start her day, and would often enjoy the dawn chorus whilst listening to the World Service on the wireless.

Alas we were still deep in snow on Sunday, and I was dealing with the aftermath of the storm, so it is only now in the small hours that I have chance to put 'pen to paper'. I did have a walk around the reserve that day, and spent some time at the graveside; we will get some new wild flowers for the memorial woodland this year - no point just now I thought at the time, as it's all under a white blanket.

I recall back in the early 1980's (I think I was 11 or 12 at the time), three of 'us volunteers' (Sharon, Darius and myself) had written into TV-AM to nominate Mrs Watkinson for an award for her work. Amazingly and against all the odds for a TV competition, we were one of the lucky winning few, and so Wincey Willis and her crew came up one December morning to present Mrs Watkinson with not one but two hampers; one for her, and of course one for the birds.

Having been lucky to be granted the morning off school, I remember nearly freezing my toes off on the park round the corner as we ran through 'our lines' with the film crew. Then, it was round to the Sanctuary for the great surprise; and being greeted by Wincey dressed as a Christmas Fairy - complete with wellies - was enough to surprise anyone!

I recall Guilly; our resident guillemot at the time, walking around and inspecting the hampers contents, much to the film crews' delight. I do still have the clip of the event on VHS somewhere in the archives, though it is rather battered now through years of repeated playing. My first introduction to 'being on the TV with Three Owls!'

I know she would be thrilled that her woodland dream has finally become a reality, that the work of Three Owls now reaches far further than it ever could before, and we have a network of SIX reserves now supporting our ongoing work with wild birds. I do miss the hands-on work with the birds, but through working closely with other sanctuaries, rescue centres and vets, as well as the general public enquiries; such knowledge gained over the years is constantly recalled and we put it to good use in saving lives day-in-day-out.



Danger to life

March 2, 2018

Well, not quite the start to 'Spring' we were hoping for!

We currently have snow drifts in excess of three feet at the Home Reserve, and whilst this reserve looked beautiful in its white banket yesterday, this mornings' dawn walk around the site revealed last night's 100mph winds have caused a fair bit of damage.

The photograph with this report shows 'Alfred's Tree' down on the floor; a mature spruce tree which was used by a miriad of different bird species for both nesting and roosting. It was heartbreaking to see both it down, and two adjacent trees also damaged by the gales. We will however have a replanting session as soon as the snow clears, and will ensure that these lost habitats are replaced - though it will take a good few years to recover what we lost last night.

The herons are sat tight on their nests; they are on eggs so we hope that all is well up in their treetops. The oldest herons did nest lower-down than usual this year...how could they have known???

The 'team' will be down on the reserve this weekend repairing the damage, and assessing what other works are now required. We hope that all our supporters are safe, well, and warm.




Relocating, relocating...

February 10, 2018

We have another run on tomorrow (Sunday 11th Feb) to relocate some birds for their final stage of rehabilitation from Meltham Wildlife Rescue to our reserves at Wigton where the staff at Knoxwood Wildlife Rescue will care for them at this final stage.

We also take the opportunity to take up donations of bric-a-brac, towels, newspapers, bird/dog/cat food for use on the reserves (yes, the gulls can eat dog and cat food!), and I am informed this morning that there is space in the van for some more items if you can drop them at the Three Owls Home Reserve site at Rochdale before 10am on Sunday.

Many thanks to you all for your continued support; through working with a number of different wildlife rescue centres, we are all able to help a much greater area of wildlife than if we were working alone.



Plastic Peril!

February 4, 2018

On one of my frequent walks around the reserve this weekend, I was alarmed to see something hanging down from a tree near to one of the heron nests.

I was very relieved upon closer examination to find it was the remnents of a helium balloon rather than an injured or dead heron. Whether it had been released and snagged on the tree of its own accord, or worryingly been brought back by one of the birds as nesting material we have no way of knowing.

Just as the dangers of plastic waste and its effect on the environment are much in the news at present; we found our own dilemma here on the Home Reserve at Rochdale. Thankfully we got it safely down, and bagged up with the rubbish before the baby herons hatched out and were at risk of trying to eat it.

On this occasion, the 'J' clearly stood for "Just in time".

If you were thinking of releasing balloons or lanterns; please consider they can be deadly to wildlife and farm animals long after the few minutes that you can see them.



On the airwaves again!

January 31, 2018

I'm pleased to report that the Emergency Helpline is once again back in service. Whatever '3' did to the mast has worked, and we now have a signal once more.

Many thanks to them for their swift attention to the matter.



Signal lost!

January 28, 2018

We are aware that there is currently no mobile phone signal at the Home Reserve in Rochdale.

We have brought this to the attention of '3', who assure us they are onto it.

Hopefully normal service will resume soon!



A week too late!

January 20, 2018

Well, that's the way the cookie crumbles as they say; only last week Mark and his team were onsite taking down some damaged trees, and clearing a space of some poor quality self-seeded ones,ready for this years' planting. Now we have a tree down across the top of one of our ponds.

Never mind, I will trim the top to get it stable, and it will be left in situ where many have fallen before it, and it will then provide the wildlife with a bridge across the pond for around 8 years before it finally rots enough to fall into the pond. This is only a realtively young tree - the previous ones have been fully grown mature ones with a decent sized trunk. Still, the smaller birds will welcome the new perch, and no doubt the herons also will appreciate an idea spot to watch for the next snack from the pond.



Many thanks to you all

January 14, 2018

We have recently had some lovely gifts of bird seed to help support our resident birds, also welcome bags of used postage stamps (as well as new ones). We have also received a number of owl-orientated gifts for our next newsletter raffle - which should be dropping through letterboxes in the next few weeks (also available to dowload from the link at the bottom of each web page).

Thank you also for the gifts of dog and cat food; this is readily turned into Gull-food and will accompany us on our next visit to our Wigton Reserves early in February - so if you have anything you can spare, it can be dropped off at our Home Reserve in Rochdale and we will organise its transport over there.

Your donations are always welcome at any time, but especially just now when the winter weather is at its most harsh.



Whooper Swan for New Year !

January 7, 2018

Whooper swans greet the New Year at the Banks Reserve - We were so excited when just after dawn we could hear an odd whisteling sound -made by the wings of these gaint birds as they flew in to feed. A small flock of about twenty they have flown in every morning now for three weeks. I have been waiting for a sunny day to get this photo to share with you all.

Also saw a Marsh Harrier yesterday-odd flies rather like a Barn Owl,flap flap -glide, flap flap -glide. Both birds are hunting near the ground and listening for pray 


Happy New Year




New Year, new growth on the Home Reserve

January 1, 2018

Happy New Year to all our supporters throughout the world. For those of you who welcomed 2018 in; I hope you did so safely and not now suffering from the self-inflicted festivities!

A walk around the Home Reserve this morning reveals new growth already, and a 'pathway' of both crocus and snowdrop shoots were there to greet me, as I walked through the Memorial Woodland part of the reserve.

Alas, the first call of the day was from someone finding an injured owl in Oldham; most likely traumatised from last nights' fireworks. Hopefully it will make a full recovery, and it is now winging its way to their nearest rescue centre (details and advice given). Here in Rochdale thankfully the fireworks were not as bad as in previous years, and I sat up until gone 1am with all our rescued animals to ensure they were as comforted as possible during the tortuous time.

Let us hope that 2018 brings a good year of health, happiness, kindness and prosperity to all.



A very Merry Christmas to you all

December 25, 2017

A huge thank you for all your ongoing support. I was thrilled to receive last week the latest cheque from Easyfundraising for a wonderful sum of a further £32.89 of the huge sum of £767.35 raised so far.

Please, please do keep on shopping via the site and raising those much-needed funds towards our work; remember it doesn't cost you a penny extra, but can make a huge difference to our fundraising, which in turn helps save birds lives.

Finally, could I wish you all the very best for Christmas and the entire festive season. Keep safe, and I will write to you again in the New Year.



Help us to Help You with your online shopping!

December 9, 2017

When doing your Christmas Shopping this year, please consider using the Easyfundraising Website to raise funds for Three Owls for ~FREE~ yes, it won't cost you a penny extra, but can help raise vital funds for us in order to keep helping wild birds in distress.

In addition, you can find many bargains online through the site, from special offers to bargain codes.

Simply click on This Link to register and start helping us - to help you - to help all the wild birds around us. Simply type "Three Owls" into the Cause Box when you register, and up to 24th December we will get an extra £4 donation once you start shopping through the site. Already over £760 has been raised this way from Three Owls supporters clicking their support.

We hope to see you there soon.



Major Maintenance Day

November 25, 2017

We recently had to have Mark in; our trusted Arboriculturist as due to the number of storms we have endured in recent months, a number of badly damaged trees have had to be felled for safety reasons on our Home Reserve at Rochdale. Many thanks also to Bobby and Dexta for their help on the day with moving and stacking the logs; it was a long day...

Fear not, as removing these damaged trees will allow new growth on this Reserve, and much of the brash and logs have been stacked up to provide both shelter and warmth, hibernation, feeding and nesting areas to a miriad of our rescued creatures. The trees on the other five reserves have fared better with no such works required.

Due to the short window of opportunity we have on this particular reserve - due to the long-span of nesting season of the huge number of species using it; we will need to have all the maintenance works completed by the 3rd week in January when the grey herons in the heronry will once again be laying the eggs to start the 2018 nesting season.

In particular in the next couple of months, we are looking to increase the number of fir trees in the two copses on this reserve, so if you have a rooted Christmas Tree this festive season, please do consider donating it to Three Owls and we can replant it in order to provide food and shelter for the wild birds for many years to come. We can arrange local collection for trees up to around 6 feet in height (though will welcome any size smaller than that - the 12" ones donated three years ago are fairly shooting up now!)

Many thanks for your continued support.



Three Owls Wood update

November 12, 2017

I just love this place, some of the trees are over 20 foot high now.

I was so delighted to find some jays -true woodland birds have moved in. Also in addition to the Barn owls a Tawny owl adds it voice at night ! So pleased to tell you all the barn owls raised THREE chicks this year -Hurrah!!

Mallards fly into the pond very late in the evening just before its properly dark now too.





A problem shared is a problem 'quartered'...

November 5, 2017

Today saw a long day of driving; starting off from the Home Reserve in Rochdale where I have been accumulating bric-a-brac and Christmas gifts for Knoxwood’s fundraisers, and foodstuffs to help both their and our residents through the winter weather.

Next on the list was to call at Meltham Wildlife Rescue at Huddersfield to collect a Raven which they had nursed back to health but didn’t have the room for its final stages of rehabilitation.

Onwards to Rochdale Hedgehog Rescue to collect two further birds which Knoxwood had offered a permanent home for. Then, a long drive in glorious autumnal weather up to Wigton, calling in to admire our amazing Watermeadow Reserve along the way (pictured).

I was warmly welcomed by George, Emma and Glen (along with a host of different residents!), and the birds swiftly admitted to their care. A welcome cuppa and chat, and unloading of all the donated items,  then it was time to return home – but not before having a brief chat with Silver our Hooded Crow...I really must look up his exact age sometime; I reckon he must be 26 years old at least!

My grateful thanks to all the sanctuaries for their efforts in wildlife welfare; it is through working together that we can help even more wild birds in distress than we each already do on an individual basis.



Thanks - we've battened down the hatches!

October 16, 2017

Thank you to a number of supporters who have been in touch over the past couple of days asking if they can help with the impending Storm Ophelia due to arrive this afternoon/evening.

In reality, all I have needed to do in preparation is to repair two of the gates, check on some of the residents (who have already taken shelter - clever things!), and pretty much leave the reserve to Mother Nature. Thankfully I am off work this week so on-hand to attend to whatever happens.

The storm hasn't properly arrived yet, although we do have a couple of boughs down, and I'm expecting more to follow. I thnk we may have a few hours chainsawing work to go at after this...

Anyway, I have judged it unwise to linger any longer on the Reserve, so we have come back up to the top. The weather will do what it chooses and we'll pick up the pieces afterwards. Always interesting to note that any sign of bad weather will see the reserve totally devoid of any birdlife as they roost up to weather out the storm.

The picture shows the relative calm this afternoon before the main storm onset. Alas with the number of leaves still on the trees, there may be some tree damage, unless the trees are able to shed their leaves pretty sharpish.



We need a bit of a Buzz... Can you help?

October 14, 2017

We are enquiring if any of our supporters are a whizz with a drone? We are hoping to film the herons in the tree-tops if they will rest-easy with a drone flying around. Hence, before they start nesting, I would like someone experienced with a drone to come and fly one around the reserve and see how the ‘residents’ react to it.

Previously the BBC have expressed an interest in filming them, but through use of a tower erected within the Reserve. Now, with technology more advanced, it may be that a drone could capture some of those early pictures of the herons as they grow up. It may not work or be viable, but if you don’t ask/try it you may never know.

Please get in touch if you can help.

Many thanks, Nigel


Feeding our Feathered Friends

October 1, 2017

We have now filled up the reserve feeding stations ready for the winter months once more. Already large flocks of birds are arriving on the reserves, and I was thrilled to see a huge flock of long-tailed tits this week, about 120-strong in number I estimated. These fairly decimated some of the feeders’ supplies and it was good to know that they would have regained a good deal of strength and know they can return any time when the need arises.

Our own home-grown supplies of seeds have been a rather poor affair this year, and I wondered if our sunflowers were ever going to come into flower! Now, coming into October they have finally flowered, it is a race to see if they actually bear seeds before the frosts arrive.

We have been lucky with some lovely donations in past years for wild bird seed, fat-balls, sunflower seeds/hearts, and TK Conditioner seed; if you can possibly help us again this winter it would be very, very much appreciated.



Running late...

September 23, 2017

I have noticed that there have been a lot of late-hatching baby birds around this season; obviously mum n dad have decided there's time for another brood. The little house martin featured in this reports' photo was left behind when it's mum n dad decided to migrate, and had to spend a week with us on hourly feeds until he was big enough and strong enough to fly all the way to North Africa, where they all overwinter.

Even since he 'flew the nest', we have continued to see small flocks of migrating swallows and house martins passing through the reserve - always a risk for them to stay so late in the season, as they can only eat flies and as the cooler weather arrives these can drop off in availability literally overnight which is a worry for any stragglers.



You're all Record Breakers!

September 10, 2017

Some wonderful news today, is that sponsorship money coming in for John Thorpe's bike ride from Manchester to Blackpool has, for the first year ever, topped the £1000 mark, and the fund now stands at £1025.

This is a truly remarkable amount, and shows your level of support for both John in his exhausting efforts and towards Three Owls and it's much-needed work in general.

We have extended the fund close date to the end of the year, so that people reading the next newsletter due out in December have a chance to contribute too.

A HUGE thank you to you all, and extra thanks to John for his annual efforts. Please do continue to contribute, and keep the wheels of Three Owls turning.



Wet August pays dividends on the Home Reserve

August 27, 2017

The rather moist weather we have endured this month has ensured lots of growth on the reserves this year - no doubt you have noticed this with your own grass (and weeds!).

On my morning walk around the Home Reserve early this morning I noticed an abundance of fungi just below one of the ponds. Nothing too unusual about it, but thought it would make a lovely picture. Our friendly robin was as usual accompanying me around on my walk - I did get a recording of his dawn song the other day; I'll have to see if there is a way of uploading it on here for you all to listen to - it's really beautiful.



A happy result from the new pond

August 17, 2017

I have always loved toads so i was delighted to find this little fellow near the new pond at Three Owls Wood. Its a pity i couldnt get his eyes in -like little gold gems. I have always believed toads to be greatly superior to their nervous jumpy cousins the frogs!

Cheers David


Hedgehog release at three Owls Wood

August 16, 2017

Nigel and Sue arrived last Wednesday night at the Three Owls Wood in Tarleton. It was dusk as we unloaded three heavy cat baskets- each with its cargo of five fat young hedgehogs succesfully reared by Sue. After a lot of sniffing and snorting out they trundled -off into the gathering gloom of a summer woodland -lucky things!!

Cheers David     


Get Well Soon, Kathy

August 10, 2017

Sending our heartfelt best wishes for a speedy recovery to Kathy over at Meltham Wildlife Rescue in Yorkshire - we all hope you are back home from hospital very soon and able to take up the reigns once more.

In the meantime, the hospitals there are CLOSED to new admittances, so please use our website to help find your nearest alternative rescue centre. Their sanctuary's own answerphone will also give out more local rescue information. Fear not, this is just a temporary measure and the birds etc currently in their care will be well tended to, just that as Kathy does the minute-by-minute intensive care herself, they are preventing any issues whilst she is 'out of action'. We are continuing our own hands-on care and support to them at this time.




Meadow Reserve Hedgehog Release

July 18, 2017

We had an interesting and rewarding release event on the Meadow Reserve at Banks, and Three Owls Wood at Tarleton this evening;

Ten hedgehogs which had been rescued and tended to at Rochdale Hedgehog Rescue were released back to the wild ... more to follow in future weeks.

These were the lady hogs being released tonight. We will allow them to settle-in, before bringing 'the boys' over to ruin their peace!

Each of the reserves continue to be well-used by other organisations for wildlife release; sadly with the amount of house-building alongside many wildlife rescue organisations, their previous release sites can either become overcrowded or unusable altogether.



28th Bike Ride report in full

July 16, 2017




Once again, dear readers and supporters, it is my pleasure to lay before you the stirring tale of how I overcame huge odds and dangers to complete my 28th consecutive Manchester to Blackpool Bike Ride. Listen it's my story and I'll exaggerate if I want to! This being the 28th time I've done this one could, if one was being generous, call me dedicated and courageous, or as I suspect most people would feel ,that I was off my rocker! For those of you new to Three Owls and to my cycling saga on the charity's behalf, I should perhaps take a few moments to briefly explain how I came to be doing it in the first place. Twenty eight years ago I suddenly, without warning, found that one of my knees was swollen and extremely painful- the phrase frying an egg on its surface springs to mind! I consulted my doctor, also a keen cyclist, who prescribed anti-inflammatories. These didn't have much effect unfortunately, and I sorted he condition out with some capsules contained green lipped Mussel extract from New Zealand. At the same time, by sheer coincidence, I saw some information about the annual bike ride, then in it’s, I think, third year, and for some insane reason decided that I should use the knee more or lose the mobility in it. Upon announcing my intention to cycle over sixty miles, with a still slightly dodgy knee, my doctor felt, quite reasonably, that I was off my trolley! 


I assured him that I would take all reasonable precautions, and if would drop out if I couldn't complete the distance without doing damage to myself. Of course I hoped he was wrong but only time would tell. The first ride was a real eye opener, with a mass start of several hundred riders from the Town Hall square in Manchester, and the first twenty minutes were considerably more dangerous than the rest of the trip! I survived and finished the ride, with my knee in good condition, and, as they say the rest is history.


The ride seemed to come round very quickly this year, and as in most other years, my pre-ride preparations were almost nil. I didn't spend hours building up my stamina or honing my body to a state of perfection (that would take a lot longer than the available time!), and while I know there will be many who will say this is a totally wrong way to prepare and a terrible example to others, I can only say that I agree with you, but it seems to work for me! I tend to spend much more time on my trusty steed's preparation, since, without it I'm dead in the water, and I do at least want to have taken every precaution against mechanical failure. Stripped down, thoroughly greased and oiled, I then turned my attention to the bike-just kidding. The sight of me stripped down, greased and oiled would be too much for most people to stomach, including me! My bike is a Peugeot Prologue, which was purchased a long time ago and has been a very good servant over the years. The tyres were in pretty good condition, not having had a lot of wear in the intervening twelve months, but I thought I would change the back one for a new one, which I got from Halfords in Bury. It was a perfectly good tyre, but I also saw a Gatorskin brand one which was more expensive and supposedly very puncture resistant. I splashed out on this one and changed the tyre yet again. I’ve had a pretty good record for punctures in previous years, and reasoned that if I took every precaution I could get away with it again this time. Getting an early night on the Saturday before the ride (much to the disgust of my two rescue rabbits, who had to go to bed earlier than usual!),I got everything prepped for the next morning and got up at 3.30am, allowing enough time to eat and feed the animals before I left.


I left the house at 4.30, in the early morning light and set off for the start in Manchester at the Imperial War Museum on Salford Quays. This isn't the easiest place to find if you don't live in Manchester, and adds both time and distance to the ride. Oh for the days of starting from Albert Square! With almost no traffic and a fine morning, the ride was very pleasant, and as I always do, I treated the eleven miles as a warm-up to ease any muscles into the routine again after the time out of the saddle. A few minutes out of the city centre, I felt the awful rumbling sensation from the back wheel which told me I had a puncture! This has never happened before the start in all the time I've been doing the ride, and as you can imagine I was not best pleased! I got the wheel and tyre off and quickly put a new inner tube in place(Top tip-always carry at least one on a ride).I carried on and arrived at the start in time to get a photo with my yellow suited friend 'The Voice of the Ride’. We’ve been doing this every year since I can remember, and he gave me a mention regarding it being my 28th.


After last minute checks to the brakes, tyres(especially the back one!), etc, I was poised for the off, and to the rousing cheers of at least  three bystanders we surged over the start line at 6.30 am and started on the road to adventure and Salford! I should have known it was going too well, and five minutes into the ride, still in Salford, the back tyre deflated again! I could barely believe it and with a very heavy heart upended the bike and removed the wheel, tyre and inner tube-again. Those riders amongst you will know all about mending punctures, and doing it at home is relatively simple, because with the aid of a bucket or a sink full of water, it’s easy to find the leak by the stream of bubbles issuing from it. Unfortunately one doesn’t have a bucket of water by the roadside, and it's necessary to either find the hole visually, listen for the leak or pass the tube over the tongue to detect the stream of air issuing from the tyre. The problem arises when the air is coming out faster than you are pumping it in, because the tube doesn't stay up long enough to detect anything! At this point I had a sinking feeling in the stomach, very low morale, and a fear that if I couldn't find the leak, my ride would be over before it had even started. While I was searching for the hole, a rider drew up and asked if everything was OK.I appreciated the thought, but was somewhat distracted by the fact that he was wearing a bright pink feather boa around his neck! 


This Mancunian extrovert chatted for a few minutes and left me with the parting advice 'Don't forget to pump it up!' What I felt like replying is not fit to be printed here and would be an affront to the delicate ears of our readership-suffice it to say  it would have been along the lines of I’m glad you told me that..I would never have worked it out for myself!'


I did locate the puncture site and was applying a patch when a middle aged rider pulled up and asked if he could help. He actually left me with a spare inner tube which he'd put a patch on previously, and I would not only like to take the opportunity to thank here but would be delighted to get him a new tube to replace this one if he reads this and gets in touch. It’s so important to stop and offer help on occasions like this, as the rider may be inexperienced or may not even have a puncture repair kit or a spare tube. We all need a bit of help sometimes, and you never know when your turn will occur.


I put the tube back on the wheel, reinstated the all singing and dancing resistant tyre (which I had frankly lost a lot of faith in at this point), and got ready to hit the road again, with a certain amount of trepidation. As I followed my two concerned fellow riders down the road, I noticed a trail of bright pink feathers blowing in the breeze, and concluded that either the owner was moulting or leaving a trail for me to follow!


Before too long the short hill leading up to the entrance to Haigh Hall came in sight, and I dismounted halfway up the hill to save my energy(well I am officially a pensioner now you know!),pushing the bike over the infamous cobbles at the entrance itself. From bitter experience I can tell you that even the best padded saddle, underwear and shorts are no match for rock hard Lancashire cobbles, and I didn't want to be sporting a surgical support for the rest of the ride!


The downhill road which winds through Haigh Hall is a great opportunity to relax and stop pedalling for a few minutes, but can be treacherous in wet weather, when the bends catch out the unwary speed merchants who find that centrifugal force and a tree trunk are not a good combination for a cyclist and his bike! We reached the rest and refuelling point at the central building complex, and I took the opportunity to make use of one of the row of portaloos before carrying on. Without going into too much detail and putting anyone off their sandwiches, I left Haigh Hall considerably lighter than when I arrived! One of the loos bore a striking resemblance to Dr.Who's 'Tardis', being blue and rather phone box-like, and my sad imagination could see a rider going in, only to find when they emerged that due to inter galactic teleportation, that it was actually next year's ride1 As far as I know this didn't happen. It was good to have a break and stretch the legs for a while, as well as take some food and drink on board for the next stage, but I only ever have about half an hour's rest since it not only eats into your ride time, but to be truthful it makes it very hard to get back on the bike if you rest for too long!


Checking the tyres before setting off, I started out of the park and stopped for a few minutes to talk to Darran from Pilkingtons Cycles, who was manning a maintenance and repair station by the road side. I hadn't seen him for a while, and he was pleased to see me still riding the Peugeot Prologue cycle he sold me quite a number of years ago. I bought a spare inner tube just to be on the safe side, in view of the previous events, but in the end didn't need it for the rest of the trip. It’s always sensible to have at least one spare tube on a long ride, plus of course a puncture repair kit and the tools to take the tyre off if you need to.


The next stage of the journey lay towards Standish, Chorley, Leyland and Preston, the next rest stop for me at least, and by now it was a really lovely day. I was riding better than I expected, and was trying to make up time after previous delays. I arrived at Haigh Hall at 9.20 and left at 9.55, a bit later than last year when I arrived at 9.00am, but was still happy with progress so far. Thankfully the bike was running well, and I even passed a few other riders! It’s amazing what you hear when passing or being passed by other riders, and of course the snatches of conversation are often disjointed and don't make sense, but are sometimes very funny. As an example I quote the following .I  passed a group of riders standing by the side of the road, and one of their number, in a rather high pitched and pained voice, exclaimed ' It’s burning!'


Now after many miles in the saddle, there are any things which could be burning, but I leave that up to the imagination of my readers, since I wouldn't dream of lowering the tone of this report! Another group of riders who were behind me for a while were exchanging witty repartee while pedalling, and one of their number suddenly let out a loud and prolonged theatrical braying laugh which seemed to last forever. It was like being followed by a large 'Laughing Bag' on wheels and I wasn't sorry when they overtook me.


After a series of roundabouts, we embarked on the very long straight section of carriageway which leads, eventually, into Preston Docks area, and knowing how energy sapping this section is from previous rides; I just put my head down and pedalled steadily, without thinking too much about the distance. If you do it seems to take even longer believe me! Thankfully it was a lovely day with a light breeze and not the wind and horizontal rain of some years, when the legs seem to lock up, and every rotation of the wheels is hard work.


Eventually we reached the end of the stretch and pulled onto the road by the side of Preston Docks. At 11.40 I stopped and took a needed break and a sit down, leaving at 12.05 for the final leg to Blackpool. This wends its way through some lovely lanes with high hedges and fields on either side, and little villages and small groups of houses. The sun was warm, the sky was blue and I was thinking how lucky I was to be able to do this     when so many people would love to but couldn't because of ill health or infirmity. We do take our health for granted all too often, and it's only when it stops us in our tracks that we realise what a precious gift it is.


The route runs through Kirkham and Wharton and joins the coastal road leading into Lytham St.Annes and Blackpool, and at this point I take a deep breath, grit my teeth (yes I actually have most of my own teeth!) and hope that the onshore wind isn't too strong. In some previous years it has actually been so strong that I've made better progress walking than riding, especially along the long 'Green' section where the famous white windmill is situated.


Thankfully this time was one of the better years, and we only had a light breeze to contend with, which was actually quite cooling. This is another 'head down and press on' section which seems to take forever, especially when one is tired, but this time wasn't so bad, and we were soon onto the sand dune section just prior to turning off to the finish line. Amazingly, I'd kept out of trouble all the way in terms of cars and other riders, but on this section a woman motorist who clearly couldn’t drive, pulled in front of myself and another rider to park by the side of the road. She came in at the wrong angle and stopped dead ahead of us with the back end of the vehicle forming a roadblock! Thankfully I braked in time, since I had a bad feeling about the car, but it could easily have been more serious. I believe I said 'Deary me you appear to need further instruction in parking madam!’, or possibly words to that effect!


Along this section I was riding, for a time, behind a family of two children and three adults. The children, a boy and girl of around twelve or thirteen I would guess, were a real credit to their parents, and the young lad turned at one point and said 'Well done!' Perhaps I looked as if I needed encouragement or he thought I was about to collapse, but it was nice of him anyway and I returned to compliment.

It's rather sad that the children who have manners and a decent attitude tend to stand out now, rather than being the norm, but credit where it's due.


I turned onto the section of Promenade closed to traffic, and tried to put on a belated sprint over the finish line as the cheering crowds loomed up ahead. I could see The Voice of The Ride in his commentary box to the left of the line and managed to catch his eye this year, unlike last year when he was looking the wrong way! He spotted me and shouted ''There's my friend who's doing this for the 28th time, he’s probably the oldest rider in the event.'

I was about to take issue with his when he corrected himself and said 'well perhaps not the oldest but the one who's ridden it the most times!' I didn't mind that one, because it's probably true, but since Bike Events records don't go back to the earliest rides, I can't prove it beyond doubt.


Grabbing my certificate, bottle of water and Soreen bar (in the good old days before the recession it used to be a whole loaf!), I took a quick breather and rode off to meet a friend at the Pleasure Beach. He’d offered to come through for the day and give me a lift home in his vehicle. Probably the first time in 28 years I haven't gone back in the coach with the bike in a lorry following behind.


After a relaxing break ,a walk and something to eat, we set off for home, after what had been a great day in the sun, and since I finished at 2.04 pm, only seven minutes after my 2016 time, I was well pleased with the performance. I later found that some 4,500 riders had taken part, give or take a few. I had covered, according to my cycle clock, some 78.9 miles, taking everything into account.


I hope you have found this account interesting and perhaps amusing, and would like to thank everyone who supported me so generously last year. Three Owls continues to provide help and advice to the public as well as to develop the Reserves for the benefit of the wildlife we all love, and any help you can give this year will be much appreciated. With luck I'll be back to do it all over again next year, and until then goodbye and thanks for reading this.



The Home Reserve is really buzzing!

July 13, 2017

We have been hosts to a hive of bees this week from just over the border in Yorkshire. Their hive has been sited on our Home Reserve in Rochdale for a week to help with pollination.

Bees need pollen and nectar for food and honey making; flowers need their own pollen transported to other flowers, and then another flower’s pollen brought back to it in order to reproduce and make their seeds. By merely traveling from flower to flower, bees effortlessly accomplish these needs of both parties.

Our grateful thanks to Andrew for bringing his hive over to us, and we hope his bees have enjoyed their 'holiday'.

Other reserves we currently have hives sited on are the Watermeadow Reserve and Three Owls Wood.



Today's The Day

July 9, 2017

It's the day of John Thorpe's sponsored bike ride from Manchester to Blackpool. The weather couldn't be much better with a very slight breeze, and sunny spells.

If you can manage to get on the route, please do give him a cheer, and DO sponsor him as every penny raised goes directly to Three Owls and helps us continue our much-needed work in helping wild birds in distress. We have a magnificent total of £957 to beat from last year; sponsorship donations can be made either online via our PayPal button, or by post/hand via cash/cheque/postal order at our Rochdale office address.

Please do support John in his efforts; this is his 28th consecutive annual ride - he is thinking next of doing a parachute jump for us!




Flying North (again)

July 8, 2017

Sooner than expected, we made another trip up to Knoxwood yesterday morning, to relocated a fledgling buzzard found in Rochdale, a juvenile tawny owl with a broken wing (part-mended), and a pair of little owlets. Our grateful thanks to Kathy at Meltham Wildlife Rescue for caring for them in the interim, and for Knoxwood who have taken them on for their final stages of rehabilitation.

As well as the birds, we took a whole load of donated items from foodstuffs to help the birds (and save precious sanctuary funds), to items which can be sold in order to create same funds - all in order to help save and assist wild birds in distress.

I was pleased to see the staff at Knoxwood looking far healthier than on my last visit - you will recall they were swamped with casualties, which was stretching them to the absolute limit. Emma informed me that there was currently a break between baby bird broods - but that 'gap' was very much filled by the number of orphaned baby hedgehogs just now; something I am hearing from a large number of wildlife rescue sanctuaries just now.

The photo with this report is of our recently installed watermeadow feature on our watermeadow reserve at Wigton; this has been a great success and will be enlarged later this year. It is important to start small with any pond feature as they are easily enlarged, but can be hugely problematic if you make it too big to start with and need to make reparations afterwards - hence why we can easily 'tweak it' now as we see how things are settling. Our grateful thanks to George for organising these works, and managing both our Watermeadow and Field Reserves for us.

Please keep in mind that it is Knoxwood's Open Day on Sunday 6th August, and they very much need your support. We are hoping to attend ourselves on the day and would love to see you there.



Newts are thriving

July 2, 2017

We were thrilled today at the Home Reserve to find that last years' Common Newt population continues to thrive and increase - in spite of the heronry in the tree-tops above!

Pictured is another of these lovely creatures, which we found whilst on a minor maintenance day today.

The reserve is brimming with all wildlife at present; the heronry is now onto it's 2nd brood of chicks - the first brood having now flown the nest and living independently in the wild. The treetops are full of both wood pigeons and jackdaws, with a few juvenile magpies and jays thrown into the mix. Down at ground level are plenty of robins, wrens, finches and tits. With a pair of treecreepers and a greater spotted woodpecker also seen on occasion. Alas no cuckoos noted this year.



Just like the busses; none for ages then two together!

June 27, 2017

Another busy evening tonight; returning a downed Peregrine Falcon fledgling back to the nest - this time on top of the clock tower of Rochdale Town Hall.

This young lady has had a struggle with life so far - she fell (or was she pushed) from the nest at an early age and had us all on tenterhooks, but mum fed her separately and so she has grown up ok. Many people have been following her progress from hatching to fledging on the Town Hall's webcam.

Alas, todays' heavy morning rain brought her to the ground and she was rescued by the RSPCA and brought into care. Not content with the food she was offered, she patiently waited until teatime when a combination of better weather, quieter town centre, and me finishing work, enabled her to be returned to the nest - up above the clock tower. Thankfully she is of a good weight with plenty of 'meat' on her, and I'm sure mum and dad will ensure she has a good tea tonight.

My thanks to everyone involved, especially Sue for looking after her during the day, and the Town Hall staff for making me so welcome and accompanying me up all those steps to the very top of the building. I was nearly caught out by arriving at the top at two minutes to six; making a rapid descent to the floor below, so as not to be deafened by the bells chiming at six o'clock!

Let us hope she has learned from her experience and takes better care in future - for ANY young bird leaving the nest, life is indeed a very steep learning curve.

The photos show her in both in care earlier in the day, and placed back in the nest - however she had flown back round to the main roof by the time I had descended all those steps and I was safely back at ground level!



Rooftop rescue

June 22, 2017

It is rare these days that we have the ability to attempt a hands-on rescue of a wild bird in distress; time constraints and person availability (even more-so than cost) tends to be prohibitive. We do however offer circumstance-specific guidance and advice which enables the finder to take direct action themselves and help those in trouble. However earlier tonight we received a phone call for which the timing was perfect, and a tragic situation averted.

Having just finished work for the day, I was on my way home (looking forward to tea!) when the phone rang with the first of the evenings calls, and I listened to a very concerned lady from the RSPB who had a dilemma; She had tried all day without success she informed me, to get a response from either the RSPCA or numerous bird rescue sanctuaries, as there was a juvenile peregrine falcon trapped behind some glass atop a high-rise building in Manchester City Centre.

Now I had only discussed the night before with another local wildlife sanctuary, a very similar situation where a young peregrine fledgling had crashlanded on a balcony belonging to The Co-Operative Society in Manchester, and I wondered if this was the same bird - it certainly seemed a coincidence. Sure enough, it transpired that this was the same bird, though it had dropped down from where it had originally landed, onto an outdoor seating area which was surrounded by glass and proving impossible for the young bird to fly out of.

Knowing that the Birding Group that were monitoring the nest and it's occupants were only observing the bird from afar, I was concerned that (as with any injured bird), there is a very small window of opportunity to mend a broken wing if this should be the case (the Peregrine had been on the balcony for a number of days and seemed unable to get off again), and though the parent birds had dropped in at some point with a pigeon carcass for it to eat - if for any reason it wasn't feeding, the situation could become dire quite quickly - especially with the recent hot weather.

Thus, after a quick tea I was Manchester-bound, armed with a secure carrier and a couple of thick towels, collecting my daughter Erica on the way. Forty minutes later we met Stephen, the manager on duty tonight, and he (thankfully) took us up in the lift to the floor where the bird was trapped. The staff had been locked out of this seating area in order to protect the bird and hopefully encourage it to leave with its parents - but time was going on, and nothing seemed to be happening. Stephen was very concerned that if a storm hit as was forecast this week, the bird may perish due to lack of protection from the weather.

The balcony was far larger than I had expected, and probably some 200-300m+ in length, containing many seating areas - obviously a popular area for the staff to sit out. However, whilst the 4-5m high glass around the edge of the building allowed a wonderful landscape view of the city, I could see how it was preventing this youngster from leaving the area, as the bird was simply bouncing off the glass.

I rarely wear gloves to catch/handle birds of prey; if done properly you can safely handle them securely without losing fingers, and I find you can quickly build up that bond of trust with a bird, if you are able to hold it securely and safely without risking either crushing it or letting it loose again through poor grip with thick leather gloves. My 40 years of experience clearly stood me in good stead, as I was able to pick the bird up quickly without fuss and give it a good check over;

It was in good health, plenty of 'meat' on it, and just a few dislodged feathers from hitting the glass but nothing that should prevent it from flying free again. I had already explained to Stephen that I would only remove the bird if it was injured or was in imminent danger, as its parents were atop the older CIS building opposite and clearly had been keeping an eye on it from afar. However, I could see that in this case, it was likely to either injure itself further if left on this balcony, or may simply give up if it felt that 'escape' was impossible. Hence, Stephen kindly granted us access to another balcony even higher up the building where there were no high glass sides for the bird to crash into.

Again, this higher balcony was a very long area around the outside of the building, but this one with much lower sides, and easier for the bird to take to the skies again.

Removing 'him' from the carrier, (which he had not been at all impressed with being placed in), he glared at me for quite some time. However, with some soothing he soon settled down and took more of an interest in his surroundings than of me. Unlike the last peregrine fledgling I released in the city centre from Manchester Town Hall clock balcony, there was no perimeter wall for him to fly from, so gently I lifted him onto my arm and waited...(and waited...) until he felt the time was right to take to the skies again.

He flew almost the length of the balcony before veering off to the right and off over the city centre - startling a passing gull who clearly hadn't expected this to appear! A couple of circuits of some of the city centre cranes, and he flew back towards us, passing very close by indeed (a fly-past??) before off over the city again. It was wonderful to see such a majestic bird back in the skies once more. He finally settled on an adjacent building not far from the nest he came from, and where another Peregrine had been watching his antics from afar (mum or dad perhaps?). Let us hope this time he manages to stay out of trouble. [NB 'he' could be a 'she' - but 'it' wasn't for letting me know this evening, and I wanted as little disruptive handling as possible.]

Our grateful thanks to Stephen and the Co-Operative for his assistance, to the RSPB for giving us the opportunity to assist, and to Erica for her company. A true evening of 'Co-operation!'

(NB the photo used for this article is from a previous Rochdale Town Hall Peregrine fledgling I rescued a couple of years ago, and helped nurse back to health; I judged it not safe to try and photograph this Manchester bird tonight as I did not want it spooked and risk an unsuccessful flight back to the wild.)



Manchester to Blackpool Sponsored Bike Ride 2017

June 18, 2017

Firstly, my apologies for the lateness of this article and I hope that all our supporters are well and enjoying the spells of brilliant weather we've had lately. Almost as good as the Summer days of my childhood (well back in the 1880's we had some cracking Summer weather!), and I'm hoping for a nice warm day on Sunday the 9th of July, when I'm once again donning the lycra and breaking out the embrocation for the 60 miles from Manchester to Blackpool, on behalf of Three Owls.

       This will be my 28th consecutive ride, and I long since ceased to wonder whether I'm dedicated or slightly nuts-you decide! The route is, as far as I can see, the same as last year and starts from the Imperial War Museum in Manchester. I will try to get a couple of photos with my friend, the yellow suited 'Voice of the Ride' before the off', as is our traditional practice and as always, he looks considerably better in yellow than I do! My ride number this year is 1925 which isn't my date of birth by the way...the numbers 2 and 5 are in the wrong order!


          Last year's total was absolutely amazing, and no one was more amazed than I was when I found out about the late surge in donations, due to people catching the report on the website. To everyone who took the time and trouble to support me I can only say a  very humble 'Thank You'. You have no idea how much it encourages me and how much good it helps the charity to do on your behalf. Nature is under attack on all sides these days, and to someone like myself who has always cared about the natural world, it is a mystery how people can feel no empathy with other living creatures and with the incredible natural beauty that surrounds us.


         Please lend us your support again this year and I will do my best not to let you down on the day. Wish me luck!


John Thorpe

Rescuing the rescuers - Mercy 'Flight'

June 12, 2017

It was a very busy and hectic day for us yesterday; we visited colleagues at four wildlife rescues and met up with a fifth. The purpose of our visits was a culmination of weeks of preparation to further aid wild bird rescue and rehabilitation; as so many sanctuaries are bursting at the seams with a huge number of rescued birds this year – the baby bird season started earlier than usual, but this does not mean an early finish, but most probably an extra brood – and more work.

Our aim yesterday was to relocate 7-9 birds to Knoxwood Wildlife Rescue Trusts' care to alleviate pressures elsewhere in the system, which gives the smaller sanctuaries improved ability to provide the one-to-one care needed at this time of year. We were also taking with us a vanload of donated foodstuffs which in turn help preserve the precious funds which are needed everso much on one-to-one wildlife care.  However, the needs of the smaller sanctuaries far exceeded my previous planning and expectations, and the number of birds needing relocation grew alarmingly to 22 in number. With Knoxwoods own phone lines down due to a BT fault, I sent a text through but was unable otherwise to warn them of the trebling of expected casualties we would be arriving with that day.

Upon arrival therefore I gave them the option to refuse some of the birds of which I would try to place elsewhere, but with their professionalism and willingness to care, they would not hear of it. This was in spite of the staff working at near-exhaustion levels, as they (in keeping with so many other sanctuaries reporting-in), have been badly let down by scheduled volunteers this year – there just hasn’t been the commitment given as in previous years, and I was shocked to see how tired everyone was looking. All this, and we are only half-way through the baby-bird season. Knoxwood do continue to care for several of the permanent residents previously housed on our site at Rochdale, which relocated there in 2010 along with one of our hospitals.

It was a busy 24 hours and I covered some 410 miles 'flying' around visiting sanctuaries in Slaithwaite, Meltham, Rochdale, Wigton, and Carlisle. Following on from this, late on Sunday evening I arranged for the Three Owls trustees to hold an emergency meeting, where an emergency grant was issued to Knoxwood to cover the cost of employing either two additional members of staff for 13 weeks to get them through the baby bird season, or one member of staff for 26 weeks. I remember all-too-well when in the 1990’s; I had been working a ‘usual’ 20-hour day for several months due to the needs of Three Owls at the time, and this culminated in a blue-light ambulance dash to the local Coronary Care unit; this proved to be through overwork and not my heart – but having experience of this I would not want someone else to suffer as I did, if there was something we could do to help avoid it.

Therefore my grateful thanks extend to my two co-trustees; David and Stewart, who both immediately endorsed my request for emergency funding in these circumstances. This support from Three Owls has only been made possible due to continued support from YOU and your wonderful donations and legacies – please do keep them coming in, and we can continue to both directly and indirectly make a huge difference to the welfare of the wild birds around us.



Out into the Big Wide World

June 4, 2017

Well, it's that time of year again and we are busy each evening and weekend with calls/text/emails for assistance with what to do with fledgling birds found on the floor...

In reality, often NOTHING needs to be done, as a huge percentage of birds don't simply leave the nest and fly away - but will often have limited flight and spend between 24 hours to 5 days hopping around on the floor and low bushes until they are capable of sustained flight.

Alas, this does mean that they come into conflict with cats and dogs - and to a larger degree 'humans'! However, in the majority of cases, simply leave them alone, or if in direct danger pop them into the nearest bush or behind a tree.

Many of the callers report that they are 'abandoned and alone', however the parent birds will only return to feed them every 3-4 hours, and not the minute-by-minute feeds they received whilst in the nest. This gets them hungry and helps them onto the next stage of feeding for themselves. For birds such as robins/wrens/blackbirds/thrushes, the parents will split the brood up on leaving the nest, so if a predator found one, it would not find the whole brood. Again, these sometimes appear orphaned, but in reality the parents are nearby and simply waiting for you to go away. These four species in particular WILL spend 4-5 days on the floor before taking to the skies - PLEASE DO NOT be tempted to put them onto a shed/garage roof 'away from cats' - if they do not fall off and (often) break a leg or wing in doing so, there is no shelter there and they make easy pickings for the nest magpie/crow/sparrowhawk that passes by. Far better to pop it into/under a bush or conifer, keep your cat in, or if troubled by other cats; cut up some citrus fruit (oranges and lemons work fine) and scatter the pieces around the part of the garden to keep cats out of.

The jackdaw on todays photo was on our Home Reserve yesterday morning having come out of the nest with its siblings that day; four were flying well, one could flutter, and this was was a definate late starter. I had a quick check to ensure all was well, and popped it back on a log within the woodland - its parents were alarm calling in the treetops above. Late on that day I popped down to see how the family was fairing, and found the other jackdaw now flying well, but this one was only part way up a tree. However, clearly it had been fed, and so making a note of where in the reserve it was, I decided to leave alone and see how it was first thing in the morning; to my delight, that following day found it up in the treetops with the rest of the family - thankfully there is dense cover on the reserves at this time of year, and so the stormy weather forecast for this week should cause few problems.







More Orchids

June 3, 2017

Some of you may remember last year on The Tarleton reserve we had just one Marsh Orchid -well this year there are eight!!!

it made me so happy to see them obviously doing well. i have had them identified as Southern Marsh Orchids.  Apparently the trick is to mow after mid-july.




A little bundle of joy!

May 25, 2017

It was early this morning - just after dawn broke - when I was having a walk around the Home Reserve, as I often do to check all is well. The birds and animals in there are well-used to seeing me, and I am sometimes lucky enough to see the nocturnal birds and animals going off to bed, just as the daytime ones 'come on shift'!

This morning I had extra purpose - I had heard the cries of a newly hatched heron chick the day before, and I was keen to see which nest it was in. Sure enough, the single chick was present, and was in the nest where we had the tragic fatality earlier in the year. Finger crossed the parents have better luck with this one, and I shall keep a distant interest to see if any sibling offspring are produced also.

The reserve is alive with the sounds of parent birds feeding their young at present, and the parent birds are so busy collecting food, they really are not phased at all to see me down there, often coming very close to check that I have no food with me!

Three of the ponds are full again following last weeks' rain, and with what is forecast for the Bank Holiday weekend, the other three should also fill up too.




Knitting Nanas

May 23, 2017

It was lovely to receive a call last night, and a visit this evening from the ladies known as "Knitting Nanas". These ladies produce many quality knitted items throughout the year and sell them off to raise funds for charity.

This year they have kindly selected Three Owls to be one of their nominated charities, and I was thrilled to be presented with a cheque for £100 which we can put to very good use indeed.

So, a huge Thank You to Ann, Sue, Ann, Karen, Nellie, and Caroline for their wonderful fundraising work, and we look forward to seeing them again some time in the future.




Helping us, helps others too - and we all help the wild birds around us.

May 21, 2017

The work of Three Owls is quite varied, and people have often been amazed at the lengths the trustees go to in order to ensure that wild birds have the best possible chances of survival.

With the hospitals relocated from Rochdale to Carlisle (now some 7 1/2 years ago - how time flies), this gives us the opportunity to work more closely with other wildlife charities and using our 55+ years of knowledge we are often called on to both help re-organise and generally make more efficient a very busy organisation where the staff simply have their hands full with casualties and are unable to look at things from a distance to replan such as aviary layouts.

One such organisation we have worked closely with over the past few weeks has been Meltham Wildlife Rescue at Holmfirth in West Yorkshire. The organisation has been doing their charitable work for around 20 years now, and its founder Kathy has been regularly picking my brains for information as regards the best welfare and treatment of the casualties she has admitted therein. (This is not uncommon, and I find many such sanctuaries have a "little black book" of notes made from our telephone conversations to refer too) - I really must get that book of mine written some day soon.

Anyhow, on a recent visit where we were sorting out some of the birds being prepared for release, Kathy had stated how the sanctuary was desparate for a new perimeter fence, as the existing was quite literally on it's last legs - however, the casualties themselves were using up all the funds available. Quotes were obtained, and at a meeting of the Three Owls trustees, we were please to award a grant to cover the full cost of the new fence.

This will now enhance the security of the sanctuary and its residents, and help ensure that the ongoing work can focus directly on welfare rather than having to worry about any escapees or intruders.




Honey Bee breeding

May 15, 2017

 Breeding Hygienic Queen Bees

Bees are our most important pollinator, there are over 20,000 species of bees and they pollinated over a third of our crops and in doing so use the pollen as their protein and the nectar as their carbohydrate source, they are something we just can’t afford to lose but this is happening. There are no wild bees left in England

There are four main things causing the losses, Pesticides, Lack of Flower Landscape, Monoculture , Disease and Parasites

The main cause for the loss of British Honey Bee colonies is a parasite called Varroa. This parasite is the equivalent of humans having a parasite living on us the size of our fist, and through it bees are getting various viruses the main one being Deformed Wing Virus..It is very hard to treat and eradicate an insect living on an insect without causing damage to the host, and Varroa is evolving a resistance to the drugs used, plus any chemicals used in treating bees can leave a residue in honey and wax.

Over the last eleven years Professor Ratneiks at the Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects (LASI) at Sussex University has developed a strain of honey bee with hygienic behaviour that is a natural form of disease resistance. Hygienic worker bees uncap sealed cells and remove the diseased contents, hygienic behaviour whilst not eliminating the Varroa parasite does reduce the numbers very significantly by over 60%

An apiary has been set up at the Three Owls Reserve in Banks with LASI Bees. The Three owls reserve couldn’t be in a better position for Queen Breeding as being on the edge of the sea and the Ribble nature reserve this forms a 180 degree barrier against unwanted Drone bees ( the males), giving this reserve an excellent chance of pure mating.

No chemicals will be used on these bees to kill the Varroa mites, and it is hoped by breeding new queens from the best surviving stocks that bees once again will be able to care for their own colony health.

 Colin Bridgwood  May 2017








Co-operation, transportation, and rehabilitation

May 14, 2017

On our latest trip up to the reserves at Wigton, we were accompanied by some of our feathered friends from other sanctuaries, who needed a helping hand with returning these birds to the wild;

As you can see from this articles photo, we took a pair of sibling tawny owlets, which had tumbled from their nest onto a dog-walking pathway, and with the nest over 50 feet high in the tree, it was not possible to return them to the nest. This was one of the rare occasions when it WAS correct to remove the owlets to sanctuary care - often baby tawny owlets DO leave the nest early, and are sometimes found at the base of a tree - but these were too young to have been out of the nest so soon, and would not have been able to climb back into the tree, and hence needed extra help.

In addition we had a young gosling which had been found on it's own wandering around, also a pair of pigeons which had been long-term rehabilitated, and needed a staged return to the wild.

All these birds were transferred to the care of Knoxwood Wildlife Rescue, who will bring them on and ensure they are returned to the wild when ready.

Whilst at the sanctuary, George proudly took us on a tour of the latest work done to the Watermeadow Reserve - there is now a true watermeadow (complete with water!) in part of the reserve, and a huge bonus was to see a small flock of sandmartins feeding, drinking and collecting mud from the edges of the pond , from which to build their nests. We will watch for further developments with great interest.

A huge Thank You again to Knoxwood for helping out once more with these final stages of rehabilitation.



Wonderful donations

April 30, 2017

A huge thank you to a number of kind supporters who have been donating both fundraising gifts and sacks of food lately - all are very much appreciated. When we have a van-full we make the journey up to our most northerly reserves in Wigton near Carlisle, where many of our resident birds still reside under the excellent care of staff at Knoxwood Wildlife Rescue, and who have also amalgamated our hospitals into their own facilities meaning the excellent work of both sanctuaries is both enhanced and continued.

Last year Knoxwood ran a very successful fundraising campaign to purchase a new incubator - which has hardly ever been out of use since. they are now running another campaign to get two more so that even more lives can be saved. If you can help them, please get in touch directly Click Here

Further donations for use at our Three Owls reserves are always welcomed, and can be dropped off at our Home Reserve at Rochdale - please let us know when you are coming to ensure someone is around to accept it.

Many thanks for your continued support.



Palm Sunday release

April 9, 2017

It was one evening last week when I received the latest call for assistance from Meltham Wildlife Rescue in Yorkshire; although I speak with Kathy there on a regular basis giving general advice, this time she needed more specific help...in regard to a casualty they had just admitted.

As you can see from the photo; this poor pheasant has had his wing and tail feathers severely clipped back leaving him flightless, yet still (as a wild bird) not wanting to remain in captivity. Sadly, I have seen this severe mutilation all too often before, and am told that the birds are sometimes 'sacrificed' at a family celebration. Thankfully, this time - especially being a 'wild bird', he had been discovered, rescued, and would not suffer this fate...

I tried (without success) to get him a place into one of the rescue centres nearer to Meltham - with the feathers so badly cut, it will be 4-5 months before he could fly well again.

This left a few options; if he was bodily feathered and could fly, he would be safe to live at the Home Reserve at Rochdale. If poorly feathered and no flight at all then he woud have been best up at Knoxwood and on our Watermeadow Reserve where Knoxwood staff would be able to keep an eye on him. However, as he had good body coverage but no flight then our Three Owls Wood at Tarleton was just the place for him - we already have a covey of resident pheasants there, so we hope he will soon settle in and with the excellent diet the Wood provides, will soon be regrowing those feathers and whizzing around the skies again.

My thanks to John Thorpe and Jennifer Frew for their company on the journey; and credit to John for his well-placed photography on the day. Whilst in the area, we also visited the Meadow Reserve, and Old Beech Wood and were able to enjoy the wonderful facilities that these Three Owls Reserves now offer to the wildlife around us.



Mother Nature

April 8, 2017

Often she gives us wonderful displays, and some exquisite wildlife to marvel at, but sometimes life can have a cruel twist - though of course we only know one side of the story.

Upon my recent visit to the Home Reserve at Rochdale I was pleased to hear two of the heron nests had a clear "amplification of voices" coming from within. A quick count up of the discarded eggshells tells me that nest 1 now has four chicks in it, and nest 2 has three chicks. Sadly when going over to the third nest site, there was a deathly silence and I was dismayed to find a dead 3-day old chick on the floor. Both parents were still at the nest site, and there is plenty of time for another clutch this year, but it is looking less likely that these are a matched pair, or possibly both are young and not fully aware of what they should be doing to rear their own chicks. Last year these two birds also made a full nest, but again failed to raise a single chick. Time will tell.

On a happier note, the woodland floor is now a sea of wild garlic; which should shortly be coming into wonderful white bloom. The tits, wagtails, finches, robins, and sparrows are all in abundance, each collecting up their own nesting materials. Only a few backbirds are visible, as most will still be laying or incubating their eggs just now.




A football team perhaps...?

April 2, 2017

Well, you'd think we were preparing for a five-a-side team at the Home Reserve, as I was surprised and thrilled to find baby heron number 5 hatched out this morning from our third clutch of eggs.

Clearly Storm Doris has had no impact upon these very successful nesting adult birds, and the parents are taking it in turns to nurture the chicks, or go off hunting for food.

We were pleased to welcome Jennifer to the Home Reserve today on a visit from her own sanctuary, and she has taken two of the discarded heron egg shells to help educate others in regard to the wonderful work we are able to do - all thanks to your continued support.



April Babies - but no Giraffe!

April 1, 2017

Well, we have not one, or two, nor three but FOUR new additions to the Home Reserve.

These have all hatched out only this afternoon, and as we had a walk round the reserve this afternoon, there were raucous cries out from the treetops from those four baby herons (two each in two nests) demanding food from their parents.

The photo shows one of the newly discarded egg shells down on the forest floor.

These babies are early - we usually expect them on Easter Sunday!

The Giraffe quote is of course from Harpursville's Animal Adventure Park in New York, where they have an expectant mother Giraffe named "April".  




Early moths on Meadow Reserve

March 12, 2017

One of the very first moths of the year- a Common Quaker on a daffodil, after a mild damp night.

More signs of spring; frogspawn in our new Three Owls Wood pond and paired mallards everywhere -oh and best of all the sky larks and goldfinches are singing like crazy!!

Cheers David


Memories, thoughts, and recollections

March 5, 2017

It is now 22 years to the day since the Three Owls founder Mrs Eileen Watkinson MBE passed away following a long illness. Right to the very end she battled away to ensure the survival of Three Owls and all the birds in its care.

The photo with this article shows Mrs Watkinson with one of our resident Tawny Owls; Guzzler - so named due to her appetite - who herself is buried on the Home Reserve alongside her 'mum'.

Taking a walk through the Home Reserve at Rochdale this morning, brought back many happy memories from years gone by; having been helping the charity since Easter 1978 I have seen many changes over the years, from the struggling charity existing on a literal shoe-string, to the hugely successful wild bird hospital it became by the Millenium, treating 1500-2000 birds annually and returning hundreds back to the wild every month. Ten years on from that, the sanctuary diversified and spread its wings further and was able to set up a network of nature reserves throughout the northwest of England, whilst continuing to support the day-to-day care of wild birds in distress.

Although Mrs Watkinson is no longer with us in person, she continues to be an inspiration in all that we do; and we often refer back to her tried and trusted methods when answering calls for help which now come in from all around the world. I count myself lucky and priviledged to have worked with her on a one-to-one basis from the day I started to when she passed away, and through all that knowledge shared over the years, we have been able to keep the Sanctuary running these 22 years further on to date and looking well into the future.

Our thoughts are with her always, and especially today.



Storm Doris

February 23, 2017

Well, the much-publicised Storm Doris has swept across the country. Sadly, with it being a winter storm, we have suffered a fair bit of tree damage as the trees are inflexible at this time of year. This means that we will have to fell a number of badly-damaged mature trees where the actual trunks have been snapped, as these will quickly die and become unstable.

However, these downed trees will not be wasted and will go to provide nesting sites/shelters, and the brash can be stacked to provide 'bug stations'. We will also look to 'fill-in' any gaps in the reserve with new trees as necessary.

Thankfully, the herons nesting trees all survived intact, as they are all sat on eggs at present, and both the pairs have been seen safe and well now the storm has passed.

We hope everyone else reading this has come through the storm without loss or damage.

Thank you to everyone who has been in touch to check we are all ok.



Voles under attack!

February 13, 2017

I have chatted before about the poor Field Voles on The Meadow Reserve. Attacked by the night shift of Barn Owls and cats, and then by the day shift of kestrels and crows. Now we have a regular addition to the day-shift, Grey Herons sneaking up upon them as shown here.


To my suprise I have seen a pair of herons hunting in the middle of the night, on the reserve -caught in my car headlights!  


Homes for all!

January 29, 2017

We were surprised to hear the rat-attat-tat drumming of the woodpecker this morning on the Home Reserve, clearly feeling that Spring was just around the corner and it was time he got on with building his nest for this year.


Subsequently I was very aware of just how many of the smaller birds had returned from the valley, and so we spent the afternoon putting up the remaining new small bird boxes from last year, so they can have some clean dry homes for this year. We also replaced the rotten roof from the nesting box outside the office which has featured on here a few times.


The herons are sitting tight on their nests, no doubt busy laying their eggs ready for this years' families; let us hope that the remainder of the winter is not too severe for them - rather them than me sitting up there exposed to all.






A quick word from John Thorpe....

January 18, 2017

This is by way of a huge 'Thank You' to everyone who donated to the Three Owls Blackpool Bike Ride total of £957.00. Quite honesty I am blown away by the total and the level of interest in my humble cycling efforts, which only came to light today when I received a certificate of achievement from my old friend Nigel at Three Owls .When last I heard we had, I think, either equalled or just exceeded last year's total, and I was proud enough of having achieved that.

Unknown to me, there has been a huge surge in people looking at the report on the Three Owls website, and subsequently feeling moved to make donations. Whenever I write the report of the Bike Ride to Blackpool from Manchester, I hope that it interests and amuses people, and of course if it prompts a donation we're very grateful, but that isn't the prime motivation. Nigel tells me that people have left messages of support and admiration for the number of years I've been taking part in the ride, and while I'm  hugely grateful, I'm also very surprised that people find it interesting. We all like to feel useful or to have some purpose beyond our own day to day lives, and the ride is my way of giving something back for all that I learned during my years of volunteering at Three Owls, both with Nigel and with Mrs.Watkinson. In the past couple of years I've questioned my usefulness a great deal, and while I still don't have an over inflated opinion of this, I do thank you all for taking the time and trouble to support my efforts on behalf of Three Owls. I'm hoping that my friend from Blackpool, Jon, is going to join me on the ride in 2017, since I've been trying to persuade him it would be good for his mental and spiritual health for about twenty years! Being of sound mind he's so far resisted the invitation on the grounds that he's so far avoided a heart attack and total physical collapse and he'd like to keep it that way! He assures me he's been in serious training by watching films of the ride on You Tube and walking briskly to the shops, so we'll see later in the year.

Thank you all once again and I hope that I can complete the ride again this year and regail you all with another tale of embrocation, perspiration and rehydration on the road to Blackpool!


John Thorpe


Babes in the Woodland

January 15, 2017

I received my first baby tawny owlet request for assistance today; obviously on it's first flight from the nest, this owlet had ended up on a couples windowsill, and upon their approach had dropped to the floor and hidden in a corner.

Usually they are fine if left, and will climb back into a tree the following evening (using beak and very strong talons) with the encouragement of the parent birds, where they will be rewarded with a meal - and probably a telling off for straying!

Also this weekend we have heard the mature herons affirming their bonds for this years' nesting season. This means I have a little over a week to get the maintenance completed at the bottom of the Home Reserve - always a rush on this reserve, as the nesting season stretches for most of the year due to the multitude and variety of birds which call it 'home'.



The trees are grown up now

January 7, 2017

At last its time to remove the stakes and tree guards at Three Owls Wood.

The baby trees were only 18 inches high when we planted 3000 just 4 years ago. With good soil many are now over 15 feet tall The biggest are the white willows -easily 20 feet tall. so its a significant point in the life of the wood that we can take away all the tree guards.

Another development is the arrival of resident jays -the mark of a true wood!

Happy new year



It's too soon!

January 6, 2017

Still in bed - is where they should be at this time of year! Waaay too early yet for these Daffodils to be even thinking of sprouting forth. Yet, with the very mild (so far) winter, we cannot be surprised that mother nature is all topsy-turvy.

Recent discussions with other sanctuaries around the UK reveal that hedgehogs in particular are failing to hibernate, and I too have seen evidence that the badgers and squirrels are also still very active when really they should all be tucked up for the winter.

I recall back to the late 1970's through until the early 1990's when my work was very much hands-on in the bird hospitals; we could expect the baby Tawny Owls to be hatching any time from Christmas Day onwards. Now you are looking at March to May for those very same nestlings. It is also a problem for migratory birds who may (as last year) stop later than usual, or even have a 3rd brood and chance there being enough flies to rear them. What they don't always take into account is whether there is enough food to be eaten DURING their migration when done out of sync; a single Swallow for example would need to eat around 800-1,000 flies per day to survive. If the weather is bad or there is a cold snap it can mean the difference between life and death. With these birds migrating in flocks, the out-of-season risks can be very high.

Anyway, on a brighter note; a very Happy New Year to you all.



Preparing the ground at the Home Reserve

December 29, 2016

Today we were over at the Home Reserve once more undertaking some ground clearance ready for some new spruce trees being planted. We currently have an appeal out for surplus rooted ex-Christmas trees, but failing this we will have to purchase some in order to maintain the coverage in this part of the reserve.

Part of todays work saw us removing some poor condition self-seeded birch trees; nothing is wasted as the logs were piled up to provide a feeding station as they rot down, and the twigs and smaller branches stacked as a brash pile for winter bird/animal cover.

The photo foreground shows what were 8-12" baby trees just three years ago - now fine and healthy young trees. These will mature into the huge trees you see in the background - which provide essential cover and nesting sites for our resident birds.



Storm Preparations!

December 18, 2016

With two rapidly approaching winter storms, we have brought forward some of our maintenance work on the Home Reserve at Rochdale.

We have a number of standing dead/damaged trees, which need dropping and stacking, to avoid the risk of them falling on any people/wildlife on the reserve. This photo shows an elderly tree that was already part-dead and in danger of falling in a storm, which has been logged and brash-stacked.

The logs are already mossy and will be much appreciated as nest-lining material by the smaller birds next spring. As these logs rot down, they will provide an abundance of grubs and invertebrates which are a vital foodsource for our resident feathered friends. The woodpeckers in particular love these feeding stations.

The brash (thin branches and twigs) provide wonderful cover for the robins and wrens, goldcrest and even the occasional firecrest. These piles are also used by hedgehogs, mice, and frogs for their winter hibernations. I was accompanied by one of our resident robins as I worked; always the opportunist for a chance of an easy meal - and who can blame them!

Over the next few weeks we will complete the maintenance on this reserve for this year - it always has to be a quick turnaround on this particular reserve, as it is used by nesting birds for 9 1/2 months of the year.



Christmas Trees

December 10, 2016

If you are wondering what Christmas tree to get this year; why not get a real one in a pot with roots? This way you can plant it out and both you and the birds can enjoy it all year round.

Equally, at the Home Reserve in Rochdale we are in need of up to 50 rooted Spruce trees to add to the part of the reserve where this variety grows. These trees are very important to this part of the reserve, and are where the heronry is located in the tree-tops, and lower down the Wood Pigeons and Jays in particular (and sometimes the odd Tawny Owl or two), rest-up or sleep in perfect safety. We could arrange local collection of trees any weekend after Christmas.

So, if you (or a seller you know) have any left after Christmas to donate, please get in touch.

Many thanks



New edition of Three Owls Newsletter is now online!

December 4, 2016

The latest edition of Three Owls Newsletter is now available to view on the website. This edition covers the last two years of news in the life of the Sanctuary, and is (if I may say so), a very good read.

Just click on the 'Newsletter' link here or at the bottom of any website page.

Happy reading!



New website launched

December 1, 2016

After over a year of background repairs following the September 2015 hacking attack, we resigned ourselves to have the site completely re-written to enable us to move forward again.

The attack destroyed the news section and the scrolling pictures, and although our webmaster worked hard, the coding was so messed up that we were forced to start again from scratch.

Thankfully, from what you see 'up-front', things do look fairly familiar; it has been a very popular layout, and we have tried to reinstate as many of the original features as possible to the new site. There is also an extra tab now for each individual reserve, which we will fill in with news as we go along.

Please bear with us over the next couple of weeks whilst we tweak the slider pictures - as you can imagine we have thousands of photos to sort through to get things running smoothly and show the sanctuary's life-saving work off to its best potential.



Wonderful Donations!

November 7, 2016
A huge Thank You to two of our lovely supporters for their recent gifts; Sheila from Heywood donated 8kg of sunflower seeds (that's a huge sack!), and Gill from Royton donated two big bags of peanuts.

Often I am asked how best to help Three Owls - well this is one way to help both the birds on our reserves, AND those in your own gardens/parks get through the now-upon-us winter weather.

If you look on the RSPB website there is a wonderful recipe for Bird Cake - the birds will delight you with their antics whilst getting that all-important nourishment to keep them alive day-by-day.

The photo for this report is of the winter dawn breaking over the Home Reserve.

Incubator Appeal

October 29, 2016
You will all recall how Knoxwood Wildlife Rescue took in a lot of our resident birds when we had to relocate our intensive care hospital and many of our aviaries from our Rochdale site to Carlisle six years ago.

Now, they take in a huge number of birds and wildlife from a wide area, and have asked if we are able to help publicise their appeal - which of course we are glad to help.
Knoxwood also manage our two reserves at Wigton for us; The Three Owls Field Reserve, and the Three Owls Watermeadow Reserve.

Emma informs me they are desperate for a couple of new incubators, and they have set up a fundraising appeal;
Wildlife Incubator Appeal

If you could possibly assist, then we would all be very grateful.


Back up and running!

September 17, 2016
Well, after the huge electrical storm this week, which knocked out ALL our communications for a time, we are pleased to let you know we are back 'open for business' as they say!

The storm was pretty severe, even by our standards, culminating in a lightning strike to the metal telephone pole which feeds the Sanctuary office. (which went off with one heck of a bang!)
This unfortunately fried everything that the broadband used, amazingly the landline survived the experience.

Top marks to Plusnet, who had everything replaced within 24 hours of me informing them.

There are ongoing issues however with the Helpline, and despite O2 working on the transmitter for some time now, the signal is very hit and miss whilst I'm in and around the Home Reserve. They assure me they are continuing to work on it. O2 have at least provided an App to run on the phone, which uses the WiFi signal from the office to enable calls and text whilst we have no phone signal - that is a big help.

Often people ask me; "how do the wild birds survive such a big storm".
Well, simply put - they are much better prepared than us humans, and well before the storm reaches us, they will be safely sheltered away, often in a conifer tree where there is a protective column of warm air up the centre. As such, if you look around at the start of a storm, there will be a complete absence of birds, yet within a few minutes of it passing, the place will be alive with them again.


Open Day, donations, and bike ride update...

August 13, 2016
This Sunday see's Knoxwoods annual Open Day from 10am-3pm, where you can visit their Sanctuary and see all the good work they do and spend some pennies (and pounds!) to help support their work with the birds and animals. They do, of course continue to look after many of the birds from our Rochdale site, from when in 2010 we had to relocate a large number of birds and aviaries to their care and so fitted them out with a state-of-the-art hospital from our facilities.
Whilst visiting on Sunday you will be able to see our new Watermeadow Reserve, and Field Reserves, which Knoxwood manage for us and have been doing sterling work with re-instating the historic sandbank and watermeadow features, also lots and lots of planting!

The photo from this article is some of the donations we have been given to help fund the reserves, and look after the birds; as well as the usual bags of clothes and bric-a-brac, we send our very grateful thanks to Hannah Green of Pet Brands in Birstall, whose company recently donated a pallet of bird fat balls - which we are distributing around each of our reserves to help support those birds using them this winter.

We will next be going up to these reserves in Carlisle in 2-3 months time, so keep the donations coming in! Meanwhile we hope to see some of you at the Open Day on Sunday.

Finally (for this report), I am pleased to give an update on Johns' Bike Ride total so far; currently standing at £445 giving you time to get those sponsorship donations and competition entries in.

It will have been a busy weekend for me, as by Sunday night I will have been to every one of Three Owls Reserves in 3 days!

Many thanks for your continued support.


Sponsored Bike Ride Report 2016

July 17, 2016
Well, it's that time again, dear supporters, when, reeking of embrocation and walking like John Wayne after a fortnight on the Chisholm Trail, I put quill to paper to, hopefully entertain and regale you with tales of bravery and daring do..........who am I kidding, I'll just tell you about the ride!
This was, as you may be aware, my 27th consecutive Manchester to Blackpool ride, and if you added up all the miles, I would be a long way away, which may be a very good thing some would say! I have to confess that I did very little actual training for the ride, and as I have said many times, this is not the ideal way to prepare for sixty miles of strenuous exercise, but I seem to survive on sheer grit and determination, with a large helping of sheer stupidity!
Having serviced my bike, given it a new back tyre, inner tubes, tube protectors and new gel seat cover, I turned my attention to myself. A good look in the full length mirror convinced me that I was beyond help, mechanical or otherwise, I gave it up as a bad job and had a cuppa. Someone suggested that I watch the Tour de France to mentally prepare myself, but since this would have resulted in a terrible feeling of inferiority, I gave it a miss. This year's event was due to start from the Manchester United ground at Old Trafford, as it has for the past few years, and was advertised in the magazine which Bike Events send out as such. However when I booked my place online (get him sounding as if he knows what he's doing!) I found that the start had been changed to the Imperial War Museum North at Salford Quays. This presented something of a problem as I had never ridden to Salford Quays on the bike, but remembered from trips on the Metrolink tram that the area was a bit of a maze of roads, and things were not easy to find unless one knew the area. Having looked up the route on my AtoZ, I hoped I could get there on time for the 6.30 am start, and retired on the Saturday night at an unheard of 9.00pm, much to the disgust of my two rabbits; Tyrion and Freya, who couldn't understand why Dad was putting them to bed at this ridiculous hour when they wanted to carry on messing up the front room!
I set the alarm for 4.00 am and fell asleep dreaming of riding round and round Salford looking for the road to the Quays the next morning was a hectic affair, and I was glad I'd got everything ready the night before, from my sandwiches etc, to the porridge ready in the bowl and all my things packed in the saddlebag. The rabbits were fed in record time, and so was I, and then after last minute checks to see I had everything I could possibly need on the road, I set off at around 4.45. The roads were empty and the light was good, but the sky was a bit threatening and grey, and I was sure we'd all get wet at some point along the way.
I reached Manchester centre in good time and turned off towards the Quays, not knowing the road or exactly how long it would take. With the help of a passer-by, I found the road and started looking for the Museum, which is opposite The Lowry Theatre. Eventually, after ending up on the opposite side of the water to where I wanted to be, I crossed a bridge and found the area where Bike Events were set up. Rick, the Voice of the Ride, the man in the bright yellow suit, did me the honour of a pre-ride photo for the website, and in no time we were away, heading out on the annual adventure.
The weather was still being kind, and as I always do, I decided to just keep out of trouble and set myself an easy pace just to warm up. A rider pulled up alongside and got into conversation ,as we passed through the rural delights of Salford (yes, I was kidding). He said he'd spotted me and thought I looked like I'd done the ride before and was a steady rider. We discussed the relative merits of going nice and easy or developing a groin strain in the first twenty minutes, and decided the former was preferable to the latter.
He even said he preferred to take advice from a Master, such as myself, rather than make silly mistakes! I assured him I was no Master, and images of the TV series Kung Fu, flashed in my mind, with me saying to David Carradine; 'When you can snatch the tyre lever from my hand Grasshopper, you may leave the monastery'
He left me behind a little while later, and I trust he had a good ride to Blackpool, albeit without The Master! Thankfully the bike was holding up well, and so were my knees, as we made steady progress through Boothstown and Leigh, and the first funny moment came I think somewhere near Atherton. We were on a hill, passing a school building where several people had gathered to cheer on the superbly fit athletes (they were somewhere in front of me at the time!), and two ladies and a small child were clapping and extolling us to greater heights of physical prowess. Such things as 'Go on you can do it' and 'You're doing well' were reaching our ears, and a man to my right, riding with a friend and making heavy weather of the hill turned in the direction of the cheerers and said I don't know about that, my a!$e is red raw!' Possibly too much information since the lady was neither a proctologist nor did she presumably have a large jar of soothing ointment to hand, and in any case she was only being encouraging!
I couldn't help but think if he afflicted so grievously at this stage of the game, what was he going to be like in Blackpool. Perhaps we shall never know and I for one would rather not. Somewhere around Daisy Hill I noticed two ladies stopped on the pavement, looking very flustered and with that particular body language that says 'Why did I do this?' I pulled over to see if I could be of help, and found that one of them had a flat tyre. Her friend carried on to let someone know that she was OK and being sorted out, and I got on with changing the tube as quickly as I could. Luckily for her, I had the tyre levers and tools with me, and fifteen minutes later she was on her way. She asked me for my name and address, to allow her to send a Thank You card, and although I assured her it wasn't necessary, she took it and went on her way. A couple of days after the ride received a really nice Thank You card and message with a gift token inside. Very unexpected but much appreciated, and it shows there are some decent people out there after all.
I was number 3604 this year, and I believe there were around 4,500 riders, slightly less than last year, but it didn't seem like it on the road. Haigh Hall loomed up at 9.00 am, with its infamous section of cobbles at the entrance. Readers of previous reports will remember humorous quips about damage to the nether regions resulting from this, and all I can say is that you ride quickly over them at your peril! I stopped for a toilet and refreshment break and felt much better for some food and fluid. At this point I'm risking provoking the fury of those who take umbrage at a man complimenting a woman on her appearance, but being adamantly politically incorrect I'll risk it.
A very attractive young lady with blond hair and black lycra was taking part, presumably with her boyfriend, and I only noticed her in passing........honestly officer! What was a bit concerning, was the fact that she wasn't wearing a helmet, and while it isn't compulsory, on a ride of sixty miles an awful lot can go wrong. I somehow think her blond locks, lovely though they were, wouldn't be much protection in a crash. If I can obscure my film star looks with a helmet I don't see why she couldn't! Anyway there's my little bit of controversial observation for this year.
Leaving at 9.25 we pressed on through Chorley and Leyland, heading towards Preston, where another break was in the offing. There's one section of the ride which can sap energy like no other, with the possible exception of the bit along Lytham Green, and it's the long straight section of dual carriageway leading into Preston Docks. Pulling up at a set of traffic lights just before the start of this section, I got talking to a middle aged couple who were doing the ride for the first time. I told him about the stretch of road and he felt it would be a good idea to 'go for it'. I counselled a bit of caution, since it's easy to wear yourself out and to feel like it's never going to end. Whether he took the advice or not, I don't know, but I adopted a steady, head down approach, which I've learned over the years at this point on the ride. I liken it to riding a mechanical bull, which I once did at a Western weekend many moons ago. I'd never done it before, and was given the tip of focusing on a spot between the horns at the back of the head so as to avoid going dizzy with the erratic motion. It worked and I stayed on for a remarkably long time before exiting spectacularly out of one side! In the same vein, I focused on the road just in front of the bike, and didn't think about how long the road was. It worked, and at 11.05 I got to Preston Docks where I had some more food and drink and took a selfie on my tablet's camera. As you'll see, it could be used as a screen saver to keep the kids away from the computer!
Leaving at around 11.25,I gritted my teeth(they should be worn down to stumps by now!) , and 'dug in' on the last section through some lovely countryside and little out of the way villages. This is the best section, I always think, and it's only a shame that there isn't time to stop and enjoy it more. Having been a chivalrous type in the matter of someone else's puncture, it didn't seem fair that I got one near Treales, just outside Kirkham, and it cost me ten minutes, but I suppose I may have been due one, since it's been a few years since I've been afflicted. Through Freckleton and on to Warton, where the last and testing bit of the ride looms up in the form of the road running through Lytham St.Annes. We'd just come up a hill and got to some traffic lights, where two young ladies were saying 'Well that's the worst bit over with.' I didn't have the heart to tell them about the next bit.......well actually I did in the interests of honesty and preparing them for the worst!
I think they took it very well, but I beat a hasty retreat before I outstayed my welcome! Sure enough, the onshore wind was playing it's tricks again, and while not actually gale force, it was strong enough, and I don't mind admitting that I got off and pushed for a few hundred yards at one point. Well I was doing 7mph on the bike and around 5mph on foot, and it gave my nether regions a rest, so it was perfectly legitimate tactics! Head down and trying to forget the pain, I pressed on until finally we got to the end of this section, and the promenade road was in sight. It's amazing how the thought of the finish line can add strength to tired legs, and I fairly sprinted (let me have my delusions please!), across the finish line. I tried to catch the eye of Rick, in his commentary box to the left of the line, but he was facing the other way, so I didn't get a mention at the end, as I had done at the start at 6.30am.
Collecting my bottle of water and energy bars ( nothing like freebies to gladden the heart!) ,I wheeled Old Faithful onto the grass, gathering my completion certificate from a rather bored looking young lad, who'd obviously been drafted in to make up the numbers. I felt like falling asleep on the grass for ten minutes, but since my mate Jon ,who lives in Blackpool, was meeting me, I had to forego this pleasure and give him a call to find out where he was. He'd missed my triumphal finish, although he was in the crowd nearby, and had forgotten to ask me what colour of Lycra I was wearing.
Speaking as a MAMIL,or Middle Aged Man in Lycra, I have to tell you that lycra is an essential item and not an excuse to show off my physique to all and sundry.......that's my story and I'm sticking to it!
We had a drink and a catch up ,then I caught the coach back at 3.30, reaching Manchester at 5.20. We were dropped off in a car park and waited for the lorry containing our bikes. As I've done for many years, I gave the driver a hand to off load the bikes and then set off back for the ride back to Bury. I'd like to say I felt like Action Man, but in truth I felt more like Barbie, and I have to admit that I was 'running on empty' to coin the phrase for most of the way. The fact that nearly every traffic light turned to red as I neared it was just a bit energy sapping, and I was pretty glad to get home at 7.00pm,where I fell into the armchair and treated myself to a coffee with a dash of Southern Comfort (purely for the iron content of course!).
In all, with the rides to and from Manchester, I covered a total of 90.8 miles, and after I'd rested a bit was very pleased with my little self's an added bonus, this year, we are running a 'Guess the Arrival in Blackpool Time' competition, and the prize is a superb wooden, self assembly owl figure. Nigel will add a more detailed item on the competition, but the basic idea being that the person who guesses closest to the actual finish time wins the prize. Please have a go and help to raise a bit more money for the Charity.
In conclusion, I would like to thank everyone who has supported me in previous years and of course all the people who will do so this year. I may have made the physical effort but you make a huge contribution to the work of Three Owls. Enjoy the article and with any luck I will back next year to attempt my 28th ride. As a positive footnote, I have given our local paper, The Bury Times, all the information and photos relating to the ride, and after speaking to one of their reporters today, have been told that a piece will probably appear next week. Hopefully this will not only further publicize the work of Three Owls but encourage others to have a go themselves and improve their fitness.

John Thorpe

Ed - The competition John has mentioned is an extra bit of fun for you all; You can either enter by post and make a £1 donation per guess by cheque/PO/stamps, or you can enter via the donate button, and leave your guess in the PayPal comments box.

Good Luck!



July 1, 2016
Hello dear supporters and I must first humbly apologise for the lateness of this article about the annual Manchester to Blackpool Bike Ride. Time seems to have run away from me this year, and the date looms for the event, which is on Sunday the 10th of July. I'm girding my loins, what's left of them and trusting that my ageing metal steed will do the job asked of her. There's probably more concern about the ageing rider than the steed to be honest, but we'll give it our best shot! This will be my 27th consecutive event, the vast majority of which have been in aid of Three Owls, and I hope that you will see fit to sponsor me again this year. Your valuable support in previous years has been astounding, and continues to amaze both Nigel and myself.

The weather is of course a totally unpredictable element.

In the equation, as is the state of the road (not an inconsiderable hazard nowadays with potholes resembling a warthog burrow in places!) Three Owls continues to do amazing work, both in terms of referrals to hospital facilities and the work on the Reserves, and we should all feel proud of what we've accomplished. With your help we can do so much more, and I hope you will support me on the 10th.
(For once no 'support' jokes!)

John Thorpe.


June 23, 2016
I just cannot believe how big some of the new trees are now only four years ago this one was in a pot at my daughters wedding. Its a white willow.
It feels like a proper wood now, the hare family are still there as are the hedgehogs and a barn owl. The swallows have just completed a mud nest in the stables too.
cheers David

Meadow Reserve Moth survey continues

June 23, 2016
We are now up to well over 140 species at the Meadow Reserve This is The Peach Blossom moth - a real beauty! feeds on bramble leaves This is the first I have ever seen.

Yes, there's something else to vote for!

June 15, 2016
I know you're all fed up with the Referendum vote (so I keep being told!), but here's something where you can REALLY make a difference;

Our colleagues at Knoxwood Wildlife Rescue Trust who look after our resident birds and now incorporate our own bird hospital facilities with their own - alongside our Watermeadow and Field reserves - have been shortlisted for Sainsbury's Carlisle Charity of the Year. This could mean a wonderful gift of around £15,000; which as you will all know is money which would be very gratefully put to excellent use.

Please click HERE to go to their website to cast your vote - Every Click Counts!

Thank you for your support.


Babies, babies everywhere!

June 5, 2016
Well, we certainly are in the middle of a very busy baby bird season; my evenings and weekends are always jam-packed with assisting sanctuaries, vets, and members of the public with assistance and advice as to all manners of baby bird queries and identifications.

It has been notable this year, the large quantity of young crows and jackdaws which are being admitted for further help; due to the very mild weather, many parents have reared all six chicks to point of fledging, however the 5th and 6th bird are always weaker - the runt of the family - and as such often get into trouble once out of the nest due to deficiencies or malformed limbs.
Once again this often takes the form of dry, brittle and white feathers where they should be a glossy black, and even some birds being completely bald, or just bald heads. As ever, given the correct care and attention, the majority of these birds can be nursed back to full health, but this takes time, money and a lot of loving.

I was over at Three Owls Wood last weekend, and was thrilled to see just how big the trees are now there, I will ask David to put some up-to-date photos on here to show you all. There were a number of swallows busy feeding young by the stables, a huge buzzard in the field alongside, numerous pheasants strolling around, a heron quietly fishing in the pond, and a pair of shelduck which I thought had such amazingly bright plumage they could have been freshly 'painted'.


Lovely surprise to start the summer

May 8, 2016
We had a minor maintenance day with six of our trusty volunteers on the Home Reserve at Rochdale today; and were cleaning out one of the ponds used by the migratory and resident birds.

With the wonderful song of the swallows all around - quite how they have such energy having flown all the way from North Africa is beyond me! They really are the acrobats of the skies.

The whole reserve is alive with birds just now, with the flies now plentiful, we have cut right back on the seed feeding stations. Many blackbirds and thrushes have young in the nests, and several more species such as the sparrows, jackdaws, and moorhen and mallards are busy building their nests or incubating their eggs

It was while clearing the drain we came across a trio of newts; all in great health and I managed to get a photo of one before all three were returned back to the water. These are the Common Newt, and I was pleased to see the ponds so well-stocked with wildlife.

We have been given a lot of nest-boxes in kit form following my earlier appeal, and John Thorpe has offered to build them up for us. We will get these installed throughout the reserve over the next week or so, in order they can be in use for this year and give our tit / finch / robin families a helping hand.


Springing into May!

May 1, 2016
Well, Mother Nature is finally springing into life and so far the Bank Holiday Weekend has been abuzz with requests for help countrywide with baby bird issues.
The vast majority of calls have been either cat attack victims of mainly blackbirds; who for their first 4-5 days out of the nest are flightless, and greatly at risk from predatory cats and magpies.
As ever, if you find a bird which has been attacked, put it in a box and keep it warm. If you don't have an airing cupboard (ideal as they are a constant warm temperature), then a hot water bottle / gel pack wrapped in a towel and placed either underneath the bird or underneath the box will help settle it down.

If a young bird, it may gape for food, and you can give it some cooked scrambled egg (no salt) with either some blunt tweezers or the handle of a teaspoon. The bird will need a couple of mouthfuls every 30-60 minutes, from dawn to dusk.

Aim to get it to your nearest wildlife rescue as soon as possible (follow the links on this website to locate your nearest), but if it's late in the day or an evening, and only shocked rather than injured, it may fare better to stay with you overnight then travel in the morning.

So far we have the usual blackbird/thrush babies around, but also numerous enquiries about baby owls, baby herons, and a growing number of ducklings.

I understand the warmer weather is just around the corner, but as the photo on this report shows, the past final week in April has looked anything but spring-like; the picture shows the bottom half of the Home Reserve looking towards the heron nesting fir trees. Thankfully the ground was not hard frozen, and on both of the snowy days, the majority of the snow had cleared by lunchtime.


Heron nests disappearing from view

April 17, 2016
A larger than usual number of enquiries from people this year wanting to view the baby herons in their nests. However, access to view from the reserve itself is very limited due to other trees and the fact that the nests are so high.

I have tried to get a close-up, but will try again when the youngsters are standing up and I have a better chance.
Previous years viewings have been quite good from the adjacent recreation ground where the land is higher, but this year the new position of the nests has made things more awkward.

In the picture shown, the father bird is in the centre of the picture.


Everlasting Daffodils

March 31, 2016
Well, the daffs were out early this year on the Home Reserve, and I have been amazed at how resilient they have been. Often knocked down with the wet weather, they just bounce back up once things improve, and really do brighten up the Reserve.

Now, with new growth on the woodland floor and birds scurrying around for nesting materials, it really feels like Spring is just around the corner, and this view seemed too good to miss as I walked around the reserve after work this evening.


A crunchy day at Three Owls Wood

March 26, 2016
A very frosty day was endured recently at Three Owls Wood in Tarleton, however there are signs that the wood is starting to wake up from its winter sleep, and soon we will be back to the mowing again.

The trees are now well established and there is no need to mow between each tree as in previous years, as their own growth will keep the grass in check. We do however need to keep the pathways and rides clear, so monthly mows will be on the cards soon for David and myself.


Just 48 hours later.....

March 21, 2016
...and the next heron chick arrives

These parent birds are new to the heronry, and so are quite flighty, so to avoid disturbing them further, I have used one of our library pictures to show you a picture of mother heron and her two babies.

There may be up to five chicks in total - dependent on how plentiful the food supply is. As a rule we do not put any food out for the herons, unless the winter is particularly severe and the local reservoirs and lakes freeze over.

The majority of the herons diet is fish and frogs, but they will make a meal of rats and mice/voles, and even birds up to the size of a coot.


The early bird .....

March 19, 2016
...usually catches the worm, but these birds have been busy fishing in the ponds.

All those fish and frogs must have paid off, as earlier today I heard the unmistakable clack,clack,clack of a baby heron in the treetops. This is incredibly early, as I wasn't expecting them for at least another 7 days.

The picture shows dad heron sat night on the nest; I'll get another picture when we have some siblings.



March 4, 2016
Our Barn owl pair are seen on the meadow reserve most days now .I have put a couple of 'resting posts' in for them-which they use a lot. I watched this owl sitting on the post listening intently before just jumping down on the hapless vole. just so chuffed with this photo !!
Cheers David

What a lovely treat!

February 21, 2016
A small group of volunteers were doing some winter maintenance this weekend on the Home Reserve at Rochdale when a pair of Ravens flew overhead.

We heard them both quite a bit before we saw them - alas way too quick for my camera - although I have to admit I was somewhat sceptical prior to actually seeing them, as we do have a pair of large carrion crows living in and around the reserve, who were former residents of Three Owls and can mimic a raven call very well indeed, having lived in an aviary alongside our resident ravens during their own rehabilitation.

However, these two were most definitely 'the real deal'; the beak shape alone is so very distinctive, and although they simply overflew rather than calling in, it was a special treat for us all.


Springing to life!

February 7, 2016
Nature seems a little undecided on the Home Reserve at present; We're only just into February and things really should be dormant. However with the mild wet weather we see the Crab Apple tree starting to blossom. and even the hawthorn hedging in the photo is starting to leaf-up.

Of the five pairs of herons, only the one pair is nesting in earnest, and if I get chance to look over to the Reserve at lunchtime, the female is often fishing on the ponds, with the male tucked up tight on the nest.

Judging by the amount of foods being consumed at the feeding stations, more severe weather is on the way, as I recall the wood pigeons in particular will feed to excess in advance of poor weather and simply not venture out when the weather is very bad. Pigeons have a very slow digestion-rate, and so if well-fed, they can go 2-3 days without food and not suffer undue hardship. Whereas the smaller insect eaters such as robins and wrens, tits and finches need to eat every single day to survive - no matter what the weather.


Big Garden Birdwatch results!

February 6, 2016
Well, it wasn't really the best of weekends weather-wise for bird watching, and we didn't spot as many of our usual friends as there would have been on a sunnier day.

However, in our 'magic hour of watching' we did manage 9 wood pigeons, 5 robins, 3 great tits, 2 nuthatches, and a lonesome blackbird. Of the corvids we had 4 magpies, 2 carrion crows, and a single jackdaw. There were some finches too, but they didn't come close enough for clear identification.

We all hope you managed to complete your own surveys, and haven't succumbed to the nasty cold bug going around from getting drenched on the day.

I'll be interested to hear later in the year of the results nationally from this bird count via the RSPB. Let us hope that the bird population has not been too badly hit by the recent very wet weather.


Big Garden Birdwatch this weekend!

January 30, 2016
Don't forget to join in the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch on either Saturday or Sunday this weekend!

These annual surveys give us a snapshot as to how the wild birds are coping in the wild and if different species are increasing / maintaining / diminishing in number.

I'll let you all know how I fared in our survey on the Home Reserve tomorrow.


Nesting begins for 2016 at the Home Reserve

January 24, 2016
Well, obviously one pair of the herons read our website news too - they have this week started nesting preparations, and new sticks are now being brought in by the male, and presented to the female to see if they meet the required standard!

There has been much raucous calling and displaying too, as the birds have re-affirmed their bonding for this years breeding season.

Interestingly, this nest is NOT in the highest treetop as in past years, but lower down the tree, so I expect they have anticipated some further stormy weather will be with us soon this year. We will keep you updated.

The first of the snowdrops are now in flower on this reserve, and there as signs of new green growth surging forth on the woodland floor.


Barn Owl on a snowy morning

January 17, 2016
I was so very excited to capture this Barn Owl on the Meadow Reserve today.
I put a resting post just outside the hide -and it worked Hurrah!!!!
a very excited David

There's a chill in the air - and a hint of Spring!

January 15, 2016
Well, the rain has at last stopped - for now, and we have a few crispy cold days of weather to come. This is good news for the birds, as the cold weather will kill off a lot of infections currently doing the rounds.
Please do keep an eye out for birds with canker - it IS fully curable in all but the very severe of cases, and is a yellowish-white growth that forms in the crop and grows up the throat, eventually stopping the bird being able to close its beak. It is often caused by dirty bird feeders/water dishes where food has gone mouldy and birds with the illness can pass it on at water dishes. Hence make sure you clean those feeders weekly with hot soapy water, and clean the water dishes out too.

The birds need your extra support now as bird baths will be frozen - and they need drinking water to survive. As ever, only use clean water and NEVER put any form of antifreeze in it, as this is toxic to all birds and animals.

With the mild start to winter there are many bulbs awake throughout the reserves, and even a few flowers. Hopefully the colder weather will simply put a delay on these and not let the frosts kill them off completely.

The herons continue to fish in the ponds at Rochdale, and the other day I was watching a female chasing off male from 'her' pond! As the female was so prominent with her bright pink beak, the herons too think that the breeding season - and Spring - is not too far away. However, I have seen no sign of nestbuilding, so knowing their excellent weather-forecasting skills, feel that some more severe weather may yet be on the way. It is after all, only mid-January, but in a good year would be collecting twigs by now to top up their nests this week of January.


Happy New Year !!!

January 1, 2016
Due to flood damage the Home Reserve currently has no Internet access or landline due to a line fault which is under repair. Whilst there has been significant flooding in Rochdale over the festive break, with the exception of the phone-line, we seem to have escaped so far with little damage.
We will endeavour to answer email enquiries via the Helpline in the interim, and the engineers hope to have the phone-line working again at some point next week. This sent as a text from Nigel.

As I write this a barn owl is quartering the Meadow Reserve He has been there five times this week.
As I watch I always hope to see him catch a vole and then feel guilty about it !!
Happy New Year from me too folks!!

A very Merry Christmas to all our supporters

December 25, 2015
Hoping you have all had a good Christmas so far, the wrapping paper at home is now tidied away, and I'm just back from a walk round the Home Reserve at Rochdale, where I was putting out some treats for the birds and animals living within.

Considering we're only approaching the end of December, many parts of the Reserve seem to think we are much further on due to the mild weather, and there are buds on some of the bushes, new growth on the woodland floor, and even the grass is growing again in the open parts of the Reserve.
The herons have been busy fishing in the ponds lately - but always at a distance to prevent a good photograph! They are very good weather forecasters - so I will be interested to see both when and where in the trees they decide to nest this year. (Treetops usually means a calm year, lower means a stormy year. January nesting means a normal Spring with chicks due at Easter, later can mean a bad February is on the way........we will wait and see.

We have a few self-seeded or elderly trees which have died off due to the much risen water table from all the rain we have had in the last few months. One of these has come down, and will be added onto the reserve maintenance programme which is undertaken during the winter period. We try and leave fallen/dead trees where they are if possible, as they provide a rich source of food and shelter for the birds and animals on the reserve; however some of these damaged/fallen trees are now blocking the pathways, so will need to be stacked elsewhere.

A huge Thank You to everyone who has sent donations in with their cards this year - we will ensure that every penny is put to good use in our good work with the birds.

Hoping you all enjoy Christmas, and have a Happy New Year.


New Three Owls Pond Full

December 19, 2015
Just one year on and our new pond looks great. The fact it's so full will surprise very few of you! But the fact the scarred earth round it looks so green and settled surprises me

Reserves coping with the very wet weather.

December 12, 2015
We have had a number of inquiries over the past couple of weeks as to how are the reserves coping with the absolutely torrential rain we have encountered of late.

Actually they are coping very well ;
The Home Reserve at Rochdale IS boggy in parts, but as most of it is on a slope, it does drain off fairly quickly once the rain does stop - certainly when I attended it earlier today, each pond within was absolutely brimming with water.
Both the Three Owls Wood at Tarleton, and the Meadow Reserve at Banks have drainage ditches alongside, and so these reserves cope well with what Mother Nature throws their way.

The Field Reserve at Wigton has a fairly steep slope over half its area, so that part of it drains well. The Watermeadow Reserve also at Wigton is "nice and boggy" so Emma at Knoxwood informs me, and she also reports that the last third of the new Field Reserve hedge arrived last week.
We have all seen the devastating floods at Cumbria in the news recently, and thankfully the birds and animals there have all been safe from these. However, it has prevented the staff being able to get in on occasion, and we all wish them well in coping with their temporary isolation due to the floods. Thankfully - as with any well-run sanctuary - they have food (and tea bags!) aplenty and will 'weather the storm'.


Good to be back !!

December 2, 2015
So sorry we were not able to keep you all upto date because of the rather sad hackers attack;now sorted
While we were off line much reserve activity Almost daily barn owl hunting seen at the Meadow Reserve just around dawn Those field voles still under daily attack! Today we had both the Owl and the pussy cat - a matching white cat as it happens !!
Cheers David

News updates

November 17, 2015

Our sincere apologies to all our faithful supporters for the lack of news articles since September; the website suffered a prolonged multi-national attack which destroyed part of the site.

Our Webmaster is working hard to rebuild everything behind the scenes and we will get the news restored as soon as possible.

Many thanks to everyone for their ongoing support during this difficult and costly time. You can always catch up on previous years' news items by clicking on the Newsletter link at the bottom of every page.



November 30, 1999

Bird survey carried out on Three Owls Reserve Tarleton Moss (SD436214)

The breeding bird survey was carried out at 6am to 7.30am on Sunday 17th May 2020 in overcast but warm conditions. The main criterion for potential breeding was singing males in suitable habitat. The status of each species is for the moss and is based on the Lancashire Bird Report and local knowledge.


Common Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus)-Common breeding resident enhanced by commercial raised birds: 12 males found plus 2 females and  predated eggs also discovered

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) – Common breeding resident: pair in adjacent field.

Wood Pigeon (Columba palumbus) – Common Breeding resident: over 40 individuals found.

Grey Heron (Ardea cinereal) – Non breeding: feeding visitor to the reserve.

Eurasian Sparrowhawk  Accipiter nisus- Local breeder: single individual seen carrying prey no evidence of breeding.

Eurasian Buzzard (Buteo buteo)- Local breeder: recent colonisation visits the reserve and breeds in adjacent copse.

Dunnock (Prunella modularis)- Common Local breeder:  young being fed.

House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)- Common breeder: one feeding young in nest box.

Common Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)- Uncommon breeder: three singing males heard.

European Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)- Common breeder: Several small flocks totalling 27 birds plus a minimum of 7 singing individuals.

Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleusCommon)- Common breeder: one pair seen plus 3 others calling.

Great Tit (Parus major)- Common breeder: 5 individual sing males observed.

Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)-Common breeder migrant: 15 individuals feeding over reserve.

Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus)- uncommon breeder migrant: one calling from adjacent copse.

Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita)-uncommon breeder migrant: 2 individuals calling.

Eurasian Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla)- Common breeder migrant: 7 males singing and alarming.

Common Whitethroat (Curruca communis)- common breeder migrant: 4 singing and displaying males plus a pair on territory.

Eurasian Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes)- common breeder: over 10 males singing.

Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)- common breeder: birds feeding on reserve no evidence of breeding.

European Robin (Erithacus rubecula)-Common breeder resident: 2 singing males.

Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus)- uncommon breeding resident: one seen feed in adjacent field and flying into reserve hedge,

Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos)- common breeding resident: two individual pairs seen.

Eurasian Blackbird (Turdus merula)-common breeding resident: numerous males seen on reserve (maxima 20).

Proposed future surveys include one night time visit and a repeat full survey on mid-June.

Report compiled by Rob Yates 17/05/2020


















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