Nature's Display

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!


Date : October 14, 2018


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

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


Date : October 6, 2018


Food for thought, and food for all

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.

Date : September 22, 2018


Different Reserve, Different Purpose

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.


Date : September 9, 2018


Always another way...

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.


Date : August 26, 2018


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

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.


Date : August 18, 2018


A fantastic day was had by all!

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.


Date : August 5, 2018


Remembering the birds and animals...

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.


Date : July 29, 2018


John Thorpe's 2018 Sponsored Bike Ride Report in full




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

Date : July 15, 2018


John's put the pedal to the metal!

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.


Date : July 8, 2018


A New Baby

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

Date : July 5, 2018


In The Barn Owl Nest Box

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  

Date : July 4, 2018


Three Owls Newsletter 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!


Date : July 1, 2018


The Manchester to Blackpool Bike Ride 2018 by John Thorpe.

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

Date : June 23, 2018


PLEASE Stop and Think before touching...

....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.


Date : June 9, 2018


A wonderful surprise

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.


Date : May 23, 2018


A sweet aroma!

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.


Date : May 17, 2018


Off to the Wild!

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.


Date : May 16, 2018


Barn owls Newsfash:

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



Date : May 13, 2018


When we grow up....

... 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.


Date : April 27, 2018


a pair of Kestrels

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   

Date : April 3, 2018


Eggsellent news

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!


Date : March 27, 2018


Reserve Visits

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.


Date : March 24, 2018


Happy memories

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.


Date : March 7, 2018


Danger to life

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 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.



Date : March 2, 2018


Relocating, relocating...

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.


Date : February 10, 2018


Plastic Peril!

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.


Date : February 4, 2018


On the airwaves again!

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.


Date : January 31, 2018


Signal lost!

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!


Date : January 28, 2018


A week too late!

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.


Date : January 20, 2018


Many thanks to you all

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.


Date : January 14, 2018


Whooper Swan for New Year !

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



Date : January 7, 2018


New Year, new growth on the Home Reserve

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.


Date : January 1, 2018


A very Merry Christmas to you all

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.


Date : December 25, 2017


Help us to Help You with your online shopping!

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.


Date : December 9, 2017


Major Maintenance Day

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.


Date : November 25, 2017


Three Owls Wood update

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.




Date : November 12, 2017


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

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.


Date : November 5, 2017


Thanks - we've battened down the hatches!

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.


Date : October 16, 2017


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

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

Date : October 14, 2017


Feeding our Feathered Friends

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.


Date : October 1, 2017


Running late...

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.


Date : September 23, 2017


You're all Record Breakers!

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.


Date : September 10, 2017


Wet August pays dividends on the Home Reserve

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.


Date : August 27, 2017


A happy result from the new pond

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

Date : August 17, 2017


Hedgehog release at three Owls Wood

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     

Date : August 16, 2017


Get Well Soon, Kathy

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.



Date : August 10, 2017


Meadow Reserve Hedgehog Release

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.


Date : July 18, 2017


28th Bike Ride report in full




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.


Date : July 16, 2017


The Home Reserve is really buzzing!

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.


Date : July 13, 2017


Today's The Day

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!



Date : July 9, 2017


Flying North (again)

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.


Date : July 8, 2017


Newts are thriving

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.


Date : July 2, 2017


Just like the busses; none for ages then two together!

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!


Date : June 27, 2017


Rooftop rescue

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.)


Date : June 22, 2017


Manchester to Blackpool Sponsored Bike Ride 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

Date : June 18, 2017


Rescuing the rescuers - Mercy 'Flight'

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.


Date : June 12, 2017


Out into the Big Wide World

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.






Date : June 4, 2017


More Orchids

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.



Date : June 3, 2017


A little bundle of joy!

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.



Date : May 25, 2017


Knitting Nanas

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.



Date : May 23, 2017


Helping us, helps others too - and we all help the wild birds around us.

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.



Date : May 21, 2017


Honey Bee breeding

 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







Date : May 15, 2017


Co-operation, transportation, and rehabilitation

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.


Date : May 14, 2017


Wonderful donations

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.


Date : April 30, 2017


Palm Sunday release

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 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.


Date : April 9, 2017


Mother Nature

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.



Date : April 8, 2017


A football team perhaps...?

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.


Date : April 2, 2017


April Babies - but no Giraffe!

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".  



Date : April 1, 2017


Early moths on Meadow Reserve

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

Date : March 12, 2017


Memories, thoughts, and recollections

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.


Date : March 5, 2017


Storm Doris

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.


Date : February 23, 2017


Voles under attack!

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!  

Date : February 13, 2017


Homes for all!

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.





Date : January 29, 2017


A quick word from John Thorpe....

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

Date : January 18, 2017


Babes in the Woodland

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'.


Date : January 15, 2017


The trees are grown up now

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


Date : January 7, 2017


It's too soon!

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.


Date : January 6, 2017


Preparing the ground at the Home Reserve

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.


Date : December 29, 2016


Storm Preparations!

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.


Date : December 18, 2016


Christmas Trees

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


Date : December 10, 2016


New edition of Three Owls Newsletter is now online!

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!


Date : December 4, 2016


New website launched

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.


Date : December 1, 2016


Wonderful Donations!

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.

Date : November 7, 2016


Incubator Appeal

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.


Date : October 29, 2016


Back up and running!

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.


Date : September 17, 2016


Open Day, donations, and bike ride update...

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.


Date : August 13, 2016


Sponsored Bike Ride Report 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!

Date : July 17, 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.

Date : July 1, 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

Date : June 23, 2016


Meadow Reserve Moth survey continues

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.

Date : June 23, 2016


Yes, there's something else to vote for!

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.


Date : June 15, 2016


Babies, babies everywhere!

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'.


Date : June 5, 2016


Lovely surprise to start the summer

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.


Date : May 8, 2016


Springing into May!

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.


Date : May 1, 2016


Heron nests disappearing from view

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.


Date : April 17, 2016


Everlasting Daffodils

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.


Date : March 31, 2016


A crunchy day at Three Owls Wood

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.


Date : March 26, 2016


Just 48 hours later.....

...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.


Date : March 21, 2016


The early bird .....

...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.


Date : March 19, 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

Date : March 4, 2016


What a lovely treat!

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.


Date : February 21, 2016


Springing to life!

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.


Date : February 7, 2016


Big Garden Birdwatch results!

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.


Date : February 6, 2016


Big Garden Birdwatch this weekend!

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.


Date : January 30, 2016


Nesting begins for 2016 at the Home Reserve

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.


Date : January 24, 2016


Barn Owl on a snowy morning

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

Date : January 17, 2016


There's a chill in the air - and a hint of Spring!

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.


Date : January 15, 2016


Happy New Year !!!

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!!

Date : January 1, 2016


A very Merry Christmas to all our supporters

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.


Date : December 25, 2015


New Three Owls Pond Full

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

Date : December 19, 2015


Reserves coping with the very wet weather.

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'.


Date : December 12, 2015


Good to be back !!

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

Date : December 2, 2015


News updates

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.


Date : November 17, 2015



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January 1, 1970



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January 1, 1970



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January 1, 1970



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January 1, 1970



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January 1, 1970



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January 1, 1970



Wild Bird Advice and information

Many people would help birds more, if they knew simple easy ways in which they could help wild birds, without going to too-much extra trouble. Often there are ways to help – that don’t actually ‘cost’ anything at all, but can make a huge difference to making birds welcome and safe in the environment around us.

One of the main causes of bird injuries (especially young birds in the summer months), is being attacked by both pet and feral cats. A simple way to combat thi

Read More


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