Care home residents have been having a hoot thanks to a visit from some feathered friends – including an Indian Collared Scops Owl called Gandalf.
The birds from the North Wales Owl Sanctuary visited the Gwern Alyn Care Home, which is part of the Pendine Park care organisation in Wrexham.
Resident, Marian Williams, 94, who has been a resident of the care home since 2012, says she really enjoyed meeting Gandalf, named after the wizard in the Lord of the Rings films.
She said: “It’s wonderful to be able to hold them. I love stroking him, he’s so soft. I’ve had to tell him off a few times though for pecking. I think he could be naughty if you let him.
“It is something different and something I have really enjoyed. I hope they come back to see us again. I think it’s wonderful.”
Marion Jenkins, 88, who has been a resident of Gwern Alyn for six years, enjoyed stroking Malqi, a South African barn owl
She said: “I liked seeing all the owls, they are lovely and so soft. They remind me of my own birds that I had many years ago. I had one budgie for 21 years.
“It’s nice to have something different and seeing the owls has been wonderful. I never thought I’d get to stroke an owl but I have.”
According to enrichment and activities co-ordinator Yvonne Moran, residents really enjoyed interacting with the birds and learning about how they live in the wild.
She said: “We arranged the visit at the request of a number of our residents. Staff of the Owl Sanctuary have visited before and brought a variety of birds into Gwern Alyn to show residents.
“However, on the first visit a few residents were unsure and stayed away. They then heard what a wonderful experience it was and asked if the owls could come back.
“I’m glad we arranged a second visit, there’s no doubt that residents have enjoyed handling and stroking the owls. And the birds have clearly enjoyed all the attention too!”
She added: “I think residents gain a lot from experiences such as these and those members of staff on duty have a good time too. There is no doubt they will be talking about their experience for days to come.”
Steve Boswell, from North Wales Owl Sanctuary in Corwen, said: “It’s clear residents gain a great deal from the experience. It’s wonderful that they get to hold an owl and enjoy the memory.
“It’s a chance for us to educate people a little on the pressures facing owls in the wild through loss of habitat and human activities that are so damaging to wildlife.
“You see some residents who are clearly worried and a little frightened yet when they see how gentle the owls are they relax and they get such a thrill from holding and stroking them. You can see the phobia disappear.
“It is an unforgettable experience for residents to handle them. You can see the pleasure it brings to older people and I enjoy seeing them interact with the birds. The birds are relaxed and happy too and seem to enjoy all the attention.”
He added: “I brought along several Malqi, a South African barn owl that was bred at Chester Zoo. They presented the owl to us to help us educate and teach people about the importance of conservation.
“All the other birds we have at the sanctuary, some 211 birds, are all rescued birds. We rely on events and visits such as this to help us get our conservation message across.”