From 1995-97 Rod Angus, a life-long ornithologist, took part in the British Trust for Ornithology’s ‘Project Barn Owl’ in his home area of Kintyre, Argyll. Previously only 3 or 4 nest sites had been known, but Rod discovered more than 40 territories, making Kintyre a nationally important stronghold for Barn Owls.
Inspired by this discovery and by family visits to various bird of prey centres, Rod and his wife, Niccy, founded the Scottish Owl Centre with a small collection of captive-bred owls in 2003. After initially taking the owls to shows and events around Scotland, they decided to redevelop part of their home at the former Witchburn Hospital in Campbeltown. With Rod’s ornithological expertise and Niccy’s artistic and educational skills, they designed and created the first Scottish visitor centre dedicated to owls and their conservation. The S.O.C. was opened to the public in May 2005 by the Director of the World Owl Trust, Tony Warburton, M.B.E. The Campbeltown Centre enjoyed 6 successful seasons, welcoming locals, tourists, schools, coach parties and the guests of the Hebridean Princess cruise ship…..but it needed to spread its wings.
With the Zoo Licence due for renewal in 2011 and the last of the 6 Angus children leaving home, it was time to take the fledgling Centre out into the wider world of central Scotland. Polkemmet Country Park, Whitburn, was chosen for its ideal location between Glasgow and Edinburgh and the suitably enclosed walled garden of the former mansion house. After numerous delays in the building process, the relocated Centre finally opened its doors in March 2012. With increased visitor numbers, the S.O.C. has been able to enlarge the owl collection, add new education features and employ staff along with a host of dedicated volunteers.
The S.O.C. is not a falconry centre. We specialise in owls rather than raptors, because we want to portray their unique charisma and charm, which is often eclipsed beside the more dramatic hawks and falcons. We believe they are also excellent environmental educators. Our motto, ‘Education, Inspiration, Conservation’, reflects the hope that by bringing people face-to-face with owls in all their beauty and by increasing public knowledge of the environmental issues which affect their survival, we will inspire greater interest in the wider conservation concerns of our world today. As well as educating the public and breeding owls to increase the population of vulnerable species, we are also involved in 3 specific areas of owl conservation.
Kintyre Barn Owls
What began as Project Barn Owl in Kintyre in 1994-97 (see ‘Our History’) has continued with regular monitoring of established nest-sites and the appropriate placing of nest-boxes to encourage Barn Owl population growth.
Philippine Eagle Owl
The S.O.C. supports the World Owl Trust’s conservation captive breeding programme and in situ research of the highly endangered Philippine Eagle Owl.
Native only to the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean, the rare Ashy-faced Owl relies on captive breeding for its survival as a species. Some of the offspring of our own pair have gone to join the conservation programme at the World Owl Trust in Cumbria and another, Prince, has been hand-reared to join our educational flying team.