A popular West Lothian tourist attraction has taken off since it was established a decade ago.
The Scottish Owl Center at Polkemment Country Park is celebrating its 10th anniversary in the county after relocating from Campbeltown.
From humble beginnings, the center now employs four staff members, has quadrupled its visitor numbers and won the Scottish Hospitality Awards Best Day Out 2019 and West Lothian Chamber of Commerce Best Tourism Business in 2014.
Niccy Angus and husband Rod established the business in Campbeltown, Argyll 20 years ago and moved to West Lothian to expand it in 2012.
They plumped for Polkemmet because of the enclosed walled garden area which at the time was the works and for easy access to the M8.
The pair moved up with 60 owls and now have 150.
Niccy explained her husband is a life-long ornithologist and was inspired by the owls he was monitoring and ringing as part of Project Barn Owl where they lived in Kintyre for the British Trust for Ornithology between 1995 and 1997.
“She explained: “We had visited many bird of prey centers and wanted to show the unique beauty of owls in their own right rather than alongside the more dramatic falcons and hawks.
“We acquired our first owls in 2002 at our home in Campbeltown, established the Scottish Owl Center as a business in 2003 and opened it as a Visitor Center there in 2005.
“We funded it all from our own resources and now run it as a partnership. We rely on income from visitor admissions, our small gift shop, donations and owl adoptions to feed and care for our 150 owls and pay our four staff.
“Our motto is education, inspiration and conservation.
“As well as displaying the beauty of owls of all different sizes from around the world, we aim to educate our visitors on owl habits and habitat and the issues affecting their survival in the wild.
“We hope to inspire a greater appreciation and care of the environment and we also contribute to research and conservation projects around the world.”
Niccy explained the center doesn’t take in injured or rescued birds but instead acquires and exchanges healthy captive-bred owls from other zoos and private collections.
They are all housed in spacious aviaries that reflect their natural habitat. Many of the owls are in breeding pairs and about 30 are hand-reared and trained for flying displays.
Niccy said the center is proud to celebrate 10 years in West Lothian.
They marked the event by putting up a big banner in our reception and inviting Courier photographer Stuart Vance to visit to experience the owls for himself.
The center is also giving free entry to the tenth visitor each day for the first 10 days of April and hard working staff are looking forward to a “belated night out” for the first time in two years.
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