Owl handler has an ‘amazing affinity’ with birds

Gavin Woods, who has a learning disability, secured a placement as a part-time owl handler. cont
Gavin Woods, who has a learning disability, secured a placement as a part-time owl handler. cont

THINK of the average temporary job and it might be in a supermarket or office work – but one man is the envy of his friends at the day centre he attends with his new role.

Gavin Woods, 44, pictured right, who has a mild learning difficulty and attends The Pines Day Centre, in Faraday Close, Durrington, has secured a placement working as a part-time owl handler.

The unusual role came when East Preston firm Owls About Town visited the day centre for a chat.

But it was soon clear that Gavin was a complete natural with the birds, and was offered a voluntary placement by business owner Andy Kendall.

Community connector Chris Hughes, who helped facilitate the role, said: “The owls came to the centre and Gavin was just a natural for it.

“The birds seemed very comfortable sitting on his arm and Andy was very impressed with how he handled them.

“I think the affinity he has with the owls is amazing.”

As part of his role, Gavin is tasked with regularly handling over a dozen of the company’s owls and birds, getting them used to being handled. He then helps at regular public outings, in an effort to educate the masses about the wonders of the creatures. Gavin said: “They are very friendly and I like talking to them. I feel really privileged to work with them.” Chris explained that the placement had been entirely unexpected, with the usual day centre visitors often securing work in charity shops and helping with county council duties such as hedge trimming.

The whole idea of getting those with learning disabilities into such placements is to help them become a recognised and valued part of society.

He said: “A popular job is helping the highways team trimming overgrown hedges. It gets them in the public eye and helping in the community.

“Learning disabilities are becoming more and more recognised and supported now, which is part of my role, to get them working in the community.”

Owls About Town has 20 owls and hawks, which are available to attend various functions – they can even be trained to swoop down and deliver rings on wedding days.

To find out more, visit www.owlsabouttown.co.uk