‘The Birdman of Allihies’ comes to the rescue of owl chicks and prepares to set them free

West Cork sanctuary also caring for two emus, 10 owls, a buzzard, two crows, one seagull and some ducks

Commissioned by The Irish Times

When four long-eared owl chicks were discovered in Glengarriff, west Cork, in April there was only one man to call if the animals were to have any hope of survival.

Known affectionally in west Cork as “the Birdman of Allihies”, Alex Scade has been helping injured birds recover at his home on the Beara Peninsula for more than 15 years.

“Somebody had chopped down a tree in Glengarriff but they only realised afterwards that there was an owl nest in there as well,” he said.

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“I’m pretty well known around the area now so they called me and I knew I would have to take them in to give them a chance.”

Commissioned by The Irish Times
Commissioned by The Irish Times

The young chicks were in a bad way following their sudden eviction, one had a broken wing and another had a broken leg.

“They were too young to make it to another nest, they couldn’t fly so without help that would have been it, they would have been killed by a fox or something, so I took them in with me here,” he said.

Scade brought them back to Allihies and his self-built aviary and wildlife sanctuary. For the past four months, he has nursed and cared for the chicks who are now ready to head out into the world on their own.

“It’s quite a big aviary I have here now so they have been learning all the time, learning to fly, to feed themselves. They are wild animals so, though it’s sad to see them go, you know they are going back to where they belong. It’s a good time of year for them too because there is still plenty of food around before the winter sets in so they will get a good chance to explore and find their way.”

He plans to release the owls back in Glengarriff close to where they were found but he will still have plenty of other birds to keep him company back at the sanctuary. Currently, he is looking after two emus, 10 owls, a buzzard, two crows, one seagull and some ducks.

“The emus I rescued from a market in Kerry 10 years ago, they were being bred for meat a lot around that time in Ireland. They are part of the family so they won’t be going anywhere but there must have been thousands of birds who have been through here over the years,” he said.

Originally from Glasgow, Scade had travelled widely before reaching the Beara Peninsula in 2001. “When I got here I just knew this is where I wanted to be,” he said.

Commissioned by The Irish Times
Commissioned by The Irish Times

After living in the area for a few years he was offered a plot of land by local man John Michael O’Sullivan, and to his amazement the credit union were willing to give him a loan to pay for it.

With little money but a lot of effort he slowly built his home and the wildlife sanctuary with help from kind neighbours like Kevin Tim O’Sullivan, who landscaped the grounds and dug out ponds for the birds.

He lived for 15 years without electricity but all the while built up the sanctuary and the aviary to what it is today. He now has power and the sanctuary is more or less complete.

“I’d like to put a fox- and mink-proof fence around the perimeter, which is expensive, that would be the next thing but other than that, I think it is more or less complete now.”

He still needs donations to keep the sanctuary running, however, and recent inflation has led to substantial cost increases for him too. “The price of feed has doubled,” he said. “It’s tough but we keep going, any help we can get is always gratefully received.”

“I’ve always loved birds. I started looking after injured birds when I was a kid and it’s something that never left me. I suppose it’s just what I was meant to do.”

Commissioned by The Irish Times
Commissioned by The Irish Times