I’m not sure if you remember or not, but when we lived in California, we had a neighborhood owl. I was determined to find it before we moved out of our house. At night, it would hoot up a storm, and I would jab Bryon in the ribs and beg him to go outside and try to find it with me. He would invariably refuse, I would pout, and we wouldn’t go looking for the owl. Rarely does Bryon refuse me anything, but this was one of those times. I suppose getting out of bed to look for a nocturnal bird, notorious for blending into its surroundings, under the cover of night is a reasonable thing to refuse one’s spouse. Don’t tell him I agreed with him. Ever.
Still, that damn owl awakened in me a need to find, before I die, as many species of owl, in the wild, as humanly possible. I love birds. I love all birds. I love hearing them sing in the morning. I Iove watching them at the feeder. I even the stupid woodpecker pointlessly banging his little beak on our aluminum siding. I adore birds. I like when my family looks at me as if I’m a savant when I say things like, “Look! A cedar waxwing!” And, they reply, “Oh, you mean that bird?”
Yes, I have my Audubon guide, and my binoculars. I have birdfeeders, seed and suet. I have all those things that a friendly neighborhood, casual birdwatcher might have. But, that isn’t going to help me find, or see any owls. I don’t count seeing owls at zoos (gag), or in habitats. I want to naturally come across an owl. I realize how unlikely this is. Still, I want it to happen. I’ve told Bryon I want to plan random trips to far flung places where certain species live. He just says, “Yes, dear.” Such a good little soldier he is.
On Saturday, Collin comes tearing down the stairs yelling, “There’s an owl in the front yard! He’s just sitting in the grass!” Of course, I don’t believe him. Mostly because, why would there be an owl in the front yard? Kids are dumb, right? Plus, logic is on my side. It’s too late in the morning, and owls don’t sit in the grass.
But, sure enough, there was a barred owl, literally sitting on the grass, in the front yard. It was about ten a.m., so it was far too late in the morning for an owl to be sitting in the lawn, not in a tree, which was concerning behavior for an owl. After I took a few pictures through the front door, as not to scare him off, I approached my new best friend.
He didn’t move, or even attempt to move, so I knew something was wrong. I grabbed a towel from the basement, and he easily let me pick him up and move him to a nearby bush, where I thought he would appreciate the shelter, at the very least. It was raining a bit. He was very light, far lighter than I expected a bird of his size to be. He weighed less than the cats.
He was very easy to move and didn’t object at all. He seemed almost grateful to be moved. I’ve heard that wild animals, even dangerous animals, will recognize when humans are trying to help, and become docile for those moments. He even leaned his little head forward and let me touch his head for a few strokes. It was pretty precious. I didn’t press my luck, not because it seemed to bother him, but because he’s a wild animal, and it’s not my business to pet him.
So, now I’ve not only seen a barred owl outside, I’ve picked one up, moved it, and pet its head. What a day. Except, this little guy is definitely not doing so hot. I tell Bryon that we need to get him something to eat. I tell him we are going to have to go to the pet store and get some feeder mice, because he’s obviously not capable of hunting; but, as Bryon points out, he’s not capable of killing the mouse himself either, and no one in this house is going to kill a mouse. Alas, we have a problem. Cat food it is. Did you know that owls don’t like cat food? They don’t. At least this owl didn’t. Or, he wasn’t hungry. Who knows? We gave him a big ol’ plate of wet cat food and the owl turned up his little (actually pretty big) beak at it as if we offered him gruel.
But, I knew I had to call the department of fish and game, anyway. A sick or dying bird of prey in your yard is potentially sign of danger, as they are the top of the food chain for birds. They can signify larger problems. So, I made approximately forty thousand phone calls before being routed to the correct number, which turned out to be the police, who came almost immediately to pick up my new best friend. By the way, when the police come to your house, you know it’s the police. They don’t knock, they KNOCK.
The cops that came were awesome. They told us that our new friend was a hatchling this year, so just a baby. He wasn’t showing any signs of West Nile virus, but they’d test for that at the lab. However, he did show signs of having been hit by a car. He had a minor skull injury, and an injury to his chest. He looked like his injuries were all minor and that he could be patched up and re-released. His daughter worked at the vet’s office that took in the birds for rehabilitation and release.
What was really awesome was how cool the cop was with Collin. He encouraged Collin to take a pic with the owl and he explained all of the info about the bird to Collin directly. He showed him all of the parts of the bird, described all kinds of facts, and pointed out some really neat stuff about his talons, and eyes. It was really cool that he took the time out of his day to do that. It was really special to have that moment. Although, I was probably more interested in the owl that Collin was!
Considering my track record with “rescuing” birds, I think this might be our best bird rescue to date. I generally do okay with rescuing other animals, but I’ve had some disastrous bird rescues (RIP to my other bird friends). All I can say about the whole situation is barred owl is checked off my list, I had an awesome day, and that we rescued an owl. How do you beat that!?