We Rescued an Owl!

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.

Sure enough, an owl, sitting in the grass. Excuse the poor quality of photo. It was taken through the glass front door. I have an 11 year-old child who washes his hands like an 11 year-old child, and then touches everything, including the glass door.

Sure enough, an owl, sitting in the grass. Excuse the poor quality of photo. It was taken through the glass front door. I have an 11 year-old child who washes his hands like an 11 year-old child, and then touches everything, including the glass door.

 

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.

 

Me petting an owl, in pajamas and bed-head. Pretty, huh?

Me petting an owl, in pajamas and bed-head. Pretty, huh?

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!

My son with an owl “on” his shoulder. Yep, that’s how long his hair is. Most of it is in a ponytail. Nope he won’t cut it. Don’t even ask. We’ve given up trying. Pretty cool looking owl though, right?

My son with an owl “on” his shoulder. Yep, that’s how long his hair is. Most of it is in a ponytail. Nope he won’t cut it. Don’t even ask. We’ve given up trying. Pretty cool looking owl though, right?

 

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!?

Owl Have Bird Watching For...Ever?

Okay, that was a terrible title. Cut me some slack. I couldn't think of anything!

Nearly every night, just as we are falling asleep….well, I’m falling asleep, Bryon has been asleep for hours; I know this, because I’ve been poking him while we watch T.V. and saying, “did you see that?” and invariably, he has not seen that…anyway, we hear an owl. This owl is decidedly not off in the distance, providing a sort of sound-machine soothing, off-to-dreamland, light whoo-whoo for us. He is WHOO-WHOOOING, as it sounds, directly outside our window.

As you may remember, we live at the apex of a crazy ocean current, which makes sounds whisk around like we are in a Kitchen Aid on bread-dough day. Still, it sound sounds like it’s, no kidding, coming from either our roof, or the tree, right outside our window, the tree the tree man said would fall on our house on day. In other words, it sounds, positively, like if were closer, the bird would be on our headboard, leaving pellets in such a vast supply, I could sell them to third grade science teachers to dissect. So, this conversation has, definitely happened, perhaps more than once:

R: Bryon! The owl!
B: Mmmmph.
R: (now with the poking) The owl! The owl! Do you hear it!?
B: (taking off his ear plugs and face mask, as if I’m loud!) Mmmph
R: The owl! Let’s go find it! He’s back!
B: No.
R: C’mon! It’ll be fun! I want to find him!
B: We’re not dressed.
R: So, what! I go outside in my PJ’s all the time! Besides, it’s night.
B: No. You’ll never find it.
R: Not with that attitude.
Collin, farting around in Daddy's mask. He's a goofball!

Collin, farting around in Daddy's mask. He's a goofball!

Alas, we’ve never found the owl. Yet. Mostly, because I want us to find the owl. I’m very persuasive, so I think we will find the owl; or, at the very least, go a-lookin’. I’m very convinced that the owl lives in our tree, or in the eaves of our roof. The cats are obsessed with our bedroom window, and the top corner of our roof. Of course, it could be pigeons, the flying rats of the world, which I still adore watching.

Our pigeons make the weirdest sound I’ve ever heard. And, I learned they aren’t pigeons, exactly, anyway, when I rescued a baby one, and called the bird sanctuary to take it. They refused it, and said it was some fancy name that I forgot; but basically, it’s an invasive species. I could save it if I want; but, essentially, it’s their policy to let “nature take its course.” GAH! I was holding a baby tweeting bird!

She told me the protocol to save it myself though, and gave me very precise directions. It lived. Phew. Also, it smelled really, really bad. Like, it stunk up my bathroom so badly, that we couldn’t get the smell out for weeks, no matter what we did, even though it had only lived there two days. Powerful little guy!

I count that save as wiping my slate clean after saving the last baby bird I found, that my dog and cat ate, after either Bryon or I accidentally left the bathroom door open before we went to work. The carnage. I joke now, but I cried for days. I nursed that little hatchling from a featherless ball of ick to a full-grown bird that was just learning to fly. He’d be ready to release in a matter of days. I suppose that, at least, they got a good meal. A feather, in my stupid dog’s bed, was all that was left.

Anyway, maybe that’s why those “pigeons” make a weird sound…they aren’t pigeons at all! I wish I remember what they were. My mother-in-law, the first time she stayed here, woke up insanely early the first morning, looking for what was making that weird racket. I intercepted her, because I heard her wandering my home, looking a bit confused. She’d woken, “with the birds,” shall we say. I hope she wasn’t hoping to get a worm. Ba-dum-ch! I had to explain it’s the “pigeons,” and that they sound like that hear. They sound like a machine motor running and whirring. She thought we’d left something on and was trying to figure out what it was. Nope. Birds.

 

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I can thank my dad for my love of birds. He didn’t tell me to love them. He didn’t specifically sit me down and talk to me about them. He just off-handedly would remark, “Oh there’s a chickadee,” or, “look closely, there’s a goldfinch in that bush!” When we went camping, he’d get very quiet and crouch down, and I knew we were about to see something special, and making me know that I should mimic him, and sure enough, he’d whisper, “there,” and spread some branch for me. I learned bird songs in this way, and in remarks that weren’t meant to teach, just conversation.

When my family and I are, say on the freeway to Ikea, and I point out the dozen or so hawks on phone poles, they are used to it. But, they have also grown used to me saying, “oh look a wren!” when we are sitting at a picnic table, or, “that’s not a crow, it’s a raven, look at its beak.” And, they are no longer surprised that I can point out all the song birds. At first, when I was first married, my husband used to say, “where does all this knowledge come from?” I’d say, honestly, “I don’t know? Doesn’t everyone just know this stuff?” I didn’t realize that every home didn’t have the Audubon field guide by the window with binoculars. Ours did, and does. For that, I can truly thank my father; because, I truly adore birds.

Still, they've not yet got to hear me say, "look, there's my owl."

Speaking of the idea that people didn’t realize that every family doesn’t do something; did everyone read about the poor soul who didn’t realize that every family does not, indeed have a communal poop knife hanging in the laundry room. Oh my god. The horror.

 

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Back to my original reason for writing, I just got off the phone with my husband, who I spoke with nearly his entire drive from El Segundo, to pick up our son, in which I read him descriptions, and nesting habits of owls that live in Southern California. Folks, in traffic, this was about 45 min; spend a minute honoring the heroics of my husband. This is who I am, and who he is. He tolerates my weird obsession with birds, and he pretends he cares.

He insists that when we retire, we can go for hikes with binoculars and a bird journal, and that we can find a Burrowing Owl, because they are the cutest lil’ things I can imagine. Look, but don’t touch, Rachel!

Thanks  Audubon Society.  Go to there. Give them money. They are good people.

Thanks Audubon Society. Go to there. Give them money. They are good people.

 

 And, hopefully, we’ll see a Great Grey Owl in Yosemite, before they all disappear, because I think if I put my eyes upon one, the secret of life will reveal itself to me, that’s how majestic and powerful they appear.

Thanks again,  Audubon Society ! Go to there. Give them your first born child. They do good things!

Thanks again, Audubon Society! Go to there. Give them your first born child. They do good things!

 

I think I will settle, for now, for finding the owl outside our window. We have a little less than seven months left in California before (damn military orders, making me leave my state!) we can find that owl. Do you think we can find it, and I can get, at least a blurry night-time shot, in which you can make out nothing of substance, of my mysterious nighttime visitor? When I call him, or her, that, it sounds so swarthy.

P.S. I deeply hope it’s not a screeching owl. Apparently, they are so protective of their nesting area, they will attack humans. Terrifying. I don’t want to die of death-by-owl.

Speaking of intelligent birds. Did you know that crows can remember human faces? In scientific experiments involving cruelty to crows, such as stealing their eggs, the scientists who took the crows eggs, had to cover their faces on the way to their cars at night, with burlap sacks because the crows would form teams and attack those specific scientists. The scientists, prior to this experiment, did not know this about crows, and learned it, early on in the study. It was a major breakthrough in recognizing how intelligent they are. Seriously don’t get me started on birds…wait, I started it! Anyway, I don’t want to die by death-by-crow either!

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Wait! Re-reading this post for typos (which I always miss anyways), I just realized something: first of all, I'm weird (which I don't particularly care about). But, now I'm officially super-weird; and I'm an old bird lady. SEND HELP!