Thursday, May 5, 2011
What a Hoot!
Yesterday afternoon I was planting some of my annuals since it was a) not raining and b) there was no frost warning for the night. When I looked out our side window as I was filling the watering can I caught a glimpse of something in the shrub. At first I thought it was a cat, but as I looked closer I realized it was an owl. We have heard a male and female owl in the trees for several weeks now, but I had not seen one up close. Quickly grabbing my camera I tiptoed around the back of the house. The owl simply blinked his big black eyes at me. I crept even closer to him, and he made no move to fly away. He looked pretty young to me as his feathers appeared to be downy. I got some great pictures, but I guess I should have realized something was wrong with him as he was sitting fairly low in the tree. The next door neighbors came out to take a look, and we all marveled at being able to see an owl so clearly.
After supper I checked the shrub out the window and the owl was no longer sitting there. So Kirby and I went outside to do more planting (well, I went out to plant and he went out to pee on my plants) and there was the owl in the center of the sidewalk. The dog went crazy and the owl began to flap his wings and make a clacking noise with his beak. It took a while for me to corral Kirby and get him into the house, and I came back out with my camera. That's when I noticed the owl seemed to be limping, and when he would try to fly he could only get a few inches above the ground. By now the boy who lives in the house on the other side of me was in the yard watching with interest. The owl flapped and limped his way up the sidewalk, only to be trapped by the wooden fence. It was painful to see him flapping and trying to fit through the fence, but by God he made it. He ended up hopping into one of our small arborvitae trees. Alexander had gone home to get his mom and her boyfriend, and Barbara and her daughter from next door came over as well. The little owl was quite the pied piper!
I tried calling the wild animal rescue center and the wild bird sanctuary, but both of them had closed at 5:00. I put out a plea for help on Twitter, and received lots of advice from people. There was some debate about trying to scoot him into a large dog crate so he would be safe from predators for the night. I was concerned about giving him a heart attack, and I also had no desire to have my eyeballs scratched out. And then someone posted that it is illegal in Missouri to capture a bird of prey. So I decided to say a Bird of Pray and hope he made it through the night.
Of course I didn't sleep for crap last night, I was so worried about him. I went out as soon as it was light this morning, and the little guy was still safe on his perch. At 8:00, as soon as they opened, I called the Missouri Conservation Department and explained the situation. The lady gave me the cell number of the agent on duty and I quickly contacted him. Gary said he would stop by this morning and see what needed to be done. When I went back outside to check on Hootie, as I had dubbed him, the little scamp had gotten himself into a new tree. The arborvitae had great access and the bird would have been trapped between us and the fence. The new tree was between our utility shed and a pile of stepping stones and pavers left over from various landscaping projects. Not convenient at all!
When Gary arrived he confirmed that the owl was a juvenile and did not have the developed wing span to fly. We speculated that he had fallen from his nest, hence the limp, and wasn't quite ready to be on his own yet. Gary put on heavy gloves, and told me I would need to hold the white sack open after he grabbed the bird. Wait a minute - where are MY gloves? Plus this bag had about a 14 inch opening. What the heck - where is the BIG bag? So Gary squeezed by the shed and the owl began his clacking noise again. When I commented on that, Gary said "Yeah, that is his beak. He wants to bite me." Great! And I get to hold the sack...
He actually captured the bird pretty easily - I think the poor little guy was tired, hungry and thirsty - and he turned him upside down to stuff him in the sack I was reluctantly holding. Talk about trying to get a cat in a bag! But we got him in and tied the bag off to the sounds of a clacking, pissed off owl. Gary told me he was taking Hootie to the World Bird Sanctuary where they would evaluate him for injuries and determine if he needs to be held there for a while until he can fly. So there was a happy ending to the story, but tonight a large owl sat on the front peak of our porch. I couldn't help but wonder if it was Momma, looking for Hootie. No happy mother's day for her.