Monday, 25 May 2015

In Which We Rescue A Baby Tawny Owl

Everyone's been home this weekend so it's been a fairly non-stop couple of days, topped off last night with a pub supper.

On the way back we experienced a moment of existential crisis (actually, it wasn't existential at all- for a second it was frighteningly real) when an oncoming car suddenly swerved deliberately into our path. M braked, the car swerved back onto its side of the road, and a second later I realised why it had swerved- there was a pigeon in the road.

At least I thought it was a pigeon. 

We stopped and I leapt out to move it off the road, then discovered it was a baby Tawny Owl (an owlet). 

I've had one or two Close Encounters with owls over the years. They are not called "wise" for nothing. Under the unblinking scrutiny of an owl you feel reduced to a fairly inconsequential being, wondering at your own temerity at even daring to look directly at them.

The babies are no different in this regard. This little one fixed those extraordinary round eyes on me and tapped his beak in warning as I approached and opened his wings to flap at me. All good signs, I thought, hopefully I'll be able to pick him up and pop him back in the woods over the fence and mummy or daddy will come back and look after him.

Then I realised he'd been hit. There was fresh blood coming out of his beak.


My default position with any wild creature is always to move it away from immediate danger and then leave it be, because wild things belong in the wild and are almost always better off that way. Indeed it is illegal to remove them. But this was an injured baby, dusk was approaching with all that that means in terms of predators, and what's more he was small and fluffy and not yet fully fledged and, more importantly, there was no sign whatsoever of his parents.

I picked him up and couldn't feel anything broken, but leaving him in that condition was out of the question, so we took him home and I rang my friend Jill who is a Wildlife Rescue Wonder Lady to ask her advice.

You can't leave him out like that, she confirmed. Bring him over, I've another baby Tawny here, they can keep each other company.




So after the children had gently stroked his furry head, and he had fallen asleep in my hands all soft and warm and comfortable, M drove me and the Tawny Wol over to Jill's place. When we were nearly there he woke up, stretched, flapped his wings and hopped up onto the dashboard. The bleeding had stopped, and when I dabbed at his beak to clean him up a bit, he grabbed the tissue. He then did a poo on me and decided to flutter over to land on M's knees. He seemed utterly unperturbed by us and behaved, as all owls do, as if this was his kingdom and we there merely to serve (which to be honest is how I felt) :o)

All Good Signs, I thought, grinning at the sight of M, in all likelihood the only husband in England to be calmly driving along a country lane at dusk with a wild owl sitting on his knee :o)

I retrieved Bop (as we decided to call him) and discovered that Owls have extraordinarily sharp talons and a Very Strong Grip. He was reluctant to let go of my finger but I managed to persuade him to sit on my lap the remainder of the way instead, which he did, keeping his enormous eyes trained on me the entire time. I braved out the scrutiny and smiled down at him, explaining that we were taking him to a lady who would make him better and look after him until he was big enough to go out into the woods and look after himself. 

Jill has a wealth of experience rehabilitating wild creatures, she's a country woman through and through- straightforward, no-nonsense, more at home with animals than people and what's more she has a Magic Touch- wild things respond to her in a way they don't to other people. I met her several years ago when L and I found a brand new hatchling on the verge by school. A crowd of excitable mothers and children were gathered round exclaiming and pointing at the baby but no one was actually doing anything to help it. 

I picked it up (impatient with the useless chattering of the watching people) while L looked for the nest, but we couldn't find it, so we took Peep (as L christened the baby) home, L holding her while I drove. I rang Jill who advised me to give her some rehdydrating salts in water and some tiny sections of softened meal worms, then tuck her up in the airing cupboard on a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel for the night and if she survived the night to bring her over in the morning. At that age they need feeding every 15-30 mins during the day, something I couldn't do.

With such a brand new baby none of us expected her to survive so it was with some astonishment that I was woken at 4am the next morning by a loud and insistent peeping coming from the airing cupboard.





We drove Peep over to Jill and both shook our heads over her and thought it still unlikely she would survive, young as she was, but to our amazement she did and eight days later we returned to see her and discovered she was a sparrow.


A few days on from that and she was fully feathered and living outside in a cage, from which she fledged successfully to be a proper Wild Bird.


So I know Jill is a miracle worker with a magic touch and I wouldn't trust Bop to anyone else.

We arrived at Jill's last night in one piece and she gathered him up in a very professional owl-handling manner, checked him over and declared nothing broken (phew). After studying his beak for a moment we worked out where the blood was coming from- the tip of his top beak was broken, so I think he was clipped by a car seconds before we found him. He would have died if we hadn't intervened, not least because he was sitting in the road close to a bend and wasn't moving. He settled down in Jill's hands enjoying being smoothed and while we caught up he fell fast asleep :o)

We left him looking quite happy about to be fed a mouse or two and drove home. I will ring her later today to see how he passed the night but we were both hopeful that short of internal injuries, he would be OK.
 


I am wondering (of course) whether my diary is clear enough in the next fortnight or so for me to raise him here. I'll chat it over with Jill and make a decision based on her advice. It may be that one move is enough and he's better off staying put with her. The advantage to him being here (apart from the obvious one of us having a beautiful owl to look after until he fledges properly) is that he'd be released close to where he was born. I'm not sure if that makes much difference with owls.

Hope you all enjoyed that :o)

CT.

40 comments:

  1. Awww, what a cute little thing. Hope he's OK :)

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    1. Me too. There is something about owls... :o)

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  2. You're a kind soul as is Jill. I hope Bop survives xx

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  3. Well done you, looking back at your other photos on the baby Sparrow its amazing it did survive how wonderful.
    Think owl will be better of with your friend, as I fear you will come to attached as he's so cute, you can visit and take photos though as we would like to watch his progress :)
    Amanda xx

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    1. I am quite tough about raising wild creatures- I feel I've failed if they don't rehabilitate back into the wild, but I suspect Bop will be better off with Jill as she's got more time to look after him. Such a magical experience xx

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  4. What an experience! I do hope Bop recovers to fledge.

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  5. I think if there were more people like you n Jill, the world would be a better place. Bravo Ladies, for what you did and what you do. I hope Bob is OK and good to hear the story about the little sparrow. We have never had doves nest in our yard, but they picked my pine tree in the back yard this year and we were sitting out on the deck last night and it was so lovely to hear them cooing. Please let us know how Bob makes out. That little sparrow must have a strong will to survive, eh.

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    1. Great to hear about your doves- it is always such a pleasure to know your garden area is being used by wild creatures to make a home in, isn't it? xx

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  6. My goodness, quite an undertaking, but very worthwhile! You are a great animal rescuer!! I hope that Bop will do very well and can soon make a return to wild life again. Your friend sounds wonderful too so I am sure that between you he will get the best of care! xx

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    1. Thanks Amy :o) Hoping the little chap keeps going and grows into a fine adult wol xx

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  7. An amazing story, am looking forward to the updates already. Thank goodness it was you driving past. Jill sounds a fascinating friend to have. I saved a hedgehog once from the park. A lady came and collected her because when I explained the odd movements the hedgehog had she realised she was severely dehydrated.
    The sparrow pics are so interesting. Fancy waking up to a little bird chirping away. x

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    1. Many thanks Hazzy. I will keep you updated. Hoping to go and see him later this week, all being well. Great news about your hedgehog. I think dehydration is one of their major problems from what I've read xx

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  8. Well done you, looking forward to updates about Bop.

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  9. The Owl is so adoarable looking. I am sure if Jill keeps it, she can release it on yuor patch or yuo could go and solect it again adn then release it. I would imagine with your busy schedule it might be better left with the exped. Anyway the other story of the Sparrow is lovely and great that it fledged

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    1. I think that's a very good idea Margaret- I'd love to be able to release him here and would much rather not disturb him again so soon after a traumatic experience yesterday :o)

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  10. Wearing my rehabber hat now. Leave the owlet with Jill. The less human interaction he has,the less habituated he will become thus increasing his chances of being released 'wild'.
    Thank you for caring .
    Jane xx

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  11. Fantastic! So lucky you know this lady. Most of us don't know what to do with baby birds or injured ones other than leave them be, which is hard of course. We did try intervening with a young hedgehog which was obviously sick one year, but it died a few days later. What a great experience for you - I hope it will be OK and will be successfully released back to the wild soon. Keep us posted!

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    1. There aren't many folks offering experienced care of wild creatures. I know this time of the year she is snowed under with small things brought in injured or in need of help. Will let you know how Bop gets on xx

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  12. Nice post CT. It's great that there are people like you and Jill around to save these precious birds. Good one.

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  13. How lucky for Bop that you were passing when you were! Keep us updated!

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  14. What a good post, thank goodness you happened to be passing at the time. (and that the damage was minimal to you all and the owl) It is fledgling time, we have had quite a few in the garden and unfortunately one casualty too. Can't wait to hear how Bop gets on.x

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    1. Our garden nursery is in full swing here too- blackbirds by the garage, great tits in sparrow terrace, sparrows in the wall, blue tits and nuthatches in the tree. It's all go! Will keep you updated on Bop xx

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  15. Wow, what an amazing creature. And how lucky he was that you were one of the first people to find him. I do hope he survives. Love the sparrow story as well, what a tough little bird. I was thinking about you today when I actually managed to photograph a butterfly!!! A common blue I think. I have pictures of it! So pleased. CJ xx

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    1. It was a magical experience, CJ. Well done on your flutter photo! I'm looking forward to seeing it :o) xx

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  16. Hey CT,
    It sounds as though Bop is a surivivor. What a beautiful thing to be so close to. What a priviledge. I loved this post. I hope you keep us up to date on Bop and his or her's progress.
    Leanne xx

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    1. I really hope he is Leanne. He seemed strong. I'll post an update some time this week- hoping to go over and see him in a couple of days, all being well. You never know with wild animals but I have my fingers crossed xx

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  17. That is too cool, CT. Along with Bop, I'd like to say Thank You. Hope you get to him/her in the future.

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    1. Bless you Casey. It was a complete privilege to be that close to something so beautiful.

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  18. Bop was so lucky to have had you passing. I'm glad he is doing so well. He does look so cute. I enjoyed reading your story about Peep. We don't need to watch Spring watch when you have so many tales and sightings! Sarah x

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  19. Thank you for rescuing Bop and Peep!
    I hope little Bop recovers soon. He really is a cute baby owl. :)

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    1. Thanks Jennifer. We have our fingers crossed for him :o)

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  20. oh!! what a wonderful story!! how absolutely brilliant to be graced with the presence of such a marvelous creature....it's true..even as young as he is, he seems Moste Wise indeed!

    we had the good fortune to foster an 'orphaned' starling last summer [the quotes are because she probably wasn't actually orphaned, just newly fledged and waiting for mum and dad to come and feed her but someone else, well-meaning but ill-advised assumed she was in need of help and took her in. but then let her go before she was ready...she still needed feeding...anyway....i'm a soft touch so she came home with me] -- it was absolutely, the single-most rewarding and magical thing. she was never caged, i released her into our garden -- she simply flew to us when she was hungry as she gradually learned to find food on her own. eventually, in late summer, she left us....

    anyway.

    i'm so excited to hear how he gets on and hooray to you for finding him and coming to his rescue!!

    xoxox

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    1. Magical is the word. I am missing him hugely so am looking forward to seeing him next week :o)

      Lovely about your wee baby starling- we had the identical experience with a baby blackbird a few years ago. T'is an honour to raise these wild things and see them return to where they should be xx

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Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x