Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

December 7, 2013

Saving A Saw-whet!

I did a quick update blog Friday morning and thought I would fire out a bit more on one of the bits I touched upon.  This being the transport of a second Owl in less than 1 week to The Owl Foundation.

Interesting how our first Owl to the Foundation was the biggest of them all for Ontario visitors being a Snowy Owl.  And today, Owl #2, was on the other end of the scale, being the smallest, a Northern Saw-whet Owl.

The call came in late Thursday evening and it was for Friday morning "delivery".  How could I say "no"?  I'm free in the mornings and although the drive to and from the Foundation runs me about 3 hours total, if I can, I will.

They were delighted I could help out, maybe even thrilled.  But I'm sure it's the same emotion towards anyone who says "yes" to helping get injured Owls to them.  My story is a little different as I signed on as a volunteer driver 3 years ago, never did a run for them until last weekend.  For one reason or another, the timing was always off, or I just missed the call and they had another volunteer commit.  The joke was my name was highlighted in their files since I never had the *pleasure* of helping them out.

Anyways, a guy named Gary drove up to Barrie to pick up the bird.  He was a nice guy, and very punctual, which is something I admire.  I was worrying the evening before about time delays but after talking with him a few times Friday morning, he kept in touch with me from when he left for Barrie, when he picked up the bird and when he was close enough to where I was to meet him for me to leave the house.  Gotta appreciate that!

I met him at a gas station not far from our home, and just off the 401, which enabled Gary to easily jump back on and continue his day of errands.  He warned me the little Owl was rather feisty and jumpy.  It took me back to someone telling Angie and I how vicious little Saw-whet Owls can be.  I never believed it.  I've seen a few in the last couple winters, hear the stories of them at fall migration banding stations, and never heard a tale of them doing anything in ways of aggressive behavior.  But this guy was pretty active in that box and wanted out.

I should talk about the box he was brought down in.  I've learned you never really know what kind of "temporary housing" the Owls come in from wherever.  Sometimes its a cat/dog carrier and sometimes its boxes.  This was an old cardboard box, the top flaps didn't close very well and were quite worn out.  There was a good sized opening at the top and you could see the Owl through it.  I placed a blanket over the top to ensure he couldn't escape.  But he tried a few times anyways and I think he was pulling the cardboard flaps down more to hopefully get out.  And on the top of the box, written in big black marker were words like mittens, hats, scarves, gloves.  Yup, just throw the little wounded Owl in any old dusty box kicking around the house.  *sigh*  I guess some of us just see things differently, wanting the best for the creatures, even though they (the Owls) really don't care, it's all the same to them, a trap and they want out.

I gassed up before hitting the highway, and gave The Owl Foundation a quick call to let them know I had the bird, I was on my way, and gave them an estimated time arrival.  I informed them of the attitude of this Owl and asked if it was okay to have him ride shotgun with me in the truck so I could keep a better eye on him.  I had the approval once we made certain the box opening was going to be covered up.  They told me of someone bringing a Barred Owl in a while back and it escaped from its box in the car and caused a real crazy s**t show, terrifying the volunteer.  And they had a challenge catching the bird inside the car afterwards.

So we hit the road, radio shut off, I was momentarily bothered that I forgot my iPod and headphones.  The heat was off as well.  I couldn't help but notice how much colder this drive was compared to last Saturday with the Snowy.  A couple times I did speak along the Hwy 401, cursing at some idiot, and would always stop myself mid-filth-flarin' because they ask you be quiet while transporting a bird, trying to keep the conditions as least stressful as possible.

The Owl fluttered and fought in the box a few times.  I felt his body (head?) hit that opening as I kept my right arm out over the top of the box, across the blanket for extra security.  Somewhere along the way I recalled some paper sticking out the side.  I decided to have a glance at it out of curiosity at a quick pit stop (damn coffee!).  One page was from the Ministry of Natural Resources.  The second piece of paper was a tiny note folded inside.  I skimmed it quick, and a couple sentences got my attention and upset me.

*I erased the location hence the red line edit*
Anything in that note stand out to you?  Like keeping it for 2 days in his garage perhaps?  Or how about towards the end there...  "if dies I want back".  I ignored the fix him up sentence and still do.  And as much as I try not to be negative about what happened to this bird, thinking these people were trying to do good with him, I just can't.  Personally, scooping up a bird off the road and taking it home for a few days is selfish.  Locking it up in your garage?  C'mon man!  WTF?!?!?!

About 20 minutes later I am in front of the mouse house at TOF.  I call to let them know I am here and they tell me to bring the Owl down.  I was surprised, but in a good way.  They let me witness them taking the little guy out and giving him a quick once over before he went off for proper assessment somewhere on the grounds.  It was so cool to see one of these guys again (both Owl and the great people at TOF), ignoring the circumstances.  They thought at that moment he was a second year male and explained all that stuff about the primary feathers to me again...  something I never can remember.  And gave me some insight into his injury too.  Overall they said his health was quite good despite the crappy couple of days he had.  And away went the bird.

Crappy shot, no flash, and I wasn't going to try and use it or ask permission.
We chatted a bit longer and shared some Owl stories.  In their operation, they see and hear so much crazy stuff and I was like "OMG!" 

They thanked me for driving the Owl down to them.  I thanked them for taking him in.  And away I went.  I was still shaking my head at what this little Owl had been through the past few days and wished him a speedy recovery.

The Owl Foundation does amazing things for the birds!  We're proud to be volunteers and sponsors for them.

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