Back on March 1st I drove a few Owls down to The Owl Foundation. One being a baby Great Horned Owl that had fallen from a nest in High Park (efforts were made by Toronto Wildlife to get him home but the nest is much too high). Another Owl was a Northern Saw-whet Owl, unsure his story, but he was found in someone's window well north west of the city. And lastly, an Eastern Screech Owl. As always, it's bitter sweet doing these drives. I'm happy to be helping the Owls and such organizations as Toronto Wildlife and The Owl Foundation; but I always feel bad for the birds because they are sick or injured, and really don't understand what is happening to them.
The story of this Screech Owl is kinda bizarre. He was roosting in someone's backyard in Rexdale, Ontario, which is minutes from our home. A Hawk of some sort spotted the Owl and went in for the kill. The Hawk got a hold of the Owl and the birds came down to the ground, tumbling out back of someone's house. This fray got the attention of their dog, who basically went ape shit with the action, which then got the attention of the homeowners who all raced outside to see what was going on. As everyone came to the scene, the Hawk got spooked, and let go of the little Owl, fleeing in fear. The Owl lay on the ground, stunned and injured to some degree. The Owl was scooped up. Toronto Wildlife was called. And the bird was at the centre in no time after that.
After assessment and a brief stay at TWC, it was decided to send him down to The Owl Foundation for rehab with the Owl experts.
I did the drive as you are aware. I never did see this little Screech Owl that morning but did get to meet the baby Great Horned.
I left The Owl Foundation, wishing all the birds well and headed for home.
Jumping ahead to April 17th. I was out that morning doing my first ever solo Red-tailed Hawk release, then having a rush job of getting ready for work. I did not check any emails and had no idea TOF contacted us about the little Screech Owl. He was deemed "good to go home" and we were welcomed to take him back to his territory if we wanted to. Angie saw the email, told me, and of course we had no hesitation in saying "yes". Anyone following my recent blogs knows this along with the Hawk release are much needed distractions.
We made the arrangements to pick him up on April 18th (a lovely Saturday it turned out to be weather wise). We had plans already for some of those "distractions" that I may touch upon at the end of this story. Adding the Screech Owl release to end the day made it one epic Saturday overall.
If we got to The Owl Foundation in good time, Annick was going to band the bird with us. If we ran late due to our other goings-on, she'd do it on her own. Hey, don't blame her, she has a life as well, and it would soon be Saturday night. We made sure we would be there to witness the banding as it would be another first for us to see an Owl get banded.
5:30pm and we roll into Vineland. The trip to TOF was not such a bitter sweet one as this time we were taking an Owl away from there to have a second chance at a wild life. This thrilled us. It doesn't have to be an Owl, seeing any bird or mammal go home again is heart warming and uplifting. But this was our first Owl and it made things a little more exciting. 3 years of being a volunteer driver for TOF now.
I'm kinda lost in the moment in my head.
We met Annick at the house. She had us follow her to where the Screech Owl was being housed on the grounds. We chatted along the way, catching up on things and then entered the building. She caught the Owl in the enclosure and brought him out. She is going to band the bird now. Annick looks to Angie and asks her if she would like to help with the banding. Angie pondered this for a moment and then, like the wonderful thoughtful wife she is, said "no, I think it's best Rob take part, he brought the Owl down, so it adds to his story, going full circle". Angie's words were something along those lines, but it's definitely what she meant. She passed up on this opportunity for me. I was touched, in awe and a little intimidated. I wasn't afraid of handling the Owl by any means, I haven't banded or helped band a bird in a few years now, and I never want to have one escape on me. The Owl wouldn't have too far to go being in the building, but still, don't want to lose him in my grip regardless.
Annick is holding the Owl in front of me and going over what we would be doing which included a final weight, wing measurements and the banding.
The bird is clicking and clacking away, showing his disapproval to what was being done to him. If only they knew what the not too distant future held for them.
Now it came time for me to help. My nervousness went away quick. Annick is a great teacher; and I just went with the flow, enjoying the moment holding this little Owl instead of freaking out. All went well. I had an ear to ear grin. Angie snapped photos of the moment. How awesome!
I had to pose at least once through this.
In his carrier and good to go.
We said our goodbyes, big thank you's on both ends, from us for the opportunity, and from Annick for our help. And away we went.
It was shortly after 7:30pm when we arrived in Rexdale at the home of the people who found the Owl. They were ecstatic about this release. Prior to meeting this bird in that tangle, they were much like me 10 years ago, in disbelief that Owls lived in the GTA. We talked about the Owls for a brief moment while we looked about the property for a good release spot. Once a spot was deemed good, we headed off with the bird in the carrier.
Angie did the release. She had hoped I would get a photo or two of the bird after it left the carrier. For me, I wanted her to be a part of this and not just a passenger in the truck and a witness. It was a special moment for us, and as I keep saying, "a distraction".
She walked about 15 ft ahead of us, set the box down, opened the top and backed away slowly.
We waited and waited and waited just a little more. I think it was maybe 3 or 4 minutes tops before the Owl left the box and headed straight into the nearby woodlot. It was over in a flash and no photos were taken due to the obstruction of the tangles where he went. He sat there for about 3 seconds and then flew deeper in, to which we lost sight of him.
Once the sun was going down, it went down fast. Here Angie is trying to spot the Owl after his release.
We all left the area, these people have a huge chunk of land in Rexdale and back onto a large greenspace, how lucky for them. We told them to listen to the other birds in the future, hear their alarm calls, as that is a sign the Owl may be around. We talked about them setting up an Owl box as well. They were quite eager about all this and we could see the spark in these people regarding the wild birds around them now. They had one bird feeder and knew their Cardinals and Blue Jays, but I bet they start looking a little more closely at all the birds.
I really did do a full circle with this little Owl though, didn't I?
It really was an amazing day. The whole week had been full of "wild distractions" for me but this was not something neither of us expected to be doing Saturday evening. I swear it's like someone out there is looking out for us, giving us reasons to smile when we don't feel like it.
Prior to this release with The Owl Foundation, Angie and I spent a good part of the afternoon at the Mountsberg Raptor Centre. I'm sure Angie will be blogging about it soon, her blog link is here. We got hang out with our friend Sandra and our favorite little Eastern Screech Owl "Echo" during a private raptor encounter that I highly recommend those interested in Owls (but seldom see them in the wild) check out some time.
I know I've done a few heart wrenching blogs about Meadow and I've linked them throughout other blogs, but they really are all connected. Everything that has been happening in the last 2 weeks is a part of that. I've felt such a huge loss losing her. I want to thank everyone who has read them and continues to come back to my blog page in my days of grieving.