Sunday, 6 July 2014

Close Encounter of the Little Owl Kind.

About three weeks ago a Little Owl was brought to us from a lady in the village. It was a very young owl that had got separated from its parents and was struggling with life generally.  The Little Owl was dropped off in a most fetching round little wicker cage and altogether the package was of total cuteness.  After giving the Little Owl a couple of hours in the woodland at the bottom of the garden to get used to the breeze blowing gently through the trees and the sounds of all the other birds that were now his neighbours, the time was right we thought to get the little mite something to eat. 
In the shed at the bottom of the garden we keep a freezer and inside the freezer there is always a box of day old chicks that we buy from the falconry centre.  Just the thing for such an occasion as this.  We had taken a couple of chicks from the freezer on the arrival of the Little Owl and on these warm summer nights a couple of hours is all that is needed to thaw them out. 
Jackie and I were soon at the bottom of the garden in the woodland peering into the basket where two wide eyes were peering back at us. 
I took one of the chicks from the bowl and broke its yolk sac, the last thing the Little Owl needed was a splattering of that, gamming up its very young, downy feathers.  The Little Owl didn’t appear to be more than two to three weeks old. 
As I pulled the chick into mouth size pieces it was becoming ever clearer that this Little Owl’s bright yellow eyes had seen enough of this world and would soon be shutting them for the next. 
I put my hand into the wicker basket and picked him up, a frightened and thin chested owlet.  As I tried to open his beak my wife Jackie stood ready with the leg of the day old chick.  After a few minutes the beak was opened and Jackie’s first morsel was quickly popped inside the hooked beak.  To our delight the beak clamped onto his first helping. There he sat with the phalanx protruding from the side of his beak. As Jackie stood there she seemed to think the state in which the owl was in was quite unacceptable.  She put out her fingers and slightly tugged at the phalanx as if she wanted it back.  The owlet thought otherwise and with one gulp much to our surprise and amusement the whole leg was soon devoured. Jackie put forward more bite sized treats which the owlet was finding more and more to its liking.  After fifteen minutes or so the whole chick had been consumed with relish.  The owl was now looking extremely satisfied and Jackie’s behaviour, like on all these occasions was more and more excitable.  The Little Owl now stood a chance and the following morning, just like a kid on Christmas morning Jackie was the first at the bottom of the garden beneath the Beech and Cherry trees shouting back at the house that the Little Owl’s progress was most satisfactory.
In the days that followed the owlet got stronger and his little wicker basket was no longer conducive to the wellbeing of the owlet.  He was more confident and brash and the visits being paid to the basket by the Barn Owls and Tawny Owls were encouraging him to act in an ever owl like fashion. 
The homing of choice was the large dog kennel with two inch steel mesh sides and a nice pitched wooden roof with a 6 x 4 wooden house on the end of it.  We placed in the dog kennel four perches along with a bow perch and his little wicker basket we placed in the wooden house with the door open so he could come out and flex those precious little wings.  Jackie quickly pointed out that the 2 x 2 inch mesh would not contain him. This is the whole idea of owl and wildlife revival in general.  They stay for as long or as little as they care to.  Freedom is paramount. 
We continued to feed the Little Owl in his open door basket within the kennel.  He was soon flying the length and width of the kennel from one perch to another showing his new found aerial skills which, like always were breathtakingly impressive. 
When you study so much of wildlife closely, things that have evolved at a snail’s pace across tens of thousands of years always strike you and never ceases to enlighten you on the master piece which is nature that in my humble opinion is never equalled. 
As the days and nights rolled on the Little Owl was getting ever more inquisitive until last Monday morning 30th June, when we went down to see him he had flown the kennel.  The call of the wild had proved to greater magnet for the Little Owl and the joy on such occasions is immeasurable.
That night as we lay in bed there is a round window in the gable of our bedroom which on these hot, balmy nights is always open and as we lay in bed we look out of the round window onto a large Christmas tree that had been planted in the garden reminiscing a fantastic Christmas of bygone years.  Nearing the top thirty foot from the ground, Jackie had noticed a small silhouette of a bird behaving quite peculiarly.
“What on earth is that?” she asked peering through the window, nudging me in the ribs as if to say get up and have a closer look.  I was soon up at the round window looking out across the lawn into the tree.  It was a Little Owl bobbing his head up and down to gain focus.  We like to think his nightly visits to the Christmas tree outside our bedroom window is his way of saying “Thank you” for his care and our hospitality. 
But like every close encounter and experience one has with nature it is you as a person that is left more fulfilled and more thankful for having the opportunity of being so close to it.

The Little Owl in his cute little wicker basket.

PS.  Daddy Cool and his family of badgers go from strength to strength.  Their summer time wrestling antics fill my summer nights with delight and amusement.  Please watch my short film of a wrestling match in action.

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