A bird and my truck met suddenly with a sickening thump a few nights ago. We were in town, going about fifteen miles per hour, but still, it was a big thump for a little bird. I couldn’t imagine that those hollow, delicate bird bones would have stood up to the impact. Then there was the weirdest sound; a small, muted, “thump-thump, thump-thump.” I got the truck stopped, got a dying flashlight out, and was ready to rescue a bird from between the bed of the pickup truck and the slide-in camper.
My sweetheart pointed out that I was way off, though. I looked up to where he indicated and saw that the bird was firmly wedged between the top of the pickup truck cab and the cab-over on the camper. One wing stuck out just enough to flutter, but it was just moving a little. In the dark I just barely saw that it had some barred wing markings, and the only bird that came to mind was a varied thrush.
We found a cloth bag in the truck and pulled on gloves. I gently pulled the bird out from where it was trapped, discovering in the process that it was a small owl! I know, night time; I should have thought of owl right away. They are not common here, though. Even the bird books note them as rare. We temporarily put the bird in the cloth bag.
We got out a large plastic tote and transferred the bird into it. The owl was dazed and wasn’t really struggling, and that worried us. I started making phone calls to find out if there was a raptor center on Prince of Wales Island. Nope. Nearest one is in Sitka, 140 air miles away on Baranof Island.
Operation Owl Medivac was on.
I was pretty impressed that Jen answered the Alaska Raptor Center on-call phone at 9:30p.m.! She gave me instructions: no food or water, and a quiet, dark place. She would call in the morning with flight information to send the bird to Sitka. Owls don’t get Lear Jet medivac service at any hour of the day or night like people do.
I put a towel into the tote for the owl to ignore. It may not have been moving around, but it seemed to be letting us know it’s feelings on the whole thing. I have now been subjected to the owl stink-eye. Oh, they are good at it! Guilt and remorse coursed through my veins. I apologized. I told the little owl that I didn’t blame it for giving me that look. I would have given me that look. Slammed into, squished, yarded out and bagged, and then incarcerated in a Rubbermaid tote with hardware cloth (wire mesh) over it! How could I let the little guy know that I’d try to make it okay?
We installed the owl in a warm part of the boat, and then looked in the book and decided that it was a screech owl. It didn’t screech. It stood still and did not make a sound. It stared up at me from the institutional containment of the tote. It stared me down to dirt level. I slithered away, weakly wishing a night of rest and recovery to a nocturnal animal.
In the morning Jen called and said to take the owl to Harris Air. We don’t have a small pet carrier, so she gave instructions about using the right sized box, and making sure that there were enough air holes in it. She also said to put some shredded paper in the box to give the bird something to brace against in the jostling of travel.
I set to work drilling holes in a cardboard box, and marking it, “LIVE ANIMAL, Handle with Love.” Before putting the owl in, of course.
I donned leather gloves – so glad I did – and carefully lifted the bird out of the tote. It tried to bite me! Yeah!! I’ve never been so happy to have a critter try to bite me! The scrappy little owl might just be okay.
"You go right on ahead and chew the heck out of that leather glove, buddy!" Wait. My fingers are in there. Okay, down into the box.
We drove the boxed owl thrty-five miles to the Klawock Airport, and placed it into the caring hands of Harris Air. I hot linked to their website because they provide this service for FREE. No hassles. They loaded the injured raptor into their twin engine Piper Chieftain to whisk it to Sitka.
As the plane taxied out onto the runway I worried that the little screech owl would be overwhelmed by the whole ordeal.
As the plane took off I felt a hollowness set in. My temporary charge was gone. My injured patient was sent to professional care. I missed the little guy.
He never smiled, he tried to bite me, he never even said anything. So silly, but I really missed him.
My wonderful husband put his finger smack-dab on it: Empty Nest Syndrome.
Now we wait to hear if the owl will be okay. The Alaska Raptor Center in Sitka will call, and I will update you.
Wishing you the best day of late summer and early fall,
Dislcosure: I have not received any consideration, monetary or otherwise, from any organization or business mentioned in this post. Zero, zip, zilch. Just so happy with good things that they do.