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This is the rest of the story of what happened on March 20th. It was a very long journey. It was quite a distance on foot (er, talons) for an owlet and it took a really long time.
We left off with MiniMe jumping out the back door of the nest tree, just hours after The Examination.
This would be the third attempt within two hours to get MiniMe off the ground and into a safer place. (Since The Examination). If I had not been observing it the whole time there is no way I would believe this is the same little owlet I found completely spent and bedraggled in the marsh in the early morning, defenseless with a rising tide.
Below is MiniMe immediately after jumping out of third tree into a pile of leaves. I am sitting nearby and hear this big whumph! I don’t even have to look to know what happened.
I laugh! There is no stopping this little owlet from trekking across the marsh. Where is it going? It’s destination? THE ISLAND. (I know, this is beginning to sound like the owlet version of the sequel to Lost!)
But of course I do! I sit on the out back deck in our garden with camera and binoculars. I have given up on the red gloves. I keep track of MiniMe’s progress, first through the needle grass and then across the open marsh. It takes long rests every 20 to 30 yards. The rests last from 45 minutes to an hour or more.
Pop the Champagne!
BTW Big Sib has been in the Live Oak tree, in approximately the same place since its rescue from the marsh over a week ago, Saturday, March 15, 2014. The bigger owlet learned its high tide marsh lesson the first time. And it has been on especially good behavior since witnessing MiniMe’s Examination!
It is not as bad as it first looks. It is a live examination. MiniMe just has its eyes closed for this part. We left off last Thursday, waiting for expert help to arrive. MiniMe and me. Debbie Mauney, the Medical Clinic Director for the Center for Birds of Prey, arrived and donned gloves with long sleeves. This was particularly interesting to me.They were a dull gray, not fashionably bright red but much more practical.
We have set up a card table to make it easier to do an examination. A kind of mash unit. MiniMe looks terrible. Soaking wet, feathers covered in pluff mud and sort of whimpering. It is in bad shape. Debbie patiently demonstrates how I can help with gently securing the little one so she can safely examine its wings.
First you need to take control of those talons. Good to know. Especially since that is the opposite of the situation earlier when the talons had control of me. See earlier post.
Debbie carefully extended the owlet’s wings, one side at a time, to examine for fractures. None were detected. Good news.
Exam over, we tried to get MiniMe to climb the tree that the other owlet was in. It was watching all this time wide-eyed. Mom also flew in when the owlet was whimpering. I don’t even know how to describe that sound. All I can say is that it sounded like a baby owlet crying. The mother owl did not fuss at us, simply observed.
We could not get MiniMe to grab onto the same tree as Big Sib, too vertical. So we placed her in the lichen covered Live Oak in our neighbor’s garden that is at about a 45 degree angle. MiniMe has been in this tree before. See an earlier post, she has been rescued so many times, I don’t know which post…)
The owlet is exhausted and pretty stressed out. It has been through a lot, not all of which we even know about. Debbie tried to gently coax it to climb a little higher. MiniMe tried. Mom owl communicated encouragement and MM tried again. Then.
This is really sort of embarrassing for a Great Horned Owlet to admit to happening, but it’s true. A squirrel, yes a squirrel, was protecting its nest and harassed MiniMe into jumping out of the tree!!!
Please look at the length of this little owlet’s wing span! Very impressive. As you can see, it has started to dry out, feathers puffing up and getting feisty. This is a good sign. Also impressive is how Debbie handles the bird – with authority and gentleness.
Now where to put it? We discuss. Not safe to leave on ground. Debbie likes the nest tree as best option. With the help of friends that stopped over, we set up the ladder to the nest tree. (yeah, I know, we thought we were done with ladder work too.)
Debbie climbs up and places MiniMe in the nest, a familiar and safe environment.
MiniMe appears a little chagrined, but see how good she looks in just a few hours. The warmth of the sun is helping, as well as owl communications from Mom.
Debbie cautions me that sometimes chicks just don’t make it, despite all our efforts to help them along. We discuss intervention versus interference. It can be a very fine line. Her expertise, patience and moral support have been invaluable to me. And continues to be.
Thirty minutes after she left, MiniMe jumped out the back door of the nest tree!
This is one determined little owlet. And I warned you last post that this is a very long story. Remember that this is how I found her (below) just about 5 hours earlier.
It is hard to believe this is the same bird. But it is. And we are only half way through the story of what happened last Thursday, March 20th.
There was a ruckus in the marsh very early Thursday morning. Not the “I’m hungry” squawking. It was frantic. Crows were mobbing. And then there was a kind of scream.
Really? Am I just having a nightmare? It has been pretty intense and maybe I am delusional. (Some would say, more than usual!)
Scott leaves for work and I put on my muddy jeans and boots and head out to the marsh to investigate. MiniMe is hard to find but I follow its weak, distressed squawk.
I am by myself. I have the red gloves and blanket but not the box. I think it is injured. It cannot lift its wings in a defensive stance. It is not even fussing at me. The parent on watch from the tall pines is not making the hoot growl. Plus I had watched a video last night of a Bald Eagle killing a Great Horned Owl adult, which did not add anything good to my anxiety. I just can’t leave it here. I just can’t.
I wish I had photos of what happened. But I could not take photos and get the owlet. The blanket didn’t work, got tangled in the marsh grass and I had to get a grip fast to reduce the chance of injury to the owlet or to me. MiniMe grabbed onto my left red glove with both talons and would not let go.
We walked all the way back to my house like that. I left my camera in the marsh. I tried to get MiniMe to cling to a tree several times on our journey. It would not let go. And it was biting me!
I am trying to be calm, use a soothing voice, try not to yell out OUCH! (not too loud, anyway).
I tried to get it to let loose on my lawn near my garage. Will not let go. I need the box. It is in the garage. I am afraid to go in the garage with MiniMe attached to me. What if she let go? In the garage? It could be chaos. We discuss. MiniMe and me. I politely ask her to please stop biting me, to settle down and we will get the box together and call the Center for Birds of Prey for assistance. MM agrees.
This a very long story. I call my contact at the Center for Birds of Prey, Debbie Mauney, the Medical Clinic Director. She listens carefully, asks specific questions and I am grateful that she will come over to examine MiniMe.
I retrieve my camera and binoculars from the marsh. (I left them there on high ground). I cancel my lunch meeting downtown. Get a cup of coffee and wait for help – expert help – to arrive.
I started to write this yesterday. It is Saturday morning now. I have house guests for the weekend and a neighborhood event in a few hours. I am not deliberately trying to leave you in suspense, I just can’t keep up!
My husband, Scott, suggested I say that due to technical difficulties, the photographer and writer are in hospital recovering from an owl/owlet attack. Funny, but not true. He is Scottish and has a, …well, Scottish sense of humor.
I am fine, so far. And (spoiler alert) so is MiniMe, so far….
The parting shot until I can finish the story: Help did arrive. I am sure MiniMe was thinking, “Finally, someone that knows what they are doing!”
To be continued….
PS To Mom, my real, human, mother: Stop emailing me about what happened next. I am doing the best I can. Yes, Scott finished the job and no, the vacuuming is still not done 😉 Dalet
We left off on Tuesday, taking my parents to the airport. Then back tracked to Monday, search and rescue of little one from rising tide in marsh.
MiniMe spent the rest of the day Monday, that night and most of the day Tuesday in the lichen Live Oak, seemingly getting itself clean of pluff mud and recovering its dignity. MM climbed higher into the tree, looking cold, miserable and lonely. Tuesday night we could hear the usual sounds of hunting, all four voices. Two owls, two owlets.
Wednesday morning I could hear MiniMe back in the marsh. I walk the docks and easement, listening and looking. It is softly squawking, communicating with its parents. The bigger owlet is still high up in the Live Oak tree on our eastern property line. It is as if Big Foot was told to stay there and be quiet. And it did. Not so much with MiniMe.
Where is MiniMe?
As I get closer to the cedar tree on the easement, the parent makes a low guttural hoot. And MiniMe goes silent. Was that to warn me? Or the owlet? It is a low toned hoot growl. I am not sure if it is directed at me or the little one and maybe, (probably?) even at both of us. But now I know where MM is.
Yes. It is about 1/3 of the way up the cedar tree interior. Hiding. Not making a peep. I don’t know how it made its way there, a distance of about 180 yards.
In the afternoon, I take a stroll down our dock. I see the larger owlet high up in the Live Oak Tree where it has been roosting since Monday. And then I spot MiniMe, enjoying a marsh view from the Cedar tree, no longer hiding in the tree. It makes me laugh.
My husband and I take a walk over to the easement in the evening to check on MiniMe. It is back in the marsh again.
It looks a little worse for wear but clearly does not want to go ‘home’. It is not far from the cedar tree and is close enough to high ground that it should be safe when the tide comes in. I hesitate.
Scott and I hear the usual owl hunting communications later that night after our dinner. Two owls, two owlets.
But…I did worry. (Of course I worried! You knew that already.) And as it turns out, I had good reason.
Monday morning. Do you remember that on Sunday night I said I was done? …But?
I open the back door and listen. I hear one voice squawking in the distance. One voice not two. Squawking. Sounds like it is coming from the marsh towards the tall pines island. My interpretation? Little one in the marsh. I said last night I would not intervene anymore. This morning? Tide coming in…
Does the squawk sound distressed or just hungry? Vulnerable? Not going to do it. NOT going out there again, in the rain, at dawn. Not going. Not. Going. The tide is coming in. OK, I’ll just put my rain coat on over my pajamas, and walk out our dock to check the accuracy of our tide clock. Yep, tide still rushing in, two hours to full high tide.
Walking back to the house, listening, looking, – something seems out of place near the easement marsh border. What is that? Go get binoculars and camera (Duh. Should have taken them in the first place. )
Scott is at work already, trying to earn enough money to support the owlets. (See earlier post: Owlets are Expensive!) Dad and I discuss. Our conclusion: Can’t leave it in marsh. Not safe.
Research on whether owls can swim is inconclusive. I am pretty sure this is MiniMe. No sign or squawk from Happy Feet or as Nancy is now calling him, Big Foot. The smaller of the two owlets is about three days behind in development from its larger sibling. In the earlier photos, MiniMe is always the one tucked in behind HF (aka Twinkle Toes).
Besides, there was a long thought process, gut check and discussion of the pros and cons of more human intervention. Plus, I needed coffee. After all, we had two hours before the tide would overtake the log MM was standing on. Why rush?
So Dad and I head out with rain gear, boots, the box, the blanket, and the gloves. And yes, this is in fact MiniMe. Closer inspection of the situation confirmed our decision that another rescue was warranted or justified or just seemed like the right thing to do really.
Parent on call can’t even watch this time!
MiniMe knows the drill: Blue blanket over head. Red gloves tuck in wings, talons scramble, try to find purchase, loud clacking with occasional hissing and soft human cooing voice, walking, held out in space, not going in box this time. I have a firm grip and reason that it will be better for all of us if I carry it to a safer location in a tree.
Dad and I have already selected a slanted, reachable without a ladder, Live Oak tree in Don Juan’s yard which is between the tall pines island and our garden. Take photos.
Retrieve blanket. Walk back to house. Mobbing in tree on border of our property on the other side, high up. Owl. Take photo. Enlarge.
It’s BIG FOOT!!!! So, so happy he made it through the night and did not drown in the marsh. I go back to get MiniMe. She is not happy that I have the blanket and gloves again. I am convinced she will be better off next to Big Sib, or at least closer.
MiniMe clearly sees her Big Sib higher up in the next tree over. MM is now in a neighboring Live Oak tree next to the one Happy Feet is in. HF can obviously fly/climb/walk to MM’s tree; we are not sure about the vice versa. We have no idea how or when Happy Feet, alias Big Sib, aka Big Foot, got there. But there it was. Watching and not saying anything about MM’s big adventure.
Everyday I think it is the last time for the red gloves.
After MiniMe plunged to earth again? For the second time?
There was Hide and Seek.
There was much discussion about the owlets, mother nature, human intervention, owl parenting skills, leaving well enough alone, high tide, raccoons, climbing versus flying abilities, etc. One thing we know for sure: The parent owls know where their kids are. And another thing we know for sure is that no matter what, they will feed them.
This discussion is going on while Scott and Dad are playing cribbage, Mom is trying to find out if owls can swim and I am making dinner (for a change). Crab cakes oddly enough. It is pouring rain and cold.
I complete all dinner preparation except for the actual cooking part. I can’t stand it. I get on my rain gear, boots, refill my wine glass and head out to walk along the marsh towards the faint sound of squawking owlets. But then it gets very, very quiet. Somebody make a noise. Nobody. They are good at Hide and Seek.
I am reassured that all is OK. The owlets have fledged. My job is done. I look to the tall pines and see that someone is on duty.
BUT. You knew there was going to be a BUT, didn’t you?
But I wasn’t quite done. What happened Monday morning is another whole story.
My parents are fledging too. It is time to take them to the airport. It is Tuesday afternoon. They have been super troopers with the Owletventures. They have been here for all the joy and awesomeness of baby owlets. And all the drama. When they arrived last week, the owlets were snuggled in the nest.
I want to thank Lou and Jeanne for everything. Joining in with us on our owlet diaries. Dad has the box, the blanket, the gloves thing down pat. Mom writes great captions and even did a guest blog. She has also been helping select the best photos to tell the story. Plus they were great about fending for themselves for breakfast and lunch. Dinner was always a joint effort.
So maybe when I get home later I will tell you about what happened on Monday. Oh, and I want to tell you about Nancy. She lives directly across from the tall pines marsh island. She texts me hourly to tell me what the parents are doing, the owl parents. And she is a riot. She calls hunting: Shop & Chop. More Nancy-isms later. Actually our text messages would make a great story on their own. Thanks Nancy!
Here is your preview about what happened on Monday. Wow, that was just yesterday….
So. I am taking up the saga since noon yesterday, Sunday. I left you with the hanging upside down photo above. It is hard to explain simply. Even with photos, even with time stamped photos. It is incredibly hard to keep up with the shenanigans of the wee ones, let alone have time to tell the story. BTW happy St Pats Day!!! I met my husband, Scott, at Dunleavy’s Pub, Sullivans Island. That is where we normally spend St P’s day but I digress.
On Sunday, yesterday, at around noon, all was quiet in the owl neighborhood. Then MiniMe was mobbed by crows, blue jays and mocking birds. MM was in the very tree tops, on small twigs of branches. Fluttering, flapping, frantic. Big Sib was not around to protect, ward off, whatever. (See earlier posts).
I went out to the garden with camera to capture the mobbing and what I expected to be the fall from grace. And then.
At first, I thought MiniMe was just hanging on, afraid to let loose. Holding on for all get out with one talon, flapping and trying to right itself. I am shouting at my Mom, on the porch, to get Scott and Dad, something is not right with this picture.
This goes on for about 10 minutes. Now I am SURE this is not going to resolve itself. I run around to the front of the house, shouting for Scott. He and my Dad have just left for a walk around our neighborhood, unsuspecting of the drama taking place. I am shouting as loud as I can. There is no way I can fix this without their help. How long can an owlet hang upside down, with one talon snagged?
This is really, really not looking good…
Scott and Dad come running to my shouting. This owlet has now been hanging upside down for over 15 minutes. It is grim. Clearly, human intervention is called for and necessary. But how? The branches it is stuck in are very small, wobbly. That is how it got into this dilemma.
Again, lucky for us, and especially MiniMe, my husband is a super ladder man. He is a professional painter and has ladders of all sizes. Scott susses out the critical situation and sets up a 30 foot ladder on a four inch diameter branch and tells me it is safe…for me to climb up …and what?
You have got to be kidding me. This is all we have? The best we can do? So my Dad and Scott decide they need a blanket to use for a trampoline…to catch me? No. To catch the owlet! Which has wings!
I strip off my sweater and marsh boots (again, see earlier post), grab some pruning shears and climb up. I trust my husband. Really trust my husband.
I get to the top. I am face to face with a Great Horned Owlet with a current wing span of at least three feet. We are beak to nose within inches. I am terrified. The owlet is beyond terrified. I can’t reach. I am trembling. My husband says I have to go up one more step. To reach past the owlet and cut the vine that is wrapped around its talon.
I wrap one one arm around the top rung of the ladder and the four inch branch, take the pruning shears out of my back pocket, tell myself that whatever happens, DO NOT FLINCH. I reach across the dangling owlet and snip the vine.
I am shaking so bad that I do not realize right away that the owlet
does not land in the blanket. The expression on its face matches my own at this point. (I am told by my parents, my human parents).
And it climbs back up the tree to the very tip top in the leafy twig branches. I am pretty much spent. Heart stopping, adrenaline rush crash. Sit on the back porch steps and well, …cry.
But it is still not over. It’s never over with these owlets. The next thing is that a parent owl flies in with a headless rat (yep, see earlier posts). Where to land for delivery? Well, apparently, in owl logic, the next big branch over from the recovered owlet. Me? I am drinking a glass of wine on the back porch trying to recover myself.
The owlet is screeching and squawking trying to get to the dinner offering. And, …well, …falls back to earth.
The sago palm breaks its fall along with a valiant effort of wing flapping. I am pretty much undone by this point. Or done. Just done.
I think this is where we left things off just a short 36 hours ago. Happy Feet decided, despite my recommendations, to head off our property, across our neighbor’s back yard, across an easement/causeway, and got as far as a creeklet. That kind of stymied it.
Happy Feet was bound and determined to get to his parents roosting location, on a high marsh island. The operative word here is ISLAND.
Tide is coming in fast. I am up the creek without a paddle…
And the high ground is at least 15 feet to the right of Happy Feet. It is wet and can’t even fly when its wings are nice and dry. Happy Feet is in the deep end of the ocean with a rip current. It is dusk. What to do?
I march back to the house to get boots, gloves, blanket, the box and help. My husband, Scott, and my Dad, Lou, agree that Happy Feet is going to drown without lifeguard assistance. So.
Mom and Dad DID know where Happy Feet and MiniMe were. They flew in with big juicy, headless rats for dinner. And we thought everything was OK. But….
We were wrong. This is a preview of what happened at about noon today.
As I have said in previous posts, I cannot keep up! So this brings us up to noon today since about noon yesterday. 24 Hours. (Sounds like a TV show). Well in the next 12 hour period since the above photo was taken, is another really long….long….story.
Forget everything I said before about what I was going to write about today. It was a very exciting morning, dawn actually. And then things got REALLY interesting. This is going to be the short version of the story…because… it is still in progress…
My human parent, Jeanne, wrote the narrative as it happened since I was preoccupied.
Before 7:00 am, still dark, I see a silhouette standing on the edge of a big blue pot. It moves around, turns, poops into pot, hops down into pot, pecks around. Then it hops up to rim, fans wings, hops down into garden. It begins walking around, exploring slowly. Eventually it reaches the border between garden and marsh.
Dale is photographing all this until Happy Feet gets dangerously close to the mucky marsh. Dale to the rescue!
Towel trick, red gloved hands, picks up owlet and carefully places on trunk of the nest tree. Whew!
After long rest, the wayward outlet begins to climb up branches and then out and out and higher to thin branches not sturdy enough so suddenly it falls (or decides to jump?), wings flapping vigorously and lands back on the ground. Unharmed (it appears).
Sky Diver begins exploring again, walking faster and farther away from the nest tree. By now 2.5 hours have passed and sibling owlet has been sitting quietly high above the nest just watching.
Another hour and a half passes and Happy Feet has reached a water filled creeklet which it is determined to cross…somehow.
Oops! “I don’t know how to swim but yikes I’m in the water and all wet! And it’s SALTY!”
Mother/Father owl has been perched in a nearby tree on the high marsh island, softly calling in a cooing version (of the typical hooting) to encourage the owlet forward. Dale (our human owlet, Dalet), with amazing patience is photographing this whole owlventure as it unfolds. It is now noon. And this is the short version of the story!!!
OK It’s me, Dalet, back. Thanks Mom for taking us up to noon with a guest blog! There is SO MUCH MORE to this story and photos!!! Constant contact with Center for Birds of Prey, adjacent neighbors, monitoring, listening, checking, photographing, deciding best options, etc. etc. Neighborhood watch program set up. Bridge building discussed. Ladders back out. Code Red again. And again. I am exhausted. The above photo says it all.
It is almost midnight. The Ides of March. But in our kingdom, all is right in our natural world – so far. Both owlets in tree. Both parents in attendance nearby. Lots of owl conversation. We’re good. At least until dawn 😉
And we still have not had a chance to dissect the owl pellets we collected a few days ago. The way things are going around here, I am afraid they are going to be eaten by us for hors o’devours!
The rest of the story as soon as the new stories abate! Going out for bed check and listening. I wonder…………………