Montana Wolf

Monday, October 11, 2010

Winged Redeemer



Carole and I were chatting away on the porch in the morning sun when she noticed it from afar: a bird on the fence looking down on the chicken coop, but this one smaller than the recent ravens and great-horned owls that had threatened the egg layers. I reckoned it to be a sharp-shinned hawk but what we discovered was a tiny saw-whet owl caught in the roof netting, her wings and talons a web of tangled string.

Leather gloves and a cinder block on which to stand, I started to extract, unsure of the outcome. Broken wing? Sliced neck? Impossible to pull or maneuver, I directed Carole where to cut as the little one stared at us with huge, golden eyes. She did not struggle; her only sound was an occasional click. Four cuts and the feathered one fell into my hands. I pulled her to my chest and carried her to a near-by log to sit.

Northern saw-whet owls are around 8-inches tall. They live in abandoned cavities in pine, aspen, fir, spruce, larch, cottonwood...you name it. The varied forest that surrounded Carole and Chris' land was saw-whet heaven. And so was their cleared space, providing a constant diet of insects, voles and mice for the little one. Most active right before dawn and after dusk, it was around 8:00 a.m. when this one became tangled...probably after a mouse that in turn, was after some chicken feed on the ground. Easy pickings.

The little bird was most content against my beating heart. Around ten precious minutes had passed when I held out my hand and her razor sharp talons clasped my gloved finger. So far so good. She didn't appear to be damaged, but could she fly? She perched for awhile longer before spreading her soft wings.Eighteen inches of winged feathers spread horizontally across the air but she did not fly. She continued to clasp my finger and sit. She and I, trusting spirits in the fullness of time. She turned her head, gazed those golden eyes into mine and cocked her head. I smiled. "You're welcome," I said, and she lifted effortlessly and rested on a nearby spruce branch.

Carole and I continued to watch and talk to her. She perched, relaxed, no doubt collecting herself, overcoming her shock. Her eyes were closed. When I moved closer to change the photo angle she barely registered my movement, sometimes opening an eye.

We left her alone. I continued to watch for her through the binoculars. A couple of hours later I scanned the branches and the brown-feathered miracle was gone.

1 comment:

  1. How adorable!!! You're so lucky to be able to "catch" her for a moment.

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