Monday, 16 May 2011

Owl in the woods ...

Last week we went foraging in the woods. As we reached the garlic-scented ramsons patch, a clattering and fluttering nearby drew our attention and we saw a large bird trying desperately to fly away. She couldn't ... she merely flapped and ran ...

Andy carefully caught her, cupped her in his hands and we saw that she was a beautiful tawny owl with eyes huge and black, like scrying pools. Such a magickal presence, even with her obvious injury. She turned her head slowly this way and that, carefully surveying us and just a glance was enough to still us and fill us with awe.

Clearly, this owl wouldn't survive a night in the woods and she would make easy pickings for a hungry fox with a litter of cubs to feed. We took her home. On the way, Andy showed me where the owl's talons had dug deep into his hand, down to the bone. It was bruised and bloody. "That owl's certainly got spirit!" he joked ... and that was it, we knew her name was Spirit.

We wondered aloud about what to do - contact a vet, or an animal sanctuary. One look at this poor bird though and we guessed they wouldn't give her a chance so we chose to try to help her ourselves. I must admit that as we placed her in a cardboard box with a towel for comfort, neither of us really expected her to survive the night. Advised by web pages, we fed her thin strips of liver dipped in water and hoped for the best. Surprisingly, in the morning she was very much alive and a little brighter so we fed her a little more, allowed her to rest and then gently wrapped her in a towel to look at her damaged wing.

Spirit's wing didn't appear to be broken, or even a particularly new wound. It looked like it had been struck against an object, a tree perhaps and it had badly damaged the joint. She felt thin beneath her tawny feathers. We bought frozen mice from the pet shop, put up a large, old dog crate stored away and made her as comfortable as we could with perches from some of the many woodland branches we have stored away. I joked that I'd never had a box of mice in the freezer before ... but then I'd never had an owl living in the dining room either!

This beautiful owl, this wild creature of the woods was so calm and laid back about our presence that we wondered if, perhaps, she was tame and brought up in captivity. Maybe her wing became damaged and her "owner" dumped her? As each day passed though, she became a little stronger and more alert. She chose to feed only if it was Andy who held the mouse out to her and even then, only if they were alone. She perched on his hand and allowed him to treat her wing as best as he could. If she became annoyed, she warned him off by clacking her beak, a distinctive clicking sound.

Over the last few days, Spirit has become slowly stronger. The original wounds that Andy had from handling her were joined by scratches and cuts where she skipped up his arm. We read about owls attacking people and tearing their eyes out with their talons and knew it was true ... we could feel her strength. We fed Spirit and let her rest, let her gain her strength ... as she did, she became more feisty, more aggressive and wilder ... more as she should be rather than docile and placid.

Today we made the decision that it was time to pass her on to someone who we hope can take her the next step of the way. We phoned the RSPCA and they told us to take her to our local vet for treatment. I must say, the vet didn't seem at all keen to take her which is worrying ... however, they're apparently planning to x-ray her wing tomorrow and when we left they were contacting the local Hawk Conservancy so we're keeping our fingers crossed.

So, that's the story of Spirit, the owl who blessed us with her company for such a short space of time. I'm lighting a candle tonight to send her healing wishes and to hope that the Hawk conservancy are able to help her. 


  1. Beautiful bird, beautiful story. thank you
    Karen B

  2. Having spent the weekend under canvas in the woods listening to the owls call through the night I hope her story has a happy ending. Forgive her your scars - a wild and beautiful creature with a wild heart doing as nature intends.

  3. These are really good folk if you need help;

  4. Beautiful bird! I do hope she'll find the next helpers as wonderfully caring as you! And I hope you'll give us an update if you have news of her.... I'm blessed with an pair of owls here raising young each spring. I love hearing them... barred owls, big, dark eyes like Spirit's. Best of luck to her!

  5. Thanks for your lovely comments and thanks for the link too :~) I'll give the vets a call later and see what I can find out ... fingers crossed x

  6. In my adopted family's tradition in the US, an owl is Great Spirit's messenger - though some tribes see them as a bad omen. Think you've got some good news coming :)

  7. How fortunate for you, and Owl that you were to meet in this way.
    I'm very happy to read this.

  8. Please check on the owl's progress. Do not trust the rspca and vets. It is not in their financial interest to help wildlife. I know this from extensive experience.