Saturday, March 20, 2010

Fly Free, Owl!

If you haven't already read the story of George's barred owl rescue last September and want the backstory, please read this and this.

Yesterday I got home from Jack’s IEP meeting and found a message on the answering machine from Betty Ross at the Glen Helen Raptor Center. Betty sounded so perky as she said, “We’re releasing the barred owl you brought us last fall and wondered if you wanted to come pick him up and release him where you found him. If not, we’ll release him here. Call me and let me know today.”

I went into spasms of joy. Spasms! Our little owl not only survived but he had recovered enough to fly free again!

Betty, George, and I played phone tag until 8:45 last night, when we finally arranged for George to pick up the owl at 11:00 this morning. Jack had a swim lesson, so George and Nick drove to the Raptor Center and took delivery of our handsome and healthy (though still blind in his left eye) barred owl.

Sadly, George didn’t have Nick take a picture of himself with Betty and the owl named Caesar by the Raptor Center staff. (I'll always think of him as the Bard Shakespeare, though.) Isn’t he the picture of health? Oh, my! What a handsome owl!

George and Nick brought Caesar to our house and picked up Jack and me. We all peeked through a hole in the box and saw Caesar staring back at us, alert and wide-eyed. Last time I’d seen him, one eye was shut, blood covered his beak, and he’d clearly had his brains addled.

Spasms of joy, I tell ya!

George drove us to a road outside Caesar Creek State Park, where he had first seen the unmoving bundle of feathers back in September. On the way, George reported what Betty told him. Caesar had weighed 460 grams in September, and now he weighs 800 grams. He’s fat enough to have some time to get back into hunting properly. He had been catching lots of mice in his enclosure, annoying his pen-mate Henry, who apparently wasn’t as good a hunter as Caesar. Betty also said that Caesar had been ready for release in February, but with all the snow, she’d decided to delay for better weather.

We arrived at the release location and carried the box out into a muddy field near a stand of leafless trees. When we opened the box, this beautiful creature stared back at us.

He clearly wanted to give us plenty of photo opportunity, which surprised us because Betty had said he would likely fly away immediately. After we’d taken our photos, I tipped his box slightly toward the trees, and he flew right out.

Jack, who had been an indifferent, even reluctant and possibly scared, owl rescuer, suddenly came to life and yelled, “Fly free, Owl!”

Caesar hung out in the trees, repositioning himself several times on different branches, and we could see him still perched as we drove away. We’re all walking around with big goofy grins on our faces and I feel an undignified need to giggle for no apparent reason.

Many thanks to the
Glen Helen Raptor Center for giving us this amazing opportunity to participate in a wild-animal rescue and release. They took a badly injured owl and brought him back to health. What an amazing organization, and we are grateful to live in an area served by these guardians of wildlife.

This whole adventure, however, would never have happened if George hadn’t gone back to check on the unmoving bundle of feathers by the side of the road, if he hadn’t decided to empty his triathlon bag and herd the owl into it, if he hadn’t agreed to drive the owl to the Raptor Center. We have no idea what Caesar’s chances are of surviving, but because of George, he has a second chance at a full owl life.

I love you, honey. And even if he doesn’t know it, so does Caesar.


  1. This is such a great story and beautifully told. Your children will remember this and talk about it for the rest of their lives. Thanks for sharing.

  2. He is such a beautiful owl! I am so happy he recovered and you were able to participate in his release. What a story to tell the grandkids!
    If you haven't heard of it yet, there is a barn owl in a nesting box in San Marcos, CA. The eggs are due to hatch any day now. Here is a link to the live feed video. Your boys should enjoy watching it!

  3. What a great story. Makes tears fill my eyes. Beautiful owl.

  4. What a wonderful end to the story. I read about it, intrigued when it happened never thinking that your part was not over. How exciting for everyone to be involved in the happy ending.

  5. What a beautiful owl! What a great experience for your family too -- thank you for sharing it.

  6. Karen, thanks for the link. Gosh, I could spend hours watching molly on her eggs!

  7. Love this story and what a wonderful experience to share with others! Fantastic pics too!

  8. What a terrific update! Long life, Mr. Owl!

  9. what a happy ending to a great story. thanks for the update.
    please tell george that altho he is busy working and training and cooking and being a family man, we miss his photos on his blog. he could update with owl pixs. just a suggestion!!
    enjoy your sunday afternoon.
    marty ferraro

  10. I'm so happy about your owl too, Susan! And it's so funny about barred/bard--I think that too! I was going to tell you about the barn owl cam, but I see Karen beat me to it. I just checked, and one of the barn owls is hatching right now!

  11. That's such an awesome ending to the owl story! And what a gorgeous owl! It's put a smile on my face this morning.

  12. SO of the best moments of my life was going on an "owl prowl" late at night at a local State Park....what an experience! This is such a great story, TFS!

  13. This is such a great story. I'm glad he recovered enough to be free.

  14. WOW! (Just catching up on my blog reading ...) What a great story.

    BTW, when I read Glen Helen, I almost jumped off the couch! I am originally from Dayton, and all through High School our French class spent weekends at Glen Helen. We used to walk in the dark to "The Pine Forest". Thanks for the memories. ;-)


Thanks so much for taking time to comment!