Mistaken Identity.

Now growing up in the countryside you learn what most animals are with ease, that’s a cow or a sheep or next doors cat.

So when we got this story I nearly spat my mug of tea over the keyboard reading it the 1st time and still giggling now reading it for the 5th.

We shall let you have the story, as  told by Andy.


Tawny Pheasant…….

A while ago our Sunday was disturbed by a neighbor, he stuck his head over the fence and told me to come round to deal with a bird as apparently I knew about these things, he cracked on that it was a pheasant and that it had made a forced landing into a window. I wandered round to find him poised over the bird shovel in hand gently prodding it as it lay in heap against a wall. It took no time at all to decide that it wasn’t a pheasant, the giveaway being two very bright orangey, yellow eyes and a pair of quite menacing meat hooks. I bent down to pick it up after suggesting that the shovel was not a good idea. The owl didn’t think that me picking it was a good idea either and made that clear by hissing and trying to bury its talons in me. Grabbing it top down, hands over wings firmly seemed to do the trick for me, the owl still seemed a bit unhappy. Perhaps the combination of being in flight then not, closely followed by being massaged by a shovel had made it grumpy, I suppose that if it was you or I that would do it for us too.

So now we have a tawny owl, I know very little about owls, but know that birds can be tricky. Think about how easily birds are stressed and this bird had not had the best Sunday so far. It was about to get worse. The owl now known as Colin, found its way into the garage inside a cat carrier because a little-known fact is that they are also perfect for transporting your average owl. I expected it to die if I am honest as the level of aggravation it has been made to endure would have made me less than enthusiastic about what might follow.

After a while my wife checked on the bird and it was miraculously still in the land of the living but looked second hand. I in the meantime had called several organizations ranging from specialist owl bods through to the AA and RAC, as to advice, help or suggestions all to no avail. All of us and owl made our way to the only open vets we could think of reporting into a receptionist more used to dealing with an off-color cat than a grumpy owl. The vet to her credit was totally up front about her knowledge of owls which turned out to be minimal. The owl was given a cursory check, wings, body, then plonked back in the owl carrier. In the lower section of the pet-supermarket there was a distinct lack of owl food, but lots of food for snakes and lizards in the form of pre-packed frozen mice. Julia my wife picked up a pack and between us we decided that five would do nicely.

The owl even more unhappy now after the shovel, me, the cat carrier and now a vet check found its way back into the garage, a newly fashioned perch, a layer of newspaper lining the owl carrier. Before going to bed dinner was served, a de-frosted mouse. The following morning again I was expecting to find an ex-owl but was greeted by some owl poo, no mouse and a blinking owl looking at me initially in a startled manner then with an air of suspicion. In the time between the vet and the morning we had been able to find out that your average tawny can eat more than one mouse a night and should do plus other owl based useful tips and information.

It’s amazing how little you know about what to do and more importantly not to. Further investigation revealed that a Tawny will eat quite a mixed bag of food from small rodents to worms and that its range in terms of a species in the UK is really wide extending from the south coast up to the north with only small gaps. This reinforced what I knew about similar birds with Eagles being the most successful of raptors with all manner of them in many a country and environment.   A number of days passed, and the owl perked up, and on a daily basis its consumption of mice increased to the point where I wondered if when it was fit it would be able to take off. Certainly my long suffering wife began to look at the mouse bill with a view to another source.

Now you can only guess when it’s the right time to release the patient and if I am honest we got it wrong, the owl carrier, opened the owl hopped out, made an effort to fly, failed, tried again failed more spectacularly and then refused to be captured and returned to the carrier. So if you can picture two people in the dark chasing a stroppy flightless owl with the owl winning screeching in a disturbing way. After a tense few minutes it was back in the carrier and returned to the owl Hilton, again it managed to glare at us. More mice and days followed leading to attempt number two this time it hopped out then took off into the darkness. This adding to an increasing list of animals and birds that we have taken in fed and released to the wild. It is odd and slightly poignant that over the last couple of weeks there has been a Tawny hunting in the churchyard nearby. So if called upon to help an owl, good luck, buy more mice than you think you will need and be prepared to be screeched at and viewed with a degree of suspicion.

The best thing of all is that as I write I can just make out the sound of one hunting in the churchyard making the most of a still, quiet frosty night,,,,,and that is a good thing.



Andy Sabin.