Fighting to Stay in the Game

So my 5oth entry “Back with a Bang” has been delayed.   It was such a fantastic name for a 50th entry, too!  But I haven’t had a chance to do more than write the title and create a draft before this shorter and more urgent update came along.

Life has been and continues to be crazy.   Since my last post a month ago, I have moved (again!),  started a second job, and am in the midst of trying to figure out PhD program stuff.  Like realizing I need to take the GREs again and my weekends are filled from now through forever.  My most recent move puts me halfway in between my two jobs, away from my former birding patches, but near some new ones including the Meadowlands and Garrett Mountain. I do however remain in the county I’ve been working in, so I don’t have to start from scratch with my ebird county lists.   I am playing catch up at my new job as I scramble to put together a course days before I need to teach each unit.  I finally got my ID and parking decals for the faculty lot – so it feels more official that I’m an (adjunct) college professor. Whee!  Do college professors say whee?  This one does.   PhD process is at a standstill as I continue to pack and try to move in and find things again.  Am also working full time for the last three weeks at my first job in order to cover staffing shortages due to vacations and departures.  So the few days I have off I have either been working or moving.  (Though on Saturday the trip to Brigantine, or the Biggest Birding Expedition of the Season finally occurred and will shortly appear as Back with a Bang).

After 3 accidents creating congestion on my 14 mile commute to work, I made it in to learn a resident in a neighboring town had called in a report of an injured Great Horned Owl.  Now, we typically don’t do rescues or rehabilitation, but my boss made an exception as it was a Great Horned Owl, as they have powerful claws and who doesn’t want to play with an owl?

So I jumped back in my car armed with 5 gloves, a dog crate, blanket, rake and a vague sense of what I was about to do. Be a football player. Be. a. football. player.  Right.

I got there, let myself into the backyard to find the owl crouched on the ground, reasonably alert, but stationary. When crows cawed above, the ear tufts would perk; if we waked near, it would register our presence.  The women reported that the owls wings appeared intact, but occasionally the owl would appear to have seizures.

The women were already well prepared.  They had gloves, blanket, and their own dog crate at the ready, I armed the two women who made the call with gloves and a rake to help surround the owl and then slowly approached.  I had both hands gloved.  I opted for the large welder gloves because they went further up my arm than my preferred leather glove that almost fits my hand.   I was thankful I had thrown last years boots that went nearly to my knees as they added an extra layer of protection for my legs.

I approached slowly, waiting to see how the bird would react.  The owl was calm. Then flipped onto its back, thrusting its feet into the air toward me; a defensive posture. It might have been a fearsome display if at that moment the owl hadn’t been wracked by some form of seizure causing the bird to shake and lose muscle control.  I darted in and grabbed the owl by both legs.  One hand for each leg and hoisted it into the air.  I then walked the shaking owl to the cage and as the shudders ceased and wings folded back in, I gently eased the owl into the dog crate.

Great Horned Owl crouches after sustaining an unknown injury.

Great Horned Owl crouches after sustaining an unknown injury.

At this point, my role in the story was over.  I returned to work.  The women went off to Raptor Trust with the owl.  I have to contact Raptor Trust later this week for unrelated reasons, so will hopefully have a (positive) update.