Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Tree Climbing Birder Performs Owlet Rescue
April 04, 2020
By Steve Grinley

     In this uncertain time of depressing news, we look for people and actions that might lift our spirits. For those of us that find solace in our birds, Andrew Joslin of Carlisle shares with us his story of rescuing a great horned owlet last week:

     “On Friday, March 27 I had the opportunity to climb and put an approximately 2 week old fallen great horned owl back in its nest. The nest is in a small white pine grove between two residential properties in Lexington, MA.

     “I frequently perform cat-in-a-tree rescues, have captured escaped pet birds in trees, and have assisted capturing wild animals in distress in trees when needed. I was contacted by a local animal control officer about the owlet, she connected me to a federally licensed wildlife rehabber who had been holding the owl overnight to feed it and monitor its condition.

     “When I arrived at the site a pair of adult owls were at the nest. The apparent male was perched on a small branch close to the nest, the female was on the nest. When I started climbing at the base of the trunk the male left and perched in a large Norway spruce across afield. He was immediately harassed by a red-tailed hawk and left the spruce.

     “The female stayed on the nest carefully following my progress as I climbed. The nest is at approx. 55′, when I was about 20′ below the nest the female left. When I arrived at the nest the female flew under me twice but never came near me.

     “As many of you know GHO can choose a terrible “nest” site to set up shop in. This means their young can be tumbling out of the nest from wind, being jostled by a sibling or just walking off the edge. Inspecting the nest from the ground with binoculars it was clear that this was a very minimal nest structure. I had a bundle of sticks and twigs tied to the bottom of my rope. When I reached the nest I found two young hunkered down. I set to building out the nest structure to give them more room and provide a bit of a “guardrail” against falling.

     “ I shot a short video through the structure of the two in the nest as I was weaving sticks in. They hissed and clicked their mandibles a little as I worked but mostly stayed calm. https://vimeo.com/401622466

     “Once the nest was sufficiently reinforced I called for the owlet to be placed in a secure bag and attached to the tail of my rope. The owl weighed something in the range 580 grams and felt like nothing as I pulled it up. I placed it in the nest and it immediately huddled with its siblings making what looked like a giant lump of owl down I was informed later that the parents returned to the nest soon after I left the site.

     “Photos of the renesting operation here: https://flickr.com/photos/naturejournal/albums/72157713653991732

Steve Grinley
Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift
Port Plaza West Shops
45 Storey Ave, Suite 7B
Newburyport, MA 01950

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