As a bird photographer I see many amazing things but I also see things that make me feel as if I have been punched in my gut and yesterday I experienced that punched in the gut feeling again. I was photographing in northern Utah when I spotted an adult Short-eared Owl along the road perched on a sagebrush stump that had been pulled out of the ground to make way for a new fence this spring. Right after seeing the adult I also saw a fledgling Short-eared Eared Owl about 8 to 10 feet from the adult hung up on barbed wire. I think this one image of the fledgling says it all for me.
Then I saw it move its head and knew that it was still alive. Ron and I turned around and went back to the fledgling. We have been through this before in Montana with a Barn Owl caught on barb wire and we knew we needed to get the fledgling off of that fence and in the hands of a rehabber as soon as possible.
While we were trying to get the owl removed from the fence I was calling friends for help and reached Jerry Liguori and Mike Shaw, both of whom work for Hawkwatch International in Salt Lake City. Once the fledgling was removed from the fence and wrapped in a towel it was time to head towards help. Jerry, Mike and myself were all calling WRCNU (Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah) in Ogden trying to reach one of their staff to let them know about the owl.
I rode more than 90 miles with the young owl on my lap wrapped in the towel and was amazed at how light it felt. It was bright-eyed, didn’t appear to be dehydrated so it is possible we came upon it not long after it got caught in the fence. Inside the towel it wiggled, stretched, clacked its bill and hissed.
I’m used to photographing Short-eared Owls using my 500mm lens with a 1.4x teleconverter attached so they look large when I am viewing them through my viewfinder but seeing them up close and having held this fledgling makes me realize just how small they really are.
After failing to reach anyone at WRCNU we met Mike Shaw at Hawkwatch International where he took the owl and then handed it over to a person heading to WRCNU. I haven’t had an update on the fledgling yet but I hope that it is doing well.
I want to personally thank Jerry and Mike for going above and beyond with their support and help in the rescue of this Short-eared Owl fledgling, you two are great at what you do and I am sincerely thankful that you both picked up the phone to help. We needed you and you both came through.
I hope to get an update on this fledgling today.
I hate seeing wildlife caught in barbed wire. I am glad we found this owl alive and that were were able to get it removed from the fence and into caring hands. I hope its wing isn’t broken and that it will be successfully rehabilitated and released just like the Barn Owl in Montana was.
I wanted to share just one more image of a Short-eared Owl fledgling, wild, free and not caught up in barbed wire. Just doing what young owls do.
Life is good. It can also be sad, frustrating and perplexing but still good.
Update: Good news! No broken bones, needed a few stitches, this little owl ate all its food and it looks like it can be released if it does well in rehab!