Monday, March 10, 2008

Owl Nights

An owl came to stay the night. Not just any owl, mind you, but the female Great Horned Owl that is one of the Hawks Aloft educational ambassadors. Our educators had taken her to the Festival of the Cranes in Monte Vista, CO, for the weekend. Since the owl lives at a facility in the mountains east of Albuquerque, we decided that it would be best if she spent the night with me, so I could return her this morning.

She arrived late afternoon, looking innocent, and a little sleepy. She's a big girl with a badly damaged wing, but very mellow for a formerly wild bird. She was hit by a car in Aztec, NM in 1996, and has been with Hawks Aloft since then.

As the evening wore on, she began to perk up a little, first exploring horizontal surfaces within easy reach of her leather lead. I shortened the lead to reduce the potential for paper avalanches. I positioned her perch right in the middle of the kitchen with bed sheets, a.k.a. diapers, surrounding her perch. I retired for the evening.

The first of the thunking sounds began about 5 seconds after my head hit the pillow. Worried, I came out to investigate. All was well. She had dragged her perch over to the counter and was sitting on the edge of the sink. Seems the slick, saltillo tile floor is the perfect substrate for sliding perches. Next to go were the papers and candlesticks on the kitchen table. A sound night's rest was not to be as the owl was quite awake and bent on investigating all nooks and crannies. Putting her outside into one of the flights wasn't an option either, as all were full with peacefully slumbering, diurnal hawks and falcons.

And so it went: Bump, crash, jump out of bed, check out the scenario. By dawn, when I was now fully awake, her eyes grew heavy and her actions somnolent, an owl bent on sleep. Her only obstacle was the human busily scurrying around, picking up after the late night owl festivities.

Next time, I'll be sure the owl is in an outdoor flight so I can share the house with a diurnal hawk. Unlike owls, they go to sleep when the lights are switched off.