The little Barred Owl was only two weeks old. He was still covered in down and just beginning to get pin feathers. The owlet shared a nest with his siblings in a cavity about 30 feet high in a big old tree at Tanglewood County Park. The nest was very nice with a solid floor and lots of room. But there was a little low spot in the front wall which allowed the owlet to fall out of the nest.
Fortunately, a birder spied the owl on the ground near the trail. Hop Hopkins and David and Susan Disher were walking along the trail and ran into the first birder who showed them the owl. Hop contacted Phil Dickinson who knew just what to do – call Jean Chamberlain. Jean is a licensed raptor rehabilitator who has performed many owl rescues. Hop scooped up the owl and put it into a REI shopping bag with a small blanket. He took it to Animal Ark Veterinary Hospital in Clemmons where Jean picked it up.
Jean took the owlet home and carefully examined it. It weighed 325 grams (11.5 ounces) and was healthy and uninjured, so Jean began forming a plan to re-nest the owl the next day. She contacted Lorena Greene, whose husband, Aaron, works at Tanglewood. Aaron and his friend, John Ledbetter, also a Tanglewood employee, were happy to help. They agreed to meet Jean with a ladder and help put the owl back in the nest. Jean allowed Phil Dickinson and me to go along and observe. On Wednesday afternoon, April 23, Aaron and Lorena, John, Jean, Phil, and I met at Skilpot Lake. But our rescue party was not yet quite complete.
Todd and Beth Cassidy had just rescued a Great Horned Owl and needed to deliver it to Jean, so they also met her at Skilpot Lake. It was their 26th anniversary and Beth said that they always like to have an adventure to celebrate. So, Todd and Beth joined our Barred Owl party and we all went back to the nest area. The men quickly set up the twenty-foot ladder and leaned it against the nest tree. As we’d suspected, it was not nearly long enough. Aaron called another friend for help and we soon had a 40-foot ladder. This one was just right.
Jean quickly ascended the ladder and inspected the nest. She came down and reported that it was really nice and that it contained two owlets. Had the nest been in need of repair, she was prepared to reinforce the bottom. She got her camera and the owl and went back up. Jean placed the little owl in the nest and came down the ladder again. Success! Jean had re-nested the owlet.
One of the men joked that the owlet would tell his siblings all about his big adventure. He suggested that the owlet could say, “Don’t worry about falling out. Someone will put you back in the nest.”
Jean is our local owl and hawk expert with Wildlife Rehab, Inc. She and several other people in this story are Forsyth Audubon members. I have referred to the owlet as “he”, but there is no way to determine the gender of a young owl.
Please be especially careful to avoid disturbance of the owls during the next few months. The babies will soon be “branchers” out of the nest. They will be unable to fly and are safer from predators in the branches of the tree than on the ground. The parents will continue to feed the young owls for several months.