VaHi Residents, Construction Worker Rescue Baby Barred Owl

By Deborah Schwarz

Editor’s Note: Deborah and Greg Schwarz live on lower Drewry Street. Thanks to their efforts and a caring construction foreman, one wayward baby Barred owl was successfully returned to the wild and perhaps even reunited with its parents. We thought you’d like to hear Deborah’s story in her own words. Please contact us at communications@vahi.org if you have a similar experience you’d like to share with other VaHi residents.

Is it a dog or a cat? Nope. This is a new one for us.

Is it a dog or a cat? Nope. This is a new one for us.

With the rapid pace of daily life, we often miss opportunities to appreciate the diversity of the Virginia-Highland community where we live. On April 18, I received a reminder! It came in the form of a baby Barred owl who had been found on the grounds of a residential construction site on lower Drewry Street. 

Our first move was to contact the Chattahoochee Nature Center and AWARE Wildlife Center, both organizations that provide rescue services for at-risk birds. CNC was willing to take the baby owl but felt an attempt at reuniting it with its parents (Barred pairs typically mate for life, raising one brood each year) was worth a try. They advised us to get her/him back up in the trees and – thanks to a solid team effort – we did!  

Greg builds a new but hopefully temporary home.

Greg builds a new but hopefully temporary home.

My husband, Greg, got to work building a faux nest. This included a plastic container with holes drilled throughout to provide proper ventilation and drainage in case of rain. A bed of soil and leaves was added as well as a covering of small branches. While it wouldn’t be mistaken for the real thing, it was a success as it met the specifications needed to protect the baby. 

Construction site foreman Felix Lopez was the real hero as he climbed a sizable Dogwood and secured the “nest” as high in the tree as possible, creating a new use for bungee cords! He then hand-delivered the baby owl back where it belonged. 

We enjoyed a spectacular Spring evening listening to the owls while we watched  the baby owl’s fuzzy, little head bob in the treetops. By nightfall s/he had moved out of the nest onto the branch next to it. In early stages of development, young barred owls are known as “nesters.” They become “branchers” once they venture onto the tree limbs where they have room to stretch their wings and practice flying movements.

The guest of honor was waiting patiently.

The guest of honor was waiting patiently.

The following morning the baby was gone. We searched the yard but s/he was nowhere to be found. We believe the anticipated reunion occurred given feedback from an AWARE Wildlife Representative: “My feeling is not to worry…s/he is in a place where mom wants him/her to be.”

It would have been perfectly fine for the story to have ended there. But, like many such adventures, we hadn’t seen the last of the baby owl. Five days after the rescue as I was leaving my yoga class, I got a text from Greg: “Call me. The baby owl is back.”

I arrived home to find the little devil hiding in the ferns by our front door. S/he had definitely grown and looked healthy, so we put him/her back in the tree – again – and s/he was gone by late that night.  We hope the baby Barred owl has found a place of his/her own in the Virginia-Highland tree tops, but we’ll welcome a fly-by anytime.

Here are some photos we took of the experience. We hope you enjoy them as much as we did helping our feathered friend.

About to be hand-delivered to faux nest.

About to be hand-delivered to the faux nest by Felix.

Felix carefully places the owl in the nest with a first class view!

Felix carefully places the owl in the nest with a first class view!

Safe and ready for Mom and Dad in the treetops.

Safe and ready for Mom and Dad in the treetops.

Baby owl hiding in the ferns.

Baby owl returns – this time hiding in the ferns.

Deborah and the "rogue baby raptor"

Deborah and the “rogue baby raptor”

This was one of our last glimpses of the baby Barred owl.

This was one of our last glimpses of the baby Barred owl.

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