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  • Writer's picturePeg McDonald

Beecroft Powerful owl - a story of survival

Powerful owl chick, successfully rehabilitated - read the story...

This young Powerful owl chick came into care on 8th September after being found on the ground at Byles Creek, Beecroft.

Day 1

He went into the IC unit, and whilst I would normally not do this with owls I put the ceramic heat lamp on and he moved as close to it as he could and remained there for about 4 hours.

He has moved away now which is a good sign - so it is off.

As he is very thin I have started him on his IC feeding regime which he tolerated well_-this should also help his gut biomes which don't seem to happy ATM :(

He appears very hungry but I don't want to do too much too soon - so it will be an allnighter watching the Vetafarm CCTV and reading, and moving him on as I feel confident with his improvement.

His left wing is slightly dropped and I can see on the cctv that when he just casually stretches his wings out he is not stretching that one fully by any means. He also preens at it a little too often, as if it is bothering him. I am hoping the issue is just bruising.

This footage is from the CCTV which I am watching as I type - the noise is the recorder.

After his first tube feed he was stretching and preening, then started picking up gum leaves and flicking them about.

Currently he is just resting quietly, which is what he needs to do.

Best case scenario is I can keep moving him forward overnight, slowly and carefully, he gets a good diagnosis from vet Charles Carter, hopefully tomorow I can move him onto clean meat and we can get him back with his real parents in a few days.

All this said however - he is just like any other bird of prey that comes into care that clearly is not well, you just never know.


Day 2

Well in case anyone else is up worrying at 2.12am here is the latest update on our Powerful owl friend.

He is being a model patient and has tolerated everything well - I am really happy with his progress from my perspective as a carer, but my gut feeling is that there is a piece of his puzzle missing somewhere. He is too quiet, but at the same time can wake up, preen and stretch, have a shake, then back to sleep. I can see from the images that I am grateful to have received that he has been through a lot of well meaning but super stressful events, so I am hoping that explains his need for peace and rest so much. Sounds like me ha ha!!

The pics I am taking will all start to look the same - because he isn't moving about at all!!

For now I am happy to let him be, and tomorrow he and I can move onto clean meat if all goes well. As with anything I care for it is just one step at a time and I can't push him at all or I fear he will just topple off the perch of life.

Off to do some meditation now - I am hopeless at sleeping unless I can do it all in one go.

I will keep checking the CCTV but as I say for now he rests and heals and if he keeps going as he is then I have no need to interfere with him for about 12 hours at least now.


Day 3

This beautiful day also brings news of our little friend that is pleasing.

Last night he was super bright and alert and had a feed of whole mouse early this morning and all has gone well.

Vet Charles Carter and I had a discussion also early this morning and I have put forward a new plan which we both are happy with.

First and foremost the aim is to release a bird, as always, that has the ability to thrive and survive post release. Our emotions do not play a part, it is always about what is in their best interests.

- he is soldiering on so well now that his stress levels are, I hope, significantly lowered = more energy to recover and heal. - he has had some really good feeds and is keen to eat, with no follow up issues - his gut issues have resolved with appropriate management, at last - the swelling under his wing is resolving, but still present - normally we would be keen to x ray the shoulder and take blood, but this always has associated potential dangers as with any anaesthetic - with his icontinuing dailymprovement we feel it reasonable to leave these procedures for now - I will put him in a small 3x3x4m owl aviary tonight and watch him closely on the CCTV for any sign of the wing dropping again, or stress or inability to cope well - if all does not go perfectly then we absolutely have to proceed with further diagnostics, meaning he will stay in care here until dispersal time, unless his parents are still about when his issues are resolved - if all goes well we will plan to bring him back to his parents on Wednesday (12th September).

Charlie took this quick pic yesterday - you can see the strength and confidence returning.

I just wish we knew for sure what our window of opportunity for him to be reunited was - but as with all raptor rehab there is still so much we do not know, and exactly why I am embarking on my wonderful my Churchill Fellowship.

The main thing that I reiterate is though that it is all about his survival, back out in the wild where he belongs, and that everything we can all do together to facilitate that is done :)


The final chapter - 12th September

I made the decision to take him home....!

My gut feeling was that he would be OK, but so many things also had to fall into place - the weather, the parents being there and accepting him, crowd control,and most of all his ability to calmly stay in place in his box "hollow" after being winched up into the tree. If he had become stressed and just shot out and to the ground then that would have meant a rethink.

The ever reliable senior transport service provider David Jennifer Harker was out at my place at 1.30 on Wednesday and off we went to Beecroft where a small gathering of the chick's friends were waiting.

Thanks to Trish for that delicious afternoon tea !!

The Mum actually flew just to the forest at the back of where Dave parked the car when we arrived, Dad was a bit further away in the Coachwood.

Then began much preparation, site chosen, amazing NPWS climber Henry with all his gear had already traipsed through the bush to a good tree with the wonderful Beth Mott who had organised everything from that end.

Beth has been my friend for a long while and she was super helpful as always with her knowledge of all things Powerful owl. Her knowledge of the birds and their behaviour in the wild, combined with my rehab knowledge and thoughts on his remaining issues and progress were mulled over and over and over!!! The local NPWS ranger Rebecca closed off the track and the assembled fans of the Powerful owl dutifully followed instructions to remain calm and quiet and well away!

Too much noise = too much stress = the greater the likelihood he would panic on release and come to ground, didn't bear thinking of.

Team work at its best........

Just before dusk he came out of his box calmly, flew well about 10m to a nice branch and waited. Then the hooting started, he trilled, the male flew over and back to where he was roosting, the female did a survey and also went back. Back and forth for a while with the chick moving about a bit, much trilling and hooting, but no close interaction.

Then just on dusk when Dave was trying to drag me away so I wouldn't break anything stumbling back in the dark, it all happened.

Both parents went back over, the chick went up on a slightly higher branch and flapped madly, the mum went up near him and by then it was almost dark. All three together.

Back we went to base camp, hugs, laughs and much joy with hope that the reunion had been successful.

The next three days... day one male only seen day two Mum and chick together day three Mum and chick together - Beth and Peg have discussion and deem our chick and his parents winners!!

There is still the issue of why he was thin, and if he continues to stay fairly imobile (as Beth predicted as long as he didn't get too stressed and panic), then I am sure his shoulder will continue to heal.

The wonderful Byles Creek folk have just been fantastic and will be coming down for a visit later in the year.

What a journey we have all been on - not as exciting as the one this chick has endured though!

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