Monday, May 30, 2011

Earl Gray is back!

Earl is happy to be home.

Earl is the name of my host's Great Gray Owl.  He went missing about 2 weeks ago after she came home to find the inclosure's door hanging open in the wind.  It was pretty hard on her and she has spent the whole time on Facebook and Twitter answering a million and one messages from people claiming to have seen either a large gray bird, or heard an owl, or had a friend of a friend who saw a Great Gray Owl several town over.  Obviously most of these people had good intentions but they were maybe just a bit off-base.

Nancy, my host, has her falconers license and is legally allowed to keep injured birds for educational purposes. Earl is not fit enough to be reintroduced to the wild and is instead kept in an inclosure out back of her place and used a few times a week to educate the public about raptors.  She also has a little Boreal Owl named Yoda who has a cataract in one eye and is now well beyond the natural years an owl will typically reach outside of captivity.  There are a lot of Great horned Owls in the area and they will often prey on the Great-Gray Owls.  Earl would be an easy target because he can not fly very well which is also the reason that she keeps him.  

In the last week Nancy has become increasingly pessimistic about the likelihood of finding Earl at but just a couple nights ago she got a call around 11:00pm from some neighbors a few hundred yards away saying that a Great Gray Owl was sitting on their porch.  Well she grabbed her leather glove, Owl carrier and a few dead mice and probably just about sprinted over to their house.  Upon arriving she knew instantly that it was him and I am quite sure that he recognized her because as she approached he hopped up onto her out-streched arm and then practically dove into the carrier.

It had been a full two weeks that he had been missing with a semi-seriously debilitated wing.  He must have been able to catch some food to survive that long, but he had also only flown a few hundred yards downhill from the house.  He is able to hop and fly a short distance at a time but is unable to sustain true flight or ascend to any real height. 

The people who found him were ecstatic to be able to save this bird and to get a chance to see it up close.  Nancy and her husband were up in the clouds afterwards.  They care a great deal for this wonderful bird and even though it was obvious to see they were disheartened by his loss it was not clear just how hard it had been on them until his safe return.  We are all so happy to see Earl safe and there has been a resounding atmosphere of relief and congratulations from the birder community in and around Fairbanks. 

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