Location. Location. Location. The real estate attribute so dear to humans applies to us owls as well. Less than a month ago I hooted the advantages, and annoyances, of nesting at Fresh Pond. Now I find myself indebted to that ultra touchy/feely species of urban animal lover: the Cantabridgian.
Jake, my mate, is a terrific guy. His majestic wingspan still quickens my birdy pulse. Yet, every creature has his shortcomings. Turns out Jake’s nest building skills are a bit shaky. Though I raved about our tree fork location and his expedient construction, a series of late winter storms and persistent high winds took a toll on our home. When Hector, our owling, leaned against the edge of the nest in concert with a strong wind, the structure weakened. Out fell our offspring.
I watched Hector descend. Owls do not fall fast; we are mostly feather. Motherly instinct impelled me to fly after him. He bumped off a few branches. But prudence intervened. In disaster, time stretches to the limits of endurance. He landed in a pile of storm soaked leaves. I could not save him mid-air. Owls fall softer than humans. And he would need me, even more, on the ground.
The man with the tripod and telescopic camera recorded it all. I was annoyed at him for digitizing my owling’s trauma, until I realized these owl-crazy locals would be essential to Hector’s salvation.
Indeed they are. Hector has been on the ground for a week now; it will be several more weeks until he’s capable of flying. Even then, the usual strategies of coaxing him onto a branch and enticing his first leap from a distance will be useless. Unlike other owlings, Hector has learned to walk. He’s covered several hundred feet, heading west, as if he wants to go to kindergarten in Belmont.
Jake and I do what we can: bring him food; hoot off dogs and coyotes. We are stretched beyond our normal capacity, staying close to the ground, flying in bold daylight, coming closer to humans than we ever dared before. But Hector’s survival depends just as much on them. Every dawn the bird lovers arrive with yards of yellow caution tape. They mark a new zone around Hector. The city has posted signs for folks to leash their dogs. People we once considered curious distractions are now our protectors. The more humans congregate around Hector, the more attention they bring to his condition, the less likely a single unleashed canine will bring his doom.
So many things can go wrong. Even if Hector survives on the ground, we have no idea how he’ll learn to fly. But no matter what happens, Jake and I are grateful for everything the humans have done. In tragedy, we need all the friends we can get.