It was the May long weekend and the anticipation of the total solar eclipse was high. The days heading up to the event were sunny and clear, but the forecast didn’t look good for the day of. The forecast was correct. The skies clouded over and a strong SE wind was due to blow in. Our friends, Angela and Terry, took to moving their sailboat off the mooring to anchor in the lee provided by Dong Chong bay. It was their hike back to the Lab that begins the story of ‘Eclipse’ the Barred Owlet.
Terry’s dog, Jenny, brought their attention to a dead bird at the base of an ~400 year old culturally modified cedar tree (CMT). The birds composition suggested that it hadn’t been much more than a day since it had fallen out of its nest. Then came the vocalizations of a wee baby bird sitting under the cover of a Hemlock seedling. There was no sign of Mum and no immediate danger. So, after they photographed the little ‘guy’ they left the bird under cover and carried along the trail to OrcaLab.
We all thought s/he looked like a baby owl, but could it be an eaglet? We took some time to assess the situation and decided that it was best to bring the little one back to the Lab in a box lined with an old towel. S/he appeared to be in a wee bit of shock. We knew that we could get ‘him’ to the Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society (MARS), in Courtenay, by some means. In the meantime we would figure out how to care for this little one with their recommendations and what we had available to us. On the walk back we realized that we had nestled this ‘guy’ in ‘his’ temporary nest at the time of the solar eclipse. Pure coincidence as we had already decided that the name ‘Eclipse’ was apropo given the astronomical circumstances of the day.
After a few phone calls, emails and Facebook messages we managed to suss out a ride for Eclipse and obtain some advice on this positively, identified (very baby) Barred owlet. We placed a hot water bottle under half of ‘his’ box and put ‘him’ to bed for the night. By ~4am s/he was vocalizing quite a bit. Maj from MARS called later that morning to give further instructions. We hydrated Eclipse with some sugar water and kept reheating ‘his’ hot water bottle. S/he seemed much more alert than the previous day.
By the time the boat was floating the wind had also calmed down and Eclipse’s ride was an hour away from leaving Telegraph Cove (TC), so we headed out. We arranged for some raw chicken, kindly donated by the Killer Whale Cafe in TC. Eclipse gobbled it all up off the tweezers and away s/he and Meaghan (his very kind driver) went.
Luckily, MARS has two other Barred owlets that Eclipse can grow up with before we pick ‘him’ up for release back here on Hanson Island. Currently s/he is reported as being very feisty and the photos on MARS Facebook page shows exactly that. S/he’s a fighter that little one!
Thanks to everyone involved in the care of Eclipse all along the way. We eagerly await ‘his’ release!!
Please visit Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society on Facebook to see more photos of Eclipse and the other Barred Owlets.
Note: It is very important to obtain proper feeding instructions from a qualified avian rehabilitator prior to feeding or hydrating due to the complications that can arise if food or water enter their air passage.
Written by Leah and Marie.