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Snowy Owl Update: Healing Fast!

Monday, January 15, 2018

It's hard to believe that the snowy owl captured near the Grand Central Mall in Vienna, WV on Dec. 21 has been in rehab now for almost four weeks. On January 10, our family was invited to visit him in his private quarters at the Avian Conservation Center of Appalachia in Morgantown, WV, about a three hour drive from us. For obvious reasons, wild birds being rehabilitated for release are not on public display, so being permitted to visit him was a special privilege, earned by telling his incredible story in my last eight blogposts. As always, I was delighted to be your eyes and ears. And thank you, thank you for your generosity toward ACCA. 

It was SO GOOD to see him again! I wondered if he recognized me. Hee hee. He doesn't look thrilled to see me in the least.

He looked like an utterly different bird from the sad little wreck I last saw on a telephone pole near Faith Baptist Church, sitting with eyes closed for over six hours, hanging his aching wing straight down. Look at that right wing carriage now! It's up in a normal position; it's not resting on the perch, and it's even slightly tucked into his breast feathers! And look at that nasty glare! I love a nasty glare! These are the things that make a bird rehabilitator's heart sing. 

Because the owl's coracoid fracture was minimally displaced, meaning the bone ends were in essentially the right position to knit, avian veterinarian Jesse Fallon elected not to wrap the owl's wing. He was kept in a small enclosure for the first two weeks so he wouldn't need to fly at all,  then moved to this roomy mew (falconer's term for a wooden stall for housing raptors). Here, he can fly from low perches to higher ones. 

I brought my telephoto lens, shooting as best I could through the latticework privacy wall. I thought you'd appreciate the detail of his feather moustache and his golden eye. Please click on the photos to enlarge them! 

There's that right wing, nicely tucked in. Compare with how he was carrying it on Dec. 22, the day after he was brought in to the clinic. This poor bird had been forced to fly on a broken coracoid since he was hit by a car on December 6. If he didn't fly, he couldn't hunt. If he couldn't hunt, he didn't eat. The flesh dropped off his bones, and he got weaker and weaker. He was on a downhill spiral and near death when Jesse dropped the pole net over him on 10th Street, Vienna, on Dec. 21.

Photo by Katie Fallon, ACCA

The owl is no longer near death. He's full of beans. He's back, and big as life. He's rarin' to go! I caught him dining on quail near the end of our brief visit January 10. I like how he pulls his snow white moustache back to eat. 

But it was this video from Katie Fallon, sent on January 13, that really thrilled me. He's so alert, so alive, so present. He knows the sound of the door latch means a mouse, rat, or chick will appear. And he's serious about getting to fighting and flying weight. 

This owl won't be captive for much longer: two weeks at the longest, by Jesse's estimate. We felt lucky and blessed to be able to pay him a visit. It was the dessert on a wonderful day spent in a personal guided tour of West Virginia University. 

We were impressed. We were excited. We liked the art department as well as any we have visited, and the instructors couldn't have been nicer or more welcoming. 

James Froemel, Recruitment Specialist for WVU's College of Creative Arts, took us on a grand tour of the Creative Arts Center, which is housed in a huge mostly round building designed to look like a film projector. I've never seen Liam light up like he did when we poked our heads in Mary McClung's office. She's Professor of Costume Design. She makes these things. And we could see that Liam suddenly wanted to make them, too. 

I had to take it as a powerful sign that my totem bird, the turkey vulture, was featured on the wall. When I asked Dr. McClung about it, she said she wanted to make a vulture puppet for fun. Because they're cool. I showed Katie Fallon this photo when we visited ACCA, and she smiled as big as I did. Katie's the author of Vulture: The Private Life of an Unloved Bird. I'm reading it right now and loving it. 

WVU is the only university to offer a degree in puppetry. Well. Who knew? The world is out there waiting for Liam. He also lit up bigtime when we entered the printmaking classroom. He ran up and scrutinized the student work on the walls and I could see there was printmaking in his immediate future. What a thrill!! 

We had lunch and gelato with our favorite West Virginia comets, the Heeter kids. Regulars at the New River Birding and Nature Festival have watched them grow up, for their father Geoff Heeter is one of the prime movers behind the festival. Both now attend WVU, and they love it. Our kids are close, and nothing brings us parents more joy than watching them together. Giants, all, dwarfing their parents. What the heck?! What a nice crop of beautiful human beings. 

It was a most wonderful day. It made me reminisce about our first college hunting experience. I couldn't remember even having to think about application deadlines, essays or scholarship applications, much less freak out about them. That first little bird kinda flew right out of the box. I don't remember having to shake the cage at all. 

Launching our second human has been a hugely absorbing pursuit, but worth every second of cheering, pushing, cajoling and challenging. Seeing him connect with a place is such a thrill. He's gotten in everywhere he's applied. Now it will come down to what he most wants, and what we can afford. 

Photo by Sue Dougherty, DVM, Bend, Oregon. Lifted off the net, where it's viral. Hope that's OK. 

Liam will fly, just like the Vienna Owl will.  Stay tuned. 

Next: FLYING. Real flying!


What a pairing of stories...the snowy owl's progress and Liam's college search.
Wonderful to read about both. And looking forward to the denouement of each.

I think this is the source of that last pic. Thank you for the updates on the Vienna Snowy Owl.

Oh, how lovely to see that owl flying smoothly again! He looks so fat and healthy now! May he have a long and happy life!

Posted by Anonymous January 16, 2018 at 3:34 AM

Thank you so much for your Google-fu, Anne Wills! Will correct, credit Dr. Dougherty, and breathe a sigh of relief.

Thank you thank you! Will update!

In a time of need, people sharing positive goodness is a necessary function. What you do both hands on and in this blog are greatly appreciated by many many people. Thank you, JZ.......

What a glorious being he is! To be under the intense awareness of such eyes gives one a humbling feeling of awe and maybe a inkling of what prey might feel like....

Thank you, as always, for sharing your exuberant spirit and big heart with us all. Good news about Snowy just the pick-me-up needed today, as nasty weather rolls in and we fret about our bird friends. Wonderful to get peeks into Liam's possible choices, too. <3

Thank you, Julie for the update! What a precious encounter to be able to see him now so healthy!

THANKS for the update! like all worry-wart curmudgeons I start fearing the worst when I haven’t seen an update 24 hrs. past my expectation ;) And yes, ‘nasty glares’ can be delightful, fer sure!
Such good news (and pics/video) all-around!

Love seeing Mr. Snow Owl looking so awesome. Thanks for sharing before and after pictures. I feel like I've learned so much from your posts.

I'm a WVU alumnus! I have a theatre degree and was there when Mary was a student there. You've taken me back a couple of decades. Best of luck to Liam as he figures out where he wants to go. We are in that process too with my first born. It's quite the process.

Amazing story. So glad it's going to have a happy ending. Thanks to you. The photos are breathtaking. I almost cried seeing his wing held so nicely. And I did cry seeing him take flight. I think I could hear a collective cheer across the country. Much love!

So much wonderful waiting to burst forth from this post! I was excited to recognize the title of Katie Fallon's book from one of my favorite podcasts (Outside In) - my binge listening often leads to reading too.

So glad to hear that the owl is doing so well. Thank you. Can we have a quick update on Jemima, please.

thank you for keeping up-to-date on the owl - the photos are amazing!

What a blessing this had to have been for you. Good things do happen, and Mr. Snowy Owl is such an inspiration to so many. Gives us hope! Thank you for all that you did, and continue to do. Any updates are appreciated. I think about Mr. Snowy Owl quite frequently,
and how this lone, beautiful owl gave all of us such a wonderful Christmas present. Thank you from the bottom of my heart and God Bless You.

So happy to hear the good news about both Snowy and Liam. For those of us a bit short of good news at the moment, this post is a beacon in the dark. Thank you, Julie, as always.

Thank you for the update and the book recommendation! I love Vultures too and had never thought to check to see if the library had any books about them. I just love reading your blog, it always seems to get me interested in something new.

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