In Albany, it’s not unusual to see a scraggly figure huddled against a downtown office building. But a downtrodden soul I encountered early one recent morning wasn’t clutching a cardboard sign. It was an owl.
A barred owl to be exact, common in these parts, but not commonly found sitting on a city sidewalk in broad daylight. You don’t need to know much about owls to know that this was a problem.
As it happens, I went on an owl prowl in March at the Huyck Preserve in Rensselaerville. Before we headed out to roam the woods, a wildlife rehabilitator gave a short lecture and showed live owls in her care.
Owls, she said, are commonly hit by cars or hurt by flying into things. What should we do if we find one injured? Carefully put it in a box and find someone who can help. So I went upstairs to the office for a box.
I folded her in a blanket and lifted her into the box. She was compliant, I was nervous. It was probably the first time for us both.
Amazingly, it only took a few calls and less than 10 minutes before I had a plan. The wildlife rehabilitator I contacted sent me to a local vet’s office that would take in the owl and manage its care.
I should probably mention that I taped the box shut before departing. Having an owl get loose in your car on the Thruway would not be good, though it would make for an interesting news story.
The owl — a Facebook friend dubbed her Hoota — is doing fine. She was not about to die, as I feared, nor did she have any serious trauma. The vet’s office thinks she may have flown into the side of the building and been stunned. Today, a week later, she’s under observation before they decide on releasing her.
Owls mostly move through the night unnoticed. If your lucky, you’ll hear one or see it fly past silently in the dark. They want or need nothing from us, but on occasion, we are the only option.