An adolescent owl hanging upside down by the claws of one foot twenty feet up in the eucalyptus tree is one of those things you don’t expect to see when you pull over for an emergency potty stop.
I’d bundled the bots into the car because the morning started too early and by one p.m., everyone was tired, fussy, hitty, whiney, bursty-into-tearsy and refusing to admit to any of the above. Gbot fell asleep almost as soon as the latch on his carseat clicked. Mbot took longer…and after ten minutes on the road, he revealed with urgency what was keeping him awake.
So, while Gbot slept in the car and Mbot sat in the buff on the traveling potty seat in the minty-smelling shade of the old eucalyptus at the edge of a field, I heard a rustling from above and looked up, to find two yellow eyes staring at me from within a mass of leaves and feathers. The adolescent owl, hanging upside down like a bat. Every now and then it tried half-heartedly to flap its half-spread wings.
My first thought was motherly: I would of course climb the tree and rescue the owl.
But so many obstacles stood in my way: my general lack of tree-climbing skills, the fact I had two bots with me who needed a mother who had not fallen twenty feet out of a tree, and the absence in my glove box of leather gauntlets. Or protective eye gear.
I considered calling the animal control people. Or the fire station. In a Richard Scarry book, a group of pigs wearing sieves for helmets would rush from the fire station, extend a red ladder, and carry him down into the waiting wings of his mommy.
In our world, though, I knew both the firemen and the animal control people would be too busy to attend this small crisis. So I called Husbot. He’d lived near these eucalyptus trees and had watched the owls who nested here for over a decade.
While Gbot slept on and Mbot made patterns in the loose, dry soil with his bare toes as he perched on the travel potty, Husbot told me what he knew. “There’s nothing you can do,” were his first words. He had read my mind through the ether.
He explained that the youngster had probably been blown over by the gusty winds, and was clinging because he knew he’d fall if he let go. Apparently, red-tailed hawks were the little fellow’s only enemy at this point (along with gravity, I thought wryly), and his mother was in that tree watching for them, Husbot assured me. Come night, she’ll bring him food. When he finally loses his grip, he’ll fly. Or not. But he probably will. He’s fully feathered. He’ll surprise himself and land across the road near the sump pond. There’s nothing you can do.
I since learned, in a post by the folks at the blog livelearnride.com, that I could, set up a rappel system, buy a pole saw, helmet, and leather gloves, and actually get him down, but I just don’t think even Mbot and Gbot together would have provided an adequate or reliable counter-weight.
The only thing I could do was to try to hurry Mbot at his task, because I felt our presence was making the owl nervous. But of course there was no hurrying him; my own youngster was enjoying the feel of the warm breeze on his back. Aaah. There’s nothing like taking a nice poop in the nude under a hanging owl.
We finally finished. We packed out our poop. We will return tomorrow, but whatever the outcome, nature will most likely have erased all signs, at least to my inexperienced eyes. No one will be able to tell that any of us were there, or how large, or small, our emergencies were.