A Christmas Owl

By Wanda D’Agostino

I had just finished clearing off the table from our Christmas brunch when the phone rang. It was a young woman from Manchester who said an owl had flown into her window and was lying on her patio. She was afraid it was dying.

Christmas Owl

I told her to gently throw a towel over it, put it in a box and bring it right over. While I waited for her to arrive, I prepared a cage and defrosted two mice. In a little while, she arrived carrying a large cardboard box which we placed on my dining room table.

You can imagine my great surprise as I carefully opened the box and a very lively tawny screech owl flew out! It circled the dining room twice and then headed for our living room where it immediately spotted our Christmas tree and landed amid the ornaments! It looked so comfortable there, I let it rest and grabbed my camera to take this picture.

The owl did well, and after a week of TLC (and dozens of mice!!) was released on New Year’s Day back where he was found. I know from now on every Christmas tree I put up will seem empty without my real live ornament­­—my Christmas owl!

A Winter Rescue

By Kaz Skoczylas

The score was Green Bay Packers 7, Chicago Bears 0 in the NFL divisional playoff when the phone rang. It was my sister Wanda D’Agostino asking if I could respond to a call from someone who had reported an injured hawk by the side of a road.

As I neared the location, there was a police car and another car pulled over to the side near a five foot high snow bank at the edge of an open field. The caller, Ara, had noticed the injured hawk on the side of the road. As I exited my car, I saw the hawk now hopping away on the frozen snow, heading for the woods. While it did not break the crust of ice on the field, I was not so lucky. As I followed it, each step caused me to crunch down through the ice crust and into the three feet of snow below. Each step was getting harder and harder, especially carrying a pet carrier in which I hoped to place the injured bird.

After 10 minutes of walking and sinking and an occasional fall to a sitting position, I silently beseeched the hawk not to hop any further. My weight seemed to double in the ice/snow mixture and each step became more difficult than the last. As I was about to abandon any hope of catching the bird, Ara began to trudge through the snow between it and the woods. The hawk stopped hopping and I got a renewed hope of catching it.

A few more minutes and I was next to the injured bird. It opened its mouth in a sign of defiance, yet I had the feeling it knew I wasn’t there to harm it. Throwing a towel from the carrier over it, I gently lifted it up and placed it in the carrier. Now came the long trek back to the car and warmth.

Ara had joined me now and we began walking back toward the road and car. I asked her if she could carry the carrier and if I could follow in her footsteps. When she told me she was a hiker and a dancer, I knew providence had chosen the right person to report the injured hawk. I gladly followed her footsteps and slid down the snow drift onto the road.

After thanking Ara for her call and wait for assistance (about an hour total), we were off to Wanda’s house in East Hartford. I silently asked that the hawk not die in the car after all we had done to rescue it. It lay quietly after its ordeal.

Wanda determined it was a juvenile red-tailed hawk, probably hit by a car. She then took it to Bolton Veterinary Hospital where they placed a pin in his wing, hoping this would fix the break. There would be several weeks of care and many, many mice to eat before he could be returned to the wild. As of this writing, the hawk is recovering well and, with eating four or five mice a day, is gaining strength and weight. We will take him back to where he was found and release him within the next few weeks. Hopefully, he will remember two important things: stay away from moving cars, and not all people want to harm him. I look forward to seeing him released back into the wild in the early spring. We plan to record his release and post it here.

Victor the Vulture

by Wanda D’Agostino

Victor interrupted our Sunday dinner by getting hit by a car on I-84 one day. The call came in just as I was sitting down. A man had seen the injured turkey vulture, and managed to catch him. However, the emergency vet he took him to could only offer him euthanasia because they didn’t deal with wildlife. The good samaritan who had rescued the bird said ‘no,’ and after several calls to the Humane Society and the DEP, he got my phone number.
victor the vulture
I had never cared for a turkey vulture before, although I had spent numerous hours watching them soar gracefully over the Litchfield Hills while visiting friends in Northfield. However, a turkey vulture CLOSE UP was a lot different from those far-off shapes in the air. With a wing-span of over five feet, and a body very similar to a wild turkey, it was an impressive bird.

Our visit to Bolton Vet revealed suspected nerve damage in his right wing. Dr. Zyra said that sometimes nerves heal and I had high hopes that my vulture, now named Victor, would someday also soar above Litchfield Hills. I learned a lot about vultures that first week, especially their unique defense mechanism. Instead of talons they use projectile vomiting to protect themselves! It is not pleasant! I also discovered that Victor really likes chicken legs and road-kill squirrels.

I had Victor since March and although he still can’t fly, his wing is improving. I plan on keeping him until the fall to see if he can be released, but if not, Wendy at Sharon Audubon has guaranteed him a permanent home.