A Christmas Owl
by Jane Kashlak
Cape May, NJ — A Long-eared Owl is a rare sight in these parts. The owl is on New Jersey's threatened list.
But, just days before Christmas, one of these fierce, nighttime warriors fell on some hard times. The little guy broke his wing, possibly hit by a car while he was hunting.
Lucky for him, he did it in the right place and at the right time.
The injured owl had hidden himself away from the road's edge. That's when the coincidences started kicking in. A jogger just happened to be running by and spotted the owl in the grass.
The jogger pointed out the bird to our friend Judy, who just happened to be driving by at that moment. And Judy called Paul who lives down the road.
Paul just happens to be a raptor expert. He got the owl safely off the road.
Meanwhile the Cape May Bird Observatory and the Raptor Trust project sprang into action, trying to locate a raptor rehabilitator who could pick up the endangered owl and fix his broken wing.
While calls were flying up and down the state, the bird nestled on a towel in a covered cardboard box.
Long-eared Owls are rarely seen in the state. They migrate and hunt at night. This owl with the big yellow eyes may have come from as far north as Quebec. He was probably planning to spend the winter in Cape May, feeding on mice.
Those plans changed in a blink. Now he sat quietly in a box, keeping warm. What do you do with an injured wild bird? You don't feed it. You do nothing. You wait.
Finally word came that help was on the way - a volunteer was driving from Vineland to rescue the owl. We jumped in the car and met her halfway.
The hand off occurred in the Wawa parking lot in Dennisville.
The volunteer, Vicky, would be bringing the owl to the Tri State Bird Rescue rehabilitation center in Newark, Delaware. It's like the Mayo Clinic for birds.
After a bad break, the Long-eared Owl was getting a few good breaks. We headed back to Cape May knowing he was in good hands.
If the rehab center can set his wing, he'll fly again. He even could be released back into the wild one day.
Of course there's no guarantee.
But this owl's already beaten the odds that he'd be dinner for a hawk or coyote. I have no doubt that, one day, our Christmas owl will find his way back to Cape May.