(This article originally appeared in the November 2012 edition of the BirdLife Plett newsletter. - Ed.)
Cape Eagle Owl Rescue: Jane Luck [article from CX Express]
After a long-damp-grey-misery spell of weather in our otherwise beautiful and perfect Crags, I decided to head out with my dogs for an evening walk down to Whisky Creek. The evening was wonderful, the air, champagne and when I got to the river I couldn’t resist going just a little further, even though the sun was setting and my family has a bit of a reputation for getting lost in the dark in their own front garden! But I was full of spring energy and before I could think twice I was up on top of the ridge on the other side! Then, although the sun was setting, the evening was so spectacular I just had to go a little bit further heading along the edge of the Whisky Creek reserve towards the mountains (by then I was growling to myself about being irresponsible and getting myself benighted and breaking my neck, but I took no notice…!) The fynbos was magnificent and I was happily at my usual occupation (pulling wattles as I stride along) when I noticed something that looked like rubbish hanging from the barbed wire fence running along the edge of the reserve. I hesitated, then stopped dead, and stared at the rubbish. I wondered slowly and stupidly about it looking just like a bunch of large feathers hanging there!
Then, shockingly, the ‘rubbish’ suddenly turned brilliant yellow eyes on me and clacked its beak and hissed! I was thunderstruck! I was staring into the eyes of an Eagle Owl hanging from its shoulder, impaled on the barbs of the fence. She had probably been there for days. Oh! My! Gosh! What to do? Of course I had no phone on me and certainly no wire cutters! I thought of taking my off my T shirt to throw over her head, but what if I couldn’t get her off the wire… and what if she needed treatment? And I couldn’t carry her back; home was miles away across the river! What to do!? My second thought: Mandy! Tenikwa! Help!
I galloped several kilometres as fast as I could (well trotted breathlessly to be honest!) to the nearest neighbours Neil and Sharon who, thank goodness, were up and ready for any emergency and quickly called 911 (er... I mean Mandy at Tenikwa!)! Mandy, having taken the call, without stopping to finish her tea, leapt into her bakkie and set off, all sirens blazing, doing a death defying high speed drive to the scene!
Once there, Mandy was all calm efficiency. After getting a towel over the owl’s head to stop it tearing our loving hands to shreds, and getting someone to hang on to its fierce talons, she slowly tried to separate the poor bird from the barbs impaling it. It was thoroughly stuck and eventually wire cutters were the only thing for it! At last the bird was free and Mandy whisked her back to the hospital at Tenikwa to get her wounds seen to and get her re-hydrated.
After the rescue I felt thrilled and elated! I felt so honoured to have been able to assist a magnificent and endangered owl back to life and freedom, and to save it from such a horrible slow death. Thank you Tenikwa and especially to Mandy! You are my heroine!
Needless to say I was benighted on my way back home and eventually arrived scratched, bleeding and dishevelled from pushing my way through impenetrable jungle, but I felt no pain! My heart was light as a feather and there were fireflies dancing in the dark of the forest all the way. And frogs and cicadas were serenading me….ok, ok, I will shut up now…! And No! I did not think once of our resident leopard stalking me in the dark, not once!!
One last word, my dogs were very unimpressed about being late for their dinner and grumbled firmly at me that they could have dealt with that owl in no time, given half a chance…!!