Reflections, Thoughts and Opinions From Africa.
|Last night I managed to get myself into a situation which started off badly. Not for me, thankfully. The way it was resolved certainly gave me pause for thought.
We had just delivered a couple of fishing reels to Master Angler in Borrowdale’s Sam Levy for servicing, and were having a drink before heading to a friend’s 60th birthday party dinner when my friend Lara arrived. She told us she was a bit late because she’d stopped her car to move an owl off the road. She was upset. There was a lot of traffic, and she thought the owl might have been hit by a car. It was alive, and she managed to get it to move off the road. The owl clicked his beak at her, fluffing up his feathers defensively. Lara was concerned he was injured and that by picking him up she might make his injuries worse.
My family and friends know I’m a stringiformesphile – a person who is obsessed with or loves owls. I immediately offered to go back with Lara and find the baby owl. My mother in law lives around the corner from Kingsmead lane, where Lara had found the owl. We were supposed to be at the birthday dinner at seven o’clock, and we had just twenty minutes. I knew our friend would understand, and we set off to find the injured owl.
As we parked the car my heart sank. There were a crowd of people sitting around a fire next to the wall where Lara had last seen the owl. Lara was just as worried as me; many people in Zimbabwe associate owls with black magic and witchcraft, and the birds are often stoned or deliberately mutilated. Not wanting to draw attention to ourselves, we began to walk along the wall. I used my cellphone torch to see into the clivia bushes at the foot of the wall. We search behind the taller bushes, but found nothing.
At one point one of the house’s workers approached us, and we told her we were looking for an injured “zizi” – the Shona name for an owl. She expressed her sympathy, and told us she hoped we would find it. We were encouraged by her concern – obviously an enlightened lady!
I found the owl five minutes later. His feathers were fluffed out, and he had pushed his face and front as far into the clivia plant as possible. Lara brought a towel, and carefully placed it over him and lifted him. He had huge yellow eyes, and stared at us without blinking. When I raised my hand and spoke to him he clicked his beak. It sounded like a set of castanets. As we drove in to my mother in law’s home in her retirement village his eyes remained fixed on me; even when Lara moved his body to smooth the towel over him his head never moved. Nor did he blink.
To our delight Mel, general manager of local animal welfare organization Veterinarians for Animal Welfare Zimbabwe (VAWZ) was visiting one of her friends at the retirement village. She identified him as a spotted eagle owl, and told us he is very young. I held him while mom arranged a box for him. He seemed to calm down; his heartbeat slowed a little, and his very soft fluffy baby feathers seemed to settle. Before we left I asked if one of the ladies could take a photograph of the owl, and the image below was Whatsapped to me this morning.
Sometimes one is in the right place at the right time, and there’s no way last night could have had any better ending for the owl. Coincidentally, he was taken to my Solo’s vet to be checked over (Mel said he seems to be rather underweight, and she was concerned he may have injuries from perhaps falling out of his nest. He will then be taken to Twala, a local animal sanctuary that will release him once he’s ready. Spotted eagle owls begin to fly at seven weeks of age, and leave the nest five weeks late.
And that is the final perfect coincidence in this story – I wrote a feature on Twala for the first issue of our Footprints magazine!
Little owl in a tree, Yellow eyes smile at me.
Rusty Fischer’s “Halloween Poem”.