Last week, we had an unexpected and unannounced visitor to our house. It all started Monday night when we got home from dog obedience class. Mr. Taleteller went inside to get Bunny and Flattery for turn out and soon came back inside for a flashlight.
He informed me that there was a baby owl outside and asked if I wanted to come and see it. Of course I did. We know that we have quite a few owls around here. One summer I even tried to rehabilitate a young one who was injured, but the owl didn’t make it. I did get to hold it with leather gloves on and carried it to the safety of some hedges, though. We have had them roost under the awnings during severe bad weather and at night we can hear them. So, it wasn’t completely out of the realm of possibility.
I walked outside with my husband, who told me that it didn’t have a head, so it must be an owl. Don’t question the logic there, friends of the internet. Just nod and agree. It was very little and feathered and sitting very, very still. After a brief discussion, I told him to go and get me a pair of leather gloves. I reasoned that no owl should be sitting on the ground and that setting the little fellow up in the tree would be the best course of action. As I leaned down, a downy head popped up and we discovered that it was not, in fact, an owlet, but a baby grackle.
This changed things and while I would have preferred to move it to at least the safety of the nearby irises under the tree, I was afraid that any foreign smell would result in the parents abandoning it. It was already starting to get adult feathers, and I suspected that very soon it would be learning to fly anyway. We left it alone in hopes that nothing would get it, and that it would move to a safer place on its own.
In the morning, Mr. Taleteller took the dogs outside to take care of their business and learned that the baby bird had decided to stay right where it was. Not only had he decided to make himself at home ten feet from the turn out pen, but his parents were keeping a very close vigil over him. My husband began to be a little afraid of them. He made it a point to tell me that the baby bird was out there, along with his parents and that these were real life angry birds.
Morgan, in particular, was extremely amped up by the presence of the birds. Mr. Taleteller told me not to take her outside by myself and just leave taking her outside to him until the baby bird was in a safer location. Apparently, turn out with Morgan was particularly interesting. She was extremely interested in the baby bird and my husband had to push her into the turn out pen. Things didn’t really take a bad turn, though, until the parents started dive bombing my husband in an apparent attempt to deter him from getting any closer to their offspring. This did not sit well with Morgan. He took her out of the pen where she was unable to concentrate on her morning ablutions and led her, leaping into the air higher than his head as she tried to take the parents out of the air. Fortunately, it’s a short trip to the back door. Bunny, Flattery and Küster all had trouble concentrating on what they were outside to do, as well, but they had less trouble than Morgan.
Still, we figured that it was only going to be a temporary inconvenience. The parents were still bringing food to the little bird and he was well on the way to growing his adult feathers. We reasoned that we could manage going around him for a few days and then he’d start flying on his own and fly off to live a happy life. How naive we humans were.
On Wednesday, he was still out there in the yard, and we continued to cautiously maneuver around him. Flattery and Morgan were by far the most distracted by his presence, but Bunny and Küs were very aware of his presence, too. Still, as long as we hurried out there, had the dogs get their business done and then hurried back inside, we were okay. We learned to walk in a strange, hunched over position that kept our heads and faces mostly protected and I learned a new appreciation for poor Tippi Hedren in The Birds. They were getting a little scarier every time we went outside.
The frosting on the bird cake came on Thursday afternoon, however. I went outside after lunch to take Bunny and Flattery to use the turn out pen to see that the baby grackle had taken up residence right inside. I began to seriously question the rightness of this bird when he set up squatter’s rights in the middle of a predator’s bathroom. When I saw him sitting inside the pen, I just turned around with the girls and went right back inside. I went back out and opened the door, hoping that would motivate the little guy to move on. I certainly made the parents angry and I didn’t waste time out there.
It wasn’t much later when Flattery decided that she absolutely, positively really had to go out. I leashed her up and took her out, hoping the bird had moved on to a shadier spot. He still proudly sat inside the pen. I approached cautiously, thinking that I might be able to sort of herd him out of the pen at least far enough that I could get Flattery inside and close the door. The little terror went on the attack with wings spread wide and squawking enough to get the attention of everyone in our entire village. He came towards us and Flattery and I beat a hasty retreat over into the rest of the yard. We were hoping to escape the notice of the parents but they were on to us. They started letting out this warning caw and flying towards us. Of course, Flattery was having no part of going to the bathroom under those strange conditions and we finally went back inside.
Thirty minutes later, Flattery was pacing and panting in the house, so I leashed her up again and we went out again. I walked her up and down the back alley, all over the back yard and even in the empty house yard next door to us in a desperate attempt to get her to go to the bathroom. The bird sat taunting us, a foot outside of the pen but not far enough for us to get the door closed and certainly not far enough for Flattery to get by without trying out a taste of grackle, or having the grackle get a taste of her. I’m not certain how that would have played out, but my bet is on it ending badly for the bird.
A little later, my husband came home and I told him the afternoon’s saga. He went out to look and came back to report that the bird had finally moved out of the pen and into the hydrangea bush beside the house. The turn out pen was once again open for business, much to Flattery’s great relief.
The next day, the bird finally moved over to the yard of the empty house next door to us. I know he was out there, because the parents were still watching over our yard from the wires that run through the back alley to all the nearby houses. The important part was that he wasn’t in our back yard and we were off the parents’ hit list.
We learned several things from the whole experience. One is that we need to work on getting Flattery to go to the bathroom on a leash. Another is that Morgan has more athletic prowess than we realized. We learned that grackles are the devils of the bird world and that no good deed goes unpunished. With our luck, the bird will grow up and then fly over our house next year to poop on us.