Several weeks back I wrote about the three baby Screech Owls my wife and I raised and released in our yard, "overflow" from the Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA's Wildlife Rehab Program (it is apparently the Year of the Raptor here in the San Francisco Bay Area!). Overused expression that it is, this was truly a most magical experience.
In that piece, bemoaning while also celebrating the fact that these wild animals were now truly wild, I wrote: "...the only evidence of their successful return to nature is the lack of evidence. Despite our worrying about them, that will just have to do."
How happy I am that I was, at least in part, wrong. Yes, they are wild but they are not gone.
The photo above is of the fourth Screech who joined us, a lone baby raised at PHS/SPCA who came to our home aviary (like the three before her) to more fully develop her wings and get ready for final release. Every night of her stay we'd peek out a back window to watch her swoop down and fetch her meal of frozen mice and mealworms, and then fly up to the highest post in the aviary to eat while perched just below one, two or three (depending on the night, and our luck of timing) of the original Screeches who also returned to dine atop the aviary.
Two nights ago, when the moon was at a neat half and the skies very clear, we placed food once again on top and opened the aviary's double doors. We then retreated, quietly as we could, to chairs in the yard. Slowly one, then another, and finally all three of the original group returned. For the first time since they came home we heard their voices, calling I suppose to the fourth Owl who shifted about and then suddenly took flight.
Her first flight out of an enclosure was awkward and she landed just a few feet from our chairs. We held our breath and stared in delight and wonder as she sat, maybe a minute, maybe two, and then just lifted into the air (and it is that: a silent lift more than a launch) to join the others.
There was just enough light for us to enjoy the next half hour as each of the four flew to perches often quite literally a few feet above our heads, then off to invisible corners, and then back again. It was an amazing evening. And last night, at just after 9, the four returned in shifts to repeat the performance.
I am so looking forward to tonight!