20 January 2012

A bestiary (1)

Olly the tawny owl was rescued by Karen, elder sister of my schoolfriend Dave when I was fourteen. Finding him unfledged and half dead on the road in daylight, she took him home and weaned him from milk to household scraps. By the time I met him, he was a young adult with an established place in the household.

Olly had, despite Karen's best educative efforts, never learnt to fly. The nearest he got to it was a frantic fluttering as he descended from his favourite perch atop the stairpost just inside the front door. Getting to this perch was a laborious matter of climbing first the stairs (gripping the carpet with claws and beak, falling back often), then an ottoman and the back of an upholstered chair on the landing. By this process he reached the top stairpost, from which a scrabbled slipsliding descent of the bannister led (barring frequent accidents) back down to the lower one. Watching this process, I understood how Robert the Bruce felt about his never-say-die spider. When Karen came into the house, Olly would fling himself off the post in a tumble of feathers. As long as she was at home, he would waddle about the house in faithful pursuit of her. When she left the house he started the long trek up the stairs and down the bannister, back to his perch.

Karen fed Olly on raw meat scraps. Since Olly had never learned how to stand on one claw and eat with the other, as owls are supposed to do, these scraps had to be placed at just below beak level; a modified shoe rack sat in the kitchen, for this purpose.

At some level, Olly knew that he was a bird. If Karen was in the downstairs living room during daylight hours he would scrabble his way up onto the window seat, then the sill. Through the window he watched the starlings pecking industriously at the lawn. On fine evenings the family took him out into the garden where he waddled about, taking the air and fluffing his wings. After a while, on these outings, he invariably stopped and examined the ground fixedly for several minutes. Then he tried to peck at it like a starling, fell on his face, couldn't get up, and had to be rescued.


Julie Heyward said...

That was really good. I've been waiting with growing impatience for (2) to appear (we are greedy ...) and hope this comment will stimulate its arrival.

[By the way, isn't this the time of year when you buy those certain fruit bisquits? So ... did you?]

Felix said...

[Not biquits but fruit loaf ... but yes, I'm ashamed to say that I did...]

GrayedOut said...

I'm so sad there are no photos of Olly along with this post. Do you have any?