Yesterday, on my way out of the farm I noticed a dead bird wrapped up in the fishing net we use to protect our chickens and ducks. ‘Aha,’ I thought, ‘there is the little beggar that has been feasting on my ducklings.’ From a hatch of twelve only one survived; the others were pecked off day by day. It was like I was living through scenes from an Agatha Christie novel: and then there was one.
I didn’t have the time to cut the corpse out of the net at the moment, so I resolved to do it when I got back. Of course, by the time I returned, the builder was just on his way for the day and wanted to update me on his progress. We toured the barn and I oohed and aahed at the appropriate pauses in his descriptions. As I escorted him off the farm we stood over the gate discussing when he’d return to finalize some details, and a movement caught my eye. The little beggar in the net was staring at me as if to say, ‘I’ve got a bit of a situation here, would you mind?’
“My gosh, it’s alive,” I blurted mid-sentence and ran over to it. Elmer, seconds from a clean getaway, reluctantly said, “What’s alive?” I answered by updating him on my morning’s experience, as I ran over to see if I could untangle the bird. What I thought had been a small hawk turned out to be a small owl. The poor wee creature had been hanging there for hours. I went to get him untangled when Elmer leaped into action. “Watch yourself!” he hollered, launching himself through the gate and coming to my aid, “Them little buggers can really bite.” This he announces after I’ve wrapped my bare hands around the feathery little body.
Having been foolishly intimate with a long and distinguished list of wild animals during my life without protection, I promptly let go and went to get my gloves. As Elmer and I worked to get the little fellow loose, he gnashed his beak like a ferocious little bear. It was quite hilarious, if not a bit unnerving. I always love the feistiness of little creatures when they are in full swing performing their best, ‘I could take you if I could’ repertoire. I mean, this little owl is maybe six inches tall if an inch, and was managing to make both of us jumpy through his efforts! Thankfully, he seemed more hell bent on biting Elmer than myself. Hmm, maybe he’s actually a she.
So she’s presently in my garage in a box. Later that day, a friend dropped by–the one who incubated our first batch of chickens and (we later found out) was also responsible for the sudden appearance of muscovy ducks on our pond. When I explained my planned release he queried, “So you’re going to liberate the animal which has been killing your stock?”
“Well, all the ducklings are gone now. And since we put up that netting after the first slaughter, I think he’s just learnt his lesson and won’t be back.” There was a just perceptible shaking of the head as he finished sipping his coffee in silence.
Now I have to go see if she’s OK, and release her!