Friday, May 06, 2005

Fallen Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

Owl Wing

We came upon a fallen great horned owl the other day. It was on the side of one of our walking trails. At first we couldn't make sense of what we were seeing. I asked DPR, "What is that over there?" At first glance, there was a large bird, left-wing sprawled outward, and large almost-mammalian looking legs beneath it. We walked over. It was a great horned owl and the large legs were the tremendously muscular legs of the owl itself, ending in its sharp, grey talons. We looked it over. There were no obvious injuries at all. Right eye was missing, but the left was not only intact, but open and staring rather probingly at us. DPR turned the bird over and found one small place on the back where the bones were visible. No blood. No trauma. This was a beautiful owl that was inexplicably dead. We photographed it and left. On the walk home we talked about a friend who would have taken the owl and put it in her freezer until she could figure out what to do with it. She would take the wings and spread them on her wall. She would take the talons and put them in some art work. She would regale her friends with stories of such a find. We wondered if we should take the bird home. It was a short walk. No. We wanted other animals to have it.
Later that evening at dinner, we talked about leaving the bird so close to the trail, where it had fallen. It didn't seem right to us. It had no dignity and privacy where it could fold itself back into the earth. So, we decided to go back to move it further into the woods where it could become food without humans trying to piece it out into their own story.
When I lifted that owl, I was absolutely stunned by its lightness. Something that powerful, that could lift other little animals with its legs was as light as a hand full of feather. Its hollow bones were like nothing at all. When I held it, it was like holding the air. We carried it to the woods, laid it down, and said, we hope you feed a lot of other critters. I tell you, it had the most unbearable lightness.

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