LO crowd gives owls send off to nature

by: Vern Uyetake, 
Candy Plant of Wilsonville, a volunteer with the Audubon Society, holds one of the recently released Great Horned Owls.

The guests of honor seemed to take everything in stride.

Two Great Horned Owls were released at Bryant Woods Nature Park in Lake Oswego on Tuesday to the great pleasure of 50 local bird lovers.

Thus ended the saga, or at least a chapter, of the two owls - known simply as adult owl and baby owl - who were nursed to health and maturity thanks to the compassion and care of local people, along with the Audubon Society of Portland Wildlife Care Center.

'It took a lot of time and energy and money to get this done,' said Audubon center veterinarian Molly McAllister, who wore a very big smile for the occasion. 'We're trying to mitigate the effects of human beings on these animals.'

One very important human being in this story was 17-year-old Julia Collins of Lake Oswego. She was driving along Childs Road with a friend last May when she spotted an injured owl on the road.

'I think a lot of people would have kept right on driving,' said Julia's mother, Nadia Collins. 'But Julia stopped and brought the owl home in a blanket. Then we took it Dove Lewis hospital in Portland.

'At first they said it might not survive the night. But we got updates on it every day and it started doing really well.'

'It was found cold and dehydrated,' Audubon veterinarian Deb Sheaffer said. 'Apparently it had been hit by a car.'

That adult Great Horned Owl played an all-important role in the life of the baby Great Horned Owl, who was found abandoned on Stafford Road in April. Often Audubon workers are able to reunite baby owls with their parents. But Sheaffer said that didn't happen in this case, so the little owl was taken to the Wildlife Care Center. Baby soon had a roommate. Actually, a cage-mate in its 100-foot flight cage.

'The older one taught the younger one how to fly and how to hunt,' Sheaffer said. 'They were in the flight cage together for six weeks.'

When the two owls were deemed ready for their going-away party, McAllister and Sheaffer sent e-mails to all the local members of the Audubon Society. This is big bird lover country, since McAllister said that half of the Audubon board members come from the Lake Oswego-West Linn area.

While it was a big thing for Lake Oswego folks, it was 'owl' in a day's work for McAllister and Sheaffer.

'We rehabilitate about 3,000 birds a year, including 200 ducks and robins,' McAllister said. 'We have the oldest and busiest bird rehab center in Portland.'

While the crowd eagerly awaited the unveiling of the birds, Sheaffer cautioned them that things might not go according to plan. But the only surprise was that baby Great Horned Owl had grown to be as big as adult Great Horned Owl.

It was a perfect take-off. As soon as they were released by their handlers, the two owls majestically soared on their wide noiseless wings, high into the trees at Bryant Park.