There’s a proverb that says, “It takes a village to raise a
child.” Evidently, it also takes a village to save a baby
Chris Moro, a local real estate agent, was exploring her lot in Salvo on Monday, March 24, when she came across the unexpected.
heard this clucking noise, and I saw this ball of white fur,” she
says. At first she thought it might be a woodpecker or even an
opossum. “Then I saw these two huge eyes, and I knew it was
knew that the baby owl, called an owlet, would not survive on the
ground with predators such as cats and raccoons lurking in the
woods. But she needed some support.
“I called my friends Eric [Anglin] and Leslie [Robinson] for help,” Moro explains.
and Robinson went searching for a box for the owlet when they came upon
Michael Halminski, a local wildlife photographer, and solicited his
He returned to the site and immediately surmised the situation.
was obviously a great horned owl because it was large for a baby
bird,” he says. Despite its sharp talons and beak, the
young bird was rather docile.
group examined the area around the owlet and noticed spore and castings
in the area. They also observed an adult owl circling
overhead. Evidently, the owlet was being fed and cared for,
despite living on the ground for probably two to three days.
Finally, they spotted the nest in a nearby pine tree.
learned later that great horned owls use nests that other birds
build,” explains Halminski. “It looked like a grackle
nest,” so it was going to be too small for the owlet.
owlet did not appear injured, and it was being fed. At that
point, Halminski decided to get some guidance on how to help the baby
survive. He called Lou Browning, a North Carolina wildlife
rehabilitator with a facility in Frisco.
was in Manteo that Monday, volunteering at the North Carolina
Aquarium. Via cell phone, he instructed Halminski that the best
recourse was to get the owlet back into its nest.
began calling friends to find a ladder tall enough to reach the
nest. He was in contact with Browning, who decided to head back a
little early to directly lend a hand.
“Putting it back up there didn’t seem viable,” Halminski related.
extension ladders still not tall enough, Halminski called Mike
Daugherty, chief of the Chicamacomico Banks Volunteer Fire
Daugherty was able to break from his work as a cabinet maker, and the
fire department was quiet. While the fire department does not
regularly assist with such tasks, he agreed to meet the group with the
ladder truck when Browning arrived.
conducted a quick physical examination on the owlet. His
assessment was that the baby was only about a month old.
“He was still down and a few pin feathers and would not be able
to survive living on the ground,” he says.
confirm their plan as the best course of action, Browning then called
his wildlife rehabilitation mentor, Elizabeth Hanrahan (formerly of
Ocracoke), for advice.
suggested that we re-nest it,” explains Browning. “It
is always better for the parents to raise the owlet since they can
teach it to be wild, like hunting.” Also, the nearest
raptor rehabilitation center is in Charlotte, not quite feasible for an
owlet rescue on Hatteras.
for the owlet, local fire heroes Daugherty and deputy chief Chet Bailey
were on the scene. Both Browning and Halminski credit Daugherty
for the successful re-nesting.
was the truck, not me,” says Daugherty modestly. “The
ladder on the truck is self-supporting, which makes it ideal in these
situations. Also, it was particularly good since it was windy
that day. It was much safer [than a standard ladder].”
more than 20 years as a member of the Frisco Volunteer Fire Department,
Browning is trained to use the equipment on the ladder truck.
Once geared up, he climbed to check out the nest.
I got up there and looked, I found the nest was dilapidated,”
says Browning. It was also simply too small for a growing owlet.
Browning asked the group to think of creative solutions for an owl nest.
said, ‘I have the perfect thing,’” recalls
Halminski. He dashed home to pick up an old-style crab bushel
basket and some clothes line. It definitely fit the bill.
placed the existing nest into the bushel basket and lashed it to the
tree. He then carefully carried the owlet up the ladder and
placed him in the new nest.
I asked everyone to clear out and give them some space,” he
says. This would encourage the parents to return to the nest and
All through Monday, the wind continued to gust.
“That night it was blowing a gale,” recalls Halminski. “I went to bed thinking about that bird.”
Moro went by the next day. “I checked on him, and he seems to be doing fine.”
also went to observe the family early on Wednesday morning, before the
sunrise. “I started peering with binoculars and I saw a big
head and big eyes peering right at me. I was elated. It was
great because I didn’t want him [the owlet] to waste away and
related the news to Browning, who confirmed that it was an adult
observed in the nest. The re-nesting appears to be a success,
which is critical since owlets are with their parents for many months,
even after learning to fly.
is not common,” explains Browning. “Birds are not found in
time and nests are usually a very difficult place to get
to.” After re-nesting, it is important for humans to keep
for the local owlet, the local humans helped him return home and
properly reunite with his parents. They were happy to assist.
“It’s something that you don’t get to do every day,” relates fire chief Daugherty.
took up most of my day, but it’s what I have a passion
for,” says Halminski. “It was one of the most
uplifting things I’ve done in a while.”
Note: Lou Browning is still rescuing wildlife on Hatteras Island as a
licensed rehabilitator. You can find out more about his non-profit
Hatteras Island Wildlife Rehabilitation -- and perhaps make a donation
to his work --at www.hiwr.us or on Facebook. Michael Halminski is
still photographing island wildlife -- and Hatteras Island. See his
photos at photoblog.michaelhalminski.com/.)