Surprised by a wonderful teen

I wish I could give you a story with a happy ending for Christmas, but the best I can manage is '˜bittersweet' I'm afraid.

Friday, 28th December 2018, 12:00 pm
Long eared owl.

The animal in question does not survive, but I learn how wonderful humans can be – even teenagers.

The morning after my regular volunteering stint I was at home having coffee and planning my day ahead when Jackie phoned to ask if I was free drive to Wooler and pick up a wounded owl.

Because the trust is run by volunteers, who are usually busy cleaning out cages and preparing food, we ask people to bring animals in wherever possible, either in their own car or by getting a friend or neighbour to help.

If the caller has no means of reaching us – and even then only if a volunteer is available and willing to make the journey – we can, on occasion, collect an injured animal.

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I wouldn’t say I ‘swung into action’ exactly, but once I’d poured my coffee into a flask and put a box and blanket in the boot of the car, the ‘animal ambulance’ was on its way to Wooler.

When I reached Gemma’s house she told me her 17-year-old son Leon had been out with his friends when they’d seen an owl hit by a passing car.

They initially thought the bird was dead, but it moved slightly when Leon approached.

He had gathered it up and taken it home, staying up with it all night, before leaving for college the next morning.

It was a long-eared owl, small and delicate, with stunning markings. The tufts on the top of the head aren’t ears at all, apparently, just head feathers the owls raise when alarmed.

This owl’s left wing was hanging down, and he seemed to be in shock as he kept his eyes firmly shut.

On the way to Wooler I’d been a bit apprehensive, imagining the talons and angry orange eyes, but all the fight had gone out of the little guy.

When I got him back to the Rollo Centre, Kay had found him to be underweight, and feeling his wing she suspected broken bones.

A visit to Galedin vet’s for an x-ray confirmed this, and the vet fitted a little plastic splint to hold the wing in place.

The owl was ordered to have plenty of cage rest for a couple of weeks, at which time he would be checked again.

Sadly, when another volunteer Mike had arrived at the trust on Saturday morning, he found the owl had died through the night.

If there had been no hope at all for the bird, he would have been kindly put to sleep, but clearly it had been worth giving him a chance.

At the trust we know that all we can do is provide the best conditions, appropriate treatment and time to rest to allow an animal a chance at recovery.

If not for Leon’s care and compassion, his long-eared owl would have had no chance at all. And if not for the long-eared owl, I would still be thinking teenagers are all the same.