Winging it

Mikal Deese

The truth about owls


THE FULL MOON RISES behind the mountain, slowly spreading fingers of silvery light over the cottonwood tree. A large owl fluffs and stretches from his reverie. He is the master of the spirit world, attuned to the flow of universe. Whose hourglass is emptying of sand tonight? Who will hear him whisper a name in the rustle of the leaves as he flies from his perch?
Ummm ... let me start that again.
    The full moon rises from behind the mountain, slowly spreading fingers of silvery light over the mottled feathers of a huge owl. He wakes slowly into the night. He has watched this area of woods for years, gathering wisdom about every creature. He understands the subtle wisps of clouds overhead that predict rain by afternoon. He knows the rabbit will be active tonight ahead of the storm. With his special powers, he sees the into future, if only he would tell....
    No, one more time....
    The full moon slowly emerges, spreading fingers of silver across the grass. The owl’s feathers lift as his golden eyes blink open. Hungry! Hungry, hungry, hungry! There’s a tiny rustle in the weeds. He drops silently from his perch, grabbing with his switchblade talons. Got it! The mouse disappears in one gulp. Better. Not enough, but something else will turn up. Wonder if that fat orange cat will get out again tonight? 

One of the many injured wild birds that has lived with rehabilitator Mikal Deese.

  Owls seem to inspire myths and lore. They generate fear and anxiety, for they are comfortable in the darkness that seems spooky and dangerous to us. They sit quietly watching, giving us the heebie-jeebies with their stares. They seem to have supernatural eyes and ears. We imagine that they associate with death, the underworld, the spirits of the night. Or we depict the wise old owl in eyeglasses and mortarboard, attributing to him knowledge and wisdom.
    Alternately, we relate to their forwardfacing eyes, which make their faces seem familiar. We cuddle stuffed owls. Owls flock to every aisle of the Target store in amazing varieties. We “love” owls, adorning nurseries, clothing, knickknacks, our bodies and homes with owls, owls, and more owls.
    As a bird rehabilitator, I have the unusual experience of living with wild owls. I’ve cared for baby owls, starving owls, ill owls, and injured owls of seven native species. Honestly, I must report that in my experience the birds don’t live up to our embroidered stories.
    They really do have superb sight and hearing, special stealth feathers, astonishing strength, and deadly talons. That’s plenty to work with. They are extremely well equipped to lead their lives with a minimum of figuring out new situations. But clever minds? Not so much. I wouldn’t want to say owls are as dumb as a box of rocks, but they are simple creatures.
    Hunt, squeeze, and eat, then hide in a tree to sleep until dusk. In the spring, cooperate to raise babies. In the fall, migrate south—or don’t bother.
    Repeat. It’s a life.
    Leave cleverness and thinking to the crows—but that is a story for another day.

Mikal Deese runs the wild bird rescue On a Wing and a Prayer. In celebration of Halloween, the group will bring four native owl species to the Corrales Library at 10:30 a.m., Oct. 25. The nonprofit group depends on donations for its work in rehabilitation and education. Gifts (and mice) are welcome at P.O. Box 29, Corrales 87048. For help with any wild bird, contact 897-0439 or