Disclaimer: This is going to be a longer post than usual because I'm telling a story. If you aren't interested in reading my commentary, the above creature is a western screech owl, common in the WWV.
One thing I love about the Walla Walla Valley is the wildlife. It isn't at all surprising to see hawks and herons anymore - though I still love to discover them. I've even seen a couple of bald eagles down by the Columbia River. Deer are quite common, too, especially in the warmer months in the evenings. With so many fields to explore and munch through, they are a constant sight while the crops are growing. While exploring in the hills and mountains surrounding the valley I've stumbled upon elk, as well, which was my first sighting of them in the wild. (They are large!) One thing that is difficult to sumble upon, however, is owls. Though they are common in the area, as stealthy, nocturnal animals, it takes a bit of looking and knowing where to do so to spot them. Last March we got an up close and personal glimpse of a western screech owl...purely by accident.
Our house has two wood stoves, and we only use one regularly. The one that is nelgected for most of the year doesn't have a cover on the chimney top. Apparently it is common for owls to end up in chimneys because they see a dark hole when it starts getting light, and they dive into it, hoping for shelter until night falls again.
That is exactly what happened last March. We were eating breakfast one morning and heard a faint scratching. Quietly approaching the chimney of our wood stove, we put our ears to the pipe and listened. We heard it again. I tapped on the metal. The scratching stopped. Two days in a row this happened, and we quickly determined what had happened.
One of the mornings, when my husband was still upstairs getting ready for the day, I heard a shuffle that was a bit louder than the scratching. I jokingly called up the stairs, "Hey, I think the owl fell into the stove. Hahaha!"
Emboldened by my joke and my husband's chuckle, I went to the stove and pulled open the doors.
There, sitting on the ash left from previous fires, was a grey and brown lump...with HUGE yellow and black eyes glaring at me. (See the above photo.)
With a gasp and an adrenaline-pumped squeal, I slammed the doors and called back up the stairs, "Um, heh heh...the owl actually DID fall into the stove, dear."
After a call to our local Audubon Society, a gentleman came to our house that same day and rescued the poor starving owl from the confines of our stove. Upon speaking with him we felt terrible for not calling sooner...we'd assumed (until he'd fallen in) that the owl was leaving at night to get food and simply coming back. Apparently...he wasn't. The poor thing was in our stove for nearly a week and could barely fly when he was set free. Fortunately the bird's rescuer assured us that he would be fine, since there was a field next to our house where he could eat before trying to fly elsewhere.
Isn't wildlife amazing?