According to US author Nancy Thayer: “The universe is always speaking to us… sending us little messages, causing coincidences and serendipities, reminding us to stop, to look around, to believe in something else, something more.” Two recent events have reaffirmed my belief in the importance of coincidence.
On the evening of September 27, 2017 (yes, the date is important), I helped my friend Lara rescue a juvenile spotted eagle owl she’d found on Kingsmead Lane in Harare’s Borrowdale suburb. The first coincidence: my mother in law lives around the corner from Kingsmead Lane, and is extremely knowledgeable about birds, having bred and raised parrots for many years. A few minutes later we arrived at her door, and were confronted with the second coincidence: Mel Hood of Veterinarians for Animal Welfare in Zimbabwe (VAWZ) was with my mother in law. She offered to take the owl to a local veterinary surgery, and this is the third coincidence: the surgery is the same one that looks after my dog! Lara and I left the owlet with Mel, delighted because we could not have asked for a better ending to the story. We established he was a male, because his downy chest feathers were lighter than those of a female owl.
The fourth coincidence occurred exactly a week after the rescue – October 4, 2017. Lara found another juvenile owl, trying to walk across Kingsmead Lane in the same place she’d encountered the first baby. Worried about how her cats would react to the owl, Lara called me. I suggested she bring the baby to my house; I have no cats, and I know my giant schnauzer would not be too stressed by our temporary visitor.
Ten minutes later Lara arrived, holding a slighter larger owlet. This one was very thin, her breastbone sharply prominent underneath her downy feathers. A quick check on the internet told us the best food for her would be day old baby chicks… or chicken necks. Baby owls need feathers and bones in their diet, and I had neither baby chicks nor chicken necks in my freezer. Nor was I going to be able to find those items in Harare at 8.30 pm! Reading on we learned we could also feed her chicken livers. Relieved, I defrosted some, cut them into tiny pieces and gave them to Lara. The owl refused to leave Lara, clinging tightly onto her blouse with her talons.
Lara tried to feed her, but she didn’t appear too interested in the food. She took a couple of pieces, but dropped them after a few seconds. Thankfully my husband arrived, and took over. I’d actually cut the liver too small, and had not warmed it enough: it should have been the temperature of blood. I cut larger strips and heated the pieces carefully; trying not to cook the liver while warming it in the microwave was a real challenge! Lara and I were delighted when Ivan managed to get the owl to swallow the food by pushing the liver right down into her throat.
After Lara left, we put the owl in a large box in our spare room. I made a nest for her, using strips of newspaper covered with some old t-shirt fabric. We placed the box on a side table, and closed the door. I checked on her after hearing a couple of noises, but found her standing in the box. She hissed and clacked her beak, and I figured she was as comfortable as she was going to get after such a traumatic evening. I left her in the room.
The following morning her box was empty. There was a large amount of droppings in the room, including one on the dressing table, meaning she could fly. I found her resting underneath the curtains on the carpet. She greeted me with cloud clicking and hissing, but allowed me to lift her and stroke her head. Ivan fed her some breakfast, which she ate happily before launching herself off the bed and falling against the glass sliding door. She didn’t hurt herself, indignantly clacking at me when I went to pick her up.
I called Jackie, receptionist at the veterinary surgery. She told me the first owl was thriving, and was delighted when I told her we’d found another owl. She told me the first owl was rather lonely, and she believed he’d appreciate a companion. We drove to the vet, carefully avoiding potholes and sudden braking as by now the poor owl was stressed, evident by her open beak and rapid breathing. A few times during the drive her tiny ear tufts appeared on top of her head as she gazed out of the car window. I wondered if this was her way of expressing her longing to be outside, but for a juvenile owl with very limited flight ability and no sign of her parents this was not an option I was prepared to consider.
I could not believe how much the first owl had grown; one week at the vet and he was larger and had lost most of his downy feathers. The vet was certain they were siblings, and confirmed that the females are heavier, larger and darker than the males. We put her in the cage with her brother. She didn’t pay him too much attention at first, staring at us and her new surroundings. He remained silent at the back of the cage. She turned her head, and realized she had a companion in her new home. Immediately she fluffed up her feathers and took a couple of steps towards him. He calmly stood his ground, with no other action other than his yellow eyes watching her.
In less than a minute her feathers settled. Reluctantly, I closed the door to the cage and we left them alone. I asked Jackie what would happen to them. She told me she and her husband have been caring for injured owls for many years. They have a huge open aviary, and the owls and discovered the fifth and final coincidence. Jackie’s husband Derek was us the Wednesday night we rescued the male owl, and he was telling us how many injured and disabled owls he and his wife care for at their home in Harare. They have a huge, open aviary where the rescued owls live. Jackie told me they will take these owls there in another week or so when they are stronger. The owls will be free to fly
We could not have wished for a happier ending to the owls’ story, thanks to five coincidences that combined to ensure that “all’s well that ends well”. Especially for two wonderful birds that are all too often victims of unfounded superstition.