Oh, but let’s back up a bit, shall we? Sir GHO is ready to go: he’s had his last capillaria treatment, the temps have warmed up, there’s no rain predicted for three days. He’s a young bird, one of this year’s hatches, so I don’t have to worry about returning him to an established territory—great! I have a safe place to release him, with plenty of prey, so into the flight pen I stride, gloved and ready to “do battle” with a very antsy and eager-to-leave GHO.
He flies into the back wall of the flight pen—remember, this is still a songbird flight pen, flimsy by raptor standards—and I’m able to grab him from behind as he tries to rip through the mesh. Honestly, I’m surprised he didn’t tear his way out over the past two weeks; his feet and beak were powerful enough to’ve ripped the mesh and probably the hardware cloth if he’d had enough sense to try. (I promise you, no GHO will ever be nominated for Mensa!)
So…got the very unhappy camper by the body; now to get those powerful feet under control ASAP, which I do with no trouble. It’s a skill honed by practice!
Next step, bring his back against my chest to control him as we head for the box that will take him to his release. But wait, Sir GHO is NOT gonna go quietly into that good box, no, not him. He turns around and BITES my BOOB—through a sweatshirt and bra. And I gotta give him credit here: he drew blood through two layers of clothing…without tearing the clothing! (And NO, there will be no photos of my bloody boob; I’m crazy, not stupid, and it wasn’t really THAT bad—only about a half-inch wound.)
Violent protests notwithstanding, Sir GHO’s feathered butt DID go into the box, and we headed to the release site. He was MOVING the box in the back of the car as I drove, so I knew this would be a quick release.
And it was. I had one flap partially open, and a feathered blur erupted, heading for the treeline and leaving me standing there with a totally useless camcorder in hand, looking like a doofus.
So I take off running into the woods to try and capture a few still photos, at least, and…I twist my ankle crashing through the brush in search of the GHO. Not a bad twist—no swelling, but it definitely feels bruised. The things I do to document releases…
Never fear, though, I did find the now-calm(ish) bird, sitting on a tall, skinny snag.