So, Dougie was now eating well and producing some impressive pellets but he still had a long way to go before we could release him.It was now time for Dougie to begin to build up some flight muscles and get fit and ready to fly in the wild.
He could fly; but only in short distances and not very high off the ground so he had a lot of practice ahead of him before we’d even consider releasing him.
So how did we start this process? Well, we started off by letting him explore the small area at the front of our house and little by little he started hopping around it and eventually began conquering small bursts of flight.
After a while he began to test his wings a little and he’d fly from one end to another often crashing in into a ball of feathers (imagine a very real sounding cartoon SPLAT!). Soon his flights got longer and his landings got much better and he’d fly to and land on just about anything. He was becoming quite the show off, and nothing made us happier than seeing his personality emerging with each successful flight and landing.
Soon Dougie outgrew his little practice area and we started to take him to school in the evenings to practice flying some longer distances to really stretch his wings. With each visit, he was able to fly longer and higher and we started to realise it would soon be time to release him and let him fly away for good.
One night we decided to take him back to where we had found him to see if he was ready to fly away for good. We gave him a big last dinner and headed off to school (a short distance away by motorbike). When we arrived we placed him on a bench and then walked away and watched him from a distance to see what he’d do……which for a long time seemed like nothing! He just sat and looked, sat and looked…..
Then, suddenly, a huge white shape swooped down from one of the rooftops and landed in a walkway roof nearby. Dougie spotted her straight away; a big beautiful mature barn owl, whom we suspected to be his mother. We watched quietly as they watched each other both tilting their heads and following each others movements. It was like watching a mother that was relieved to see her child return home, yet equally mad that said child was home late!
After this short, unspoken reaquaintance between mother and offspring, Dougie hopped off the table and then flew a short distance to be nearer to her. We sat and watched as Dougie and his mother then flew away together, little following large. They landed in a tree nearby and then flew off one last time for good.
It was really difficult to watch Dougie fly away, but deep down we both know it was for the best. Sometimes we walk the dog around the school campus at night and see barn owls flying from roof to roof or tree to tree and we wonder if it’s Dougie and we hope that wherever he is, he’s fit and healthy.