Monday, June 14, 2010

In Appreciation of a Brave Bird

I was on my usual post-prandial at 10 last night. As I passed under a tree, I got a call. I stopped on the footpath and took the call. As I did so a small owl flew from a tree branch right above me and perched atop a telephone pole. I watched it as I talked.

I was engrossed in the talk and was also watching the beautiful bird and the fascinating way it turns its head around. Suddenly, out of the blue something hit me on the head. I gave out a cry of surprise and I saw another owl fly over me and perch on an electric wire. Did I really see it glaring at me or was it only my imagination? Perhaps it was staring at me since there was no movement of the head that I so love.

I beat a fairly hasty retreat and watched the birds from a distance, feeling my practically hairless scalp. It did feel wet but no blood. Apparently it was sweat.

As I walked away driven by a bird just larger than my fist, I could do nothing but admire its courage. It had deemed it fit to attack an opponent perhaps a hundred times its own weight and had successfully driven him away.

I have walked under the same rain tree a thousand times. Never saw an owl before. Perhaps it had recently built a nest and has a clutch and was protecting it from this invader! How powerful the instinct to protect it's off spring! Or, really, was it a friendly pat on the head with an unuttered “Hello mate”? The profile picture of mine at is a thumbnail picture of a painting of an owl I did some years ago. (As an aside, do go to that site to see my pencil sketches). Have the owls too become net savvy and are welcoming me to their fold? Or were they insulted that a mere human had dared to use the picture of one of their species so?

Courage is perhaps the wrong word. It is perhaps the result of the "selfishness" of the gene that drove it to attack me. I am not proverbially scratching my head in awe and wonder. Its talons have left two inch-long scratches on my bald head. I am yet to consult a doctor to find out if I need an antibiotic to prevent an infection. After all it is a bird of prey not in the habit of washing its "hands" after a meal.

Once bitten twice shy - I was once bitten on the head by a wasp. I had ignored it after the stinging pain subsided but the wound got infected.


  1. Anonymous8:47 am

    umm.... "owled out " han?


  2. Great, Anil! The story is fascinating. I have always felt the animals must see us humans as dangerous interlopers in what is essentially their world. The owl wasn't to know you love birds and animals! I hypothesise that the RF waves from your phone triggered a reaction from the owl. I had a look at your sketch, excellent.

  3. Multiple thanks Ravi.

    I feel that the idea of an owl having an radio antenna does not appeal to me. :-)

    It was just that I was right under its nest I guess.

    I had my head photographed. Looks a little gruesome with all the (15 or so) hair and two dark red lines. That is why I did not post it. Doc said no need for any medicine and I have survived to tell the tale.

  4. So what did the doctor say?