The old B17 hanger, now home to a different type of bird.
May 21st. The day starts off with an owl rescue mission in one of the abandoned hangers at Hobbs. When the government stopped using this airport to train B17 crews after WWII, they just left a lot of the old buildings to rot (as well as several of the B17s, reportedly buried under a local golf course). Anyhow, owls and many other varieties of birds have taken the old hangers over. As we were taking pictures, signing forms and otherwise getting our act together to fly at Crossroads, someone found out that a baby owl had fallen out of a nest in the roof of a hanger, and next thing I knew we were on a mission to put the owl back in its nest before a coyote or fox ate it. I'm thinking a baby owl should be pretty managable, but this one was fierce like you wouldn't believe. He puffed up all his baby feathers and took a run at us, hissing like a ten-foot snake and setting all the other birds in the hanger off too. Eventually we captured the world's most vicious baby owl and put him in a paragliding bag, where he immediately calmed down. I climbed up the old rusty girders about 30 feet while Mom and Dad owl lookd at me from an adjacent beam. Then things went bad.
I climbed to within about five feet of the nest (which was just a wide space in a girder) and figured that was close enough; I didn't want to disturb the other three owls in the nest, and I didn't want to be parent owl bait while standing on a shaky girder 30 feet over a cement floor. I bent down and took off my paraglider bag carefully, at which point one of the baby owls in the "nest" jumped off the beam. Doh.. I gently shook my owl off onto the beam, and he calmy walked over to join his brothers, but as I stood up the remaining two of them jumped off. Fortunately, all three owls were almost capable of flight and so soft that they hit the floor pretty gently, slowling themselves down with small flaps. We had all wanted to "save" the owl, now we had three of them on the ground instead of one. Well, no problem, I climbed down and we gathered up all the owls with much screeching (that's one hell of a sound, owls are tough even when they are basically just soft feathers.). One by one I gently carried the owls back up to the rafter, opened the sack and watched them run off like it was fun. It wasn't, the death of three more owls was was going to be on my hands. As someone who ought to be appeasing the gods of flight, my karma was sinking faster than the owls were hitting the ground. The owls were all way aggravated, and in our shame we retreated, leaving baby owls in three of the four hanger corners. The flying was poor that day, and I couldn't help but wonder if it wasn't revenge of some kind...
That evening we returned, and the hanger was calmer. We rounded up one owl using an old sheet so it wouldn't be as stressed, put it back in the PG bag and I climbed up again, gently releasing it out of the bag on the very edge of the girder. It hopped out, looked at me and ran full tilt off the beam. We tried various release tactics, with me climbing up and down the hanger about ten times. I couldn't help but think the owls were laughing, hooting, "Hey, look, it's that guy who will give us free tows back to the rafters if we jump, let's do it again!"
Finally we put all the owls in an old box, put the box in the bag and carried the works back up to the girder, where I loosely arranged the flaps on the box and left it lodged. The owls limply stayed inside as we left, and I could only hope they would stay on the beam once they pushed their way out of the box after we left. Click here for tomorow's owl and flying report.
Curt threw a good barbecue in the evening, another reason I like hanging with Crossroads.
Next: May 22nd