It’s time to look back on 2022! Check our blog between Christmas and New Year’s for a variety of stories and memories of 2022 from the staff and volunteers of the Wildlife Center of Virginia.
I am grateful that one of my clearest memories of 2022 occurred toward the beginning of the year, as the ensuing months tend to blend together in my mind as a hodgepodge of animals, people, and many a lesson learned through my first full season at the Wildlife Center of Virginia. There have been plenty of exciting moments, but some of those I am not so eager to recall. Such is the nature of wildlife rehabilitation, where the quieter winter months bookend the sound and fury of spring and summer.
I was fortunate enough to be in a position to help re-nest a pair of Great Horned Owlets that were found on the ground after falling from their nest early this year. The story was well documented on our website, and you can still read about the journey of 22-0177 and 22-0178 there. After the first attempt was made to place the owlets back in their nest, I volunteered to stay in the area and watch for any sign of the parents’ return. I remember setting up a blanket several hundred yards away with a pair of binoculars and a few drinks in a cooler, and I sat waiting for some miraculous reassurance that these fragile animals would be ok in the end. I found a good vantage point that would allow me to see anything passing through the area. It was peaceful and still, even with the white noise of distant traffic. Several deer eventually entered the scene as the purplish dusk-light greyed and the evening came. No sign of any adult owls, and so I went home. I was still hopeful, and I felt only a little sense of failure.
The next day came and went, and the following morning I revisited the site to find that one of the owlets had again fallen from the tree. Thankfully, the bird was alive and seemingly unharmed. I covered my face and went to collect the owl off the ground when suddenly a deep bellowing hoot came from behind. An adult Great Horned Owl launched itself from the branch of a nearby tree and began flying toward me in an attempt to ward me off. Almost simultaneously a flock of crows appeared and chased the owl away through the trees. It was an incredibly beautiful, chaotic, and unsentimental thing to witness. I felt out of place like my humanity was sticking out like a sore thumb. I picked up the infant bird and drove away.
Eventually, both of these owlets were successfully re-nested and their journeys appropriately diverged from mine. I think I have chosen this memory to share because I’m still not sure of all the ways it makes me feel, and each time I think back on it I feel a little different. It gives me a sense of fulfillment that I was able to make a small difference in the lives of a few animals. Other times I feel like an intruder who shouldn’t have been there in the first place, like an agent of mankind sent to interfere with something sacred. Sometimes I think of all of the animals whose stars did not align, and I begin to despair. Mostly, I feel grateful to have been a part of a worthy endeavor to help other living, feeling beings on an individual level. That even though I cannot save everything, I can help save something. I do not believe I can change world, but I do believe that I must shout back at its challenges. I look forward to kicking and screaming against whatever challenges 2023 has for me.
-- Michael Adkins, Front Desk Supervisor