The call came Nov. 26 to Arden and Sherry Hagen: An owl was perched in a tree in downtown Vancouver. The Hagens, members of the board of the Vancouver Audubon Society, spotted the big bird just overhead at the corner of 11th and Main streets.
And as they watched, it flew up and away -- and hit a window, hard. The owl dropped, recovered and flew around the corner. The Hagens took off in hot pursuit, and found the owl wobbling around in the middle of the street. A car had stopped short before hitting it, Sherry said.
Good thing Arden always keeps leather gloves and a bird box in the car. The Hagens transported the owl to the Audubon Wildlife Care Center in Portland, where it was nursed back to health in a succession of larger and larger cages, according to staffer Jesse Serna.
Serna, the Hagens and their fellow Vancouver Audubon board members Eric and Tammy Bjokrman all hiked along the western shore of Vancouver Lake Park on Saturday, just before dusk, to release the healthy barred owl (otherwise known as a hoot owl) back into nature.
Normally, Serna said, the owl would be released as close as possible to where it was discovered, but the forests and fields near Vancouver Lake were considered a better habitat for the owl than Esther Short Park.
The mottled gray-brown bird -- with an approximate two-foot wingspan but weighing only a pound or so, Serna said -- emerged from its cardboard carrier and promptly spun upside-down as it gripped Serna's arm. It checked out the scenery -- and the audience of about a dozen people, including a mom, dad and three brothers who'd come to watch.
Then the bird took to the air, arcing about 20 yards over into a nearby tree.
"Have a nice life," a boy called.
The next Vancouver Audubon Society meeting is set for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 5, at the Clark County Genealogical Society, 717 Grand Boulevard. Visit http://vancouveraudubon.org to learn more.