The stormy weather and strong winds forced a Scops Owl, the smallest owl in Israel, to make an emergency landing on an Energean drilling rig, about 90 km west of Haifa.
Cared for by the the crew and trasnported by helicopter to Haifa, the owl was taken by volunteers to the Safari Wildlife Hospital and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. It will soon be returned to nature.
Ynet News, story and pics Eran Arlichman published on April 3, 2019 -Free translation from Hebrew
A few days ago, a flying guest appeared on the Energean drilling rig in the middle of the sea, some 90 kilometers west of Haifa.
There are about 150 crew on the "Stena Drilling" operated platform, which measures about 220 meters long and 42 meters wide, and is located over the Karish reservoir.
Some of them briefly stopped their work to help a Eurasian Scops Owl, the smallest owl in Israel who had crashed on the platform due to the strong winds.
Stuart Grieve, a crewmember on the rig, said that they noticed "a small owl that landed and crashed on the floor of the platform and actually collided with one of the workers there.
It fled to a corner near the drilling equipment and we took it indoors", recalling the incident which took place a few days ago. The staff noticed that the Scops Owl was injured on its wing and the neck. "It had oil and grease on it. We put it in a box, cleaned it and examined the wounds. We decided to take it indoors and look after it", he reveals.
The crew gave Scops Owl the nickname "Owli" the owl, they placed him in a cardboard box bearing his name and even attached a picture of an adult Scops Owl to the box. According to Grieve, they gave the Scops Owl chicken and tried to disturb him as less as possible.
"At first it was in pain, flying around and looking nervous outside his cage. People were excited about it and wanted it to feel good. We hope he makes it onshore and close to other owls, and gets some freedom".
The drilling company estimated that if it hadn’t landed on the platform, its chances of survival would have been low in such a stormy weather and so far from the shore.
According to estimates, the bird of prey may have been swept away by the strong winds in recent days or may have found temporary shelter in one of the ships passing through the Israel's territorial waters and found a getaway in the middle of the sea on the drilling rig.
Owli the owl flew to Haifa by helicopter
The crew members updated the company about the wounded wild animal and the company which flew personnel to the platform, reserved some space on the helicopter for the owl to be brought to veterinary care.
On Tuesday morning, the helicopter landed at the platform’s base and the crew put the Scops Owl on it, after covering it with a special bag. After a short flight to the Haifa airport, the airport crew waited for it together with a supervisor from the Nature and Parks Authority, Tzur Livna. This was just one of the stops along the way for the Scops Owl.
A special cab for the wounded owl
Yuval Feder, a teacher at the Aloni Yitzhak School in Megiddo, has been volunteering for two and a half years in a group of volunteers who transport injured wildlife animals from around the country to the Safari Wildlife Hospital in Ramat Gan and the Nature and Parks Authority.
After the owl was transferred to the volunteer Yossi Afgana in Yokneam, Feder, who had completed his workday at the school, engaged with the task and arrived to help the owl continue on his way to Ramat Gan.
"It's unbelievable that he came from the middle of the sea from a drilling rig and landed in Haifa on an helicopter. There's a whole system of volunteers with WhatsApp groups for the north (Israel), the center and the south and when we get an update from the Nature and Parks Authority, we engage with the mission", he explains while driving to the Hospital with Owli’s carton box on the child seat in the back of the car.
Feder's phone does not stop ringing and he focuses on the trip. "We are in the middle of the nesting and fledgling season, and we receive more than 20 calls every day from around the country. With the help of volunteers who are responsible for the database, we receive the updates and start posting them to the various WhatsApp groups".
If there is no response concerning the animal transportation, the volunteer unit turns to Facebook for supporty, where the group "Himbulance – Fast Transfer of Wild Animals to the Wildlife Hospital at the Safari" has a member count of over 7,000 from all over the country who help to bring the animals to veterinary care. (Comment: Hai in Hebrew is animal so Himbulance is Animal-Ambulance)
Feder, on his part, makes it clear that he does it with love and is willing to help animals 24 hours a day with his friends and colleagues put to the task too. "So that the wild animals will be here tomorrow too. It's something for the soul, you cannot describe it differently. You cannot neglect helpless creatures that no one else cares about".
The smallest in Israel
In Israel, there are several species of small owls, including the Little Owl (Athene noctua), the Oriental Scops Owl (Otus sinua), and the Eurasian Scops Owl. Scops owls are Israel's smallest owls belonging to the owl family. An average Scops Owl is 18-19 cm long and weighs only 65-90 grams.
Usually they arrive in Israel around March, and from April until the summer they nest on trees.
Although the owls can be seen throughout Israel while migrating, during the incubation season they are found in the center and in the north of the country. During the nesting and incubation periods, the owl hoots are heard loud and clear.
Return to nature
Veterinarians, caregivers and volunteers at the hospital are actively engaged in treating infected wild animals. Dr. Nitzan Adam, a veterinarian at the Wildlife Animal Hospital, receives the owl for an initial check. Feder reports that he has noticed an enlarged pupil and registered the owl's exhaustion.
"It's a crazy story how it got that far into the middle of the sea", smiles the veterinarian. The owl in its turn, makes loud noises to the veterinarian, who explains that this is a "good sign" which indicates the vitality of the small bird of prey.
After a quick weigh-in, the owl tips the scale at about 73 grams and is quickly covered with a thin orange cloth to calm it down. "His feathers are very worn, but this doesn’t seem to get in the way of its flight. The owls have nothing to do at the sea and this is not their natural environment. We have never dealt with anything like this before. We usually get seabirds such as seagulls from the platforms", he says.
After a short flying test and providing fluids to the dehydrated owl, it was taken for feeding in the hospital emergency room. He said that after several days of acclimatization under supervision, the owl is expected to return to nature if it is fully back to normal and can fly and eat on its own.