Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Hoot

We were on evening association - our recreation time - loitering around a window on the top landing. Talking balls, probably, when an owl flitted out of the darkness, through the window, and perched on the radiator.

What do you do...? It just sat there, bobbing its head and looking at us. It didn't seem overly impressed or interested. Not one to miss an opportunity. Bob held out his arm. The owl hopped on - and gripped tight. Bob squealed like a girl and shooed the owl off; wrapping his arm in a towel, he invited it back on.

This was a very strange owl, utterly content to allow us to stroke it and generally oh-and-ah. We were allowed budgies, so why not an owl? A fair reasoning, which saw us take the owl into a cell.

Only then did it spread its wings. In a tiny cell, what seemed to be a smallish bird transformed into a flippin' eagle, and no longer a happy one at that. It began to flap around the cell -six foot square, already crowded with four convicts, and it seemed on the verge of panic.

Which is exactly when it decided to land on my head. If you have never handled an owl, you won't appreciate the size and sharpness of their talons. Neither did I until that moment, when its weight settled on top of my head and several razor sharp claws dug into my forehead and scalp. "For God's sake, don't panic it".

In the end, we calmed it down and it was collected by the RSPB. It was an interesting experience, and it went far better than other encounters with wildlife in prison. A couple of years ago, a screw at Erlestoke got savaged by a badger!


  1. Never forget that badgers are the biggest remaining wild predators. Heavier by far than a fox. Male badgers can get very grumpy.

    The owl incident didn't overlap with the mouse incident by any chance did it? Possible that the owl had been visiting after lockup and lights out and was early on its routine that night.

  2. Owls are very cocky creatures... while not as wise as stories would have you believe, they are smart enough to know that they can fly and we can't - so don't scare that easily.

    I once got attacked by one at 3am walking home across a field in front of my house - and for months afterwards it would follow me from lamppost to lamppost whenever i walked to town at night.

  3. As my profile pic suggests, I adore Birds of prey :).

    Sounds like he's belonged to someone from his behaviour. What did he look like? Bog standard barn owl or was he larger?