The Owl who was scared of the Dark (The Unabridged Version)
Once upon a time, a few months ago, Larry the Tawny Owl lived happily in his large aviary with his friends, Chris the Barn Owl and Ian the Long Eared Owl. It was a happy existence and no clouds entered the lives of the three friends, until one day Larry’s owner, Mr Andrew Hallam, accidentally left the door of the aviary ajar. This was the opportunity that Larry the Tawny Owl had been waiting for. Although he loved his two friends, Chris and Ian very deeply, Larry was a very confused Owl because he was afraid of the dark and also if the truth was true he was a glory hunter! Imagine an Owl being afraid of the dark, but poor Larry suffered terribly when the Sun sunk low in the sky and darkness enveloped the aviary. His friends liked nothing better than sleeping all day long, but Larry was the complete opposite. He hated the darkness with all of the strange noises and scratching sounds which seemed to penetrate his brain like a Blacksmith hammering upon an anvil. Chris and Ian did think it strange, but they loved Larry (although they used to hoot about him behind his back), even if they thought that he was a bit peculiar. Mr Hallam often took his Birds of Prey into Schools, where Larrys’s favourite trick to please the children was to perch on top of the Blackboard, to be honest it was his only trick! He knew that when he done this he would get fed a vegetarian mouse by Mr Hallam.
However, Larry’s greatest wish was to call out at the top of his voice, but he never could for fear of waking his sleeping friends during the day. His mind made up, Larry stretched his wings and flew off through the open door. He flew unsteadily at first, as he was only accustomed to appearing in Assembly Halls, Classrooms and Country Fairs with his owner, Mr Hallam. Yet, the thrill of the air rushing through his wings encouraged Larry and soon he was delighting in his new found freedom. Although, it was shortly after midday, Terence was in his element. Time seemed to stand still, as the aviary and Chris, Ian and Mr Hallam, were left far behind. Once a man working in his garden spotted Larry as he flew overhead, but he never gave the bird a second thought – he had broad beans to plant! Even Tawny Owls tire after a while and Larry began to study his surroundings to make a quick stop. He flew over a large sign. Had Larry been able to read, he would have spotted the words “ Castle Ward – National Trust”, but, as he flew, the masses of trees ahead provoked a feeling of solace within Larry’s breast, a sense of belonging in fact and his heart began to beat with an added urgency and intensity. With a final swoop through the broadleafed trees, Larry finally landed on the bough of an Ancient Oak Tree. He nestled down behind the ivy covered bole of the tree and surveyed his surroundings. Feeling reasonably secure, the idea that had long been brewing within his brain, came to Larry. He gathered himself up and started to call, quietly at first, but soon with an intensity that defied description. It wasn’t long before these puzzling calls alerted the Property Manager. He, not being a know- it –all local twitcher decided to seek help from an associate, one who shall remain nameless but his name was Clive. The stage was set! Calling his Springer Spaniel to heel( it ran ahead anyway), the intrepid disturber of the peace was soon on the scent like a bloodhound. The dog, more accustomed to flushing exhausted Woodcock, failed to pinpoint Larry, but its owner was not to be thwarted. Camera in hand, a “ first for Ireland” was quickly photographed and sent at breakneck speed to those in the know. Poor Larry! His idyll was shattered as quick as you can say “blown off course by strong easterly winds in the Spring”. By the next day, scores of weirdly dressed men were frolicking in the undergrowth beneath Larrys’s tree( some were even looking for Larry!). Strange accents denoted visitors from foreign lands. How could you not miss a first for Ireland? Spring turned to Summer and, as the leaves turned to shades of every hue, the hullaballoo caused by Larrys’s arrival began to die down. Others though were working hard on poor Larrys’s behalf. Can you believe that the Autumn Edition of Bird Watching Magazine, actually ran a feature entitled “ First Tawny Owl Sighting For Northern Ireland”? As for Larry, the numerous baby Mice, which sustained him in the warmer months were now not so plentiful. Not only was his stomach empty, but also aching was the heart that beat underneath that rufous brown, striated plumage. For, Larry missed his friends, Chris and Ian. If truth were told, he also missed Mr Hallam. All those visits, where children were amazed at seeing him up close, were now but a distant memory. Weakened with hunger, Larry sought out humankind, those who had nurtured and raised him since a chick. He flew falteringly towards an open window at the sprawling Castleward Estate, and, to his joy, landed on top of a Blackboard, where he was found by the Property Manager. And that, is where we shall leave Larry calling every day until the dreaded darkness makes him stop at about 10.25pm every night. Let’s hope that he stays, calling at Castle Ward, for many mornings and afternoons to come – The Owl who was scared of the Dark! A first for Ireland as the Nobirds would say!