By James Niedzinski
---- — MANCHESTER — Maizi Swenson-Hussi, 17, noticed something lying in the middle of School Street in Manchester during her bus ride to school on Tuesday morning.
It turned out to be an injured barred owl, and Maizi instinctively told the bus driver to pull over so she could help the animal.
Maizi wrapped the bird in her coat and brought it on the bus and to the lawn of Manchester Essex Regional High School shortly before 7:30 a.m. In the meantime, passing motorists had also called police, who contacted the school. And that prompted a call to Maizi’s mother, Jodie Swenson, who has clearly taken her daughter under her wing.
Jodie Swenson spends much of her time operating Cape Ann Bird Rescue out of her Gloucester home. And her passion has taken off like a bird in flight — just like the same owl took off Wednesday after being treated and released back into the Manchester woods.
Jodie Swenson said Wednesday that she suspected the bird had been hit by a car. But surprisingly, the barred owl was in good condition when it arrived.
”She was stunned when she first came in,” Swenson said.
Swenson usually helps about 200 to 300 birds a year, volunteering her time whenever she can. She also works at home, restoring and making porcelain antiques, but there, too, she is surrounded by various pets, including a fish, mice, a dog and more, including a cockatoo named Yaya.
Swenson said birds require special attention. But while there are many rehab facilities for reptiles and mammals, bird habitats can be few and far between.
”It seems the birds in particular need the most help, you special permit just to handle them,” she said.
The owl only stayed with Swenson for one day, but it was a welcomed addition to her house — and her extended feathered “family.”
There’s Lumpy, a young pigeon who had a rough life, Swenson said. One of his siblings died of West Nile Virus, and Lumpy grew up an orphan. Somebody brought Swenson the pigeons after finding them in a box buried under garbage in Gloucester. Lumpy now happily floats around Swenson’s house and may become a permanent member.
Clause, an orphaned cardinal, was brought in from Beverly. Swenson helped raise the bird and was unsure of its withering feathers. She decided to nurse it back to health. Clause will be released in the spring, once his coat of feathers is full, she said.
On Wednesday, she brought the injured owl to Ray Cahill, of the Seaport Veterinary Hospital in Gloucester.
”He does great work and always helps me out for free,” Swenson said.
Cahill said the owl checked out fine, and Swenson released it back into the Manchester Woods at dusk on Wednesday, not far from where her daughter found it lying in School Street.
At first, the owl was hesitant to leave Swenson’s pet carrier. But, on the second try, the owl took flight — quickly reaching the confines of a nearby tree.
Swenson said she only hopes the owl can avoid oncoming traffic in the near future.
To donate to Cape Ann Bird Rescue, call 978-325-2501 or visit Swenson’s website, valentine-design.com/Birds/.
James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x 3455 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.