The swimming owl sensitized the experienced paddler by making its way into his lap

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The chilly bird made an experienced paddlers trip unique on a foggy Sunday on Lake Tuusula.

Pentti Taskinen, from Hyrylä, was slowly paddling towards home from the opposite shore in a thick fog, when he noticed, in the middle of the lake, an animal swimming by his side. Taskinen curiously paddled closer and was surprised.

A northern hawk-owl was struggling in the cold water. Looked like its strength was waning.

When first seeing the kayak the bird tried to escape but was quite feeble.

"It was completely exhausted and then it turned towards me, looking like it was attempting to get aboard", describes Taskinen.

imageTaken aback taskinen lifted the bird on deck, where the shivering bird stared at him. The northern hawk-owl is not a water bird so the soaking wet creature was probably waning from the cold.

"It crawled towards me and made it to my lap. It pressed itself in between the life jacket because I didn’t have the zipper closed. There it stayed till the shore", Taskinen says.

Apparently the very experienced and fit and outdoorsy Taskinen describes tenderly how the bird didn’t struggle once it got into his lap.

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Taskinen decide to head straight to Halosenniemi museum from the middle of the lake because the shore of Hyrylä was too far away. Even if the bird was kept in warmth it was still soaking wet.

In Halosenniemi the owl got a warm welcome. Already in shore a museum guest from Espoo lifted the northern hawk-owl from Taskinen, who was balancing his kayak by the pier. A guide to the museum, artist Jenni Forssén found the owl a cardboard box, where the swimmer got time to dry itself in peace, in the basement of the museum. At first it warmed itself in the lobby by a warm oven in the pocket of a museum guest. Taskinen moved on, the owl was in good hands.

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After her shift Forssén took the hawk-owl to her home in Järvenpää. From the storage she found an old hamster cage, which Forssén moved to the hallway. She covered the cage with a towel so the bird could be at peace.

"I gave it minced meat but it didn’t eat, I guess they don’t eat in these kinds of situations. Before 9pm it started to make some noise. When we went to check on it, it was hissing and making an unusual sound", Forssén describes. It was apparently time to release the bird to its own element.

The outskirts of Forssén’s property was open, and there the owl first got to the edge of the plastic box which had been its refuge and from there, gracefully took flight and did not return.

"It was an unique experience", Taskinen recalls to Helsingin Sanomat after the happily ended drama.

Taskinen, age 61, is an experienced outdoor explorer who has also this year paddled 1400 kilometers on lakes and also out in the sea. Also on wednesday he was birdwatching in Inkoo. But still the encounter with the tough little swimmer had a deep impact on him.

"It was incredible", Taskinen says smilingly.

He still pondered how the owl had ended up in the lake.

" It came to my mind that maybe it had gotten lost in the fog in the middle of the lake. The birdwatchers I called pondered that maybe crows had chased it to the lake", Taskinen says.

On the other hand hawk-owls have had a big move this year so stern watcher have been on the move anyway.

Suomen Luonto first reported about the northern hawk-owl story.

Photos of the owl by Pentti Taskinen
Photo of the Halosenniemi museum by Susanna Kekkonen.

(Sorry if the translation is bad)