Jump menu

Main content |  back to top

News and Media Releases

Shell Workers Rescue Baby Great Horned Owl

Erin Hallissy

A 4-week-old great horned owl found hiding under a staircase in the northern part of the Shell Martinez Refinery was rescued by one worker, and then returned to its nesting area on a pipe structure after an owl specialist at the Lindsay Wildlife Museum ensured that it was healthy.

Shell employee Robert Zachry had the delicate task of taking the baby bird up in a crane and then placing it in a basket secured to the pipe next to the nest where its sibling was sleeping.

“I was kind of nervous that he would jump out as soon as I let him go, but thankfully that didn’t happen,” said Zachry, an electrician for Shell who is also part of the refinery’s fire department. “The owl was very stressed. He didn’t know what was going on and kept clicking at me and snapping at my gloves.”

The baby owl’s saga began on Tuesday, May 1, when Tom McLain, an analyzer technician for Shell, was walking down the wooden stairs of the analyzer building when he spotted the baby huddled underneath.

“When I got close, he would clack at me,” said McLain, who named it “Daisy May” because “it was as cute as a daisy and it was the first of May.”

McLain checked back later and when he saw the owl was still under the stairs, he called security officers, who alerted Contra Costa County’s Animal Control Department. They transported the bird to the Lindsay Wildlife Museum in Walnut Creek, which has a hospital to care for injured animals.

Sherrill Cook, the great horned owl specialist at the Lindsay Museum, said she determined that the bird was healthy, and that it is four weeks old based on its feathers and its color. It is about the size of a soccer ball.

Great horned owls can’t fly proficiently until they’re about seven weeks old, so the bird, which had apparently fallen from the nest, was unable to return to it. Cook told McLain how to look for the nest, and he found it on a row of pipes, about 20 feet above ground, near the refinery’s effluent treatment plant. Another baby owl was in the nest.

“I was happy to hear there was another baby,” Cook said, explaining that the parents might have abandoned the nest if their only baby went missing and they couldn’t quickly find it.

Cook returned the owl to the Shell Martinez Refinery on Fri., May 4, bringing a basket to place the owl in near its nest. Refinery workers, along with the health and safety officer Tom McKnight, helped out.

Zachry and Dave Roe Sr. were lifted to the nest site in a crane, and Zachry picked up the bird and placed it in the basket. The owl’s sibling, who was in the nest, did not seem bothered by the operation, and the parent owls were not around at the time. Everything went smoothly, and Daisy May was later spotted in the same site.

Zachry said he had never had the opportunity to take part in such an operation before, but “I really enjoyed it. It was a great feeling after it was all said and done. To come back the next day to see him still up where I put him made it that much more special.”

Cook said she was pleased with the experience.

“I want to thank Shell Oil for allowing us to take this bird back to its parents,” she said. “It’s great that the parents will be able to raise it.”