You've met Mark Glenshaw, the Owlman of Forest Park, on these blog pages many times over the past couple of years. Several neighbors went on an owl prowl with Mark in January 2011 and have followed Charles and Sarah, the Great Horned Owls and their offspring (see link here) on Mark's blog ever since. It was on Mark's 7th "Owliversary" (as he cleverly calls it), which happened to coincide with the end of 2012, that the Owlman discovered Charles and Sarah are nesting once again.
It is with Mark's permission and a toast to new life that I bring this sweet post from the Owlman's blog at the beginning of 2013. As you read it you'll notice that, in order to track flight patterns, nesting locations, etc., Mark has given names to each of the trees the owls frequent: Fleur de lis, Eastern Branch Tree, etc.
In Mark's words:
January 1, 2013
Happy New Year! I hope 2013 proves to be a great one for you all!
Last night was one of those evenings with so much happening that if just
one of the highlights had occurred, it would have been a great night.
Having seen Sarah check out some possible nest spots on December 30, I
knew that I had to return the last night to see if she had made her
nest selection. I arrived at the park later than I had wanted but I was
armed with some vital information. My friend and owl mentee, Brenda
Hentee, had been to the park earlier that day. She texted me that she
had found Charles in The Fleur-de-lis Tree and despite a thorough
search, she could not find Sarah. As we texted back and forth, we
agreed that Sarah might be nesting in The 2011 Nest Hollow and thus be
out of sight.
When I got to the park Charles was still in The Fleur-de-lis Tree. I
began to check a few spots for her not far from Charles in case she had
relocated since Brenda's visit. Charles began to blast out booming
hoots. To my delight I heard Sarah respond The 2011 Nest Hollow.
This hollow was high on my list of possible nest spots for 2013 as both
owls, especially Charles, checked it out more than any other spot this
fall and early winter. They began to duet in earnest. Here's Charles
in The Fleur-de-lis Tree.
Sarah emerged from the hollow and flew to The Fleur-de-lis Tree. I
hoped that they might mate early but instead and true to form as of
late, Charles flew into the hollow. Here's Sarah in The Fleur-de-lis
Thankfully, Charles did not remain long in the hollow, as he had often
done so lately. He flew and landed high in The First of The Three
Trees, a spot that Sarah has frequented this breeding season. They
continued to duet and Sarah flew and joined Charles in the same tree
albeit many feet lower. I patiently filmed the duet and waited for it
to go up that gear or two that usually occurs before mating. The duet
gradually intensified and Charles flew down to Sarah and they mated.
After mating, Charles blasted off southeast. Watch the palpable impact
that Charles makes when he lands on Sarah before they mate.
They mated at 4:59 pm just ten minutes after sunset. I waited eagerly to
see what would happen next. Just shy of fifteen minutes later, Sarah
made a slow, graceful descent at a sharp angle towards the bank of the
river way. Two possibilities leapt to mind: predatory attempt or time
for a drink and/or bath. The latter was the winner. Sarah walked into
the river way and began to drink. It was too dark for video but bright
enough to get a few poor but discernible photos of her drinking and
looking vigilantly around between sips.
She drank for five minutes before making a short flight into The Eastern
Branch Tree a mere 30-50 feet away from me. Not for the last time, I
was grateful that I was well concealed and behaving in an appropriately
stealthy manner. It was amazing to see her drink again so close to
nesting. She did this last year and you can read about it in this post on
my blog. Like last year, the needs of the growing eggs may demand more
water/liquid consumption than other times of the year. Owls get most
of their liquid needs from the prey they consume. In seven years, I
have seen them drink and/or bathe fewer than ten times.
I was keen to see if/when Charles would return and if he would have prey
for Sarah. Charles did not disappoint. A mere twenty-five minutes
after they had mated I began to hear Charles hoot from the southeast.
He moved closer and eventually flew to the 06/09 Nest Hollow. His
hoots were slightly muted as he had a small prey item in his bill!
Sarah flew to The Middle Tree and he joined her and gave her the prey.
I think the prey was a small bird or mammal. From what I could tell,
Sarah made quick work of the prey and they hooted gently as they perched
next to each other. I thrilled to see Charles return with prey as it
demonstrates that he understands that Sarah is nesting and that he is
now hunting for the both of them and if all goes well, the owlets too.
I have seen this behavior by Charles before on the first night of Sarah
nesting and it always amazes. It is as if a hormonal/behavioral switch
is thrown and he goes out to grab prey as fast as he can. I remember a
similar occasion when he went blasting out to hunt on the first night
of Sarah's nesting. I saw him land in the distance and went to follow
him. I was less than halfway to where he had landed when the next thing
I knew he was flying past me in the opposite direction with prey in
bill on his way to give the food to Sarah.
Charles flew off to another Cottonwood and began to hoot loudly and
regularly, perhaps proud in the fact that he had done his duty and in
fine fashion. Sarah began to reply to him, flew to a neighborhood
Cottonwood. I wondered if a second mating might take place. I did not
have to wonder long. Sarah flew to Charles' spot, landed right next to
them and they mated for the second time in under forty minutes.
Heading northwest, Charles hooted in flight and even hooted for a bit
after landing. I hoped to see Sarah fly back to the now renamed 2011/13
Nest Hollow. I watched patiently in the icy temperatures but she did
not fly to the hollow or any other spot before departed fifty minutes
later. Interestingly she finally began to groom, something she had not
done even after leaving the nest hollow. It was tough to go but
not-so-toasty toes and New Year's plans both at friends' and at home
directed me away from the park. An amazing evening with these amazing
owls and a great way to end the year. Thanks for reading!
And thanks for sharing this post Mark. Contact Mark to arrange an owl prowl or a talk at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Flora Conservancy Plant Sale Sat. 5/10 8 - 3:30, proceeds benefit not-for-profit organization that landscapes & maintains plantings in Forest Park, St. Louis City Greenhouse, 5600 Clayton Ave. (near Jewel Box bordering Hwy 40/64). To volunteer: (314) 289-5323.