Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Recent Video Highlights and Half Year Owliversary Point

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Since my last post was rather photo-oriented, I am making this one more video-centric. My YouTube videos recently reached 56,000 cumulative views; a nice number to attain.  

This first video, from June 23rd, shows what is probably Grace perched mere inches off the ground on The Fallen Tree.  She is intrigued and absolutely focused on the fireflies that travel and illuminate around her.  It was a joy to watch Grace and be able to capture some of these moments.

Next up is Harold, most likely, on June 27 perched in "the back" of The Overlook Hotel Tree. I have found him or Grace there a few times in recent weeks.  I had just found him and began to film him when, as you will see, he did an especially vigorous Fluff-Up, which caused feathers to quite literally fly. Harold was not finished as he segued into an Escalator Stretch.

Earlier that night I found Sarah in The Bushy Tree.  In the last week or so, she has perched in that tree or other parts in The Wooded Area and thus closer to the owlets.  This is in marked contrast to the weeks prior when both she and Charles perched in The Arena. With the owlets getting closer than not to dispersing, is she feeling a type of separation anxiety.  Or does she need a pause from Charles?  "Next on Owls On The Couch."   The sun broke through and her well-hidden spot received a blast of late sun.

I then found Charles and the owlets, Grace and Harold but as the day dimmed and evening emerged, I found her pinnacling in The Eastern Tree.

I had my doubts of the wisdom of Sarah's position as the ever more awake owlets were sure to find her and give chase seeking one of their two parental providers of provisions. This is exactly what happened.  Forgive the shaky video but if it is hard to film an owl in flight, filming three is jolly difficult. Listen for the loud and excited begging cheeps of the owlets.

Two of the three Jungle Gym Trees continue to be frequent perch sites for Grace and Harold.  On June 28, I caught a mere glimpse of Grace in The Jungle Gym Tree By The Archy Tree.  I moved around for a better view and found her fast asleep.  Notice how her lower eyelids are so far up her face.  This indicates that they are sleeping deeply.  What a beauty.

Last night, June 29th, was the half year owliversary point.  I have now watched the owls for nine-and-a-half years.  It is a thrill each time I reach such points as I never imagined how the owls would have such an impact on my life and even the lives of others. The first half of 2015 went well in all respects: observation, documentation and outreach.  The videos and pictures in this post I hope demonstrate the first two aspects of my work with the owls.  Outreach continues to grow and expand.  I gave my 14th talk of the year on Saturday and I have led 39 owl prowls so far. Talks in the first part of the year took me as far away as Joplin, MO and Carbondale, IL and as close to home as Webster Groves and Tower Grove Park. (As always, my next few public talks are on the right side of this website)

Thank you for reading and your support of the owls and my work with them!

Friday, June 19, 2015

A Sunny Owl For A Rainy Day

Friday, June 19, 2015

As I write this St. Louis, along with much of Missouri and the states to the southwest, are experiencing a deluge of rain from the after effects of Tropical Storm Bill.  For most of this week it has been challenging to get out and see the owls in the constant rain.  With this in mind, how about a look back to the clear, sunny day of Sunday, April 19 and see what Charles was doing.

I can go weeks sometimes without seeing the owls yawn.  Other nights it is Yawn City.  This night was one such night.  Charles was perched in a Sweetgum, one of several that he used this and previous springs as a perch/roost site. He began to yawn regularly. [Be sure to double-click on each photo to see a larger version]

I have heard some people say that yawning presages the casting or ejection of a pellet but I have my doubts about that.  I have seen many dozens of pellet ejections over the years and while the owls may open their bills before ejecting a pellet, I have not seen them yawn.

The setting sun broke through and Charles began to groom in the great light.

And yawn some more.

And just look like the gorgeous owl he is.

The sun dipped below the horizon and he shifted his position, preparing to depart for a night's hunting.

Another great way learn more about the owls' behavior, is to attend one of my talks about the owls and my work with them.  I gave such a talk last week at the Scenic Regional Library-New Haven Branch and it went quite well as you can see here.  I am excited for my next talk on Saturday, June 27 at 1:00pm at the Spencer Road Branch of the St. Charles City-County Library District.   Registration and full details are here.  I hope to see you there!

Thank you for reading!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Names For The Owlets and Upcoming Talks

Wednesday June 10, 2015

The spring/summer blogging doldrums returned again, unfortunately.  Not the owls and my work with them have quieted down in slightest. Quite the contrary.  With the owlets fledged and growing up combined with my recent appearance on our local NPR affiliate, KWMU St. Louis Public Radio, I am busier than ever with the owls and happily so.  We are in the middle of the twenty-fourth week of 2015 and I have already led thirty-five owl prowls so far.  Eleven talks on the owls are in the books with others already scheduled well into the year. More on talks later.

After much delay, I am pleased to announce the names of this year's owlets: Grace and Harold.

Grace is named for Grace Colavita, my girlfriend, Wendy Schlegel's, late mother.  Grace died on September 21, 2014 after many years of fighting cancer.  She was 75 years old.  Of Grace's many qualities, two always stand out to me. First, her life-long, not just enthusiasm but zeal and passion for learning. When she was not reading or watching documentaries she was talking about the books, magazines, newspapers and documentaries that were next on her list.  Her interests ran the gamut from history, ancient Egypt a particular favorite, religion, dance, cooking and the medical field. Grace finished her associate's degree in general studies later in life.  She artfully and consistently disproved the notion that it is folly to introduce an aged canine to new things. Second, I loved Grace's devotion and care for physical beauty in all of its forms. Be it a person, an animal, a building, a painting, if something captured her eye, mind and heart, she not only paid notice but tribute.

Harold is named after the late director/actor/writer Harold Ramis.  He died on February 24, 2014 from a rare autoimmune disease at the age of 69. His work spanned decades and includes some of the best comedic films in American cinema. You could slice his filmography in fourths and each piece would be a career worthy of emulation.  Hell, he was the only American cast member and writer of the legendary Canadian TV comedy series, SCTV. Taken as a whole, his work is truly astounding.  I start to think of his films and I cannot stop quoting them. Animal House ("Thank you, God!"), Caddyshack ("Oh, Captain Hook."), Groundhog Day ("This is just one of those moments when TV fails to capture the magic of a large squirrel predicting the weather."), Analyze This (""My name is Ben Sobel... -lioni. Ben Sobellioni. I'm also known as, uh, Benny the Groin, Sammy the Schnazz, Elmer the Fudd, Tubby the Tuba, and once as Miss Phyllis Levine.").  Harold Ramis and I both graduated from Washington University in St. Louis exactly forty years apart.  He served on the university's board of trustees while I worked at the university as I completed my degree.  My first middle name is Harold.  I was able to choose my middle names and while I did not know of Harold Ramis when I chose the name I am happy to have this name in common with him as well as my paternal grandfather.

Now who is who?  Well, this year it is rather tricky to tell the owlets apart.  Great Horned Owls lay their eggs at different times; asynchronously, usually a day or two apart but as far apart as five to ten days.  The eggs generally hatch in the order in which they were laid.  This results in owlets of different ages, size, ability, etc. These differences are often quite pronounced but over time the differences diminish.  With Grace and Harold I am convinced that they hatched quite close together. Since I first saw them it has been challenging to distinguish them and as time progresses it is even more difficult to do so.  Given the differences in the ages of their namesakes, Grace is the older the owlet and Harold the younger.

Here are the owlets on March 22 still in the nest.  I think Grace is on the left with the more advanced facial disk development and more forward position in the nest.

From May 27, I think this is Grace. She looks a great deal like Sarah both in coloration and demeanor as she soaks up the setting sun while she perches in The Jungle Gym Tree Near The Archy Tree.

From May 31, most likely this is Harold.  He was perched 20-30 yards from The Three Trees.

The next several shots are from June 2 with the owlets in The Jungle Gym Tree Near The Archy Tree.  While the owlets are growing up they still have some of The Fluff!

One owlet, I think Grace, turned around and began to allopreen (groom) the other owlet (Harold). Very cute behavior to see!

The cool thing about the owls being in this position is that though are so close in size with the forced perspective going on due to their different perches, Grace on the left looks significantly larger than Harold on the right.

We are halfway through 2015 and it is proving to be another great year for owl talks.  I have given talks in Joplin, Missouri (Ozark Gateway Audubon Society) and Carbondale, Illinois (Southern Illinois Audubon Society) and closer to home for Wild Bird Rehabilitation, Fontbonne University and Webster University as well as the spring meeting of the Audubon Society of Missouri. I have several owl talks coming up this summer and more to come in the fall.  As always my next few public talks and all their time, location details are listed on the right side of this website.

My next talk is tomorrow, Thursday, June 11 at 6:30pm for the Scenic Regional Library-New Haven Branch in New Haven, Missouri.  After that I will be at the St. Charles City-County Library District's Spencer Road Branch in St. Peters, Missouri on Saturday, June 27 at 1:00pm. These talks will be my second talks for these excellent library systems. I am excited and honored to be returning to share the owls and my work with these libraries and their patrons. I hope to see some you at these talks!

While I do many public talks for Audubon Society chapters, libraries, other conservation-related groups and more, I also frequently give private owl talks as well.  Private talks include talks for schools, scouts, senior centers, garden clubs among others.  If you work with an organization that you think would enjoy a talk, please drop me a line at mglenshaw@gmail.com
I do talks all over Missouri and Illinois and am looking to expand into neighboring states as well.

Just to finish off, here are pictures of Charles and Sarah. First is Charles beautifully illuminated in The PX Tree on June 7.

Here is a well-hidden Sarah last night, June 9, in The First of The Three Trees.

Thank you for reading!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Radio Appearance and Ravenous Owlets!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Today I had the honor and pleasure of returning to the radio program St. Louis on the Air on KWMU, St. Louis Public Radio 90.7FM to discuss the owls and my work with them.  As with my first appearance in December 2013, I was warmly welcomed by the show's producers, staff and host; Don Marsh.  Don did another great job of guiding the discussion with excellent questions both from himself and from phone calls, tweets and e-mails.  I had a great time and I hope I can return again. Thank you St. Louis on the Air and KWMU!  You can listen to today's show here:

Just three nights ago, I had the great fortune to see Sarah uncache some prey, most likely from The Middle Conifers, and feed the owlets before sunset.  I shot many pictures and videos of the feeding. Together the pictures and the videos tell the story of the feeding.  For now here are the videos in the order in which I shot them.  You can see how hungry the owlets are and how carefully Sarah feeds them. Also lots of The Fluff!

Thank you for reading, listening and watching!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Fledging, FM, Fluff, and Feeding!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Sorry for the lack of updates!  I have been traveling a fair amount in recent weeks and when not traveling, spending time with, on and for the owls. So let us catch up now!

The second owlet fledged between Thursday, April 2 and Friday, April 3.  This was just one day shy of a week after the first owlet fledged.  I was out of town during these and other days but was kept up to speed via text and e-mail by my friends and owl mentees, Brenda Hente and Rusty Wandell. Aaron Hampton, a biologist/ecologist/science teacher/wildlife photographer, found the now second fledgling early in the morning of Friday, April 3.  You can see his photos of the then nestlings and the nowfledglings on his website.   Many thanks to Brenda, Rusty and Aaron for their massive and most appreciated observation and documentation!

The owlets are close to each other in age and challenging to tell apart.  It is beautiful to see them and like their siblings before, they often perch close together. Here they are from Saturday, April 11. Much of The Fluff visible!

Names for the owlets are forthcoming and will be announced soon.  Thank you for your patience!

I am thrilled and honored to be returning to radio program "St. Louis on the Air" on St. Louis Public Radio on KWMU 90.7 FM.  I'll be on the show this Thursday, April 16 and the program begins at 12noon CST and runs for an hour. As of now, I do not know if I will be on the 12:00pm segment or the 12:30 one.  You can listen live both on the radio in the St. Louis area and online anywhere you have an Internet connection via the station's website. I was first on this excellent show on December 30, 2013 . It went well for all involved and generated much interest in the owls and my work with them.  I am beyond grateful for the invitation to return! I hope you can all listen in on Thursday!

Despite the closeness in age and size between the owlets, some behavioral differences remain.  The older owlet is more adept at flying and landing.  This was highlighted on Tuesday, April 7.  Sarah disappeared on me as sunset approached. I did not know where she went but I thought it was likely that she went to un-cache some prey.  A few minutes later she confirmed my deduction as she reappeared with the headless remains of an Eastern Cottontail Rabbit; a perennial favorite prey item.  The older owlet quickly flew to her and Sarah began to feed the owlet.

The younger owlet moved closer but still had thirty-forty feet to fly to get to Sarah and the prey. This owlet watched with literally hungry eyes and rasping begging cheeps.

After several minutes, it flew over and landed on the same branch as Sarah and the still-feeding older owlet.  The younger owlet was still some distance from mom and meal and it begged non-stop.  As you will see below, Sarah pivoted the prey away from the older owlet making it accessible to the younger owlet who maked his/her way over to Sarah and feeding occured!

Words like joy, honor, privilege and delight barely begin to describe what it is like to observe moments like this.  As I often say, there are so many aspects of the owls' lives and behavior that never get old.

Thank you for reading!

Monday, March 30, 2015

One Owlet Fledged!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Sometime between the night of Friday, March 27 and Saturday, March 28, one of the owlets fledged!

When I arrived in the park on Saturday around sunset, the nest looked a little roomier with just one owlet visible.  And very fluffy.  [Be sure to double click on the pictures to see a larger version] Seeing only one owlet is a regular occurrence so that did not lead me to the fledging square on My Jump To Conclusions Mat. 

Charles was at the edge of The Wooded Area and Sarah was in The Overlook Hotel Tree.  This was not unusual but with the owlets being 6-7 weeks old and in the fledging range of 6-8 or 6-10 weeks of age I wondered if Sarah's presence deeper in the woods indicated that fledging had begun.  I took a rather brief look for a fledgling but did not find one.

I returned to The Arena and continued to watch the owls.  I still did not see a second owlet in the nest as it grew later, which by then I would have seen two owlets most of the time.  My friend and owl mentee, Brenda Hente, arrived and I discussed the fledging possibility and we agreed to go look for a fledgling again.  Our search soon bore fruit as sharp-eyed Brenda found a now fledged owlet-a fledgling!

What a beauty!  It was low off the ground, barely two feet.  It is always amazing to see an owlet out of the nest for the first time!  Like so much of the owls' behavior this first sighting of a fledgling never gets old.   Amazingly, this is now the fifth consecutive year that this same small section of The Wooded Area region is where the first fledgling is found.  

At this point I am 99% certain that there are two owlets and not three or more. I want to give it another day or two before I make the call.

If you come to the park to see the owls please be extra cautious and careful.  Do not get close to the fledged owlet and be mindful of Sarah's whereabouts at all times.  Do not risk incurring her protective wrath. Remember that Sarah has attacked Red-tailed Hawks that got close to the owlets. You would not mess with a hawk, do not mess with an animal that does mess with a hawk.  Be sure to wear dark, muted clothes and cover your head if you have blond or white hair and make as little sound as possible. Fledging is one of the most dangerous times for a young Great Horned Owl.  They are not strong fliers yet and dangers abound.  As I say each year, fledging is comparable to a human child taking its first steps...in Times Square.

Charles and Sarah began to duet, which is something they do not regularly during this time of year. That said, they had a duet of long duration and long distance traveled duet a week earlier.  After heading back to The Arena, we decided to take a last look at the fledgling after sunset.  Brenda's streak continued as she found the owlet at eye level and close to us clinging to the trunk of a young tree.  We were surprised to see how much it had moved in a short while and given our proximity, we moved away immediately.  The owlet showed its climbing prowess by moving further up the tree with its talons and using its wings for balance and perhaps a bit of oomph. 

The owlet reached a branch and perched there.  We left there circling around the far side of The Wooded Area. Brenda concluded her streak by seeing the owlet from the opposite side of the woods while your friendly neighborhood Owl Man was looking in the wrong area.  I am always glad when my friends and mentees show me the fruits of their learning and skills. I returned home and showed pictures of the fledging to my girlfriend, Wendy Schlegel, who, as a connoisseur of the cute, cooed with delight, especially at The Fluff.  

I returned yesterday morning to see if the second owlet had fledged as it did quite a bit of "hitting the gym" i.e., exercising its wings, the previous night.  It had not fledged but I found its sibling in the same spot as we had left him.  The morning sun was hitting him beautifully.  

Later that morning I had the pleasure of meeting Aaron Hampton a biologist/ecologist/nature photographer living in Farmington, MO with whom I corresponded two years prior.  I enjoyed showing him the owls and registering his delight in seeing the owls.

I led an owl prowl for travel/nature blogger Jeannie Adams last night.  Brenda joined us and we found all of the owls pretty quickly including the fledgling, who was now deeper in the woods but lower than he had been in the morning. The setting sun framed his fluffy feathers with golden light such that I could not help but reference the quest of Jason and the Arognauts and the play Medea, by Euripides, by saying, "Talk about the Golden Fleece. Don't tell Medea."

We ran into another friend and owl mentee, Rusty Wandell, who, due to his busy schedule, was making his first visit to see the owlets.  The four of us watched the fledging some more before returning to The Arena.  We finished by following Sarah out to hunt by a lake, where we saw her make predatory attempts on bats.  Jeannie enjoyed the owl prowl and I am confident that she will return soon.

Thank you for reading!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

An Illuminating Afternoon With The Owls

Monday, March 23, 2015

It is always great to observe the owls but on some days the purely visual part of observation stands out more than others.  Sunday, March 22 was such a day.  When I arrived at the park, there was a thin layer of cloud over the otherwise sunny sky.  I had a great time checking out the wildlife in and around the Steinberg Prairie area and the Fish Hatchery ponds.  Highlights including my second and third sightings of frogs (American Bullfrogs) in 2015, many Red-eared Sliders (the most common turtle species in Forest Park) and Hooded Mergansers.

Early in my walk I ran into my friend and owl mentee, Brenda Hente, who was walking her dog, the ever-happy Pumpkin.  Brenda called me later to tell me that she had found Charles and that I would greatly enjoy where he was perched.  I thanked her for the heads up and headed over to the owls' territory.  I soon found Charles perched in a nook of The First of Three Trees completely unobstructed.  By now the clouds had dissipated and the afternoon sun bathed him in amazing light.  [Be sure to double click on the photos to see a larger version]

One of the owlets was quite visible in the nest but the other was not in view.

I looked for a while for Sarah before finding her in the same tree as Charles.  I saw her initially from a spot further away from where I had found Charles.  She was about fifteen-twenty feet above him and in her own nook and also with an unobstructed view.

I went over for a closer look at her in the amazing light. 

I followed this with a closer look at the two of them in their respective nooks.  I do not regularly see Charles and Sarah perched in the same tree, be they right next to each other or some distance apart, so it was great to see them and in this splendid light.

The Three Trees are Cottonwoods, which develop and subsequently drop their leaves earlier than many deciduous tree species.  In the last few days these Cottonwoods have begun to bud out rapidly as you can see.

Charles hopped down to a lower branch and began to groom.

Laurie and Dave, who have been on a few Forest Park Beginner Birder Walks, were out for a bike ride and they swung by to see the owls.  They were later joined by Richard and Jane, owl devotees of several years running, and then by very recent owl prowlers, Sharon McClinton and her friend Brek who brought Sharon's husband.  It was great to see both new and seasoned owl observers return to the park to feed their love for and interest in the owls. Everyone delighted in seeing Charles and Sarah in their well-illuminated perches.

Both owlets soon came into view, The nest is so deep and dark that you have to overexpose just to get a decent look at them.  Not the easiet spot for observation photos but a great spot for nesting.  I think that the latter is much more important than the former.

Sarah remained in her perch for a while later and began to groom and even yawn.

As Charles and Sarah continued to wake up, they moved from their perch spots and they really began to move by making predatory attempts on Eastern Gray Squirrels in The Nest Tree.  The Nest Tree is not only a nesting location for the owls but a year-round residence for these squirrels.  I mentioned how I was asked once why the squirrels moved into where the owls nested and I explained that the owls began to nest where the squirrels were already living.

True to form, the squirrels proved to be tough to catch and not shy about charging Sarah after a Mexican stand-off with her. Here is a photo of such a stand-off; the squirrel to the left of Sarah.  It was an action-filled ten minutes or so.

 I enjoyed interpreting the owl-squirrel interactions for everyone and how I had seen such behavior many times over the years.  Sarah ended up on the large branch that contains the nest hollow and gave us a great look with the now setting sun upon her.

Charles flew to another tree opposite The Nest Tree. I told everyone that he might be waiting for the squirrels to be so focused on Sarah so that he could make a predatory attempt on the now distracted squirrels. Charles did just that but was unable to capture the ever elusive squirrels.  He landed at the edge of The Wooded Area with the sun giving him a gloriously gilded look.

Sarah changed her stance on the tree and now faced the sun directly.  To say that everyone was awestruck by the beauty of Charles and Sarah is putting it mildly.  

The now more awake and active owlets moved closer to the edge of the nest.  As always they are disgustingly cute.  In the best sense of the phrase.

Charles and Sarah ended up close together again but now in two different Cottonwoods before they each flew out to one of the park's lakes.  Sarah is on the left and Charles is just flying off on the right.

Pleasantly exhausted I headed for home but not before stopping a restaurant where my girlfriend, Wendy Schlegel, was hosting our friend Jo Viggers Davis visiting from Florida.  I shared many of these pictures with them and they loved seeing them.

Thank you for reading!