Like the day before, it was a beautiful day but it was more windy. I reached The Wooded Area just as a group of kids led by adults walked through the eastern portion of the area. This group of visitors unwittingly caused Sarah to flush twice in short succession. I was a tad disappointed by this as it might put Sarah on edge especially in regards to Art. Female Great Horned Owls are famously aggressive defenders of their young especially as the young get older and the parents have invested untold energy and time in raising the young. I looked carefully for Art and soon found him, well-concealed in the upper reaches of a conifer. He was in the tallest of a group of three conifers that I have begun to think of as The Trio Conifers. The Trio Conifers does not contain Charles' Favorite Conifer. That tree is found in a different but nearby group of conifers, whose numbers I need to carefully note so that I can dub them with the appropriate label. I am not a betting man but I would wager that their number is sufficient to earn the name The Quintet Conifers. It heartened me to see Art in a conifer as they offer abundant cover and camouflage; just what the doctor ordered for a young and inexperienced owlet.
I took a closer look at Sarah and saw that she was gular fluttering a little, perhaps due to heat and/or stress. Gular (pronounced "goo-lure") fluttering is the owl (and for many other birds) equivalent of sweating or panting. When they gular flutter, they rapidly move muscles in their throats to increase evaporation of excess moisture from the moist areas of the mouth and throat. It is a interesting process to observe and consider.
Of the owls most easily found most of the time, I found Charles last and in his Favorite Conifer to boot. I was reluctant to get closer as that Charles was quite near Sarah and Art and that would put me perhaps too near Sarah and Art. Since I knew that time was short I consoled myself with a brief glimpse of Charles' impressive plumage from below this favorite needled perch of his.
Keenly aware that Mo would most likely be deep in the nest hollow and all but invisible, I went to the nest hollow to look for him. I did not see him but was happy to find the other three early in the afternoon.
Before departing for home, I spoke briefly with Chris Gerli. He told me that he and Barb Brownell, his sig other, planned to watch the owls this night. This cheered me to no end as the two of them have proved themselves to be among the most dedicated owl watchers and Forest Park boosters.
While I introduced Chris in my last post, I did not give sufficient space to Barb. Professionally, Barb is the Speech-Language Pathologist for Nipher Middle School in Kirkwood, MO, a southwestern suburb of St. Louis. Through the wonders of online research, I have learned that she was celebrated as one of the 2006-07 Teachers of the Year of the Kirkwood School District. This confirmed what I already knew about Barb from spending many hours with her and Chris watching the owls. Namely that she is a great listener and observer, taking in details and broad strokes with equal aplomb. She shares her observations with equal scope and care all the while with a hearty laugh and appetite for noting norms and divergences.
I was even more chuffed when I checked my e-mail the following morning and saw a short but extremely detailed e-mail from Barb about what they saw that night. With Barb's blessing from here on are her observations with only the slightest of tweaks by me. Exciting stuff-enjoy!
Charles in his favorite conifer - grooming like crazy, stretching, periodic hooting. Art up high in conifer on the rise of the hill at the edge of The Wooded Area. Chris hears a distant hooting towards direction of Upper Muny parking lot.
We return to the nest area. No sight of anything at all in hollow. (Barb is concerned - where's Mo?) Chris sees flight of what we assume was Sarah (obstructed by the trees in The Wooded Area) fly from general area of upper Muny parking lot, to the edge of The Wooded Area towards general direction of Charles and Art.
Chris heads back to that area. Barb keeps vigil in hollow area. Chris calls on cell phone to report seeing Art in same conifer, Charles gone, and Sarah now in conifer next to Charle's Favorite Conifer. Chris then observes Art make a short but rather skilled flight and landing, from conifer to deciduous tree (closest deciduous tree to conifer he was in - has a split trunk - on rise of the hill). Sarah later flies out of her conifer towards Post-Dispatch Lake.
Meanwhile, back at the hollow, as darkness had definitely set in, Barb views, emerging from the hollow - Mo! He perches on the edge, looks around, stretches his legs, stretches wings, does some wing flapping - but mostly just sits and looks around. He watches the cars goes by, looks down at the ground, spies a passing plane, head bobs, sometimes faces back with head towards hollow (more room to stretch out wing), turns back around. Barb leaves momentarily to drive Chris back to his van and upon returning, catches for a second, a glimpse of one of the adults flying low to the ground away from hollow and back into The Wooded Area. No sign of Mo in hollow now. Could he be down in the hollow perhaps eating food that may have been delivered? Within minutes however, Mo emerges back on edge of hollow and remains perched, does some wing flapping but mostly just sits and takes in the scene. Barb, bids Mo a goodnight, and tears herself away from park at 9:15.