Monday, June 22, 2009

A big day-Mo no longer MIA!

April 7, 2009

After the cold and grey of the day before, this day's clear and warm weather were most welcome. Initially I had my ears uncovered (hat on, of course) and I wore lighter gloves. I headed to the south side of The Wooded Area and found Edward Crim and Mark (whose last name I can't recall) across the road from the Trio Conifers. Edward was borrowing Don Love's monster lens. It is a heavy lens but it takes amazingly close photos.

As I made my way down the hill I saw Charles in his Favorite Conifer. Edward and Mark had staked out a spot that gave them a good view of Sarah in one of the big deciduous trees east of the Trio Conifers. Charles hooted twice in quick succession for his first hoots of the day. It is unusual for him to hoot like that so early in the evening. Usually rapid hooting occurs after "warming up" at a more gradual rate. In my observations, Charles' average high rate of hooting is 3 hoots a minute. Sarah took off and relocated deeper into The Wooded Area.

Charles flew off, south/southwest towards The Second Catalpa, landing possibly in The Feeding Tree. We heard some begging cheeps and we went to relocate Charles and the source of the begging cheeps when Sarah landed above us in the December 17th Tree. Just then, Charles flew back and landed in a deciduous tree just east of his favorite conifer. We could see both owls easily, Sarah in the foreground and Charles in the background, a rare and gorgeous sight to behold.

Sarah did some what I call vampire grooming of her left wing. In vampire grooming, the owl grooms the interior of its wing and surrounding areas in a way that looks like a Dracula character lurking behind its cape.

Sarah then flew off past Charles and landed near/in The Quintet Conifers. She continued eastward with a blazing flight which took her, as I guessed correctly, to The Eastern Tree. We headed out to follow her and Edward pointed out the gorgeous, nearly full moon. We reacquired Sarah in The Eastern Tree and enjoyed seeing her perched on one of the tree's highest points.

We set up shop to look for Mo in the nest. Even with the decent amount of light and Edward using Don Love's monstro lens, we did not see Mo. Edward made a short diversion to shoot some photos around Pagoda Circle, while I continued to look for Mo in the nest. Sarah took off from The Eastern Tree, heading back into The Wooded Area.

With Mo unfound and Sarah departed, we began to discuss where to go next when Edward had an unpleasant realization; the binoculars he had carried were no longer with him! We went through the drill of where he had last used them/seen them. He was pretty confident that he had used them on the north bank of Post-Dispatch Lake and around the Suspension Bridge, so we agreed to head out to these destinations.

To say that going in this direction turned out to be serendipitous is an understatement. We had just started heading north when I spotted an owlet midway up a large deciduous tree close to the water way-it was Mo!! I could tell it was Mo and not Art by Mo's smaller size and less developed plumage. We marveled at finding him and wondering how he got there. He fledged about the same distance that Art had. However, whereas Art fledged to The Wooded Area to be with his parents, Mo had gone the same distance from the nest tree but in the completely wrong direction. How did he get over? Was it a mistake on his part, an independent streak or was there some precipitating incident (threat of a predator, owlet curiosity and foolishness) that led him to be so close but so far from the protective eyes of Charles and Sarah?

Unfortunately, we were not the only ones to have found Mo. Several American Robins were mobbing him with loud warning calls and close fly-bys. Mo dodged them as best as he could all the while emitting begging cheeps. It was a hard sight to take in and while I had decent confidence that Charles and Sarah would hear Mo's begging cheeps; I couldn't help but fear that Mo might come to an all too premature end. This is a very vulnerable stage for owlets both from predators and injuries incurred when flying and landing. At the same time, their food demands are still quite high and if Charles and Sarah lost track of him, starvation would be a very real danger.

We reluctantly left Mo to continue our search for Edward's binoculars. Our search failed to turn up the binos so with additional reasons for concern we headed back to reacquire Mo before heading home.

Just as we approached Mo's tree, one of the adult owls, most likely Sarah, went flying off east from the same tree, just a short distance from where Mo was perched! This sight heartened us immensely! At least one of the parents knew where Mo was and they could feed him and keep some watch on him. I think it was Sarah judging by the size of the owl and that female Great Horned Owls take the lead in the feeding and protection of owlets. The male Great Horned is focused on obtaining food for the family.

While we were thrilled to see one of the parents close to Mo, I reminded myself that Mo's position away from his parents' roosting sites still put him in a pernicious situation. Luckily the good turn of events did not end with the owls as Edward found his binoculars. They were in his jacket or backpack the whole time! We had a good laugh about that and I gladly accepted Edward's kind offer of a ride back home. I couldn't wait to get home and tell Wendy about Mo and everything else.

To see Edward's perspective and photos of the day, check out this page on his great Forest Park 365 website:!.html


  1. Great post, Mark. You definitely captured the excitement of that serendipitous discovery as well as the mixed emotions of relief in finding Mo coupled with the worry of his vulnerability in his new location.

  2. Many thanks, Barb! Glad you liked it!