Monday, September 14, 2009

A big day for Mo and lots of other cool owl happenings!

April 15, 2009

Even though it was tax day, it was a gorgeous one; bright, sunny and windy. I saw a nice indicator of spring as I saw three herons and egret species close together in the riffles by the Suspension Bridge; a Great Egret, a Snowy Egret and a Green Heron. Gorgeous.

I did not find Mo on my initial search of the north side of the lake. Little did know what excitement would happen with Mo later this evening.

While I was looking from the north side of The Wooded Area, I found Charles in Charles' Favorite Conifer -a real needle in a haystack moment. If I moved just inches from my vantage point, I would have lost sight of Charles. This was not the first time I had done found him from this perspective but it was the first time this year.

I came back around The Wooded Area and reacquired Charles in this tree from a more typical perspective. He did some early evening grooming. In order to maintain basic health and hygiene as well as maintain their silent flight capability, owls groom themselves thoroughly.

Just outside of The Cut-In, I found Sarah along the northwest section of the area and then I found the owlet Art, quite close to her. Art was doing some early begging cheeps and he made a short hop or two from branch to branch.

Sarah made a short flight into The Bushy Tree. I came around and found Sarah in The Bushy Tree. She was big, gorgeous and bathed in the late afternoon sunlight.

I could see Art not to far from Sarah in The Bushy Tree. A couple of large dogs began moving around the edge of The Wooded Area and then inside of it. I could not see an owner and I noticed that Sarah was keeping a close eye on the dogs, especially with the owlet so near to her. I think if the dogs got too close for comfort that Sarah would have done something about it, just like this Great Horned Owl did to this dog:

I went back to the other side of The Wooded Area and heard the dogs barking but what was happening was still unclear. I reacquired Charles at the northern edge of The Wooded Area, just like the day before.

By this point Art had moved and was now in and around The Quinetet Conifers. I came around to other side of hill and saw Sarah still in The Bushy Tree. She did a Double Wing Stretch, which, along with defecation, is often a prelude to flight. A couple of bats flew around and I could see a few Mallard Ducks on the ground. Sarah seemed to be checking both of them out at various times. She then executed an Escalator Stretch with a quick return of wing and leg to perching position. Charles began to hoot as I watched Sarah's stretching. Sarah took off and flew north to the roadside in a powerful and gorgeous flight.

Charles continued to hoot and I reacquired Sarah in a Cottonwood along the road. She flew off a short distance across the road and landed in a tree. Soon after she returned back to The Wooded Area with something in her talons-she caught something! I couldn't tell what it was but she dropped it off in The Wooded Area, possibly in the The Great Northern before returning to the roadside. Charles flew off across the lake, a gorgeous flight that he interrupted to go after but ultimately miss a bird in flight.

I happily ran into Chris Gerli and Barb Brownell and we sprang into action! We heard a great deal of robin calling but no owlet begging. Chris found Art in The Great Northern and the owlet was feeding on its own; an impressive at this young age. The Great Northern was the sight of several feedings of last year's owlets by Sarah.

This tree gets its name from its massive size and northerly position as well as referencing the hotel on the great TV series, Twin Peaks. In the second of its two series, Great Horned Owls were used in the show in a powerful manner that greatly impressed me, then in my late teens. Although a decade-and-a-half passed between this series of the show and my first encounters with Charles and Sarah, the show was undoubtedly a step on the path to where I am now with owls being an important part of my life, particularly this pair and their progeny.

Sarah went blazing over us while vocalizing in a screech/cheeping manner after doing a pause/practice attack at the top of a tree and landing in the Eastern Tree.

With the light fading fast, we agreed to go looking for Mo along the north bank of Post-Dispatch Lake. As we got closer we began to hear Mo making begging cheeps. We moved in closer and saw him make a nice flight to a low branch of a deciduous tree. He continued to beg and then he blasted off low to the ground, possibly going for a bird on the ground as we heard some bird calls and Mo bill clacking. We reacquired Mo in another low branch but now in a conifer. We didn't see any further evidence that he caught something.

Things then got really exciting. We saw Sarah fly over to this side of the lake with some food in her talons. Mo then made a loud squawk and flew over to the small tree in which Sarah had landed. We could see some food exchange/feeding taking place for a few moments until Sarah flew down to the ground. Mo began to emit begging cheeps at a rate and with a fevered intensity I had never observed. He was so excited at the prospect of food that he even bill-clacked.

He pursued Sarah with the food but she headed back across the lake with the prey item.Working with the last remnants of daylight, we struggled to see what was happening but the next thing we knew, we heard and then saw Mo on the other side of the lake! He had followed Sarah over to get some food. His flight across the lake likely took him across the water at one of its thinner points but at a distance of about 70-80 yards, it was quite significant achievement for a recently-fledged owlet. We all agreed pretty quickly that Sarah was likely luring Mo back to the parents' territory using food as bait. As a support to this theory, I mentioned an episode described in The World of the Great Horned Owl by G. Ronald Austing John B. Holt, Jr., one of the seminal works on the species, in which a mother owl encouraged at least one of her youngsters to fledge by luring them out of the nest with food.

We had a good view of him on the south bank of the lake. Shortly after he made a short flight to another portion of lake bank, we decided to head home. We were optimistic that Mo would join up with the family group in The Wooded Area and we looked forward to seeing the family back together again.


  1. That's an amazing account and a great capture of the owl chasing away a dog! Enjoyed it immensely. Baby duty is keeping me housebound, hope to do a bit more owl-prowling before I leave at the end of the week!