Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The owlets have left the building!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Kindly allow (owlow) me to skip ahead to the present day. I plan to continue my gradual process of blog updates about the doings of Charles, Sarah and this year's owlets, Art and Mo, but I need to jump ahead briefly.

Tonight I went to the park for the seventh consecutive night and I did not observe the owlets at all. I have been keeping a keen eye and ear out for them as it has been some time since I have observed these fascinating owlets. To recap:

Last definite sighting of both owlets, Thursday, August 20, 2009

Last possible sighting of an owlet, Tuesday, August 25, 2009.

Since this date, I have not observed the owlets at all. A few days after August 25, when I still had not seen the owlets, I told myself that I would give two weeks from August 25 and if I had not seen the owlets within that two week period then I would make the call that they had headed out on their own.

Over the last two weeks I have not seen or heard the owlets but I have found some possible evidence of them. Evidence that might point to natural processes taking place or a premature end to their young lives. Along the north bank of Post-Dispatch Lake, I have found two stretches of the bank with numerous feathers (mostly body or contour feathers) on the ground. I'm not a feather expert but I'm pretty certain that some of the feathers are owl feathers. I think the other feathers are duck feathers as a few Mallard Duck families hung out on these stretches of lake shore.

My hope is that the owl feathers are a result of the owlets undergoing their first molt, completing the transition from juvenile to adult plumage. My fear is that the feathers are evidence that the owlets were attacked, injured and possibly killed by another animal. This concern is assuaged by the lack of other evidence such as blood trails and corpses. On the other hand, the large volume of feathers, particularly on one of the stretches gives me cause for concern.

While adult Great Horned Owls have very few natural predators, the owlets they are vulnerable to animals that would otherwise not pose a threat to them as adults unless they were were injured or ill. Of the animals that live in the park, the ones that could pose a hazard to even six month plus old owlets like Mo and Art are: Red Foxes, Red-Tailed Hawks, Coyotes, Raccoons, and Minks. In addition, many medium to large domestic dogs would be a formidable threat to an owlet.

The previous four groups of owlets born to Charles and Sarah have all left their parents territory well into September, usually between the second and third week of the month. I hope the owlets early absence is the result of their independent streak (particularly in Mo's case) and not the result of a predatory encounter with the owlets in the role of prey.

After making the call on Tuesday, September 8, that the owlets were no longer around, I have not gone looking for them. I have gone directly to Charles and Sarah's perch sites and watched them. As always, this is a bittersweet transistion. I am glad I can focus my time and energies more closely but I miss seeing the owlets and their continued growth and development.

I wish Mo and Art well and I look forward to continuing to tell their story retroactively! Thanks for reading!

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