Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Several days prior to this Tuesday before Christmas, a new colleague and friend of mine, Aaron Hipp, mentioned that he was interested in a return trip to see the owls. Several weeks prior, Aaron and another new colleague and friend, Stephanie Zayas, had joined me for an owl prowl. While Charles and Sarah did not duet a great deal that night, we had a good time following them to The Second Catalpa, The Right Hand Tree and eventually Charles to The Bare Tree on Wildlife Island. After the prowl, we enjoyed a beer and a bite at The Boathouse before we headed home.
As Aaron's work strongly involves public parks and I spend hundreds of hours in Forest Park, it was natural that we became friends and associates. Kudos go to our mutual friend and colleague, Chad Henry, for suggesting to Aaron that he speak with your friendly neighborhood owl man and park patron. Chad is a big booster of the owls, the park and my work with them.
As Tuesday, December 22 drew closer, Aaron mentioned that his charming wife Pam and Pam's mother Maria, who was visiting for the holidays, might join us. Of course, I welcome all interested parties but I reiterated to Aaron the need for proper apparel now that we would be visiting the owls one day after the first day of winter. I need not have worried. When Aaron and I arrived at the park and we met Pam and Maria, a four-time marathoner in 2009 alone, they were suitably decked out for cold-weather owl prowling.
In the course of many owl prowls, formal or informal, that I have led, I have always made a point to address the apparel one should wear especially in cold weather. Unfortunately, my advice has not always been heeded to the fullest:). An owl prowl is comprised of two extremes: fast, quiet motion or quiet combined with a complete absence of motion. In cold weather, this means that you must dress in quiet, abundantly warm clothes. Over the course of this evening's hour-long prowl, I did not hear a single whine, fidget or complaint from Aaron, Pam or Maria about the cold weather. Bravo!
I gave Pam and Maria a quick tour and history of the owls and their nesting spots and offspring. We began to hear Charles hoot so we headed for The Quintet Conifers. Both Charles and Sarah were in his favorite conifer. I directed them to close but discreet viewing positions and it was great to see their draws drop at the sight of these two gorgeous owls.
First Charles and then Sarah flew south to a large dead deciduous tree not far from The Bushy Tree and The Second Catalpa. They had used this tree a fair amount in recent weeks and did so this evening. They continued a duet that had begun in The Quintet Conifers. The duet increased, decreased and then increased again in pace, intensity and intimacy.
At several points I thought that mating would happen at any moment. Having recently seen the footage of Charles and Sarah mate on December 19, I could tell that my fellow owl prowlers were keen to see them mate in person.
Sarah flew to a nearby tree and the duet continued. From our perspective, I thought that her new position made her physically inaccessible to Charles for mating. Perhaps it was Sarah's position or it was not in the cards or our discreet but four person presence was too much but mating did not occur on our watch. Charles went bombing off east and the disappointment in not seeing them mate was palpable.
We still had Sarah in our sights and then she joined Charles by flying in an easterly direction. It looked like she was heading towards The Eastern Tree but may have paused on her way. Indeed she had paused as keen-eyed Aaron found her in a deciduous tree near The North-South Path. She stayed there briefly before she went flying off to The Eastern Tree. We hustled over and just as we reacquired her in The Eastern Tree she made a gorgeous flight past The Four Trees and over McKinley Drive.
As we reacquired her on the east side of McKinley Drive we saw a muskrat swimming in the waterway below us. Pam, in particular, was pleasantly surprised to see this aquatic rodent. This was a very gutsy muskrat as he seemed completely unfazed by us. Sarah flew off northeast and again we gave chase. We found her by Deer Lake but she continued on northeast. We finally reacquired her in the sloping tree immediately west of the Franz Siegel statue. Moments after we found Sarah she blasted off east, about as far east as I have ever seen her or Charles go.
We decided that we had pursued her enough and we headed back to where we had parked. I was preparing to walk home when someone suggested dinner at The Boathouse. We all agreed but found that they are only open for dinner Thursday-Sunday during the fall and winter. Rats. Plan Bs were discussed and we quickly agreed on the new Central West End location of the excellent pizza purveyors, Pi. Knowing that my life might be forfeit if I went to the new Pi for dinner without my girlfriend, Wendy, I asked the others if she could attend. They graciously and heartily welcomed her. I called Wendy and before the word "Pi" had finished escaping my mouth, she said yes. We drove the short distance to Pi, Wendy joined us a few minutes later and we had a great meal with engaging and wide-ranging conversation. Maria saved the best surprise for last when she generously and kindly treated us all to this excellent repast. Thanks, Maria!!