December 1, 2010
I returned to St. Louis on Tuesday, November 30, 2010 after ten days in the Cape Town area of South Africa where I joined many members of my family to attend the wedding of my little sister, Mary. It was a great trip and it had some cool owl and other nature moments as well. It was the longest I had been away from my girlfriend, Wendy, and the owls too! Needless to say, while I enjoyed my time in South Africa (the first time I had been there in nineteen years), my mind was often on my favorite birds, Wendy, Charles and Sarah!
Despite a 30 hour journey from Cape Town to my home, I had enough energy to go to Forest Park and look for Charles and Sarah. After the vast realms of green of late spring in Cape Town, it was intriguing to see the park with its many trees bare or almost bare. As I approached their territory, I heard Charles hooting, which warmed my heart to hear again. I got to The Wooded Area and I saw one of them just southeast of The Great Northern. Even though about eighty yards away, I correctly identified the owl as Sarah and after Charles hooted again, she responded with a hoot of her own.
I found Charles in a well-concealed spot that I have often seen Sarah use the past few falls that I have finally dubbed Sarah's Autumnal Perch. I was able to see both of them quite well but in a flash, Sarah was gone. Thankfully, I could hear her hooting, now closer to Charles. I adjusted my position and found her in the Jungle Gym tree just by The Overlook Hotel Tree. They continued to duet and the duet became more and more intimate, with trilling, purring hoots by Charles and rapid responses by both owls. Sarah flew past Charles and landed in one of the 2008/2009 Salon Trees, on a very exposed branch. This caught my eye and I began to wonder if mating might occur. They duetted more and the already high level of intimacy increased and the next thing I knew, Charles flew over, landed on Sarah and they mated. Amazing!! It was the earliest in a year I have ever seen them mate by a large margin. Last year, they mated for the first time on December 10, which until yesterday was the earliest in a year I had seen them mate. Check out the video of last night's mating:
I had to wonder if they had mated while I was in South Africa or if they had "waited" for me. Either way, it was amazing to see them mate. Charles headed off towards The Four (Three) Trees and after a few minutes, Sarah flew southeast out of The Wooded Area. I went looking for both owls and saw what was almost certainly Charles flying east, high over The Muny. I tried to reacquire him and came up empty but I was thrilled to be back in the park, to see the owls and observe and document them mating for the first time in this mating season!