I reached a new milestone tonight. Tonight marks the sixth year since I started to observe and document the owls with great consistency. After first observing the owls one evening in late August-early September (I wish I had written down the exact date), I had a few months of inconsistent sightings. Thanks to networking, research and dogged persistence, I began to see the owls consistently on December 29, 2005. I did write this date down and since then it has been my anniversary or owliversary. I remember hitting the one year mark and then the two year and so on. Reaching the five year mark last year was a big deal. With another year on and the six year mark reached, I am not shy to say that is a big deal again. Observing and documenting Charles and Sarah and their progeny is a great joy as well as a great deal of work and dedication.
Due to my inability with all but the most basic mathematics and my early exposure to Monty Python, accountancy has never been my strong suit. That said, after reaching another year of observing, documenting and sharing these amazing owls, a little number crunching is worthwhile. From December 29, 2010 through December 29, 2011, the following occurred:
I went to the park to watch the owls on 279 nights aka 76% of the nights in the year. Travels in February, April, and June were welcome journeys that renewed mind and body but also cut down on the overall attendance. April and July 2011 had the fewest visits with 19 apiece. December 2011 has the highest number of visits with 29 so far and more to come. The longest consecutive stretch of visits started on November 12, 2011 and has not met its end so far. In the interest of full disclosure, some of these visits have been brief, to say the least. On several occasions time has been short and I stopped by with enough time to find the owls, count heads, and wish them well. Conversely, several visits have lasted over two hours and one went about four hours in length. My success rate in finding the owls in this twelve month period has been one hundred percent. The previous high was nintey-seven percent.
In the last twelve months I have seen the owls hoot, hunt, duet, fly, hop on the ground, mate, nest, raise two owlets, get mobbed and chased by other birds and animals, amaze onlookers, baffle, confuse, bewilder and stupefy me, buzz me at low altitudes, eject pellets, defecate, perch in places new and old, and much more. I gave well received talks on the owls to the St. Louis Audubon Society, middle school students of Emmanuel Lutheran School, The Men's Club and Ladies' Guild of Emmanuel Lutheran Church and Forest Park Forever's Fall Family Funfest. I have led owl prowls for many individuals and groups including Washington University in St. Louis and Alberici Construction. Articles on the owls and my work with them were printed this year in The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Show-me Missouri (a quarterly travel magazine) and The University News (the student newspaper of St. Louis University). I continue to teach to and learn from dedicated friends and owl mentees. Their great work, superb questions and quick learning keeps me on my toes and I am proud of them all. Thanks to them, I have also seen other pairs of Great Horned Owls, which is a great aid to my understanding of the species. The number of books I have on owls now exceeds thirty volumes after starting with just one book a few months prior to my first spotting of the owls. The number of views of the videos of the owls and other Forest Park wildlife on my YouTube page is now over fourteen thousand. I received countless kind words, kudos and compliments. Some of my favorites were from folks who thought that seeing the owls or hearing a talk on them would be dull as dishwater but then found themselves wanting to see and learn more about these amazing animals. It has been a great year.
To mark the occasion of my sixth owlivesary, I tried to see as many owls as I could today in Forest Park. I hoped to find seven owls, four Great Horned Owls and three Barred Owls. I found five in all, four Great Horned Owls and one Barred Owl. My girlfriend, Wendy, joined me on this quest and her presence and help was especially appropriate. Of all the many supportive owl friends, mentees and fans, Wendy's support of my work with the owls has been the deepest, the most rewarding and the longest lasting. She has and continues to be the biggest booster of my work and on so many different fronts. From finding new books and articles on owls, to reviewing my stills and video from each night's visit, and generously providing me with new optical and photographic devices, she is truly amazing. I often make good-natured fun of Wendy's fair weather preferences when I lead owl prowls or give talks on the owls. Thankfully, it was an unseasonably warm December day and we reveled in feeling the warm air on our exposed ears and hands. Wendy delighted in seeing all five owls and her enthusiasm was infectious.
I returned to watch Charles and Sarah and they amazed as always. After several nights of not seeing them mate, they mated no more than fifty feet from me. I also had several excellent exchanges of owl and park ambassadorship. Thanks for reading and I look forward to seeing you in the park and sharing the owls with you in the coming year!