Friday, January 14, 2011

Charles Feeds Sarah. Why? She's Nesting!!

January 14, 2010

Sarah has been nesting since December 19 and yet I continue to play catch up when it comes to posting to this blog. Thankfully, last night's incredible events are a nice way to show and not just tell everyone that Sarah is nesting. Fear not, I plan to tell the whole story (so far) of Sarah's nesting. It is full of amazing twists and turns and no shortage of drama and mystery.

Last night was my first night to watch the owls since Monday, January 10. I went straight home and made dinner for Wendy and me on Tuesday and on Wednesday I met with Karen Meyer, an at-large member of the board of the St. Louis Audubon Society. We went over a few matters relating to the talk I'm giving. I hope to see you many of you at this talk! It is on Tuesday, January 18 at 7:00pm at the Dennis and Judith Jones Visitors Center in Forest Park.

After the two day absence, it felt like it had been a month since I had last seen the owls. I found Charles perched in The Fleur de lis Tree. One of the fascinating aspects of this year's nesting season is that Charles has been varying his roosting spots more than I ever seen before during a nesting season.

Charles began to wake up and groom extensively with a few stretches. Here he is doing a double wing stretch and then cleaning his talons in his bill.

He began to hoot and Sarah, from deep within the hollow in which she is nesting, returned the hoots and another lovely owl duet was born. Sarah is nesting in a new spot in what I have called until recently, The 06/09 Nest Tree. This Cottonwood tree is where she nested in 2006 and 2009. Those years she nested in a large hollow branch. This branch was severely damaged in the first week of June 2009. She is nesting now in another hollow branch of this same tree but on the opposite side of the trunk. I had always thought this hollow too small for the owls to use but they have proved me wrong.

Charles alternated between hooting and grooming when suddenly he changed positions on his branch. He looked to the east towards the waterway and did a noticeable head bob. Owls and other birds of prey move their heads from side to side to help them get better depth perception on what they have in sight. I watched him through my cameras and binoculars and soon realized that he was in the zone for a predatory attempt. He was completely fixed on this area by the waterway. Charles head bobbed a few more times and remained concentrated even though he did return a hoot after Sarah hooted first.

I looked at the area that Charles was scoping out but did not notice any obvious prey such as Eastern Grey Squirrels, Mallard Ducks, Wood Ducks or Muskrats. I paused and realized that there could be a small mouse or other small rodent that caught Charles' attention. This fall and early winter, I have seen several successful predatory attempts by Sarah on small rodents including one by the waterway. I made the call that such a small rodent was the likely target and I waited patiently but with great excitement especially as it was still quite light. My patience was rewarded as you will see below. Please be sure to check out all three videos.

My call was correct, Charles caught a small rodent! He paused with it in his bill and then flew to the hollow where Sarah is nesting and delivered it to her! As you saw in the last video, he hooted immediately upon arriving at the nest and Sarah responded, their earlier duet born anew. He then hooted some more at the edge of the hollow before returning to The Fleur de lis Tree where he continued to hoot. I don't think I'm over-interpreting or anthropomorphizing when I say that his hooting seemed to filled with pride. Here he had just caught a prey item and provided for his mate while she incubates their eggs all while it was still early in the evening.

Charles hooted for several more minutes before flying off north. I waited another 20-25 minutes for Sarah to fly out and visit one of her salon trees where she grooms, stretches and expels waste, be it whitewash or pellets or both. She did not show during that time so I headed off to reacquire Charles. I made a good long loop going north, then northwest before heading south. I did not find Charles again this night but I was not surprised by this given the long time between the time he departed and my pursuit. I was still breathless from this seeing this amazing predatory attempt and food exchange and the fact that I caught it on video! Thanks so much for reading!


  1. Many thanks, brother Paul and Anonymous!

  2. Mark, I just learned about your activities and blog through the PostDispatch article. These videos are awesome, Charles and Sarah are lucky to have you keeping an eye on them, and the educational aspect is priceless. Thanks for your efforts!
    Renee in Columbia MO

  3. Thanks so much for reading and for the encouragement, Renee!

  4. We haven't read your blog in a while. Looking forward to catching up though!

  5. Thanks for the comment, Hollie. I hope you enjoy catching up on my blog!