Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Charles vs. The Eastern Grey Squirrels in The Nest Tree

February 1, 2011

As a wintry mix descends on St. Louis and I have the day off from work, I thought I would try to do some blog catch up or is it catsup? I'll start with a quick post with lots of video drama and excitement.

Like where they nested last year, this year's nest tree (which is also the same tree where they nested in 2006 and 2009) is also home to at least two nests of Eastern Grey Squirrels. This makes for lots of predatory drama between Charles and the squirrels. For instance, last year in the space of about five minutes I saw Charles make five predatory attempts on squirrels. Now if it sounds like poor house huntng by the squirrels keep in mind two things.

1. Over the years, I have seen Charles and Sarah make more predatory attempts on Eastern Grey Squirrels than on any other species. I have seen one successful attempt. Sometimes the squirrels even charge the owls when the owls are too far away to grab the squirrel with a talon but too close to fly and catch the squirrel. Here's are examples of of these charges.

Hell, a few weeks ago a squirrel snuck behind and underneath Charles and charged hitting him square in the patootee. Charls flew off an hooted in a hesitant manner upon landing. I wish had got that one on film too as it was the first time I saw a squirrel actually hit an owl. What made this even more amusing was that I was leading a new park/owl friend, Bethany Wilfert, on a prowl that night and I had just finished telling her that I had never seen a squirrel hit an owl.

So, these squirrels are challenging prey but with them in such large numbers and so near, I can see why Charles would prefer to "shop" in his immediate neighborhood. In the first video, please forgive the blurriness, the squirrel is just above the opening to the hollow, which is pretty wild. Watch for Charles come blazing in from the left. He had been in The Overlook Hotel Tree and came gliding out of the tree tops on his way to make this attempt. This was on January 14.

After this first attempt, I said to myself, "This is going to go on allllll winter."

The next video taken on the very next day, January 15, shows Charles flying from the first of The Three Trees to go for a squirrel. It was a gorgeous flight and an exciting attack.

Nine days later on January 24, Charles again flew from the first of The Three Trees to go for another squirrel right on top of the nest hollow. He kept an eye on this squirrel for a while afterward.

Two days later, January 26, was a neat attempt and sequence of behavior. Charles flew from The Middle Tree to just next to the nest tree, which at first I thought was a predatory attempt on a squirrel that was heading up the nest tree. As you can see in the footage, he just passes by the nest tree. That said, he landed in another Cottonwood, which put him in a great position to attack squirrels going from The Wooded Area across a stretch of grass to the nest tree. And he did just that, missing the squirrel by a very close margin. Look closely!

Charles missed the squirrel and stayed in The Middle Tree for over an hour, barely moving. As I readjusted my position to keep warm, I looked up at his perch and saw that he flew off out of sight. Thankfully, I looked down at the south bank of the waterway and saw that Charles was just in the process of pouncing on a small URO (unidentified rodent object). He put it in his bill, flew to a low branch of The Eastern Branch Tree and then up to the nest hollow to deliver it to Sarah. He exited the nest hollow and landed in The Fleur de lise Tree before catching yet another URO and again delivering it to Sarah. What a guy!

The most recent Charles vs EGS in The Nest Tree was this past Sunday, January 30. I was leading an owl prowl, which I'll post about shortly and we were lucky and happy to see another close attempt by Charles.

I'm pretty sure that more attempts will occur and I hope to capture as many as I can. Thanks for reading!


  1. Mark - When are you going to write a book about Charles and Sarah. Seems like a great love story just primed to be released one Valentine's Day.

  2. Many thanks for the encouraging words! I do hope to write a book (at least one as well as a a children's version) about these two amazing owls, their relationship and my relationship with them. Thanks again and take care!

  3. Wow, that WAS a lot of drama! Thanks for being there, capturing it and sharing it Mark! :) Deepa.

  4. You are most welcome and thanks for the kind words, Deepa!