Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sarah Is Nesting!!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Three weeks after the first time the owls mated this breeding season, Sarah has chosen this year's nest location! She is in the 2008 Nest Tree. Now that she has chosen this tree it is now The 08/12 Nest Tree. The nest tree is again a Cottonwood tree and again it is a hollow. It is a beautiful spot, easy to see into and one of my favorite spots in which they have nested.

As you may have guessed they nested in this same spot in 2008, the first year I saw them have three owlets: Bart, Lisa and Maggie. They also had three owlets in 2010: Reese, Malcolm and Dewey. When they nested in this spot in 2008, I was able to see owlets at an earlier age than I have ever done before or since then. We were able to see them fledge over a magical multi-night period.

If you know where this tree is keep a good, safe and respectable distance away from it. At least 50-100 feet. Female Great Horned Owls are notoriously aggressive when nesting and you do not want to be attacked by an owl that can kill and eat Raccoons, Canada Geese and other large and powerful animals.

During the fall I saw Sarah visit this location a few times and Charles several times. They both visited this nest location more than any other and I was leaning heavily to this spot. For variety's sake, I may have preferred a new yet unused spot but I am very happy she has chosen this spot. As in many things in a mated pair's life (be it owls or humans), the male participates in the process but the female makes the decision. Male Great Horned Owls play real estate agent by showing different nesting spots to the females but the females sign the big, stinking check.

This is the second time I have seen them re-use the exact same nesting spot. In 2009, they nested exactly where they had in 2006. Last year, they nested in a different spot in this same tree and it is now known as The 06/09/11 Nest Tree. In each of these years, they had two owlets.

It all started yesterday with a call from my friend and owl-mentee, Brenda Hente. She had stopped by the park for a quick look after running some errands. She found Charles in his favorite conifer but had not found Sarah. We agreed to meet up in the afternoon after I finished my own errands. I got to the park and met Brenda and sure enough was in his favorite conifer and he had begun to stretch and hoot. Here's him in mid-escalator stretch (stretching one of his legs and wings). Be sure to double click on the photos to see larger versions of each shot.

Brenda said she needed my eagle eyes to find Sarah who again had remained undetected. Thankfully my eagle (or owl) eyes have been working especially well lately. I've had some great long-distance naked eye spottings of the owls in recent weeks. I asked Brenda where she had looked and we went from there. We checked out a potential nest spot that both owls had checked out on a memorable night in September. I had never seen them visit this hollow and it was among the contenders for this year's nest spot. We didn't see anyone there so we headed to The 2008 Nest Tree. From about 60 yards away I saw with my naked eye what looked like something in the hollow. We raised our binoculars and sure enough it was Sarah!

We were thrilled especially as we had been thinking that they would start nesting soon! We got closer and closer and got some great views of her in this amazing spot. What a beauty!

As you can see it's a big hollow and you can see well into it. Another fascinating aspect of it is that it faces west and gets big doses of afternoon sun as you see below.

We took a closer look and got the unconcerned but undivided attention of Sarah.

The whole time we were watching her in the nest we kept uttering superlatives and our faces were fixed with goofy grins. It is a thrill, privilege and honor to witness such a big development in these amazing animals' lives.

She eventually climbed out of the hollow and flew to The Fleur de lis Tree, much as she had when she nested in this general area in 2008, 2009 and 2011. After a slowly developing duet, she and Charles mated. They have been very busy mating owls this year. I have seen them mate 18 times in 22 days including two nights when they mated twice in the same night. Much more to write about and share about the mating including some good videos. Thanks for reading and if you want to go on an owl prowl (tour), just give contact me at !


  1. Wow, just got back after a trip and was thrilled to see the home-making activities in full swing. Thanks Mark, and when I visit St.Louis next, I will be seeing their new progeny...!


  2. Thank you, Deepa. Indeed, I hope when you return to St. Louis that there will be owlets and all the amazing things that come with them.

  3. Any signs of the pair? and where they might be calling home this season (2012-2013)?

  4. They are still in Forest Park. They have not mated yet this year. If you to get some insight about where they are, please contact me at to arrange an owl prowl.