I reached a new milestone tonight. Tonight marks the seventh 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. Observing and documenting Charles and Sarah and their progeny is a great joy as well as a great deal of work and dedication. The owls never cease to amaze, delight, confuse, confound, fascinate and intrigue.
As in years past, some number crunching is in order. Between December 29, 2011 and tonight, December 29, 2012, I went to the park 261 nights to see/observe/document/do outreach with the owls. That is 71.5 % of the days of the year. A bit of drop from last year but not too shabby. Travel and such in February, June and a variety of activities and furnace-like temperatures from May-August dropped the overall number and average. This was undoubtedly the year with hottest winter and summer temperatures. We had days in the summer with temps as high as 105 degrees Fahrenheit. Like the previous year, this year I had a 100% success rate. Every time I went to look for the owls, I saw at least one of them. I have never had two consecutive years of a 100% success rate.
This was one of the best years for outreach about the owls and my work with them. I led 49 owl prowls this years, almost one a week. These owl prowls ranged from "private" owl prowls for folks that contacted me to well-established events like the 2012 St. Louis Bioblitz. The 49 owl prowls I led does not take into account the scores of people to whom I showed and educated about the owls.
As the owls nested this year in an easy to see/great to photograph spot, the owls got a great deal of attention from local nature aficionados and local media. Local media attention included my first TV coverage on KTVI/Fox 2, a cover story in The West End Word, one and two nice mentions in The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and a nice piece about winter owl prowls in the St. Louis Family portion of St. Louis Magazine.
Furthermore, I gave 7 well-received talks for organizations ranging from Forest Park Forever to two local Kiwanis Club chapters to the St. Louis Audubon Society (my first keynote speech) and the Webster Groves Nature Study Society. I already have 3 talks booked/in the process of becoming booked for 2013. The first one is a talk at the Maplewood Public Library on Thursday, January 24, 2013. I hope to see you there!
Other highlights of the year include having the Forest Park Forever tribute tree (a Cottonwood) that my girlfriend, Wendy, bought for me planted in the owls' territory, receiving an incredible birthday present of a book of photos of the park and the owls accompanied with touching testimonials about the owls and my work with them (a book splendidly conceived and organized by my friend and owl mentee, Brenda Hente) making contact with my first long-distance owl mentee, Pam Dimeler, having a Great Horned Owl named after me by my owl mentees, Barb Brownell and Chris Gerli, getting to release a Great Horned Owl much like this one, getting a great new job at Fontbonne University, and sightings of a wide-range of wildlife in Forest Park including Common Snapping Turtles, Baltimore Orioles, Bald Eagles, Mink and Eastern Bluebirds.
I hope to see you all in Forest Park soon and please feel free to contact me contact me at email@example.com if you would like to go an owl prowl or have me give a talk on the owls. Thanks for reading!