I approached Charles and Sarah's territory from the northwest and I began to hear Charles hoot. From the direction of his hoots, I could tell he was in The Quartet Conifers. I headed there, possibly hearing Sarah respond nearby and I found him in his new favorite conifer grooming away. Check out how he is cleaning one of the nails of his talons.
I found Sarah in the tallest of The Trio Conifers but in a more exposed spot than usual. I did not even have a time to get some stills of her before she made a short, graceful flight landing in The Jungle Gym Tree by The Archy Tree, a short distance away from Charles.
They began to duet intensely and I moved quickly to get the best angle of Sarah as I thought mating could happen at any point. I was not fast enough to film the beginning of their mating but I got most of it, unfortunately a little out of focus. Everything happened so fast!
Charles flew down to The 06/09/11 Nest Tree. They had mated at 4:18pm, 27 minutes before sunset. This was the earliest I had seen them mate so far this breeding season. Most of their matings have been well after sunset, which is less typical for them. This was also the first time I had seen them mate this season in The Jungle Gym Tree by The Archy Tree. They frequently mated in this tree during the previous breeding season, so much so that I sometimes referred to it as The Marital Bed Tree.
Sarah began to groom. I was in a close, concealed spot by her and was able to get some nice shots of her grooming. Kindly notice the immense size of her talons. Bloody hell.
I went to find Charles and found him at the edge of the 2011 Nest Hollow in The 06/09/11 Nest Tree.
I ran into my friend and owl mentee Brenda Hente. She was stunned to hear how they had mated already and well before sunset. We watched Charles and we even managed to find an angle where we could see Sarah and Charles. Sarah continued to groom and eventually flew off to The Hilly Wooded Area, presumably to hunt. Charles began to staccato hoot interspersing these rapid hoots with his usual hoot. Charles flew out to The Middle Tree and began to hoot more. He blasted off to The Hilly Wooded Area just as Sarah had.
We headed off to reacquire Charles and/or Sarah. We entered The Hilly Wooded Area and heard Sarah make a hunger demand call in a tree in front of us. Brenda's sharp eyes found Sarah in a tree parallel with The 2010 Nesting Tree. She flew off south towards The Southern Branch Tree, one of Charles' favorite hunting spots. It looked like she landed in this tree but was still flapping her wings as if she was struggling to keep her balance. Then we heard the high-pitched mating sound! We realized that she had landed near Charles and they were mating! This second mating was at 5:13pm, just under an hour after their first mating. Seconds later Charles landed about 40 feet from us horizontally and 10-15 vertically.
He had flown so fast and so quietly it seemed that he had just appeared from a completely different trajectory. We even wondered if there was another male out there. Thankfully we were able to go over what we each had seen and we worked out that it was indeed Charles. Charles blasted off east and we went to watch Sarah. I had never seen Sarah in The Southern Branch Tree before, which made this a neat sight. She did not stay long before blasting off, also in a easterly direction. We decided to call it a night. I returned home and had a delicious Xmas dinner that my girlfriend ,Wendy, had made. We had a beef shoulder roast, baked potatoes and green beans as I told her all about the amazing evening with the owls.
The next night, December 26, was another incredible night with Charles and Sarah mating twice that night.
I headed to the east side of the park, which I had not been to for a little while. I saw some Crows, Mallards, Eastern Grey Squirrels and the below raptor I have not positively identified yet, possible a Merlin. I welcome any and all input on IDing this raptor. (I cropped in the picture to give more detail)
I continued to the owls territory and Charles was in the 2011 Nest Hollow in The 06/09/11 Nest Hollow. He was giving me the "I am not happy with you, please go away" look and I reacted accordingly and went elsewhere.
In my experience, if an owl is giving you this look, go away and come back a while later. I went to look for Sarah in The Overlook Hotel Tree but she was not there. I returned to see Charles and he was fine with my being there. I took another tack to look for Sarah by heading up to The Trio Conifers. She was there and in a more typical, hard to find spot than she was the day prior.
She was not there much longer. Charles and Sarah began to duet. As they were a decent distance apart and with one on top of a hill and the other at the bottom of said hill, I tried to find a spot where I could observe both of them. I was partially successful. I missed Charles at some point because the next thing I knew Sarah made a low gliding flight landing in The Training Area of The Wooded Area and a second later Charles was mating with her.
They had mated a 4:28pm, eighteen minutes before sunset. Charles flew back to The 2011 Nest Hollow. I found Sarah in a unusual albeit not unprecedented perch in a tree between The Fleur-des-lis Tree and The 08/09 Salon Trees. I had a great view of her and I took a look at Charles in The 2011 Nest Hollow.
After a while they began to duet again. Charles moved to the 06/09 Nest Hollow. Sarah remained in her approachable perch. Charles flew closer landing near me and Sarah. Even though the light was fading I still had a good silhouetted view of Sarah. I hoped that they would mate in this perch so I could film it. Well, one out of two is not bad. Charles flew deeper into The Training Area but was out of sight as their duet intensified. Sarah flew towards him and they mated at 5:15pm a little over forty-five minutes after their first mating. Charles flew and landed directly above me, staccato and regularly hooting as he flew and then perched. I took up a less close position and he flew right over me in a typically gorgeous and breath-taking manner.
I looked for Charles for a little but headed home for another amazing meal from the beef shoulder roast. After enduring intense cold on December 24, I went up to six layers on my torso and made sure I had a thermos of hot tea with me. These measures helped...immeasurably.
Charles and Sarah mated again last night, Thursday, December 27. It took them a while to get their duet going but what made this mating special was that I was leading an owl prowl. Mary Butler had contacted me and I happily led a prowl for her and her family. Brenda came along and as always was quite helpful, chipping when I forgot a key point as well providing a good pair of eyes and ears.
I'm going to conclude this blog post in a slightly different manner so be sure to watch the next two videos to see/hear the post's conclusion. Thanks for reading/watching/listening!