Monday, September 2, 2013

Names For And Brief Update On The Owlets

Monday, September 2, 2013

Again my blog has suffered a spring/summer drop off in updates.  I hope this does not give the impression that I have not been observing, documenting and doing outreach with the owls.  I am as busy as ever. Making and finding the time to blog is the tough part.  This year's owlets are a great group and I have been lucky to share them with many people via numerous owl prowls.  We just started the thirty-sixth week of the year and so far I have led 36 owl prowls in 2013.  2013 is shaping up to be a banner year for outreach both with owl prowls and owl talks. I gave seven talks in 2012 and this year I have done ten so far with many more to come. I am starting to do talks outside of the St. Louis area too, which is exciting.  Please look on the right side of my blog to see my next four upcoming talks.  I hope to see you at one-or more!

Back to the owlets.  When Charles and Sarah have had three owlets in years past, 2008 and 2010 specifically, I have named the owls after fictional siblings to give the owlets an age/hatching order.  2008 was Bart, Lisa and Maggie from The Simpsons and 2010 was Reese, Malcolm and Dewey from Malcolm in The Middle.  In years with two owlets, I have named the owlets after recently deceased individuals, all human with one exceptional feline exception. Some were family of mine, others kin to friends of mine and even a much respected and greatly missed author.  With three owlets here in 2013 I decided to forgo the fictional sibling naming convention and instead use another group of in memoriam names.  Unfortunately, I had a number of deserving individuals who died recently and I thought naming owlets after them was a fitting way to remember and honor these individuals.  I named the owlets Lawrence, Edward and Stuart.    As the owlets have dispersed, leaving their parents' territory, or are in the process of dispersing I think it is fitting to learn the owlets names and the origins thereof.

Lawrence is named for Lawrence Colavita, the father of my girlfriend, Wendy Schlegel.  Lawrence died on December 2, 2012.  Although everyone called him Larry, Wendy and I decided that Lawrence was a more fitting tribute to her a father and a better name for an owlet.  I first met Larry in the fall of 1999 when he traveled from his beloved hometown of Schenectady, New York to rendezvous with Wendy and me in New York City.  Wendy and I had been together for about a year and I think he was a tad puzzled about me.
Wendy had sung my praises to him but now was a chance to cast his gaze on the person now romantically involved and living with his only child.   I was not overly worried about meeting him but I knew him to be of a sharp, discerning mind.  Thankfully one of Larry's many qualities was his not only his sharp mind but his equally open mind.  It did not take him too long to see that Wendy was not off her rocker but was very happy and that I was a decent chap with a few bits of grey matter in my noggin. Larry and I shared a common passion for and knowledge of great film, music and television. I think he thought that, "Well, Mark will be easy to talk with when I call and see Wendy."  Larry and I also were both former New Yorkers and we had each come to St. Louis to go to WashU.  Larry was always keen to hear about the owls and their doings, for which I am grateful.  As an Air Force veteran Larry was buried with full military honors in one of the best burial ceremonies one could have. Dignified, respectful and gracious.  He is missed. Here is Larry's obituary and a photo of Wendy receiving his flag.

Edward is named for our friend and former colleague Edward Cook.  Mr. Cook died on April 23, 2012.  I worked with Mr. Cook at the Central Library of the St. Louis Public Library system from 1998-2003.  Mr. Cook worked in the QUIC Reference/Information Center, which is the ready reference department of the library.  After working as a shelver and shelver supervisor for under a year, I had the honor of transferring into this department in January 1999.  The honor was largely a result of the brilliant and interesting individuals, like Mr. Cook, who worked in this department.  Mr. Cook was one of three retired teachers in the department who had all taught together and become friends at Saint Louis Priory School, one of the best prep schools in the area.  As individuals they are all superbly educated and knowledgeable in a variety of areas and as a troika they were awe-inspiring.  Thankfully, Mr. Cook, Berkley Jones and Dennis Roach are all kind of heart as well as brilliant of brain.  They gladly helped me and other younger members of the department such as Andrzej Niekrasz, Melissa Vetter, Quinton Byrd and Jim Bone and we in turn helped them bringing our areas of knowledge and expertise to bear.

As the eldest of the the three great teachers, Mr. Cook held us all to a high standard. A language teacher, he was fully versed and fluent in Latin, Greek, French and German.  A passionate and deeply read devotee of classical music and film, he mentored to me and many others.  We returned the favor as best we could.  One of my prouder exchanges with him was when I turned him into a passionate fan of The Simpsons.   He often remarked, "Mark, my boy,  if you do nothing else in life you can at least tell people how you got me into The Simpsons."  I met Wendy as we too worked at the library, albeit in different departments.  Wendy and Mr. Cook became fast friends and he saw how much we mean to each other.

A well-traveled man he was passionately devoted to the City of St. Louis and lived there all of his eighty-four years extolling its virtues and worrying over its challenges.   Mr. Cook was encouraging but I think ever so slightly perplexed by my interest in and passion for the owls.  Still he saw how much it means to me and how I have been able to share this passion with others.  I can recall countless exchanges between us of books, cds and articles but I always regret that I never got him out for an owl prowl.  We ended up moving only a few blocks away from Mr. Cook so we lived all near the park and the owls but a prowl just never happened.  A prowl was always one of those things that we would do but never made firm plans to do so.  I think he would have liked to have seen the owls and would have gained an appreciation for them.  Wendy and I had brunch today with Berkley Jones and as is typical, no small part of our conversation was about our much missed, voluble and venerable colleague, Mr. Cook.  Here is his obituary.

The third and youngest owlet is named for Stuart Freeborn.  He died on February 6, 2013.  I never met Mr. Freeborn but I love his work.  One of the greatest film make-up artists of all time his work included such great films (and great makeup therein) as the David Lean films Oliver Twist and The Bridge on The River Kwai, the Stanley Kubrick films Dr. Strangelove.... and 2001: A Space Odyssey all before designing Yoda for George Lucas' Star Wars films.  A man of immense talent, knowledge and character he imbued his work with his essence.  I think he would have liked to have a gorgeous and fascinating Great Horned Owl named after him.  Here is his obituary from The New York Times and one from the film website, Ain't It Cool, which has some great footage of him and his work.

There is much to tell about the owlets but I think I will conclude with one of the better shots I got of all three of them next to each other. From May 19, from left to right it is: Edward, Stuart and Lawrence.

You can really see the differences in size and feather development due to the asynchronous laying and hatching of the eggs, which is normal for Great Horned Owls.  Thanks for reading!


  1. Thank you for the update! Hope to come out with you and see them again, before they leave for their adult lives.

  2. Thanks for update. Always enjoy heating your thoughts on owls. Will check out dates of talks and hope to attend. Good luck with your ongoing work. Lorie G

  3. Enjoyed the read, and what a great picture of the trio!