Monday, December 16, 2013

Owls Mate For The Third Time

Monday, December 16, 2013

The owls mated again last night!  I really thought they would mate on Friday even though it was raining but no such luck.  Charles and Sarah did some more nest shopping last week including in The 06/09 Nest Hollow, The 11/13 Nest Hollow and the hollow in the The Third of Third Trees.  I had an owl prowl yesterday but before I met my group, I went to another wooded region of the park to look for owls.  I found the resident pair of Great Horned Owls together in one of their favorite spots.


My friend Robin Street-Morris found these owls in July 2011.  It was good to see them.  It had been a few months since I had done so.  I hoped to find some of the Barred Owls but no such luck.

I met my group, members of a Meet Up group called STL Nerdy Girls and my friend and owl mentee Brenda Hente.  I was happy to meet them and even happier to see them well-prepared for a prowl in the cold and snow. As we headed out we were treated to the sight of two Great Blue Herons perched high in two conifers.  Last fall and winter I saw this species more than I ever had before in those seasons.  This year I have seen them a decent amount but nothing with the frequency of last year.  They are quite hardy birds in the cold weather.


I showed the prowlees the the 08/12 Nest Tree and then I soon found Charles in The Fleur de lis Tree.


As we watched him everyone but me saw him drop a pellet.  I was too busy futzing with my camera!  The area around the The Trio Conifers had received mobbing attention from commuting American Crows so we headed that way. We found Sarah tucked away in an especially obscure spot in the tallest of the trio.  This is my least awful photo of her.



The crows paid her some mind but soon found Charles in his more exposed spot and they mobbed him for a while.  We took up a new position in hopes to see both owls. Sarah came blazing out and landed close to Charles.  The owls had not hooted together so far but they made up for lost time by jumping into a duet.
We found Sarah a few trees away from Charles and the duet continued to pick up speed.  Charles flew to an atypical spot on The First Three of The Three Trees.  Sarah joined him in a more typical spot in that tree.


We hoped that mating would occur as they were pretty close to each other.  Charles flew over us, the underside of his wings illuminated by the streetlights.  The duet continued and our excitement grew as Sarah flew over us and joined Charles.  Before I could focus my camera, the owls mated!  Listen at the 13 second mark for the high-pitched call that Sarah (and other female GHOs) makes when they mate.



After mating Charles bombed off heading east.  We found Sarah perched before she followed Charles.



Everyone was thrilled to see the owls mate!  I gave the members of the group the option to look for the owls or head home.  Some decided to depart but others, including a young owl addict, decided to look for the owls some more so off we went.

We followed the trajectory of the owls with no initial success.  Thankfully we kept ears, eyes and minds open and this was rewarded with hearing Charles.  We honed in on him just to hear a hunger-related call from Sarah as she flew over to join him in a good sized coniferous tree.  They duetted some more and we thought that a second mating might occur.  Instead Charles flew off a short distance west.  We changed positions and saw that Sarah was feeding!  We surmised that Charles had caught something and called to her to give it to her as part of their mating/courtship/pair-bonding exercise.  We could not tell what she was eating but we saw her take some good-sized bites.  Our best guess was a squirrel-sized mammal or dove-sized bird.

While she ate, Charles flew south and she followed him after some more eating.  We delighted in reacquiring them and seeing some more fascinating behavior.  We headed home even happier than before and excited that the owls had mated again!  Thank you for reading!

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