Thursday, December 12, 2013
The owls mated for the second time last night! It is great to see them back in the breeding swing of things. I did not see them mate on Tuesday, December 10. They had a good hooting duet going and then Sarah just stopped hooting. Charles continued to hoot but eventually flew off southeast. I suspected that one of the possible causes of her silence was that a pellet was on its way up for her to eject. Sure enough she ejected a pellet, which was good to see as she seemed especially hungry the night prior. With Charles gone, Sarah headed off south to hunt.
Back to last night, I led an owl prowl for my fellow member of the Great Rivers chapter of the Missouri Master Naturalist program, Donna Scott, and her pupils Natalia and Emily from the Science Club of Rosati Kain High School. Soon after we arrived in The Arena we heard Charles and later Sarah hooting from the vicinity of The Trio Conifers. We headed that way and found Charles in the shortest of The Trio Conifers.
Once we all had a look at Charles we searched for Sarah who was in her preferred conifer, the tallest of the three. Sorry, I didn't get a share-worthy of Sarah but she was high up on the southeast side of the tree. Charles hooted non-stop but Sarah had a little pause in her hooting. Charles flew out on the early side of thingsto a spot near Sarah's Autumnal perch. Sarah resumed her part of the duet and we went to look at Charles in his more exposed perch.
The duet grew in intensity and intimacy and I hoped mating was on the menu. My hopes were soon rewarded. Sarah flew to The Jungle Gym Tree near The Overlook Hotel Tree. My prowlees noticed the difference in color and size between the owls. The prowlees got a little distracted and I had to direct their attention to Charles flying over to Sarah. He landed on her and they mated.
I told my prowlees that they had just seen something that not many people had seen in person. I added that mating of Great Horned Owls had not been observed and described in the scientific literature until the 1990s. They were suitable impressed. Charles flew east to the edge of The Wooded Area. He hooted vigorously. Sarah groomed thoroughly as she often does after they mate. Charles flew back our way passing Sarah and us and hooting in flight, which is always a treat to observe. He landed in The Hilly Wooded Area and hooted a few times. Sarah turned around and contemplated her next move.
She followed Charles south into The Hilly Wooded Area going low at first and swooping up in a possible predatory move. We headed out to look for the owls and saw what was likely Sarah making another possible predatory flight before going further south. I showed the group one of Charles' favorite hunting spots in this area, The Southern Branch Tree, and he treated us to a hoot from nearby. I found him in one of their favorite duetting spots. He hooted a few more times before blasting eastward. We heard him hoot once more from his new location a few hundred yards away. He covered this distance in no more than ten seconds. The powerful, fast, graceful and silent flights of the owls impressed the prowlees.
With Charles close by but hard to get to, Sarah being invisible and the temperatures frigid, we decided to head back to our rendezvous point. On the way, I got a call from my friend and owl mentee, Rusty Wandall. He joined us by, I said my goodbyes and thanks to Donna, Natalia, and Emily, and Rusty and I headed out again. By now a fair amount of time had elapsed and we knew our odds of reacquiring the owls was slim. Indeed, our search yielded no owls but we still enjoyed being out in the park on this cold, crisp night.
Thank you for reading!