Tuesday, December 16, 2013
Charles and Sarah mated for the fourth time last night. It was the first time in this breeding season that I have seen them mate on two consecutive nights!
Moments after arriving in their territory I heard the owls hoot in a duet. Their hoots told me their location: in or near The Trio Conifers. I paused to look fruitlessly for the pellet that Charles cast on Sunday before heading up to their be-needled bivouac. Spying Charles in an obscured spot in The Tallest of The Trio Conifers, I moved to get better angles. He was hooting regularly and with good volume and projection.
Like Sunday, Sarah was in the tallest of the three and was tough to see. Another least worst picture of her!
On the cool side, she and Charles were only about ten-fifteen feet from each other in the same tree. This entire time, they were duetting with great consistency, especially as it was still relatively early, both chronologically and in terms of the photo period on this mostly clear day.
The commuting American Crows, returning to their rookeries following their day of foraging out west, gave Charles and Sarah some grief but not vigorous mobbing. Not a drive by but more of a fly by. This was to change.
Sarah moved in her perch and took up a new position looking down at the ground. I managed to get a rare (for me anyway) shot of her with her nictitating membranes in action. This third eyelid helps keep their eyes moist and protected. A more conventional view of her is next.
I was too slow on the draw to film her swooping down in a short but striking flight. She landed in a perch she used on Friday in a tree between The AYU (As Yet Unnamed) Tree and The Overlook Hotel Tree.
She and Charles continued their duet and I thought given Sarah's easily accessible perch and their solid duet that mating was imminent. However, it was still early enough that the crows commute was not complete. With Sarah more visible, the crows now began a more vigorous mobbing of her. The mobbing still had a fly-by nature to it as it was getting later for the crows. Yet I was impressed by their large numbers that seemed to come in wave upon wave.
Charles' hooting continued unabated. I often wonder if the hooting draws more attention from the crows and whether or not Charles gives a, well, hoot or is it more important for him to keep on trucking. Or hooting.
The crows mobbed, mostly in the fly by mode but some lingered and even perched near Sarah. Sarah did not hoot at all during the mobbing. I wondered if she stopped just to decrease her presence or if she had a pellet.
Eventually the waves of crows ceased and Charles and Sarah resumed their duet quickly. Faster than I thought, Charles flew over to her and they mated.
By only moving a few feet I could see where Charles had landed after mating. He continued to hoot as Sarah groomed and adjusted.
I thought the last of the crows had come and gone. I was wrong. Charles was mobbed by this last group before he flew into The Arena landing in The 06-09 Nest Hollow. Sarah flew into The Arena. I followed and found her in The Middle Tree. She hooted once and I heard Charles return the hoot from deep within the 06-09 Nest Hollow. I wondered if a second mating would occur. I have seen this a few times over the years.
Charles emerged from the hollow. Both owls have been checking out this damaged hollow quite a bit this fall and winter. Before this branch was damaged in an intense storm in the first week of June 2009, Sarah nested there in 2006 and 2009. She had two owlets each year. I do not rule out that they might nest in it again but with the other hollows and snags available to them, it seems on the less than likely side of things. Why pick the pup tent when you can have a suite?
Charles flew off southeast and even though I had a clear view of him, I soon lost him in the trees. I could not tell if he had landed or was still flying further.
Sarah was still in view and I went to get a better look at her. As has happened too many times to count, I took my eyes off her for a moment and she was gone with no indication of her directional heading. Grrr. The growling is directed at me not her. Knowing roughly where Charles had gone, I headed off and soon found him just as he flew off into the heart of a well-attended but not in season song-and-dance solarium. He landed on one of their new, as of the 2013 season, fans. I had seen the owls on the old fans before but this was the first time on the new ones.
As I got a closer look, I wondered if might be Sarah. Size and shape seemed indicative of her larger form. I went for a better look but the owl was gone. I did see a Great Blue Heron flying north over this same building. I headed south and then east and then beyond hoping to find the owls again. I did not but I still had some great sightings of other things including a large but not quite full moon,
a couple of Raccoons including this one in Raccoonville,
and a Great Blue Heron in the river system.
Almost a mile-and-a-half later I called it a night, grateful to have seen the owls mate for the first time on consecutive nights this breeding season. Thank you for reading!