Friday, December 26, 2014

Multiple Matings, Prodigal Owlet, and Other Mildly Engaging Moments!

December 26, 2014

The other day I began an blog post about seeing the owls mate twice in the same night; the first time I had seen such behavior this year.  Time, holidays, parties, and the like interfered and the post is still in draft mode. Since then MUCH has gone down with the owls.  Let's try to do a brief catch-up. Or is it ketchup?  Or catsup?

On December 18, I saw Sarah chase an unidentified bird of prey; a UBP.  She disappeared, Charles hooted on his own for long time.  No reply from Sarah. At all. That is until she appeared out of nowhere and they mated.

I was with my friend and owl mentee, Rusty Wandell and we were full of questions:
  • Where had Sarah gone?
  • Was she nearby?
  • Was she far?
  • Why was she not hooting?
  • If she had been far away when did she arrive back near The Wooded Area
  • How/why did they mate after such a brief duet? (If you could even call it that.)
20-30 minutes later they mated again. Sarah made hunger calls (as she had in recent days, unprecedented before nesting) and Charles hooted. She transitioned to her regular hoot and they mated again.

This was Rusty's first double mating he had ever observed.

The next night, December 19 was cool and not. After more than three weeks, the youngest owlet was back. Bloody hell and not in a good way.  I found him in The Trio Conifers and he was already begging. (Be sure to double click on each picture to see a larger version)

That night Charles hooted on and at the hollow in The Third of Three Trees. Only after Charles departed did I hear Sarah. She was making hunger calls from The Training Area. I did not see her.

On December 20, my new friend Praveen and his family came out for their second owl prowl. Their first owl prowl was the night before Thanksgiving. Despite the constant rain and less than stellar sightings, they were enchanted by the owls. Happily on December 20, the weather was better, we met my friend; the amazing wildlife photographer and guide, Butch Lama, and they saw a great deal more. The owlet was not to be found and Charles and Sarah mated.

On December 21 I led an owl prowl for Tom Jordan, his daughter and father and Lee and Karen Walters. We found Charles and Sarah. Without wanting to or trying hard we found the owlet again.

The owlet begged and begged and Charles and Sarah did not mate. However, Sarah checked out the 11/13/14 Nest Hollow and Charles checked out The Newly (as of  Summer 2013) Expanded Hollow in The 06/09/11/13/14 Nest Tree.

December 22 was less than stellar weather condition. It poured rain.  The owlet was still there. Charles and Sarah did not mate.

December 23, I led an owl prowl for the McCauley family, their third (or was it fourth?) owl prowl for this family and another great multi-generational prowl for this superb family of nature and park enthusiasts. They rule!

We had the great luck of finding Charles and Sarah perched together in Sarah's Autumnal Perch. Sarah in the foreground and Charles in the background.

We soon found the youngest owlet (again), in the The Crossroads Conifers where it soon moved into the dead, bare conifer of this group.

Charles and Sarah did not mate. I was already worrying that the owlets' continued presence would have a negative impact on Charles and Sarah's mating and/or nesting behavior and my fears were being realized. 

December 24, I lead an owl prowl for the Pickard family.  Charles was in Sarah's Autumal Perch and Sarah was in one of The Trio Conifers. No sign of the owlet.  In a most unusual fashion Charles and Sarah began early hoots and did not stop.  Sunset arrived and their duet continued until they mated:

Charles flew off and landed inside The 11/13/14 Nest Hollow. He then flew to a nearby Sycamore and by then Sarah was in an adjacent Cottonwood. She flew to him and they mated. 

December 25, Appropriately enough Charles was in Charles' Xmas Tree and Sarah in Sarah's Autumnal Perch.  They are such beautiful owls. 

I was in the park early as I was heading to a park in St. Louis County to consult with/for my friend and owl mentee, Brenda Hente, about another pair of Great Horned Owls; Will and Kate. 

I had not seen this pair of owls for some time and it was fascinating to see them. The differences between individual and pairs of this species can be legion.  Seeing these differences is educational; to say the least. This pair nested in the same tree the last three years but this tree has fallen to the ground.  Brenda has not seen them mate this year and their perch/roost spots have been harder to predict/observe/determine. After watching these beautiful Great Horned Owls, I could not help but agree with Brenda that this may be an off year for this pair and they will likely not nest.  While unfortunate, this change in behavior is an observational/educational opportunity. 

December 26. I led an owl prowl for the Kocher family and Brenda was with us.  As with the day before, Sarah was in her Autumnal Perch and Charles in his Xmas Tree. I thought I heard the begging calls of the owlet and sure enough I found it in The Quartet Conifers. Bloody hell. Again!

I told everyone how the owlets' presence in recent days had resulted in no matings and that of the two recent nights when the owlet was not seen Charles and Sarah did mate. As such I mentioned that my fears of the owlet's presence interfering with Charles and Sarah's mating and nesting were being realized. 

This night while not putting these fears to rest, certainly provided additional shading to my thinking, to put it mildly.  Charles and Sarah mated three times. I have never seen them mate three times in the same night. In all of my research on this species, I have never read of Great Horned Owls mating three times in the same night. .

Charles and Sarah began a good duet and after we were joined by my friend and owl mentee, Chris Gerli of City Cycling Tours, and a pause of several minutes they resumed duetting and mated in The Jungle Gym Tree Near The Overlook Hotel Tree.

This was the first mating that Brenda and Chris Gerli had seen in 2014. Charles flew just outside of The Arena. Sarah appeared in The Second of the Three Trees. Charles hooted and she made her hunger calls. She flew to him in the high winds and resumed her regular hooting. Charles floated over to her and they mated. Amazing!

Charles flew southeast and Sarah soon followed in a south-easterly heading.  We followed Sarah's path and looked for her and Charles in several known hunting spots including Raccoonville and The Dark Pond.  We reacquired one of the owls along the waterway. Despite our best efforts we flushed it and it landed in one of Charles favorite spots on the north side of a lake.  As we checked it out, we felt more confident that it was Charles. Hooting commenced and confirmed our identification. Charles hooted fast and we wondered, given his rapid hooting, if Sarah was nearby.  We did not have to wonder long as Sarah appeared out of nowhere and they mated!  This was the first time I have seen the owls mate three times in the same night-amazing!

Charles flew off west and Sarah remained perched in this tree; the first time we had seen her in this tree. What a beautiful owl. 

Brenda, the Kochers and I headed for our vehicles and home. Once home, I texted several of my owl friends and mentees with the big news!

Thank you for reading!


  1. How nice to sit in my armchair and read and see everything! Thank you for all the effort, Mark :D Deepa.

  2. You are most welcome, Deepa! Your appreciation is appreciated!