Thursday, December 17, 2014
I saw Charles and Sarah mate on two of the last three nights! Each mating had commonalities and differences with the other. Of the former both mating moments took place on the later side of things with early duetting interrupted by nest shopping and an eventual resumption of the duet prior to mating. Reacquiring one of the owls in multiple hunting spots also happened each night. The differences were substantial: who did the nest shopping, which owl I followed hunting and where, and where the mating occurred. While I would love to give a full account of each night, I will try and keep this on the briefer side of things.
On Monday, December 15, Charles flew off northeast and I reacquired him hunting in three different spots all of which the owls regularly use along in this particular stretch of the park. Out of nowhere I began to hear him hoot softly. Just as I heard him, I heard Sarah, who I had not observed in the previous fifteen-twenty minutes, reply in hushed tones. Before I could find her visually, Charles flew off to her and they mated. Thus the audio only of the mating in this video:
This mating took place about twenty to thirty meters from the northeastern most mating location I have seen them use so far. It was interesting to see them almost match this geographic reproductive record.
Due to a work commitment on Tuesday, January 16, I came to the park later than usual and without my gear so my stay was brief. Charles and Sarah duetted well but then she just stopped. Charles flew off to The Arena. I though Sarah might have a pellet to eject but she began to make a sqwuak/hunger call vocalization, which was interesting and weird too as I have not heard make hunger calls prior to nesting. I missed her flying off but given the givens she probably flew into The Hilly Wooded Area, thus not in the same direction as Charles.
After the aforementioned nest hunting and duet interruption, last night, Wednesday, December 17, 2014, resumed their duet in a large Cottonwood just outside of The Arena. I managed to film the mating as you can see below here.
Sarah made hunger calls during their duetting and after they mated I followed her to The Hilly Wooded Area where she hunted. I reacquired her four times before losing her when she flew off northeast. ESL (Experience, Skill, Luck) was working well, thankfully. One of her hunting perches was The Southern Branch Tree, where, I believe, I have not see her hunt before but it is one of Charles' favorite spots in that portion of the park.
Of the many highlights of all three nights the biggest was finding the owls perched together in Sarah's Autumnal Perch on Monday, December 15. They do not perch together often so it is always a delight to observe. In the below video, Sarah is on the left and Charles is on the right. They are grooming intensively and the video is a good look at different grooming methods as well as the differences in their size and coloration. Such gorgeous owls!
Unfortunately, the nest shopping was the nadir of the evenings. Not the intrinsic activity but where it occurred. The hollow in The Third of The Trees was the location visited on Monday by Sarah and Wednesday by Charles. In this period of nesting season, the owls have visited this hollow as much as they have visited The 11, 13, 14 Nest Hollow. The hollow in this tree concerns me. As I wrote in a recent blog post: " I hope that if all goes well and they nest that they do not nest here. They began to nest here in December 2010 for the 2011 breeding season and I was hugely relieved when they changed hollows. This hollow is low and too close to highly traveled areas by park visitors both vehicular and pedestrian. If they nested here I worry about them being inadvertently disturbed by people and the people getting attacked by the owls as well as the safety of the owls and their owlets."
Last night as I did my best to keep an eye on Sarah and eye on Charles, I turned to see Charles flying out of the hollow and over the road. As he did a pick-up truck drove by and Charles flared up to gain altitude and avoid the truck. Yikes!
Other hollows they have used are near roads and sidewalks and bike paths but none as close as this one. If all goes well and Sarah and Charles nest, I hope they avoid this hollow. To its credit, the hollow is an interesting shape, having one opening and then a larger opening made due to storm damage in the summer of 2010. Here is Charles last night in and on the hollow.
Thank you for reading!