Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Second Radio Story, Charles Attacks Great Blue Herons and Nesting Update

Tuesday, January 20, 2014

The second piece on the owls and my work with them on the radio program, Missouri Environment, on KBIA 91.3 Mid-Missouri Public in Columbia, Missouri aired this morning. This piece focused on an owl prowl itself.  The show's host and producer, Gary Grigsby, and KBIA did yet another great job and you can hear it here:


A great thrill and honor to have two superb stories done on this prowl.  Thank you, Gary and KBIA!

With Sarah nesting, Charles is doing all that he can to bring home the bacon.  On Saturday, January 10 he made two attempts on a Great Blue Heron in the space of about twenty-thirty minutes.  Predatory attempts are always amazing to see but attempts on this species is something else given that they are twice the size of the owls.  Watch the two attempts below:

He did not catch the heron on either attempt but there was no doubt that the heron was terrified and flying for its very life.

Sarah has been nesting for twenty-two days.  By now she has almost certainly laid all of her eggs after her ten-fourteen day pre-laying period of rest/preparation. She is well into the nesting routine of spending more than twenty-three hours a day on the nest with only a few breaks for stretching, grooming, eating and bodily functions.  I managed to film her, not especially well, flying out of the nest yesterday.  It is hard to do so because she does not linger at the hollow's opening and she comes out after sunset, the vast majority of the time.

You can hear Charles hooting as she comes out of the nest.  They had a great duet last night with her landing right next to him at one point.

On Saturday, January 17 I gave a talk for the staff and volunteers of Wild Bird Rehabilitation  on the owls' hunting and feeding behavior.  It was my first talk of 2015 and my second talk for this excellent organization that does great and important work.  The talk went well and I took some of these folks out for an owl prowl that night.  I explained to them how I find the owls using my interpretation of ESL, which translates to: Experience, Skill and Luck.  ESL was working well that night as I reacquired Charles out hunting at the edge of a prairie about a half mile (as the owl flies) from where he had been perched.

ESL was in good form the next night too as I was leading another owl prowl.  We had been watching Charles, who began to hoot regularly, when I suggested we head closer to the nest to look for Sarah emerging from it.  As we started down a hill I heard Charles hoot and then, just a second or two later, hoot again.  Knowing that a hoot from Charles quickly following another is often a sign that he sees Sarah, I turned around to see her alighting close to him.  Something made her change her spot quickly and we were treated with a close view of a powerful, graceful flight with her arching past us and heading to The Four Trees.

Charles joined her in The Four Trees for a duet.  Sarah then flew to The Middle Tree.  I told the prowlees that she would likely return to the nest after a brief pause in The Middle Tree.  She did just that and one of the prowlees kindly acknowledged my ESL.

ESL continued as Charles was found over a half mile away that night.  Here are some pictures of Charles from last night. (Be sure to double click on each one to see a larger image)

Sleeping deeply:

Doing an Escalator Stretch:

Doing a Fluff Up

Thank you for reading!


  1. Thank you for this detailed post. Sitting in balmy Bangalore while you brave the elements to let me share....Deepa.

    1. You are most welcome, Deepa. I hope all is well with you and your naturalist adventures in Bangalore!

  2. Great Blue Heron! I always count GHOW as top predators but this is pushing it. Rhetta Jack

    1. Thanks, Rhetta. Amazingly, Great Blue Herons and other large birds as well as some good size mammals are well documented as prey of Great Horned Owls. They bring new meaning to the phrase apex predators.