December 24, 2022
There are many new developments with the owls as the last six months have been a non-stop roller-coaster. The biggest news is that that there is a new female! She and Charles are a mated pair and she is nesting! Not only that, after many weeks of searching and considering, I finally have a name for her! Please join me in welcoming Virginia!
The inspiration for her name is multi-fold. I grew up from ages 2-15 in northern Virginia and that is where I began to study wildlife. I have always liked the name and have always kept it in my collection of names for a female, human, owl or otherwise. The genus and species for Great Horned Owls is Bubo virginanus. Virginianus refers to the state of Virginia and this name was employed when the species was first described by Western science by J.F Gmelin in 1788. As such, all Great Horned Owls are a Virginia whether they live in Maine, Missouri, Manitoba, Mexico or Alaska, Alberta, Argentina, or Alabama.
Let’s continue with Charles’s previous mate Sophie. As you may know, Charles and Sophie nested successfully in 2021 and 2022, having two owlets both years, Neil and Lyle and then Betty and Sidney, respectively. These were the first successful nestings since Sarah’s last nesting in 2015. Sophie did a disappearing act from mid-July 2021 to October 2021 and this summer we lost sight of her on June 8. We wondered if this was a version of her disappearing act of the year prior but we have not observed her at all since then. We do not know if she left, became injured or ill or died. Sophie now joins Olivia and Danielle in a group of Charles's mates who have disappeared and whose status is unknown. We hope she is well and thriving.
Sophie’s absence was still early in the maturation of the owlets; Betty and Sidney. Thankfully, with much help from Charles and themselves, the owlets flourished through the summer and into the fall. Betty dispersed in September and Sidney in October and we hope they are making it in the big, wide world.
On September 28, we saw a female and immediately, by her markings and behavior, we felt confident that it was not Sophie but a new female. She and Charles had an incredibly intense courtship duet that night and it went on and on as they moved from tree to tree. It was like they closed down one restaurant on their first date and then went to a bar with a 3:00am license and began working on closing down that place! Many of my friends and owl mentees were out that night and eventually we had to call it a night as Charles and this new lady showed no signs of flying out to hunt. Here's Virginia where we first saw her that night!
Their courtship continued through the fall and had some challenges with an intruding male in the area, the same from last year-now dubbed with the less than flattering name of Numbnuts, but it was clear that she and Charles were on the road to becoming a mated pair. Mate they did on November 10 and we have seen 13 matings so far. She began to nest on December 4 and December 15 was the first sign of egg laying. Like last year, this is especially early mating and nesting! Here they are mating on December 10!
If you know where the nest is, please be sure to stay 30-40+ yards away from the nest so as to not to disturb the nest and to not put yourself at risk of being attacked by a large, aggressive nesting female Great Horned Owl.
Thank you for reading and I hope to see you out in Forest Park! Happy Holidays! J
P.S. Here's Charles last night!