An amazing night last night! One of the owlets has fledged and there are two owlets in the nest! We have three owlets! This is the first time that I have seen Charles and Sarah have three owlets in consecutive years. I could not stop grinning last night. I am still open to the possibility that there are four owlets given Sarah's longer and earlier time out of the nest and earlier and frequent hunting. There may be less room in the nest and more mouths to feed.
After a successful and enjoyable talk on Tuesday for the Miramiguoa Chapter of the Missouri Master Naturalist program I was keen to get to the park last night. Lisa, her husband and Judy were watching the nest. I asked them if they had seen Sarah and they replied that they had not seen any owls or owlets. I reminded them of the importance of locating Sarah so as to remain safe and not disturb her and the owlets. I also prodded them gently that carefully searching the woods was a key thing to do. After checking the recently expanded hollow in the nest, which both Charles and Sarah have used a little recently, I headed into The Wooded Area. I soon found Charles in the tallest of The Trio Conifers. Be sure to double click on the photos to see a larger version of the shots.
I reminded myself to look carefully for any fledglings and I was immediately rewarded with my first glimpse of the first fledgling! I found it in the exact same area where I have first found fledgings every year starting in 2011-incredible! What a beaut! The thrill of seeing the first fledgling, like so many aspects of observing the owls, is amazing no matter if it is the first time seeing it or, in this case, the ninth.
I took another look from another angle be careful to move slowly and quietly. I was happy to get a good angle with a great view of, as my girlfriend Wendy calls it, The Fluff.
I was confident that Sarah was nearby keeping a close eye on her fledged but still vulnerable owlet. I found Sarah about thirty yards from the owlet. She soon began to do an Escalator Stretch.
If you come to the park to see the owls please be extra cautious and careful. Do not get close to the fledged owlet and be mindful of Sarah's whereabouts at all times. Do not risk incurring her protective wrath. Remember that Sarah went for a Red-tailed Hawk that got close to the nest the other day. You would not mess with a hawk, do not mess with an animal that does mess with a hawk. Wear dark, muted clothes and cover your head if you have blond or white hair and make as little sound as possible. Fledging is one of the most dangerous times for a young Great Horned Owl. They are not strong fliers yet and dangers abound. As I said last year when the first owlet fledged, fledging is comparable to a human parent watching its child take its first steps...in Times Square.
I headed back to the nest where by now one owlet was visible.
I could not help myself when I deadpanned to the now slightly larger group of nest watchers, "I didn't see much in the woods-just Charles, a fledgling and Sarah." They were blown away but what I found in the last ten minutes. I showed them my photos and then I took them to see the fledgling. Just before we left Sarah came and landed in a high branch just above the nest hollow. We watched the fledgling from a good safe distance and they delighted in seeing it.
These observers headed for home but I soon ran into my buddy, Lloyd Robinson who, with his girlfriend Ginny, are becoming regular owl observers. I showed Lloyd the fledgling, which caused his own non-stop grinning. Throughout the night, Lloyd asked me great questions about the owls and my work with them. He listened closely and I am thrilled and honored to learn that he has been carefully reading my blog and has been hitting the books to learn more about owls. We headed back to the nest and by now Sarah was in The PX Tree.
Charles began to hoot from his piney perch. We headed back for another look at the fledgling and heard Charles hoot from a different location. I thought he might be in The Rain Tree judging from the direction of his hoots. Lloyd found him there in an unusual spot high on the northeast side of the tree. Returning to The Arena, Charles delighted us with a gorgeous flight landing in The First of The Three Trees.
We moved back to look at the nest and I was a met with two owlets staring back at me!! Three owlets!! Amazing!
By the time I tried to shoot video of the two owlets just one was visible. Several people had asked me in recent days if it this year the total was two owlets and I told them that last year's slow reveal of three owlets, which only happened after two owlets fledged, taught me to be even more careful and conservative about "making the call." I am glad I listened to my own advice.
Lloyd and I were joined by J.R. Robinson, who has been an owl observer for a couple of years. I met Lloyd and J.R. separately and while they have they same last name they are not related but they are roommates and both of them are scientists. We told J.R. how to see the owlet and he headed off to find it.
Charles went for something in mid-air and Sarah flew to the same area and they both landed in The Middle Tree. I think it was a tag-team predatory attempt. I did not see what they were going for but I am confident that it was a predatory attempt. Sarah is higher on the left and Charles lower on the right.
Sarah flew back into The Wooded Area a little later and Charles flew off to hunt, heading west. We went back for another look at the fledgling and ran into J.R. who had manged to find it with our guidance. Lloyd had another great spotting, when he saw Sarah near the owlet. She flew off and we watched the owlet become more active. We saw him do two Escalator Stretches and a few times he flapped his wings a few times to maintain his balance. Sarah returned and we began to hear Charles hoot in The Arena. Perhaps a prey exchange had occurred or Sarah had found food on her own or Charles was hooting because of some other, yet unknown, reason. After over eight years I still have so much to learn about the owls. It is a process with unceasing rewards, challenges and delights.
We again returned to the nest area and saw one owlet "hitting the gym"; exercising its wings to build up their strength prior to fledgling. During then night I had sent two texts out to Wendy and owl friends and mentees about the fledgling and the third owlet and I got a nice flood of enthusiastic responses.One of the folks I texted, my friend and owl mentee Brenda Hente, had news of her own. She could not find of the three owlets that her owls, Will and Kate have, but she did get to see one of the owlets fledge! This was a first for her to see the actual moment of fledging and her concern for the unseen owlet was mixed with awe and gratitude for seeing fledging. I echoed her mixed emotions and congratulated her on her great work. I am honored that she has named on of the owlets, Xavier, after one of my middle names.
Lloyd and I decided to head home. I had a blast showing Wendy the pictures of the owlets and listening to her coo with joy over these gorgeous youngsters. I cooed with gratitude at the lovely meal she had kindly had waiting for me, which was especially welcome after an intense and amazing night of owling.
Thank you for reading!
P.S. Shameless plug: I have a talk tonight on the owls' mating, nesting and owlets tonight, Thursday, March 27 at 7:00pm in St. Ann for the Rock Road branch of the St. Louis County Library system. I did talks at six different county library branches in 2013 and each one was a distinct pleasure. Rock Road was one of the first of these talks and they are the first of three, so far, to have me back. Lots of cute pictures and videos tonight-I hope to see you there! Full details here.