Friday, January 3, 2020

One Chapter Ends Sadly, The New Chapter Takes An Exciting Turn

January 2020

With the start of the new year and decade I am ready to relinquish my crown as The World's Worst Blogger, which I have worn for the last three years. My apologies for the lack of updates and I hope you enjoy this update. The lack of updates was not for a lack of fascinating developments in the owls' lives or amazing and confounding behaviors observed.  Furthermore, as developments .unfolded, there was some news I wanted to share only when I was more certain of a few key aspects.  In addition, my outreach work continues to grow and grow, leaving limited time for blogging.  In the past few years I have been averaging 50 owl talks and over 70 owl prowls per year. The geographic range of owl talks continues to expand with highlights including my first talks in the Chicagoland area and in Indiana in 2019 and my first talk in Kansas is coming up in May. I have also increased outreach via social media and my YouTube videos have had over 152,000 views and I now have just over 250 subscribers.  

As the title of this post states there is sad news and a new chapter with exciting news.  The sad news is that Samantha has died.  She died on April 3, 2019 of a large and aggressive bacterial infection that had spread to multiple vital organs.  The cause of the infection could not be determined but candidates include an injury or wound or something she ate. Samantha received superb treatment from the World Bird Sanctuary in an effort in which Forest Park Forever and the Humane Society of Missouri played vital roles.  Unfortunately, her condition was so dire and advanced that this great care gave her respite but could not cure her.  To compound the sadness of the loss of Samantha, she died just shy of the date when I first observed her in 2016 on April 10.  She and Charles tried very hard to have successful broods of owlets these last three years but their efforts did not come to fruition. There is much to say about the last few years with Samantha and her decline and death but in the meantime, I would like to thank  Forest Park Forever, World Bird Sanctuary and Humane Society of Missouri for their amazing help with Samantha.  If you are so moved please donate in the name of Samantha, the Great Horned Owl of Forest Park, to one or more of these amazing organizations. You can use the links in the previous sentence to do so.  I must also take a moment to thank my friend and all-around owl expert and advocate, Brenda Hente, in being a vital part of Samantha's treatment.  As an award-winning volunteer for World Bird Sanctuary, Brenda was able to get updates from the amazing staff and her fellow volunteers about Samantha's condition and pass them on to me and our friends who are all fellow Forest Park owl addicts.  I will write more about Samantha but for now I want to pause here with a video of her sleeping last November. Thank you for letting us see some of your amazing life, Samantha! You are much missed and much loved!

The new chapter did not take long to begin.  On April 5, 2019, two days after Samantha's death and week after her evacuation from Forest Park, I went to observe and document Charles.  I quickly found him in The Trio Conifers.  I was talking aloud to my camera as I do to record notes about the owls' behavior, whereabouts, weather conditions, etc and I wondered if and when another female would show up.  I pivoted over to The Quartet Conifers and there was perched a huge and gorgeous female Great Horned Owl!  Bloody hell!  (Be sure to double click on the pictures to see a larger version of the photos) 

This female is Sarah's size-23-25 inches tall-as large as Great Horned Owls grow.  She is only one of a few females of this size that I have seen over the years both in the wild and in captivity.  

That night she and Charles duetted and he even showed her the 2018-2019 nest site, a new and thus unprecedented spot. Talk about a first date!  The name Danielle quickly came to me for this female. I have always liked the name and it also references my family's cat, Daniel, with whom I literally grew up as well as the cat-like appearance and behavior of owls, which hooks many people on owls.  

The exciting turn in the new chapter is that as of December 31, 2019 Danielle is nesting!  She is nesting where Sarah nested in 2008 and 2012 the accordingly named The 08-12 Nest Tree, now named The 08-12-20 Nest Tree. Here is cropped photo of Danielle nesting on New Year's Day 2020-what a beauty!

(If you know this nest location, please be sure to watch from a safe distance of at least 40-50 yards away while dressed in dark, muted colors and speaking quietly. Nesting requires quiet and peace and you do not want to anger an animal that eats Raccoons and Great Blue Herons)  

I am especially excited that she is nesting because I was concerned that nesting would not occur. I had not seen mating and the courtship behavior I had seen was inconsistent and rarely at the level of intensity and frequency that I saw with Olivia and Samantha. To compound this, since she arrived in April 2019 Danielle's only consistency was being around inconsistently.  Throughout the spring, summer and fall I had many days of not seeing or hearing her. The most intense was two periods in the fall, one of ten days and one of sixteen days, when I did not see or hear her at all.  I finally began to see her with more expected consistency starting in the second third of December 2019.  Even then the courtship was mild and inconsistent and I did not see mating, which usually begins in early-mid December here in Missouri.  Seeing her nesting on December 31 told me that they had been mating but when I was not around to see it!  I did finally see them mating on January 1, 2020.

There is a TON more to discuss about the last few years not the least of which is how Charles moved his territory a half mile to the east in the summer of 2019 and moved back to his historic territory in October 2019!  I wanted to keep this post to around 1000 words and I hope to come back soon with more news and updates on went down in 2017-2019 as well as what is happening in 2020.  Thank you for your patience and for your reading and support!