Saturday, December 24, 2022

A New Female and A Name For Her!

 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 virginanusVirginianus 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! 

Sunday, March 13, 2022

A Very Brief Update-Charles Has A New Mate And They Have Owlets!

March 13, 2022

 After being single for over nine month since Danielle disappeared in mid-March 2020, Charles courted and became a pair with a new female named Sophie in January 2021.  She nested in the same nest that Danielle used in 2020 and Sarah used in 2008 and 2012.  They had two owlets named Neil and Lyle. It was so exciting to see owlets for the first time since Charles and Sarah's last pair, Grace and Harold, in 2015!  

Sadly, Lyle died on June 29 from a double-whammy of a bacterial and viral infection. This was the first time I have seen an owlet die and it was very sad and tough.  I am most grateful to the World Bird Sanctuary for the necropsy they performed and the St. Louis Zoo for the tissue analysis they did.  If so moved, please donate to the World Bird Sanctuary here: and/or to the St. Louis Zoo here

Thankfully, Neil soldiered on and finally dispersed on November 2011.  In the meantime, we saw very little of Sophie for most of the summer and the first half of the fall Sophie was not found on June 26-30.  Lyle died on June 29.  Sophie not found July 1-3 but found to our great relief on July 4.  Sophie was only found on 5 nights in July, 1 night only in August, just 2 nights in September and not seen October 1-20!!

After Sophie was not seen for most of the summer and the first part of the fall, my records indicate that on September 24 Charles was in the nest hollow of the now 08-11-20-21-22 Nest Tree and that Sophie was in The Middle Tree.  They had a long duet until Neil gave a vivid display of duettus interruptus.  After almost of no sign of Sophie for the next few weeks, my records show that on October 21, Charles had a long duet with a female-most likely Sophie.  On October 29 a female was found in The Middle Tree. On October 30 when Charles had moved to The Double Aught Tree a female was heard once to the south.  

November 3 was that amazing and crazy night of finding a female in The Wooded Area and she and Charles duetted and the intruding male was nearby and their was much interaction with him.  If that was not enough, 2 Barred Owls began to duet in the other portion of The Successional Woods aka North Korea.  To cap it all off Charles and the female mated on this night-the earliest mating I have ever observed.  In early November we had a pretty even mix of observing the female and not finding her. On November 9 we started to observe her every night and she began her residency in The Overlook Hotel on November 15.  

With Sophie's long absence (and other factors) we were not sure if this female was Sophie or a new mate.   I have never had this much difficulty identifying one owl and especially for so long!  I have also never had a mate all but disappear for over three-and-a-half months!!  Just yesterday, I made the call (and leaving the window open that I am wrong) that the female IS indeed Sophie! I want to thank all of you for your patience, analysis, discussion, observation and documentation during this challenging, confusing but stimulating time.  

Last but not least Charles and Sophie have two owlets! They are seven weeks old and cute as the Dickens!  Please say hello to Betty and Sidney!  They are named after Betty White & Sidney Poitier!  If you come to Forest Park to see them, please keep a far, healthy and respectful distance from them & Sophie. And Charles!  Here are some recent photos of Charles, Sophie, Betty and Sidney! Enjoy and thank you! :)