Christina: This is probably some sort of pre-egg laying activitiy that the
owls are currently doing as a part of their courtship. I have compiled a lot
of data on the nesting of GH Owls in the St. Louis area. The earliest I have
observed fresh eggs is Jan. 28 through anout Feb. 4. They are the first
birds to nest but I believe it is a little too early for them to have eggs
in December.
Good luck.
Dave Pierce
St. Louis County

On Tue, Dec 22, 2009 at 11:20 PM, Christina McClarren <
[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> Dear all - what do you all think:
> I have continued to check on the pair of Great Horned Owls in Tower Grove
> Park (very unobtrusively) at least 3 times a week all Fall/Winter.  I've a
> long record of their activities I will not bore anyone with but I was
> curious if anyone thought, based on the following, that the female might be
> sitting on eggs already.
> I arrived at approximately 4:20 PM today and stood on the field just
> southwest of the nesting tree to listen for hooting from the three conifer
> patches that I often find them in.  The male started hooting from the
> conifers near the Stone Shelter.
> Walking over and standing across the street from where he was hooting, I
> did not attempt to find him, as I felt it would be too disruptive.  They
> seem to stop hooting if stared at.  I guess I would, too.  I enjoyed him
> hooting by himself for about 10 minutes.  I knew which tree he was in by his
> hooting.  The female was not answering him.  (She'd stopped doing this some
> days ago - answering him right away.  Prior to that, they were almost always
> together in the same tree for weeks on end - and when one would hoot, they
> other would soon follow.)   I knew he'd probably fly soon, as he did the
> other night at dusk.  Sure enough, he flew over east to the conifers across
> from the nesting tree.
> There he hooted for about 10 more minutes with no answer from the female.
>  I carefully walked to the east side of the area, where I could see him
> perched from a distance - and where I could watch the nesting tree.  What to
> my surprise appeared out of the nesting tree?  The female.  She peered out,
> then hopped to the closest branch of the tree, peered over at him and then
> flew toward and beyond him to a tree about 200 feet south of him.  He flew
> over and joined her, but on the opposite side of the tree.
> They began their duet, often overlapping each other with their calls.  She
> flew to his branch, sat right next to him and continued hooting with him,
> then moved up a tiny bit away on an upper branch and continued hooting.
>  Finally, she flew back toward the nesting tree and re-entered it!  He
> followed her and fly toward the nesting tree but stopped to perch on a snag
> across from it - as close as he could get to the nesting tree.  This snag
> put him in a position of almost being on a balcony, peering down at her in
> the nest - a bit of a reverse Romeo and Juliet thing. He hooted from there
> very loud and beautifully.  She did not answer.
> Just then, two people came walking by with a dog as I was watching to see
> what he would do.  They interrupted me to ask about the owls (they were a
> couple that had been keenly interested in their welfare in the Spring - and
> had met me then due to my owl reconnoitering).  They informed me that the
> rangers had told them the owls were at the other end of the park.  I kept my
> eyes on the male as I told them, "Oh, contraire!"
> Unfortunately, I took my off of the male for a second as they asked another
> question.  When I looked back, he'd flown.  I knew he hadn't flown to the
> nesting tree because I looked back quickly.  The Great Horneds have never,
> in my experience, flown straight into the hole.  They always perch on the
> branch right outside it or on the edge of the hole before they enter.  I
> would have seen him if he'd perched and peered in.  I imagine he did what he
> did the night before - took off to hunt in the Missouri Botanical Gardens.
> I drove away not long after this - at 5: 30PM.  For some reason, I decided
> to come back and watch the nesting tree a little longer.  I was gone for 5
> minutes before returning.  I watched the tree for about an hour more and
> left around 6:30PM. I saw no more activity.
> I have no idea if she is currently sitting on eggs or what, but it would
> seem so.  This seems too early to me, based on certain info from a friend:
> 1. Her book says the nesting dates are highly variable, depending on how
> cold the
> previous winter was.  They nest earlier after a warmer winter and later
> after a
> cold winter.
> 2. The gestation period is about 30 days.  Incubation is 30-37 days.
> 3.  Last year a regular to the park (and avid owler) first heard the owl
> babies on Feb. 23 screeching for food.  Prior to that the Mom was seen on
> the nest on Feb.19 and for the previous month or so.  On Feb. 20 both
> parents were in the pine trees.  I had my first sighting of the babies in
> the nesting hole around March 6.
> 4. So, the way I figure, if they were to repeat their last year's
> performance,
> the female would lay the eggs in mid-January.  So, what is this that I
> witnessed today?
> What do others think?
> It has disturbed me greatly that they put in two new walking paths right in
> front of the owl's nesting tree.  TGP is still doing a lot of work on these
> paths.  Maybe they don't want to admit they are disturbing the owls and so
> are telling people the owls are at the other end of the park. I have no idea
> why the rangers would say such a thing to this couple. I am going to inform
> John Karel, the director, that the owls are indeed still there!
> Oh, and I want to add my profuse thanks for the Sandhill Crane sighting
> info.  It was a joy to watch the young one with folks on Sunday afternoon.
>  It was a delight to return again the next day to see the youngin with my ma
> and run into Paul Bauer that Winter Solstice afternoon, which happened to be
> Paul's 77th Birthday - and give him two big hugs!  Congrats again, Paul!
> Upon leaving Howell Island that day, I saw a Kestrel fly into a field and
> made a quick U-turn that made my ma grab for that thingamajig on the ceiling
> of the car to hang onto.  When we got out and were able to see the Kestrel
> through the scope in all its amazing glory up close, I think she forgave me
> my lunatic driving.
> Thanks,
> Chris McClarren
> St. Louis South City
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D. Pierce
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