Tonight we were thinking the unthinkable (I don’t know how such a thing could possibly happen, but it certainly seemed to do just that. I took the spouse with me to aid in my adventures and whom should we see, in the crowded confines of the park, but Mark, the friendly neighborhood owlologist embarking on his nightly search for Forest Park’s own super predator, Charles the great horned owl.
We parked and flagged him down, and Mark being the friendly sort that he is (I wasn’t kidding in the previous paragraph) we had a good talk. He was worried (Mark, not Charles - Charles doesn’t say much), worried about Charles, whom he had not seen since Monday of last week (about 10 days prior). We talked for a bit about this unusual absence of the owl, and left him with the promise of a rendezvous later in the evening. I wanted some photos of the hu-mins swarming the park, celebrating the glory of spring sunshine.
Children playing in the fountain on Art Hill, running in the grass, and generally doing the sorts of legal things that members of my favorite species are prone to do. On our way back to the car a bit later, my wife found an owl feather lying in the grass. I texted Mark, who promptly appeared to examine and confirm its owldentity before reverently laying it back where it came from. It isn’t legal, after all, for us ordinary hu-mins to possess the feathers of raptors. Or any other parts, for that matter.
Of Charles, however, there was still not a sign. But as we stood by McKinley Drive lamenting the absence of our favorite strigiforme, we heard the call of another member of the order, and shortly thereafter the response of his mate. A male bared owl flew from near the MUNY across McKinley onto Owl Hill where he and his female companion quickly duetted quite a ballad. It was the first time any of us had heard such a thing in the wild.