Saint Louis University

Mark Glenshaw in Forest Park
Mark Glenshaw spends an average of 10-15 hours a week watching the Great Horned Owls in Forest Park. Photo courtesy of Mark Glenshaw

By the numbers

25: Average weight, in pounds, of his bird-watching pack during the winter

77: Percentage of days per year that Glenshaw went to Forest Park in 2011

3: Number of mentees that Glenshaw closely mentors

1: Number of owl books Glenshaw owned when he first started watching

32: Number of owl books Glenshaw now currently owns

Mark Glenshaw has an important piece of advice to give to burgeoning naturalists: "Get out frequently; nothing beats that. It's one of the easiest and hardest things you can do."

He would know. Glenshaw, a library associate at Pius XII Memorial Library, is an amateur naturalist with a special interest in the Great Horned Owls of Forest Park. So special, in fact, that he's created and maintains a blog titled Forest Park Owls where he writes about the wildlife found in the park.

Most work days—rain or shine—Glenshaw leaves SLU and heads directly to Forest Park. He spends on average 10-15 hours a week there, specifically watching, photographing and noting the habits of an adult pair of horned owls he's named Charles and Sarah.

"It's one of those things where if it's important to you, you make time for it," Glenshaw said.

What started as a hobby has earned Mark Glenshaw attention from the West End Word, St. Louis Magazine, KTVI-Ch. 2 News and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, as well as an invitation to deliver the keynote address at the annual awards ceremony for the St. Louis chapter of the Audubon Society April 14.

His interest in the birds began in the early 2000s when he decided to get out and learn more about Forest Park. He first spotted the birds "dueting," that is hooting back and forth to each other. He later saw one of the birds chase down a Great Blue Heron, one of the largest birds in North America.

"I was immediately hooked," he recalled.

Glenshaw's become a mentor to other naturalists sharing what he's learned from his experiences and providing books and other resources to those who are just getting started.

While the hours logged watching in the park and recording those details online sound like a heavy commitment, for Glenshaw the aesthetic appeal, the scientific intrigue and the opportunity to connect with nature outweigh any temporary bouts of idleness. After a busy day at Pius, visiting with Charles and Sarah in the peacefulness of Forest Park is the perfect escape.

"It's just real nice to get in a different rhythm," he added.