Thursday, December 31, 2009

Birthday Mallard

I am 50 years old today, and what a way to begin the celebration with a mallard in the front yard! Sibley caught a duck and got soaking wet in a tiny slough trying to drag it out onto the ice. Immediately her feathers froze solid and rattled as she shivered in the 15 degree morning. Back in the living room, I broke out the handy hairdryer and she enjoyed the blast of hot air. Cracks me up.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Day

A stunning view of Missoula, looking north to the Rattlesnake Wilderness, taken from the hills above Lolo. Our webmaster and good friend Steve Palmer and wife Mindy hosted their annual Christmas Open House, great fun!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy Holidays from Raptors of the Rockies

Best wishes for the holiday season from all of us at the Raptor Ranch! We celebrate 22 years of programs since our "humble beginnings" with a beater Datsun station wagon and four birds back in Clinton. We became a non-profit and started this web site in 1999 (thanks Steve Palmer.) By far the biggest improvement of all was our move to the Bitterroot Valley south of Missoula in 2001. All new enclosures were constructed on ten acres on the banks of the Bitterroot River, heaven on earth if you ask me. This year was another excellent year with 52 programs (hey, one a week!) and heading to 1300 total since the start. Our 15 raptors make up a fantastic collection of teaching team birds, from Max and Chesty that will be 21 years old next year, to the new Red-tail Alisa that turns 1. We look forward to 2010, and wish you all a Happy New Year.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Shot O' the Day

Jay Sumner's Peregrine Marlis chases a duck right past me.

Friday, December 18, 2009

See Her On the Radio

Alisa the Red-tailed Hawk had her grand debut on Montana Public Radio yesterday, tens of thousands "seeing" our new bird from their home, work or auto as they listened. Alisa was perfect, stepping onto the glove then perch with host Annie Garde in the control room, safely behind a big pane of glass. We always have our first presentation for new birds live on the air, the "Pea Green Boat" children's program a daily staple for over 25 years and going strong; a wonderful start for what looks like a long career as an ambassador raptor for this big, beautiful hawk.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sunday's Snows

We spent some time digging out of the first (finally!) snow storm of the season, and faithful dog Rudy has a dry spot on the deck, by the Barn Owl sculpture and underneath Chesty the Harris's Hawk's "nest" on the arbor. Bird buildings in the background needed some digging out too, a pleasure after all of the dry weather and bitter cold. Next - dig out the ski gear, somewhere around here.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Ansel Gets a Roommate

We have just been approved to keep a hatch-year Red-tailed Hawk that has been residing at the Bitterroot Wildlife Rehabilitation Center since early July. The youngster was standing on the ground under the nest, and after several days, was retrieved by a a neighbor. We determined that she was totally blind, and rehabber Judy Hoy hand fed her mice with cell salts and electrolytes, confident that her vision would improve. With monthly visits to our veterinarian Dr. Doug Bower at Florence Veterinary, we were encouraged to find that her right eye was showing pupil reaction and it appeared that she could see, distance at least. We were happy to find that she could feed herself and was very calm (and beautiful) so should be a great program bird, and roommate to Ansel the falcon. Notice the brick-red tail, but a she's a young of the year. She dropped all twelve tail feathers at once in July, and they all came back with adult coloration. Her name comes from my friend, Alisa Clancy, jazz aficionado, KCSM 91.1 FM Jazz radio, San Mateo and live on the web. And friend A'Lisa, different spelling! Her first program is also a radio-event-this Thursday on Montana Public Radio's childrens' program, Pea Green Boat, 4 to 5 p.m. on the left side of your FM dial.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Loon-er Landing

This bird was in our living room yesterday morning, a Common Loon that was found at a neighbor's house the night before. Darla Cotton recovered the stranded loon in a driveway after it probably landed there thinking it was water. This occasionally happens on big parking lots, the asphalt making a sheen like a lake. With their legs situated far back on the body, they require a runway of water to take off and fly, so we just had to get this guy into a waterway. Easier said than done, with the sub-zero weather lately, but we found a nice backwater of the Bitterroot River at Lee Metcalf Nat'l Wildlife Refuge. Darla said that the bird was attacking her kids in defense and the razor sharp bill poked a hole in the cuff of her pants. She had him in a big plastic container with cargo netting over the top, and he got in one quick stab wound to my forehead before swimming away. If he sticks around, it will make a first for the Christmas Bird Count next week!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Raptor Round-Up 33 Is Up!

Raptor Backers, check your mailbox today or tomorrow, as a few hundred of these newsletters are winging across the country right now. AND check it out on our web site in glorious color. Lots of great stories and photos.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Potomac Program on the Coldest Day of the Year

When we scheduled this assembly months ago, we had no idea the temperatures would be negative 22 degrees in Potomac. One bank sign displayed minus 196 degrees, but I think they misplaced a decimal point. We arrived to find "indoor recess" in the gym, as it had just warmed to ten below. Then we had the automatic bleacher installation = 7th and 8th graders. The youngsters from Bear Creek Day care joined us (bottom right.) Our teaching team birds and students were exemplary, and we love Potomac! Been doing programs there for twenty years.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Hang a Hawk for the Holidays

Sure, that 45 inch high-def plasma TV would look great on the living room wall, but how about a photo of one of our teaching team birds also? Every year at this time, we encourage people to Adopt A Raptor and support the program as a gift to a loved one for the holidays. In return, the lucky soul receives a matted photo portrait of their chosen bird, and you have a nice tax-deduction receipt and thank-you card. The suggested adoption fees range from $50 to $1000, but of course for a million bucks you get the whole crew. Donations like these make up half of our revenue and keep us going!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Ice Capades

This weekend's duck hunting with the falcons was especially challenging, with frigid temps and ice everywhere. In this photo, Sibley knocked a drake to the very edge of the ice in a shallow slough, and tried bringing it to the bank but kept slipping. When she began plucking I had no choice but to retrieve raptor and prey and laid out flat on the ice scooting forward. Right as reached for the duck I plunged through, but had a chance to sling the birds back to the shore. Fortunately the car was a short distance, and I drove home in long underwear and socks and headed for the shower. I'm glad it was relatively mild that day, compared to the 8 below zero right now!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Chesty Is Back At It

Chesty the 20 year old Harris's Hawk is back collecting sticks in the yard, and building a nest (or trying to) over the arbor on the deck. She flies around the property up to a few hours a day, for the last three years, and every now and then she gets the nesting idea. With a red 100 watt bulb in her building for heat all winter, her photoperiod is out of whack. That would tell her the proper season to molt and nest, but now she'll do both at the oddest times. I let her build away now, and she'll let me know when it's time to go back to her building for feeding- she flies circles around he house! In this photo she is trying to pull sticks off an oak tree that my Mom planted when we moved to the Bitterroot, back in 2001.