Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Alisa Turns Rufous Before Our Very Eyes

Our beloved Red-tailed Hawk Alisa has a very different appearance now than last year at this time (check the blog posting for Dec. 12, 2009.) As she molted over the summer, her new feathers came in much darker which made me reach for my Brian Wheeler book, Raptors of Western North America. She appears to be an intermediate (rufous) morph Western Red-tail. Some biologists calls these "variants" but whatever the terminology, they are confusing, especially in the field. Then you mix in the Harlan's Hawks that are appearing all over this winter, a darker phase Red-tail from Alaska, and dark Rough-legs, wow! We'll just call her a Red Red-tail.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

On this Christmas Day we reflect upon our great fortune to have such superb friends, family and birds to keep us going. Thanks partners, human and avian! Hope that you are enjoying this holiday season as are all of us at the Raptor Ranch, and best wishes for the New Year.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Shhhhhh! Don't Tell Annie

We are on Montana Public Radio's Pea Green Boat this afternoon, and I am giving host and pal Annie Garde this framed photo as a present. It's a snapshot of Sibley a few weeks ago with the Rocky Mountain Front as a backdrop. The temperature hovered around zero and she protested by perching on a pole and pulling up a foot. Every year we give Annie a little gift, a few years ago the contents of a dissected owl pellet. The mouse bones were carefully glued into place on cardboard and labelled, ready for display. I thought she might scream to see a skeleton in the studio, but she loved it and it may still hang on her refrigerator door. Check it out, 4 pm today on KUFM in Missoula 89.1 and across the state on translator stations.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

What Is Wrong With This Picture?

The answer is, a Southwest desert bird flying in the snow: Chesty the Harris's Hawk cruising the Raptor Ranch today. A frosty Bitterroot scene and more photos on the way.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Evidence of an Eclipse-Watcher:

1.) Bleary eyes from staying up all night. 2.) A stiff neck from looking straight up for hours 3.) This snapshot of the moon at about 1 :30 am. And even hand held, just braced on the fence in the backyard, kneeling in the snow. Well worth the effort.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Somebody Loves the Snow

Rudy the dog and Ansel the Gyrfalcon do, but probably not Tom who is currently shoveling. We received a reported 9 inches of the fluffy stuff in the last few days, very Christmasy indeed. Deja the Harris's Hawk was enjoying the snow for several days flying around the yard. She finally realized that it's a lot toastier under her red lamp in her building, returning just before dark last night.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Helena Gyrfalcon

I got this snapshot Thursday morning near the shores of Lake Helena, a miracle bird for me and only the second wild Gyrfalcon I have ever seen in my life. Jay and I were visiting Gregg Doney of Padre Island fame, at his rural home complete with a slough running behind. Sibley had gotten a mallard (with Rio the English Setter's help) and was chowing down when Jay and I were driving back to the house and a light bird flew by for a split second. Gregg had been telling us that a Gyrfalcon had been a winter resident the year before, so I had Gyrs on the brain. Sure enough, and I kept my finger on the camera shutter button as I approached to get this shot before he took off. What a day!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Shot 'O the Day

I was over at fellow rehabber and educator Judy Hoy's house today picking up much-needed mice and a Northern Goshawk flew into a row of trees in her front yard while we were chatting. I managed to sneak around and catch a few frames before he split. This is a male, young of the year, and I'll bet he figured out that the Hoys have a similar row of bird feeders in their back yard!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Frigid Front

Jay and I paid another visit to our friend Skip Tubbs in Choteau, taking advantage of a break in programs and weather. Sibley is pictured here trying to figure out what happened to that pheasant she knocked into the cattails just before dark, with the Rocky Mountain Front in the backdrop. Yesterday she voted that 1 degree is just too cold to fly, and she kept landing and pulling up a foot. Jay's bird did much better getting high after it had warmed up to 5 degrees! My friend Mindy Palmer was driving in Missoula yesterday afternoon and wrote: "There's a green Subaru in front of me, and all of a sudden I see a Falcon's Head "pop up" out of the back seat! Caught me off guard until I realized it was our own Kate Davis, obviously on her way home after a presentation! Wanted to honk and wave, and thought better of it. Gotta love living in a small city!"

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Raptor Round-Up 36: View it Here First!

I had hoped to have this printed and in the mail this week, but the big blizzard kept us at home, tending to birds all over the house. So check your mail next Tuesday or Wednesday for a copy for the coffee table. Better yet, see it here in color.
In This Issue: Padre Island Peregrine Project, new book update, Zortman Program, Raptor Research Foundation Symposium, Rough-legged Hawks, a farewell to dear friends, and much much more...
(Hey, we just plugged this last blog!)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Mother Nature Delivers as Promised

We thought it to be an idle threat, but yesterday's arctic blast/snow/wind was right on time. We currently have the Pygmy and Saw-whet Owls, Kestrel, Peregrine and Chesty the Harris's Hawk inside the house. That's along with two dogs, two cats, and us, a menagerie until it warms up. And another memorable event, Jay's Peregrine took off from the sloughs of West Mullan Road near Missoula the day before and spent the night out near my house of all places, 25 miles distant. First thing in the morning we were calling her down out of a tree and heard a man driving his kids to school shout, "Hey Kate! What are you doing?" Remember that Raptor Round-Up Newsletter from a few years ago where the little girl dressed as Kate Davis for Halloween? Jay's bird was in their yard! What are the chances? I remember that her brother went as Jacque Cousteau so an out-doorsey family. We had a tiny show-and-tell with the falcon, and the kids told their dad that it was a okay to be late to school, just this one time.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Thousands Descend Upon the Bitterroot

On Wednesday night when I was out feeding the owls, I heard a huge flock of geese flying overhead in the dark, heading south. The sound seemed to go on and on and I finally went back inside. My friend Tad Lubinski also heard the ruckus, and was ready with his camera the next morning. It turns out that an estimated 8000 Snow Geese descended upon Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge in Stevensville, pushed into migration just ahead of the arctic cold front. What a scene, but it didn't last as the bulk of them pushed on that day. Winter has officially arrived, with snow, wind and dropping temperatures today. Our hawks are hunkerin' down, mice heated by the wood stove.
See Tad's web site:

Friday, November 19, 2010

Saint Joseph's Assembly

If you aren't already keyed in, tomorrow is the big football game rivalry of the season, U of M Grizzlies versus the MSU Bobcats of Bozeman. The kids at Saint Joseph's School in Missoula sure were, as we held an assembly for the students, rarin' to go in their Griz regalia. The 200-plus students had four of our raptors visit the school, and when asked, "What do raptors eat?" the resounding answer was "MEAT," to which I responded, "Yes, BOBCATS!" Remind me to never say that again, with a tumultuous response in the bleachers that went on and on... Our friend Rick Paris took this photo of the kids meeting Jillian the Great Horned Owl, a bird that was actually recovered by a teacher at St. Joe's five years earlier on Highway 93 in the Bitterroot after being hit by a car! What a coincidence and a happy reunion all these years later.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Rough-legs Are Back

On a quick overnight trip up north and program for Flathead Audubon in Kalispell, we were greeted along the way by myriads of Rough-legged Hawks. Migrating down from their arctic breeding territories, they seek wintering ground that reminds them of home: open-country grasslands and marshes. Years ago, Rough-legs near Ronan were found to share "communal roosts" with up to 250 individuals sleeping in one area. Research suggests that these serve as "information centers" allowing hawks to find food locally by following successful hunters. They often perch on these tiny limbs and twigs, impossible-looking perches for such big birds and a way to tell them from Red-tails, who prefer a more substantial substrate.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Montana Youth Challenge Academy

Thanks for the opportunity to speak to our new friends in Dillon, a program at the college for 75 cadets at the Challenge Academy. Jay and I tag-teamed with PowerPoints and Peregrines, discussing their biology, recovery and falconry. We stayed with Jack and Brenda Kirkley and hunted in the area, even getting lost on the way home and a white-knuckle drive on ice, high in the mountains over the Big Hole Valley. That will teach Jay to leave me in charge of reading the map!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Halloween Hunt

Jay Sumner and I were dressed as falconers yesterday for Halloween, and here Marlis the Peregrine is trying to spot a duck that she had stooped upon. It disappeared underwater in the slough, hiding in a ancient root wad up against the bank and breathing a sigh of relief. Sibley and Marlis flew a total of four hours, getting high on thermals and chasing game, but only one duck for dinner tonight. I remember John Craighead telling me ten years back, "If we relied on this sport to feed our families, we would have starved long ago."

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Couldn't Resist

One last image from Padre Island, and a female hatch-year Peregrine about to be released. Can't you tell the jubilation of the Raptors of the Rockies Director?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Some Serious Artists

Back from our now-annual Excel "Birds And Art" presentation at Lone Rock School, just up the road, and what zoologists and artists! We had Alisa the Red-tail (depicted here by three friends) and Miles the Great Horned Owl for a few hours, what great models. Thirty students got creative with magic markers, one even putting a French beret on the owl for which I announced he was saying, "Bonjour! Ca va?" to the amusement of librarian and pal Jan Burgess who arranged the program. Many of the students drawings now decorate the house, and even the principal tried his hand in the creative process. I love the colors and not a shy student in the crowd.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Padre Project 2010

The season just wrapped up this weekend, another phenomenal survey with about 170 Peregrine Falcons banded in just over a month. Very few adults, or haggard birds are caught, as they are a bit more savvy and "stuck up" as one biologist joked. Plus, very few males are seen, only about 10 caught this year, and a mystery as to where they go. Gregg Doney has headed up the project for ten years now, and has a new item on his list for processing the birds- checking for the presence of oil from the big gulf spill. So far clean birds, but they are anxious to see about falcons returning in the spring. Blood and feather samples are also taken to determine contaminant levels and geographic origins of these migrants from the arctic. These studies have revealed that concentrations of pesticide DDT (and it's breakdown chemical DDE) have declined dramatically since 2004. This from birds returning from a winter in South America where DDT may continue to be used. I'm still having Padre Island moonscape dreams, and will for some time to come. Thanks Greg and crew for an unbelievable week on the beach.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

An Odd Duck

With just half-day surveys, morning or afternoon shift, I had some time in Padre to also take in a local birdwatching haven on the north end of town. Here are four Black-necked Stilts (just like we have in Montana in the summer) with a new species for me. Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks are true Texas denizens, named for their constant calls in flight. This one held tight for a photo or two, even though I was whistling at him. Or her.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

On the Lookout

Willard Heck searches for Peregrines on the vast expanse of sand and "black mat" of a hardened algae bloom. Rich with other migrating birds feeding on invertebrates, the falcons appear from no where in hunting mode. We found ourselves in the middle of thousands of swallows, feeding just a few feet above the surface, fattening up for the long trip across the gulf. Male Peregrines, one-third smaller than the females, have been observed catching the numerous giant dragonflies, a hearty diet for their similar journey. The survey team sticks to designated "highways" to get from point to point on the Honda ATV's, and I actually started to recognize certain landmarks the second day, like "Green Well Head" in the distance. Talk about an other-worldly landscape! I was thankful to have camera gear safely stashed in the Pelican Case mounted to the front of the vehicle, lower right.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Don't Mess With Texas

I am just back Padre Island, Texas trapping migrating Peregrines on the sand, the most exciting experience and impressive science I have ever been involved in. The survey project started in the 1970's, sponsored by the Peregrine Fund and individuals that love these birds, headed now by Gregg Doney of Helena. Jay Sumner and I were fortunate to be invited to see it first hand, me along to take photographs. Willard Heck (here) has been instrumental in Peregrine re-introduction and monitoring since the beginning, and he is about to release a falcon that has been processed and banded. More photos this week and stories from the hotbed of Peregrine-Land!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Back to the Matador

Jay and I enjoyed three days of glorious weather and flights by the Peregrines, all above the native prairie grassland of the Matador Ranch near Zortman. The Nature Conservancy owns these 60,000 acres and we had a very enthusiastic TNC staff to help us kick up the game birds, led by Director Kat Imhoff. We also flew the birds for the grass bank ranchers that share grazing privileges with the Matador, Jay on the right with Kat and camera. On Wednesday we hunted with young members of the Montana Conservation Corp, but missed the quarry. When I reached in my vest to retrieve a pigeon to call a falcon back, one gal let out a shriek. The last thing she expected to emerge from a pocket was a live bird, and she wondered what else was in there. "Just like Mary Poppins' bag," she informed us. A magic trick or two, indeed.
Off to Padre Island, Texas. See you in a week!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Telephoto Lens?

...or, Never Bring a Knife To a Gun Fight. Unbelievably bad luck that this Northern Pygmy-Owl landed right next to me when all I had was a wide angle lens, 24 mm for photography buffs. I was involved in a migration survey up the hill, behind the house, and we heard the vocalizations of this bird. Friends Kerr and Kate work for the MPG Ranch, involved in excellent bird studies, and have seen Pygmy-Owls up there before. My camera had been acting up, not working well, so I brought the back-up and wide angle instead. Oh well, they got some great shots, but I had left the telephoto at home. Never do that again. We will fit this shot in the new book, as a reminder.

Friday, October 8, 2010

School Number 120

We had a great morning with the students at Ovando, up the Blackfoot River and a community that we love dearly. All 13 students from the Ovando School were in attendance along with parents and friends for a falconry demonstration with Sibley. She got up high, looked for ducks in the creek and ended up with a Chukar that we served her, all observed by the gang and photographed on cameras and cell phones. We thank sponsors, Nina and Pat Brock who have the greatest Peregrine eyrie in the state right next to their house at Chamberlain Creek. Hey, our 120th school, too! Jillian the Great Horned Owl was in attendance, as was Jay Sumner who discussed the sport and Peregrine recovery in the state as Director of the Montana Peregrine Institute. Major Fun!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Rocky Mountain Front

We are lucky to pay a few visits each year to the Rocky Mountain Front at Choteau for falconry trips, guests of friend Skip Tubbs. Our birds had some great flights, and here Jay Sumner is anxious to get his bird started first thing in the morning. The weather was actually too warm the second day, as Sibley disappeared in a thermal in the 82 degree weather, and came back to a nervous handler 30 minutes later. It is a different world on the front, as Skip's friend told us that the night before he went out to kick a raccoon out of his garage, to find an adult grizzly bear staring him down instead.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Old Photo, Same Dogs

I was going through some ancient images today and just had to post this photo of the dogs at the river behind the house. There was a fifth dog but the stick was too short, no kidding. Our two Goldens are on the left, Peanut and Rudy. The next two in line belong to our friends Pat and Kelly, and always brings a smile to my face to remember that summer day. It looks like finally fall weather is on the way after this heat wave, trees turning autumn colors, firewood collection in full gear, and eventually some snow. Thank goodness!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Want To See A "Killer" Image?

Our pal Nick Dunlop got this photograph of Rob Palmer's young Peregrine in the hunt last week, while at the Raptor Research Foundation Conference in Fort Collins, Colorado. They went for a morning fly then showed up at the shindig with this printed as cards, and sold out in minutes. Nick reports that the falcon caught this duck a split second later by the foot and the two crashed to the sagebrush ground below. Rob dashed up and fed his bird a quail and hooded her, to release the duck unscathed, but all the smarter now having escaped from the fastest animal on earth. Okay, maybe not Rob's falconry bird, but Peregrines in general. What a shot!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Back From Fort Collins, Colorado

What a perfect Raptor Research Foundation conference, the best since Scotland last year and Missoula in 2008 (!) and hosted by our friends at the Rocky Mountain Raptor Program. Three days of scientific papers concluded with our Raptors In Education Symposium. New and old friends galore, a turnout of 250 attendees from around the globe, representing 15 countries and Nebraska (a comment by Rick Harness, co-host who is from that state.) More news on the way, and I had to post this shot of our favorite photographer Rob Palmer, who displayed his fine art along with Nick Dunlop, "hawking" their images for all of us. Rob and I had a duck hunt with his Peregrine Sunday morning before I headed out on the plane, duck in Rob's game bag.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Think I'll Try Oil Painting

With a tiny break in the action, I decided to finally bust out the oil paints that I've had tucked away for years and give it a try. After the plein air painters were here in August, I was truly inspired, and encouraged by friend and painter extaordinaire, Janet McGahan. She and husband Jerry showed me around their studios, with tips and ideas. So I stuck Sib on her perch in the living room and made my first oil painting. I'm using canola oil and cleaning brushes outside, suggestions from the McGahans. My other mentors are Julie Chapman and of course, Bill Ohrmann. I've started a Golden Eagle, but it's still in the "ugly"
stage, and we don't need Max perched in the living room for this one.
I'll be at the Raptor Research Foundation Conference in Fort Collins, so back in a week with lots of stories and photos!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Shot 'O The Day

A big weekend of falconry and today a visit to the Lee Metcalf Wildlife Refuge down the road with my pal Sharon Fuller and Dad Steve to get this shot of a Belted Kingfisher. What a bird! The females wear the pants in this family.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Get Out Your Favorite Field Guide

This photo from yesterday and I kept thinking it looked familiar in some way. It was a young Red-tailed Hawk and I only wished it had been an adult and then it would be pretty close to the cover painting by David Sibley for his Field Guide to Birds. A must for everyone out there that loves avian life as much as we do. I have three copies, one in the office, one in the car, and one in the library. I made this in to new cards for Rockin' Rudy's in Missoula along with lots of photos, so check 'em out.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Peregrine, This Time

Yesterday's flight of Sibley brought a young Peregrine from out of nowhere within minutes, up on a huge open hillside in the Sapphires. I got these shots of the interaction then realized I should be more concerned with my bird's safety. No problem as she just flew back to the Subaru and landed on the roof! This sport can be a bit unnerving at times.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Prairie Falcons are Persistent

I started flying Sibley the Peregrine last week, and so far in about half our trips to the Bitterroot and Sapphire Mountains we have been joined by Prairie Falcons. This shot was this morning after a little scrap between the two, equal in size but this fledgling Prairie was definitely in better shape. Sib was waiting on a fence post back at the car!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Farewell to a Friend

In a memorial filled with tears, humor, poetry and music, 400 plus friends and family of Byron Weber bid farewell to man who touched more lives than we will ever know. He tragically died of progressive lymphoma and was honored at the Florence Carlton School, where he taught from 1984 until his retirement this June. After the service, Sam Manno released 3000 ladybugs at an outdoor classroom named for Byron. We were friends for about twenty years, meeting through a mutual friend who introduced the "Bird Lady" to the "Bug Guy." He appeared every month on Montana Public Radio's Pea Green Boat children's' program, cigar boxes of pinned butterflies and jars of insects under one arm. He shared his zest and appreciation of the natural world with thousands of avid fans for over twenty years. We had been doing bird programs for his students, and the last time in his classroom I commented on his menagerie of insects in aquariums and jars, first and second graders in a big circle at our feet. Byron said, sure, but one of his favorite spiders had escaped, and took a few steps to stomp at something on the floor. I figured the kids would jump a foot, but apparently they had seen that routine before. Byron gave me a smile I'll never forget. He loved life, all life, and we all love him. He is very much missed.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

6th Annual Sculpture Show

I have two pieces in the annual Sculpture Show at Caras Nursery in Missoula, including this Golden Retriever. Just kidding - it's the big Ring-necked Pheasant. The show runs through the month with an artists' reception and "Caras Bucks" this Saturday. Buy some plants and peruse the dozens of sculptures created by artists from the area. I am anxious to get back at the welding, which seems like a colder weather sport to me, and have started a giant Peregrine.

Monday, August 30, 2010

New Raptor Round-Up is Up

In the mail over the weekend and now on our web site, check out the latest issue with even more photos than ever before. I still send a few hundred of these out the old-fashioned way, and webmaster Steve Palmer always says, "How twentieth." In this issue we have the trip to Chicago, new Raptors of the West book, iPod the new Pygmy-Owl, Painting Workshop, Osprey web cam, Bill much more!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Have You Ever Seen So Many Grasshoppers?

This year seems especially bad, or good depending on your perspective. Birds are loving this near plague of grasshoppers, zillions jumping in waves as we walk through the grass. Even Sibley the falcon has been chasing them on foot in her building. A bunch of Eastern Kingbirds have been using the sculptures in the lawn to launch attacks, this one off the Great Horned Owl. We had our first frost here last night and before you know it, the insect smorgasbord will be gone. And then...falconry season!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

What's the Ruckus?

First Chesty the Harris's Hawk started screaming, then she was joined by the falcons and finally barking dogs. So I grabbed my camera and got this photo just now of the front yard. That's One Horse Creek they're flying over, Prairie and Peregrine nests up there somewhere. It looks like that heron flying by wasn't at all alarmed.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Raptors of the West Completed

The new book is at Mountain Press Publishers, finished! Raptors of the West took a year longer than planned, but in that time our photographers got unbelievable images that wouldn't have made it had we been on time. Plus we have some guests appearing including BT Lubinski, Gerald Romanchuk, and Miguel Lasa. So the breakdown - 224 pages, 7 chapters, 43 species, and 430 photographs! That's how many captions I wrote, and just since the shoulder surgery last month. Rob Palmer has about 244 of those, Nick Dunlop nearly 100, including his image here of a Spotted Owl that will grace the back cover. I have 66, give or take. So editing now, and we are hoping that we can have it back from the printers in time for the holidays, but that might be pushing our luck. I'll let you know. Now, the Raptor Round-Up Newsletter as promised.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Japanese Visit

We hosted students from Japan, a return engagement for the English Language Institute at the University of Montana with Samantha on the left. We got to release some pigeons, had a tour of the ranch, a flight by Chesty the Harris's Hawk, and this photo by the Osprey sculpture, a species that also lives in Japan. We realized that half of the students were exactly the same age as Max the Golden Eagle (21) and the other half were born the year I started this program (1988.) We finished with a chant of "Go Griz!" just to get them ready for football season.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Another Rainy Night

For last night's trip to the beach behind the house, I got this snapshot when a Bald Eagle landed right across the river. I had just said one minute earlier, "Would't that tree look great with a bird perched in the limbs?" And voila, enter eagle. More rain storms and even a winter weather advisory!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

What a Sky

A quick snapshot out the office window, hummingbirds, storm clouds, and even a rainbow over the eagle enclosure. The latest outbreak of thunderstorms have put our fire season on hold, and the countryside is still green in August.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Mike Untiedt Painting

This looks like Max to me, and here is a final painting from our Plein Air Painting Workshop a few weeks ago. Mike Untiedt from Denver, CO was featured in our Blog (July 17) and a Missoulian newspaper story, setting up his easel and oil paints right in front of the Golden Eagles. He writes, "To say this experience was a magical one is to understate the obvious. I tried to paint the eagle with as much accuracy as possible, but still keep the work loose and painterly. This is not an easy thing to do, as one must combat the tendency to start rendering things out." I love this painting, and we hope to have Mike back for a private workshop at the Raptor Ranch next summer. I'll get the word out to our painter friends in plenty of time!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Hummingbird Frenzy

All of the hummingbird nests seem to have fledged babies in the last few days, Black-chinned like this one, and Calliope's- the tiniest of tiny. I've been working on the new book non-stop, but simply have to run outside now and then to try to capture the air show in the yard. Plus we had 50 kids from the Missoula middle school Flagship program here today. Quite the day and another biggie tomorrow if you can join us at Blacksmith Brewing in Stevensville. Stop in for a pint and 50 cents of every beer goes to Raptors of the Rockies. It's their "Community Give Back" night. We'll be there with Alisa the Red-tail and two owls and would love to visit. 5:00-7:00 pm, and I'll have some t-shirts and books as well.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Phillips Family Reunion

A happy occasion and the first time all the kids have been together with Mom in about three years. On the left is sister Betsy Needles, owner of Heartland Caregivers, helping folks across the land with estate staffing, and brother Jonathan Phillips in the film industry. After many years with Dreamworks, he has just started his own business dubbing in languages (37 in all to be exact) to animated features for release overseas. Latest was the Shrek series and "How to Train Your Dragon " in Cantonese and 5 versions of Russian, for example. And Sally the Mom, who started this project 50 years ago. Love to all.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Where's That Newsletter?

The Raptor Round-Up should be in the mail next week, but hold on, a little delay this issue. First, the new book for Mountain Press Publishers is on the front burner, with the deadline in just over two weeks. Very do-able as they say and right now we are featuring 421 photographs, including this brand new Burrowing Owls image from Rob Palmer. Just a hint at the quality of photos, and along with me and Nick Dunlop, we have several guest photographers to be announced. Secondly, I had surgery on my right (write) shoulder yesterday. House-bound for ten days, so plenty of time to work on the book, with no distractions of chasing Peregrines around. All this from a ski wreck in January and "impingement syndrome." I thank the good folks at Missoula Bone and Joint for fixing me up. Think I'll drop off the Raptors of the West book for their waiting room when it hits the bookstores this holiday season!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Back to Our Favorite Osprey Nest

Heiko Langner and Erick Greene decided to revisit the Hellgate Osprey nest and take a final blood sample from the chicks before they fledge. This is essential to determine how the mercury levels change as the birds grow. I was lucky to come along, with family in tow. My brother Jonathan and son Zach Phillips were in town for two days and got a bucket ride, as did my nephew Brady Needles. This nest has been made popular through our newsletters and blog, as the platform was installed in 2007 by Northwestern Energy. My friend Karen Wagner (whose mother was a resident) and I wanted the folks at Riverside Health Care to enjoy the birds close-up. Now Heiko and Erick have added a web camera, and residents inside (and you) can see the nest live: Project Osprey Webcam
Click the "live peek into the nest" link below the photo. And, the Missoulian newspaper had an excellent article last week, so check it out: Next year we will have a better camera and video feed, fundraising campaign coming up! Save your pennies. Here is Erick reinstalling the growing chicks with a smile.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Score Again!

Last week Mac Donofrio and I returned to One Horse Creek across the road in hopes of seeing fledgling Peregrines and getting an accurate count. Our efforts were thwarted and we just heard one scream for a second. But not today and we can say with confidence, three babies. With nothing going on, Mac was looking at my house across the valley through the spotting scope and a bird flew through his field of vision. A fledgling Peregrine quietly found a nice snag perch in the distance. A half hour later the big show started as that bird was joined by his sister, then a third exactly in between the two in size. Male? Female? Male ? Who knows. Anyway, they flew around us screaming and playing, then this one landed next to us, thirty feet away! The spectacle continued, kids playing with no adult supervision, scrapping and diving, noisily honing those flying skills, and a sight I'll never forget.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Grown-Ups Are Artists Too

We held our second workshop for adults yesterday at the Missoula Art Museum, Birds And Art for Grown-Ups. Instructor Bev Glueckert and I have held classes for kids for about 15 years, and parents complained that they were left out. Sibley, Alisa, and Miles Davis were our models and we were honored to have a special guest from the Plein Air Painters, Mike Untiedt from Denver. He filled us in a bit about being an artist as a profession, and did some sketches of Alisa. He admitted that it would be nice to not have the pressure of making sales, no surprise. I guess that's me, with all of my metal sculptures in the yard and house, and none for sale! I covet A Michael Untiedt original, that's for sure. And, these workshops for adults will be on the schedule twice a year, so keep in touch.