Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sandhills Cranes in the Front Yard

A snapshot 'o the day, when parent birds were escorting their two youngsters around the property here in Florence hunting bugs. Unfortunately, my sneaking up on the family only resulted in the dad photograph, as female and kids were hiding expertly. I left them all alone after a short time and hope to see them again.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Smallest Avian Resident

This Black-chinned Hummingbird has been buzzing the backyard for a month now, and I got this shot while standing on a ladder, Nikon at the ready. Shutter speed was 4000th of a second, and looks great blown up big if you want a print, and on our photography web site: http://www.raptorsoftherockies.com/

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Wild Shot Filmmakers

Ron Scholl and I have been helping kids make films for years, starting back with the International Wildlife Film Festival workshops at the old Raptor Ranch in Clinton in the '90's. One of the first projects won an award at IWFF that year, a cool documentary about our Great Horned Owls complete with narration in a BBC-type British accent. "They eat everything...raw." Today it was with MCAT (Missoula Community Access Television) and seven youngsters shot the footage for four films, to be broadcasted for the big debut Friday night. The students filmed an eagle movie, and one on falconry birds (Ron, kids, and Sibley eating a quail pictured here.) Popular were the owls, especially the little guys, and I even had to pretend that the circus was in town, don't ask me why, and we'll see when the movie is complete. At the end we let Chesty the Harris's Hawk fly around the yard, video cameras blazing, but she wouldn't do her trick of catching tidbits thrown into the air. We found that she had two eggs back in her building and was perhaps distracted. When I asked a young filmmaker if I should pull the eggs, he said, "No, let her have some fun with those for a while more." Perfect answer and day!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Blackfoot Aerobatics

Jay Sumner and I spent the day on the Blackfoot River and shot several hundred images of Peregrines going about their business of raising young. We watched a few flights at emerging aquatic insect stoneflies right away, but couldn't get a good shot. Instead, every time we had a food delivery or exchange, the sound of camera shutters was deafening. Here, the female flies upside down to try to take a plucked bird from her mate. A closer look at the sequence shows that it looks like he wanted it back after he handed it over, with a quick chase to the nest ledge.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Even a Hesperornis

Our week at the Art Museum resulted in a variety of birds to decorate bedrooms, and one that will be a surprise Father's Day gift. Yesterday, the paper mache sculptures were decorated with paint and feathers, pipe cleaner feet and beaks, googley-eyes installed. My new friend Allan (age 8) made our first ever extinct flightless diving bird, a Hesperornis. We also had a family of Saw-whet Owls and lots of Sibley the Peregrines and Miles the Great Horned Owls. A perfect group of youngsters that promised to keep in touch and have a great summer. And get jobs to support their parents. Unfortunately our post-workshop trip to look at Peregrines was cancelled due to rain, or postponed actually. We'll wait for better weather.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Half-Way Through Birds And Art Week

We say this every year, but these are the best kids yet! Our four day Birds And Art Camp with the Missoula Art Museum starts with sketching live birds, then the real fun - life-size raptor sculptures in paper mache. Instructor Bev Glueckert and I tell the kids we have been holding this class for nearly 45 years, and let them do the math. Hopefully they'll realize we are exaggerating (it's more like 15 years.) We can hardly wait to see what creations they come up with. Pictured here is veteran sculptor Hayden with Sibley, Allan and Osprey, Elise (look at those colors), and Isadora with her Harris's Hawk drawing. Stay tuned...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

"Salmonflies Are Here!"

That's the exclamation on the electronic billboard of our local fly fishing shop, and they weren't kidding. These insects are nearly as big as your pinky, and when the hatch begins, fly-fisherman go crazy because trout hit them hard as they emerge, or land on the water to lay eggs. I spent 6 hours on the Blackfoot yesterday trying to photograph Peregrines catching these huge aquatic bugs. In 2008, we observed both adult falcons at two nests flying out, catching the insects in their feet, and transferring them to their mouths. One caught over 50 bugs before he disappeared around a bend in the river following the hatch. They also seem to like Golden Stones (the bug at the top) so I'd better get back out there. The hatch is on!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Bill Ohrmann Film Debuts in P-Burg

This Saturday, June 12th, the documentary on artist Bill Ohrmann debuts just down the road from his home turf at the Opera House in Philipsburg. Sean O'Brien made the film called "Be Thou Always a Guest" and it played on Montana PBS last month. Now, see it on the big screen, meet the Ohrmann's and view many of his "unique contributions to the art world," i.e. paintings with a message. Here Bill stands before a 14 foot welded steel wooly rhinoceros that he created several summers before. I was lucky to learn the art, tutelage from Bill, and make big metal birds. He is truly a national treasure and hero! Stop by the gallery on your way to Philipsburg, and see you for the film at 7:00 pm.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Wings Across the Big Sky

The 2010 Montana Audubon Conference brought in about 250 or so bird enthusiasts, making Missoula and the Holiday Inn Downtown at the Park the Bird Capital of the West for three days. We were the keynote on Friday night, and thanks to Erick Greene we finally got the Brookfield Zoo Powerpoint to work without a glitch, movies and all. I was pretty sure Sibley had finished laying eggs, so she joined us, along with Nigel, iPod and Graham the Barred Owl. This was the best audience in our 1200 programs, I swear (perhaps the precursor Happy Hour helped.) Saturday, attendees were all up at 5 a.m. for breakfast, field trips, excellent keynote from Erick, and afternoon papers. I won the bird calling contest with my Barred Owl "Who Cooks For You..." bullied into entering and again, I think that Happy Hour had to be factored in. A wonderful banquet topped off the evening with Nobel Laureate Steve Running's observations on climate change. I opted to sleep in today instead of the morning birdwatching, and now, a break in the action. Back to the Raptors of the West book and Raptor Research Foundation Conference symposium organizing, whew! Survived the last week and a half.

Friday, June 4, 2010

David Sibley Workshop on the Front

For our fourth year running, we were featured in the David Sibley Birding Workshop, a week-long event at the Nature Conservancy's Pine Butte Guest Ranch. In this gorgeous setting on the Rocky Mountain Front, we presented a program before dinner and showed the Powerpoint from the Brookfield Zoo program in the evening. At the last minute, we decided to leave Sibley the Peregrine at home, as she had just laid a NINTH egg! Instead, Ansel the Gyr/Peregrine made the trek, in great spirits and accompanied by the Red-tail, Pygmy-Owl and Jillian the big Great Horned. The next day we braved the 70 mile an hour wind gusts and observed a Golden Eagle and Swainson's Hawk next, then on to the birding HOTspot - Freezeout Lake. Here David is playing a Marsh Wren song from his new iPhone app, on my list to buy. The wren wasn't responding to the eastern version, but got pretty curious when he heard a familiar western Marsh Wren song right on his territory. "Pushed his buttons," David observed.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Big Hole Bust

I finally had a chance to take a quick trip to the Big Hole near Jackson in search of some Great Gray Owls. Dr. Jack Kirkley had lined out some nests, so with a break in the action, Keith Fialcowitz and I made the 3o0 mile round trip trek, car loaded with cameras. The first spot was very scenic with a lot of research history and past Goshawk nests, but alas, those baby owls had fledged and were not to be found. We did find a Cooper's Hawk nest though, the only raptor we spotted and just for a fleeting second. The second nest held three babies a few weeks before and we were cutting it close; however a repeat of the morning foray and then the rain kicked in. I got this Swainson's Hawk photo which will make the new book, and what a mecca for hawks. On four power poles nearly in row we saw Swainson's, Red-tail, Prairie Falcon, and Golden Eagle. Next - Georgetown Lake in search of the Great Grays.