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!"