Saturday, December 31, 2011

Thanks, Pals!

Not really knowing how this Facebook stuff works, I was happily surprised to find about 40 messages yesterday for my birthday wishing me a great time, which it was. Thanks, pals! Any day at SnowBowl is better than one in Reserve Street traffic and thanks to all of you! I actually convinced a kid that I was just turning 35, but I think he just went along with me to be kind. Last day of the year and this photo of a Rough-legged Hawk while flying Sibley in the Bitterroot with Mookie the Black Lab, who has turned out to be a genius. Or at least smart... And for Raptors of the Rockies programs in 2011 - 72 total for 5466 children and adults, beating numbers for the last eight years! Thanks again for the support and faith in our little education outfit.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Shot of the day...

..and maybe the year. This Golden Eagle was perched on a rural road here in Florence, and I learned the hard way that I should always have my camera and 500 mm lens perched on the seat next to me. I had just gotten some killer shots of Sibley flying around with the snowy mountains on the background and was on my way home when I noticed this bird at a distance. I sometimes feel like a paparazzi, "shooting" the glamorous and fashionable residents of the Bitterroot Valley, and this guy cooperated; a classy character, for sure.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Best Wishes for the New Year from all of us at Raptors of the Rockies!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Annual Christmas Show on the Radio

We will be guests on Montana Public Radio this afternoon, children's programming with Pea Green Boat and host Annie Garde at 4 pm. That's Mountain Standard Time but anyone in the world can listen on the KUFM web site LIVE! Today Sibley the Peregrine will join us, bells and all, and this photo from yesterday flying in the snow. Another bird will join us, to be decided and whoever volunteers. But the big (or small, really) guest will be the debut program for the new Northern Saw-whet Owl, Maya. She is named for a young friend, and Maya the girl will also be on the air. Check it out!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Captions Galore

Bald Eagles on the brain, and writing the 120-plus captions for the new book now. It starts with an introduction, "Bald Eagles get a bad rap. For many, they are icons and symbols, the American Eagle with all of mythology attached. But as Arthur Bent points out in his 1937 Life Histories volume, they may be attractive birds but are hardly worthy of their lofty place as the national emblem. He points out their cowardly and lazy habits, diet of carrion, and theft of fish from Ospreys, traits that “certainly do not exemplify the best in American behavior.” But undeserved as we find out.
In the meantime, this pair of birds across the river at the MPG Ranch have designs of their own, already thinking about the next breeding season in a photo from yesterday.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

What? Another Bald Eagle?

Yes, another Bald Eagle, and this one near Twin Bridges on Tuesday observed while on a falconry trip with Jay and our pal Steve Gilbert. Eagles from interior Canada and Alaska migrate south and this is as far as many of them make it, while "our" birds tend to stay put. That's why we see so many Bald Eagles here in the winter. Jay and I had a big circuit with the Peregrines, hitting new sloughs and all unfamiliar ground for me. Man, this is a big state!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Bitterroot Red-tail

Just back from a book signing for Raptors of the West in Hamilton at Chapter One Books and what fun, thanks to Shawn and the throngs of bird-lovers. Alisa the Red-tail was an angel, and when home, she enjoyed a bunch of mice nicely heated by the wood stove. On the way back I got this shot of a wild Red-tail, Bitterroot Mountains in the background at Metcalf Refuge. If you are by your radio tomorrow, check out the re-broadcast of our interview with Edward O'Brien about the new book and award, 11 am. Thanks to Montana Public Radio for the coverage. Oh, and Nikon and Subaru and Napoleon Stoves and Mountain Press Publishing - enough product endorsement? HA!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Today's Photo

Gotta love a Red-tail! this must have looked nuts, a big lens pointed out the window driving on this rural dirt road and waiting for the action. Like my pals Rob Palmer and Nick Dunlop tell me, "Always have your camera, and good lens." And perhaps be careful shooting photographs near houses as the inhabitants might mistake you for a private investigator.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

What a Day

Our interview on Montana Public Radio was a hoot, and listen here. Edward O'Brien did a fantastic job of editing my long-winded description of the new Raptors of the West book that just won the National Outdoor Book Award. Plus, I got this photo in the back yard while waiting for the broadcast.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Grouse Escape Route

After a big book signing downtown on Friday night, I packed the Subaru with falconry gear, met Jay Sumner and headed to Choteau for two days of bird hunting. Guests of Skip Tubbs, we joined a great group of gun hunters similarly chasing the pheasants in the frigid cold on Skip's ranch. On Saturday, Jay's bird nearly caught this Sharp-tailed Grouse, and what a flight. These birds apparently barrel roll as an escape tactic, and it worked here. On another note, catch the interview about the new book with Edward O'Brien on Montana Public Radio tonight, the 5:30 news. After I went on and on, 25 minutes later for a 10 minute spot, Ed commented that he was a bit surprised I could be brief for 430 book captions. HA! Hope I didn't say anything too stupid, but we will all see.

Friday, December 2, 2011

In Living Color

Read the new Raptor Round-Up Newsletter, in color on the web site, and thanks Steve Palmer! Round-Up #39.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

New Saw-whet

Our new Northern Saw-whet Owl came from Lee Metcalf Wildlife Refuge, discovered by the side of a hiking trail, unable to fly. Refuge personnel delivered her to rehabilitator Judy Hoy of Stevensville and and her examination revealed a wing break in the deep tissue of the shoulder and non-releasable. So the permit amendment came through from the Federal Fish and Wildlife service, and voila: now a Raptor of the Rockies. Buster the Saw-whet lived to be twelve years old, not a world record but close. He was always a program favorite, dazzling tens of thousands of people over the years. This one is also very calm and loves her little mice. We thought of another well-behaved little girl, and named her Maya, after our ten-year-old friend Maya Heffernan. She has been pal since she was a little nestling, like her brothers Sam and Paul, and Paul has fledged and is off in college.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Mookie Learns a Lesson

Our new Black Lab Mookie has been an angel mostly, except for a few chewed TV remote controls. Oh, and a boot lace or two. But always an epiphany and today she learned not to take a partridge away from the Queen Bee, Sibley. Sib was also the hero at U of M for the Montana Wildlife Class tonight, guest of professor Dr. Joel Berger. We played the PowerPoint from our appearance in Boston and with the new Bald Eagle book images at the end, and even had the students hoot like an owl for a finale. I was delighted to see every attendee participate, at threat of failing the class (just kidding). We love Joel and wish him luck on his next arctic and Mongolian adventure.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Another Day in the Field

Sibley the Peregrine has had some great flights lately, after ducks and pheasants in the Bitterroot, and a shot from yesterday at the MPG Ranch. More news from the award -"The National Outdoor Book Awards (NOBA) is the outdoor world's largest and most prestigious book award program. It is a non-profit, educational program, sponsored by the NOBA Foundation, Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education, and Idaho State University. The purpose of the Awards is to recognize and encourage outstanding writing and publishing. Each fall in early November, the NOBA Foundation announces the winners of the nine categories making up the program, including History, Literature, Children, Nature, Instructional, Adventure Guidebook, Nature Guidebook, Design, and Outdoor Classic." We are so happy to have been chosen, and hope for big press on the way!

Friday, November 18, 2011


Our Raptors of the West just won the National Outdoor Book Award! Announcements were made yesterday, and our book took the honors for Design and Artistic Merit, and the judges wrote, "This is a book of action photography and it will rock your socks!" It's like winning an Oscar, minus the statue. I replied to the chairman, "It was way too much fun putting that book together, and the whole time I had jazz on the stereo and my Peregrine Falcon, Sibley, perched nearby. I always looked to her for inspiration when stuck for a caption idea!" Check the web site: NOBA and they finish with:
Quite simply, it’s among some of the best action bird photography ever published.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Coyote Choir Kids

Here was Tuesday night, thanks to an invitation from Amy Martin, ringmaster for the talents of the Coyote Choir, the singing group of kids from the Missoula area and recording stars. We met at the Missoula Children's Theatre with Jillian the Great Horned Owl to explore ideas about partnering for a musical project, and creative juices were flowing. When asked what I envisioned, I told them it would be an appearance on Lenno or Letterman, and they had no idea what I was talking about. These guys don't watch TV! Jillian and I were treated to a wonderful performance of their original song "What Kind of Animal Are You?" that included echidnas sticking out their tongues. Look that one up in your field guide to Australian monotremes...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Christmas Open House at the Ohrmann's

Join Bill, Phyll, and John at the fabulous Ohrmann Museum and Gallery and see the new paintings and sculptures by our best pal Bill. Days are this Saturday and Sunday, November 19th and 20th from 11 am until 5 pm. They are the "Usually Open" Gallery 2 1/2 miles south of Drummond on Highway 1, the only farm house with a 10 foot stainless steel polar bear and this giant wooly mammoth out front.
We wouldn't miss it for the world!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Eagles Again

The big day of 11/11/11 and I spaced out bringing my tripod to go photograph the Bald Eagles with the new 500 mm lens. Nope, nothing in the car and accidentally left it at home, bummer.
So I fashioned a tripod out of a forked stick found on the beach, just like the folks on Gilligan's Island or maybe the Flintstones would do. Right away I found both adults lounging, one in a cottonwood and the other I spotted way up river in a Ponderosa Pine. About one hundred images later, Bald Eagle behavior captured, I promised that next time I won't forget that essential piece of gear. Kind of shaky, shooting with a stick in the sand and all that glass!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Gallery Wrap Art

An attorney in Denver that is a prominent conservationist and falconer has a great collection of falcon artwork and photos in his office. He has images from book partners Rob Palmer and Nick Dunlop, and now Kate Davis. Gale Johnson at Custom Digital Imaging created a stunning 60 inch gallery wrap of this Peregrine Falcon Stoop which we sent off, and can only imagine how it looks surrounded by other falcons. This unique piece can be yours, here three are side by side, and I know I am ordering one for our "falcon shrine" in our house. Contact me if you are interested, and would make a great gift for the bird (or speed) enthusiast in your family!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

"Stained Glass" Eagle

Today's shot of one of the adult Bald Eagles on the beach, and a keeper for the new book. Our friend Carmen Bassin commented that it looked like an image in stained glass. We had our first snow yesterday and some of it lingered, causing skiers to rub their hands with glee awaiting the big winter. A reminder that early price season passes at Snowbowl are! See you at the Bowl and another epic year, guaranteed.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Owls Are the Stars for National Geographic

We hosted a film crew for the last two days, including one night, and the owls were the stars for an educational project for kids. Experts from Grizzly Creek Films that produce a series for Nat Geo Wild television made the trip from Bozeman, and software techs from Microsoft in Seattle descended on the Raptor Ranch with gear galore. They are creating a curriculum for kids that explains the lives of owls, and they met our teaching team on Tuesday. Nighttime supermodels were Jillian the Great Horned and Degas the Long-eared Owls, filmed in the forest with infrared lights and cameras in complete darkness aside from the moderate moonlight. Then iPod the Pygmy-owl, Jillian and Degas calmly posed for more segments yesterday. Series and project host is Casey Anderson, The Bear Guy, who is
fantastic and a natural for the show. And I know that's not an owl, it's Nigel the eagle and two hams.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Bald Eagles on the Beach

I was getting some scenic shots for the new book and was treated to both the parent Bald Eagles (at least I assume it was them) hanging out on the beach and perching together. Looks like I'll be heading back with the big lens!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Peregrine Clouds

A wonderful few days of flying the Peregrines and one shot of Jay Sumner's bird Sandra, stooping on a duck in the Blackfoot Valley. This reminds me of a Robert Katona painting. Speaking of fine artists, we thank our new friend John Baumlin who has generously allowed the Journal of Raptor Research to use his painting "Tiercel With Dove" for the cover of the upcoming issue. I bought this print from another pal, Skip Tubbs of Framework Designs eight years ago, and it proudly hangs in my office. And that same year Skip also sold me Sibley the Peregrine, that stands proudly in the office, on a perch, of course.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

It's Official: New Book In the Works

Stackpole Books in Pennsylvania and I have a contract for a new book on the Bald Eagle Family of Western Montana. I'll have 100-plus photos of the nest, neighborhood resident animals, parent eagles and the four babies growing up and fledging. I have laid out the project using InDesign, as I did with the last book but with a different trim size, and captions on the way. After a little introduction, we'll launch into the saga of the polite young, taking turns to be fed everything from pigeons and goslings to squirrels and of course, deer. That story went worldwide on the internet when one of the adults dropped an eviscerated fawn on powerlines and shorted out electricity to East Missoula in June; "Deer With Wings," claimed dozens of stories, but just our diligent parents. NorthWestern Energy lineman Ryan Gibbs has supplied a great photo and tale for that part! Then the post-fledging stories and lots of flying eagle shots, with my favorites being the attacks by mobbing Bullock's Orioles. I love having this undertaking to work on, in between educational programs, Peregrine hunts, and (soon enough) skiing at the 'Bowl.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Finally a Merlin

One bird I had set in my sights, or camera to be exact, is the Northern Pygmy-Owl, ever since I missed photographing one at the MPG Ranch across the road because all I had was a wide angle lens. One photo did end up in the new book, but never have gotten any close shots. My luck continued yesterday when one ended up in the MPG mist net at the banding station, after an entangled nuthatch that must have looked irresistible. I showed up ten minutes after he was photographed by the crew and released, oh well. He'll still be up there somewhere and I'll try to whistle him in. The other species I am after this fall is the Merlin, and scored on the way home when this bird was plucking a bird on a fence post. This magpie was after the the prize, which looked like the remains of a bluebird. The little falcon outmaneuvered the kleptoparasite and finished the meal on a power pole farther down the road. Identification by our Merlin expert friend Bruce Haak: female Richardson's (Prairie.)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


We are ecstatic to have this dog join us, a nine month old Black Lab that is now in our family thanks to our friends in Hamilton, the Frederick's. Mookie has passed all the tests: from birds on perches, cats in the house, falcon in the car, buckets of meat thawing in the house, everything that would drive a bird dog nuts. But not this one, even "hunting 'em up" with Peanut our eight year old Golden Retriever that survived the passing of her brother Rudy a month ago. Our first experience with a Labrador, and love this one dearly!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Fall (and This Hawk) Is In the Air

The ritual of fall cleaning, draining and winding hoses and taking down shade cloth was underway, a welcome change of seasons at the Raptor Ranch. The little trees that provided shade in the American Kestrel (formally known as Sparrow Hawk) and Pygmy-Owl building are now planted in the ground, and even an installment of poured concrete in the corner of the big owl enclosure to keep out marauding skunks. Or try to anyway, as they are everywhere now. The Harris's Hawks, formally named Bay-winged Hawks, will have their heated perches plugged in when the cold finally does hit, but enjoying the weather and colors so far. I even spotted a Merlin in the yard today, formally called a Pigeon Hawk, standing by her namesake of our pigeon loft. Formally called Rock Doves now called Rock Pigeons, and none were injured in the making of this blog.

Friday, October 14, 2011

On Stage with the Chickadee Symphony

Last night I joined Erick Greene, conductor James Smart, and 50 members of the U of M Symphonic Wind Ensemble for a concert in the University Theater. Dr. Craig Naylor is a "biologist-turned-composer" who created a remarkable piece called the "Chickadee Symphony" based on the vocalizations of the little songbirds and subjects of a study we did that was published in Science in 2005. Erick showed the sonograms and photos in a Powerpoint and the musicians played the chickadee parts. We joined him with Jillian the Great Horned Owl and iPod the Pygmy (to a theater of "ahhhs!") and a little discussion of these mighty predators and Danger! The symphony in four parts begins with the Dawn Chorus and finishes with the jazzy Chickadee Dance, the music mimicking life in a flock of chickadees in the forest. What a treat, and I never thought I'd be standing on the same stage where I saw Pearl Jam play 25 years ago, with raptors and music. (Thanks Chris Havel for the photo, daughter on the clarinet!)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Back From Duluth

A late night return from the Raptor Research Foundation Conference in Duluth, and the first time I've ventured to Hawk Ridge Observatory above the shores of beautiful Lake Superior. 235 raptorphiles gathered for workshops, papers and presentations starting Wednesday, with new and old contacts - one board member joked about the "geezering" of participants. But this time dozens of new students and early career researchers were in attendance, refreshing to see! Hawk Ridge is famous for huge migration flights of raptors, an average of 94,000 a year and we were not disappointed: eagles, hawks, falcons, and Ospreys with an added plus of a little surge of 30,000 American Robins yesterday morning. Hey, raptors have to eat something...Here, a youngster releases a banded Sharp-shinned Hawk that her parents have adopted, a perfect fundraiser for this non-profit. Applause to the Hawk Ridge volunteers and especially Julie O'Conner for putting this special event together, and Erik Bruhnke who entertains everyone with his astute observations of fly-by's and perfect demonstrations of how we can all tell the species apart. My favorite is his dead-on imitation of a Northern Harrier. You RULE!

Monday, October 3, 2011

More Birds in the Bitterroot

Just a few shots from today taken during a little tour of the Bitterroot and a falconry trip, a Red-tailed Hawk and Great Blue Heron. We are so fortunate to have birds to "shoot" so always have your camera ready. Great news is we will have a new book out about the Bald Eagle nest that fledged four young, publisher lined up. Terrible news is that one of the young females was struck on the highway and died last week after extensive rehab and pins to her broken leg. The FWP Center in Helena and Lisa Rhodin had been caring for her, lovingly called "Snapper," and complications from the surgery caused her to suddenly pass. Rehab is tough, and that's why we leave it to the experts.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Sula With Steve

Today about 20 Audubonners had a splendid day in the Bitterroots on top of Sula Peak waiting for the hawks to fly in migration with our state director Steve Hoffman in tow. I say waiting because not many raptors showed up, despite great predictions according to wind and weather. But I guarantee not one person left with a complaint as we had a ball! Kate Stone organized this field trip and Steve installed this plastic owl decoy to attract birds, the photo as a big storm crossed the valley. This is the same place I took the shot that I used for the poster for the 2010 Bird Fest, if it looks familiar. Dick Hutto was telling me when to hit the shutter for lightning, me looking through the viewfinder, but missed them all. With two Kate's running the show today, it was a bit confusing shouting observations, but apparently I am Big Kate, assuming it was meant by by age. HA!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sonny the Eagle

Just approved for our Eagle Exhibition permit, Sonny the Bald Eagle is officially on the teaching team. Retrieved by our friend Rob Domenech in June, the bird was standing on a riverbank at Quinn's Hot Springs for a few days. Rob actually fished him out of the river with a net when he bailed, to discover a starving bird, missing a wing tip. Like Alisa (Clancy) the Red-tail, this bird is named after a hero at KCSM Radio in San Mateo, California - Sonny Buxton. Catch his show on Saturdays and 24-hour-a-day-commercial-free jazz, streaming live on the web! Also, he is named for all of the jazz musicians by that name that you can think of like Rollins, Stitt, Clarke, but this eagle is Buxton!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Poor Rudy

Our eight year old Golden Retriever will be very much missed, and we had to have him put down on Friday. Rudy was best known for his daily activities at the river behind the house, rearing out of the water and barking and catching splashes in his mouth. For hours and hours. KUFM Montana Public Radio had a picnic over here, and they all thought Rudy's stunt was cute, now please ask him to stop barking. No can do. We were told that Rudy had cancer back in May, but I was in denial and had him out hunting with the falcon two days before he died. Thanks to the kind doctors/pals Mike, Lynn and Janna at Florence Veterinary and they know what a great life this loving and eccentric dog had. I don't think he ever even slowed down or knew he was not long of this world. Rudy had a very full life of swims and hikes and hunting for which most dogs (and lots of humans) would be envious. Goodbye, friend.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Baby Barn Owl of Burnt Fork

Mistaken identity is common in the bird world. Jay and I have been told about cliffs with Peregrines only to find Prairie Falcons, a common error. Once a friend found a "baby Osprey" floating in the Clark Fork River on a canoe trip that turned out to be a pigeon. Kind of a stretch. But today was a new experience when I drove to Stevensville to see a "fluffy baby Barn Owl, sitting in my pear tree for days and days." Barn Owls a super rare around here, and I thought it might be a branching Great Horned. She told me that he had dark black eyes with a yellow beak. Well, must be a Barred Owl and worth a look. So the dogs and I took a drive, met the woman and walked to her pear tree. "Ta-da! There he is!" she pointed. A bird nest. Probably a pewee with cottonwood fluff. Now that's a first. Another reason to have an unlisted phone number.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Day At MPG Ranch

Thanks to Kate Stone and Eric "Kerr" I was invited to accompany them and trapper/bander William to the big 7000 acre MPG ranch across the river to monitor migrating raptors. After 5 hours I thought it time to leave, knowing full well that the minute I left the big flight would kick in. And 60 more birds since departing with 97 raptors total, so thank me, guys. I did get these photos of male accipiters, Cooper's Hawk on the left and Sharp-shinned Hawk on the right. They said a big kettle of Turkey Vultures passed by, plus dozens of more Sharpies and Kestrels. What a treat and I can see the site out the office window, and I'll be back!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Day 2 of the Season for Sib

We missed opening day of falconry season with the trip to Boston, and now hard at it with Peregrine flights that started Monday. This photo is day two, and just look at that molt! Fortunately she has since dropped both of those crummy outer wing feathers (primary 10's) and should be clean as a whistle feather-wise in no time. Today was Sibley's best day yet, and she circled around one Horse Creek for a while, remembering that it more fun to do that than perch in a tree. Now just looking for some pheasants, if you have one to spare anywhere in Western Montana. Let me know.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Penguin Flies Home

We brought my metal Penguin sculpture home today, and I promised Tom that this will be last time for a transfer. Promise. It had been at the Missoula Art Museum all summer, along with the Red-tailed Hawk which will live at Caras Nursery for a while. So glad to have the big guys at the museum load it into the pickup on a sheet of plywood, then down the ramp on the dolly and back into the yard tonight. Many expertly taken photographs with cell phones out the car windows document the penguin's drive through town and down to the Bitterroot. Notice the courthouse in the background, and a guy on a bicycle in the alley suggested that next time I make one out of aluminum. Recycling material.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Just Back From Boston

Okay. I've had my proudest moment, and now can retire. Just kidding, but not about the pride factor. I just delivered the keynote for the annual Eastern Massachusetts Hawk Watch Meeting in Medford (pronounced Medfud) and the highlight of a lifetime. Paul Roberts invited me to speak last year and at first I thought he was kidding, but it really happened this weekend. A record number of 140 raptor lovers were in attendance, record new membership sign-ups, and even a standing ovation at the end. That was after I had everyone hoot like a Great Horned Owl. My in-laws were even there, and I spent one day with sister-in-law Ellen touring the north shore, Davis-land. I had another engagement Saturday at the Joppa Flats Education Center, and went birding with Paul's wife and daughter, Julie and Laura at the legendary Plum Island. My first time in Boston, and one thing is for certain: I'll be back, with Tom next time, if we can figure out how to take care of the dogs and cats...and birds!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Partial Albino Red-tailed Hawk Re-surfaces

I kept this quiet, sorry friends, but didn't want this rare bird to be scared away by flocks of birdwatchers. The locals always knew about the "white hawk" in the southwest end of Missoula, first spotted over the winter. I brought my camera up to Snowbowl skiing several times and would stop by to get some photos on the way there and back. You could spot her a mile away if she was in the air, and perched before the leaves came in. Most of her tail has the regular coloring of an adult (at least two or three year old) but just a few flight feathers are brown. Where has she been the last few years, to just show up unannounced? No one in the neighborhood had seen her for the last 6 weeks then voila! Back on the scene and maybe she was nesting, which would explain her absence. They are looking for more white hawks, with the brown barred tail of a youngster.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Prairie Falcon Flies

This Prairie Falcon completely recovered from a badly sprained left leg, and proves it in this photo. She was hacked out with the eagles. The screen on the top of their 40 foot building allows hawks to pop up and "escape" when they are flying well enough, and they release themselves. One Red-tail came back and climbed back inside two years later, standing next to the eagles waiting to be fed. The hillsides across the river behind the house are perfect habitat, and she headed that direction yesterday. So keep your eyes peeled, hawkwatchers at the MPG Ranch!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Return of the Wayward Ten Year Old

Deja our Harris's Hawk flies around the property every day, 12 months a year, and sometimes stays out for a while in the summer. In 2008 she left for a couple months and returned when the ground squirrels estivated, or retreated underground in the heat. She was seen in the neighborhood and Lee Metcalf NWR. This time Deja split in May, never to be seen again anywhere in the valley. Yesterday, I was walking out the door with my camera and gloves to move a rehab Prairie Falcon from Deja's building into the flight enclosure, and lo and behold - there was the errant hawk standing on Chesty's building, shouting BLAA! Chesty had just been out flying for an hour and lucky they didn't see/kill each other. Dej flew over to the glove for a mouse and on inspection, she had an overgrown beak, one tail feather left, and her feet were filthy, but not too skinny. I cleaned her up, coped the beak and she perched here in the office while I kept an eye on the Prairie. Deja, you have some molting to do, my friend.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Caras Nursery Sculpture Show

For the seventh year running, Caras Nursery on South 3rd West is hosting an outdoor sculpture exhibition, metal and stone amongst the shrubs and trees. My piece Red-tailed Hawk has been at the Missoula Art Museum for the last two months, along with the Penguin, and now is back outside. George YBarra puts together the fine collection of pieces each year, and even had Don Grazier of Ronan bring a giant BLUE Heron, wait until you see. The opening is this Saturday, and the show is up until the end of October. Thanks, Bill Caras!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

RRU #38 - The Photo Issue

Raptor Round-Up Newsletters were mailed out Tuesday, and check it out in color on our web site, I call it the Photo Issue, with over 50 images, mostly our big Bald Eagle nest and favorite Ospreys on the Clark Fork. It's been a busy four months with the trusty Nikon D700, and now a new (used) 500 mm lens. Can hardly wait for next years breeding season and see what we can find!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Three's a Crowd

Three back at the nest Monday! Looks like the last photo with all four Bald Eagle young was on June 25th, and after that, one has stayed elusive. The most frustrating experience of my photographic life has been capturing all four at once. One would always duck down as the fourth stood up. Always. Or one was looking the other way. I must admit that out of irritation I might have shouted, "Hey, look over here!" which never worked. They have locomotives and a highway speeding by, so a puny human standing 100 yards away is nothing.

Friday, August 19, 2011

What? Bald Eagles Still Lingering!

Today's visit was number 40-something to our favorite nest on the Clark Fork River, and three Bald Eagle fledglings were at the nest, begging away. One was laying down and our friend Carmen Bassin pointed out that it really is the only place they can do that, good point. Return to the sticks to "pop a squat." In the mean time they might be hunting on their own, but kind of doubtful, as both parents keep returning with all they need. We did observe one youngster crash to the ground to retrieve a pinecone, which was treasured and plucked. Not off the hook yet, photographing these birds, a month and a half after they fledged and still a joy to see them all.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Osprey Young Returns

For those of you still watching the Riverside Osprey web cam, a lucky hit would be to see the family return to the nest, since the baby fledged on August 7th. I lucked out five days later when driving by the spot and saw an adult plunge to the river so pulled into the parking lot by the nest to grab this shot. This is the youngster hoping for a free meal, and the female also returned, looking up and down river, after which she split. Young Ospreys can hunt on their own after leaving the nest but must figure out that crazy light refraction of observing a fish under the water and scoring a meal. Parents will be heading back to Central or South America in the next month, with youngsters soon to follow. The babies remain in that "wintering ground" until they are old enough to breed for perhaps three years, which is atypical for any migrant, the only raptors to do this that I can think of (aside from one Hawk-eagle) and another reason to love the Ospreys!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Fifty Years Later

Jay Sumner climbed down this cliff in 1961 and collected his first Peregrine Falcon fifty years ago, before all of you kids were born, and today we re-lived the experience over breakfast. Formally called the "Tasty Freeze Eyrie," Jay and John Craighead and daughter Karen hitched a rope over a tree at the top, and Jay got his first falcon for the sport that would dominate his life. Falconry is hunting wild game with a captive bird, and in this case a baby that was flown for many years. On Saturday we met with fellow falconers at our annual state picnic in Livingston, then Jay showed me a bunch of cliffs that he had been checking nearby since a teenager. We brought our binoculars into the restaurant, and were treated to the pair of Peregrines flying across the cliff, chasing swifts while we were eating breakfast. The waitress was un-astounded, but that's fine because we both were!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Big Weekend of Birds

Carmen Bassin and I made the trek to Bannack State Park near Dillon on Saturday for a program with iPod, Alisa and Nigel, all heroes. We were told that it was the biggest crowd they had ever had for their Saturday speakers and we sold a box of books, yippee. Then Sunday we were joined by KUFM public radio aficionados Annie and Larry Garde for a day in the field. Starting at Riverside Health Care we spotted the just-fledged Osprey across the river on a cliff, mother near-by. Then off to the Bald Eagle nest and a treat with both adults and all four young, begging and begging. Three fledglings returned to the nest, and the male delivered a small fish that must have been swallowed in one gulp. Join us this Thursday on the Pea Green Boat MT Public Radio 4 to 5 pm and we'll talk about the nest, and other goings-on.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Clinton Gravel Pit Peregrines

Yesterday Jay and were treated to some hunting forays by the Peregrines at McQuarry, otherwise known as the Clinton gravel pit. Looks like they fledged at least one young, a female that joined her father in a stoop on a swallow. Then he returned to the rocks and some shade, when the adult female appeared. She caught two swallows in ten minutes, and all in the heat of the day at 3 pm. I would never think this spot would be parked in front of this eyesore with a scope, but Jay always said, "Some day..." Maybe a mayor tourist destination for ecotours, headquarters at Poor Henry's Bar? Probably not.