Friday, July 29, 2011

Shot 'O the Day

Another Osprey and today with pal, photographer John Salisbury, just back from a fantastic trip to the Arctic in Alaska. We had a great visit, plus got to shoot some Fish Hawks in the Bitterroot. He told tales of his northern canoe trip with tens of thousands of caribou, Gyrfalcons on the hunt, and grizzly bears perhaps way too close for comfort. John has an intriguing and colorful web site and we know you have seen his fine photos around town.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Eagle Eyes

The most acute vision in the world is often credited to eagles, as in the saying "eagle eyes." Today, Carmen and I witnessed the male Bald Eagle staring at a horse fly just off the front of his beak, distracted for a second or two. Raptors have as a many as five times more visual cells (cones, versus rods which are those for night vision) packed into their retina which is where the picture is formed on the back of the eye. We know that these birds can see detail at great distances, but how are they at viewing objects close up? Obviously just fine with this look of curiosity at the bug. Many owls have a slightly different perspective and poor vision up close (Great Horned, for example). Just be glad we can see the text messages on our cell phones! Well, for those that know how to do that texting thing...

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Lydia's Favorite Birds

An Osprey wins, getting attacked by an Eastern Kingbird at Lee Metcalf today. My 6 3/4 year old friend Lydia noticed this bird out hunting for fish and said, "Shoot, Kate!" Unfortunately she and her parents, Gretchen and Jeremy Puckett are leaving tomorrow, but we wish they would stay and move back here!

Peregrines in the Bitterroot

A day in the field with biologist Mac Donofrio was productive and fun, searching for fledgling Peregrines across the road at One Horse Creek. Just as we were packing up to change locations we heard the telltale whine of a begging youngster and were thrilled to find that two had flown in to perch nearby. We followed them downhill for a noisy feeding bout and three falcons headed south. Mac reports that nearly all of the dozen or so nests in the Bitterroot have fledged young, much better odds that the overall picture in Montana. The cold and wet spring more resembled winter, and many nests failed, or didn't produce young at all. Just an off year and we'll hope for better luck in 2012.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Attack Continues...

The next eagle to land on the snag was similarly attacked by the orioles, and this was the unexperienced youngest bird, still perfecting flight skills. They know how to fly but just have to perfect that tough landing part. This was enough for him to concentrate on, but while under attack from two pesky Bullock's Orioles, he finally gave up to flee in frustration, smacking the top of a cottonwood on the way. The female oriole is in fast pursuit and no kidding, a real photo with no gimmicks. The young eagle had accidentally almost swallowed a tree limb, and then transferred it to his feet and dropped it on the beach. It all happened so fast that we almost feared that what fell from the sky was one of the orioles, but no. I really think that these young birds will be at the mercy of their parents for some time to come before they hunt on their own. And orioles are not on the menu.

Attack of the Orioles!

Another unbelievable bit of behavior at the Bald Eagle nest site observed by Carmen Bassin and me, and from a different perspective this time. We went down on the banks of the Clark Fork yesterday hopping over a slough that has been flooded, to look back from below. We eventually found all four fledglings and both parents, and saw these mighty predators put in their place by some tiny birds that have shared their air space all breeding season. A pair of Bullock's Orioles harassed two of the fledglings that had perched on the scenic snag, even bouncing off the underside of this female repeatedly.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Osprey Chick A Superstar

The Riverside Health Care Osprey nest was the center of the universe for an hour this morning. The celebrity parents and chick star on the web cam and are also family for residents at Riverside, and today was time to band the baby. Heiko Langner made the trip up in the bucket truck and the youngster was banded and weighed by Erick Greene and Heiko, with feather and blood samples taken to test for toxins in Heiko's lab. Another chore was to clean off the plexiglass web cam cover, as our little friend had scored a direct hit with excrement the day before. This fascinating video snippet has no doubt gone "viral" by now in the intellectual circuits. The baby was back in the nest in no time at all, female returning, pictured here.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Fledglings Fly

The Bald Eagle nest we've been observing since April 30th has been a main feature in the blogs, and today, one of the fledglings circled high over the river and landed on one of the favorite snags of her parents across the Clark Fork. Two young remained at the nest hunkered down in the heat and high winds, with the fourth calling near-by. I think we can safely say that all four have made it, an amazing feat. We only know of a few Bald Eagles that have pulled this off, as typically just two make it to fledging. A few nests in Montana have produced four young in the past, one in Virginia this year, Pennsylvania last year, and perhaps one in Ohio in the past (thanks Libby Mojica for the info.) But still not off the hook, as more photos must be taken for the new book!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Montana Folk Festival

Saturday was a 300 mile round trip to the Folk Festival in Butte, a sunny day and mild temps of 75 degrees, just right. We had a booth and shared the stage with legendary Vince Yannon from Fish, Wildlife and Parks (or as one little girl recently called it "Fishin' Life's Wild Parks."HA) He brought a very vocal raven and Great Horned Owl, and we had our trusty Golden Eagle Nigel and Alisa the Red-tail. Big laughs and a lot of fun. Next year, I'm going to go check out the music!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Raptor Ranch Renovation

Where have I been with these blogs? A very busy week starting with an art opening at the Prudential building last Friday night, then renovations galore at our facilities. Here is my friend Carmen Bassin's daughter Madison and her boyfriend Adam, power-washing the eagle building then mowing and tons more work to get ready for the team of volunteers that arrived later in the week. Then our team stained each and every one of our 11 enclosures with rollers and brushes, replaced the astroturf on the perches, new shade cloth, EVERYTHING to make sure that they last another ten years. Today was a big program at the Butte Folk Festival...think I'll sleep in tomorrow morning.