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!