Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!

These are the last rays of light of this wonderful year of 2012, nice clouds over the Bitterroots to the west; a few sculptures (penguin and pheasant) and Luna the cat to the right. Thanks to all of our Raptor Backers, Board of Directors, birds, dogs, and cats, (and pet mice) to make for a great New Years Eve. Totals for 2012:  56 programs for 4711 participants, young and old.  Merci My Friends!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Today's Hero

Or Heron. The shot from today, and thanks to everyone that checks in on these Blogs! Especially, you Carmen. Bald Eagle Nest books are here, so order one autographed copy now. Act now and get a free book we always say!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Summer Scene

The Bald Eagle Nest book is getting out there with a release just a few weeks ago. My copy is getting thumbed through by friends, and thought I would bring up a behavioral observation: men start at the back and flip forward. Remember, this is a chronological tale events in a Bald Eagle nest that fledged four young, and I can imagine the guys thinking, "Hey, these birds are getting smaller!" This photo is a favorite, an Eastern Fox Squirrel that also raised a family in this nest, that dark area in the lower right corner.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Audubon's Top 100

I just learned that this image from the new book made the Top 100 in the Audubon Photography Competition, 10,000 entrees. The top 8 (or 10) are announces after Christmas, fingers crossed.It's part of a series of photos of the newly-fledged Bald Eagles being mobbed by a pair of tiny Bullock's Orioles. This was the still clumsy male eagle, just out of the nest, and fleeing in terror. He crashed through the top of a cottonwood tree and had a limb stuck in his mouth. He must not have realized he could dislodge the thing by simply opening his mouth, because he grabbed at it with one foot, then the other, all captured "on film" as the oriole bounced off his back. My big carton of books from Stackpole Books in Pennsylvania is lost in the mail somewhere, shipped over a week ago, but I'll let you know when they are here to get your autographed copy.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Teaser (Commercial) for the Show

I was just sent this YouTube link and seems like Sib is indeed the star!
Check it out. One little problem:  they claim she is a "rescue falcon." Maybe I did rescue her, but more like bought her from a breeder ten years ago. Oh well.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sib on the Discovery Channel

The TV show that the BBC production team shot here a few months will be on this Sunday the 23rd, Discovery Channel and broadcast time 9/8 Central and I guess that means 7 pm Mountain. It's a documentary called "X-Ray Yellowstone" about Peregrine Falcons and Sibley will be featured in the Tower of Power at 1600 frames per second, and in the field catching and munching on a partridge. I'll never forget then sound man announcing "Quiet on the set so we can hear the crunching bits." Check out the blogs from first week in October, including two videos of The Star in action!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Muskrat Shoot Today

A drive through nearby Lee Metcalf NWR offered a few "shots" at three muskrats spotted by Tom, and reminder of another fantastic book for your shelf and for the holidays - the new Mammals of Montana by Dr. Kerry Foresman and available from Mountain Press (and booksellers everywhere.) Kerry writes about these big rodents, second only in size to the beaver, that they are nearly waterproof.  "The fur can trap a large volume of air (calculated at an amazing 21.5 percent of the average dry volume of the fur)" They float like corks, can feed underwater as their teeth chew outside of their closed lips and mouth and cute as can be. For a rodent. Check out Mammals of Montana and the amazing photos by Alexander V. Badyaev, a page-turner and constant companion for me, copies at home and in the car and gifts for lots of nature-loving friends.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Order One Today!

They're HERE! Word from Stackpole Books today and the new Bald Eagle Nest book has arrived, available from Stackpole, Amazon, and Barnes & Nobel Booksellers! Just in time, and don't believe what they say on their web sites now, as we know they are in and it will take a day or two to update. But rest assured, the wait is over and a great time to learn about this eagle family.
And I'll have a pile also, of you want an autographed copy for the holidays. What news, and we are elated.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Four Downy Heads

Count 'em. This is one of my favorites from the book, a delivery by the male and he splits, leaving the female to attend to the four young. Rarely and I mean hardy ever, would all four young be up and looking the same way. Frustrating but it paid off sometimes, one time in particular when the parents delivered an entire yearling deer, in three pieces.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

It's HERE!

The new book is here, or in this house at least - sitting on my desktop with two pages from our publisher on the Mac (and a pdf of the new Bald Eagle bookmarks, more on that later.) It looks great and we even made the cover of their spring catalog - the male eagle perched on the top of a Ponderosa Pine. I remember when Carmen Bassin and I were standing on those train tracks, hour after hour, and that guy just posed after scaring away a couple of ravens. Our editor said, "Anyone can preorder the book right now—from Amazon or B&N, or from us." Check it out and should be here in a few weeks. Darn, too late for Christmas but there's always next year. 134 "beautiful" photos telling the saga of a nest that fledged FOUR young, unheard if. And it's about April through November of 2011, chasing the Bald Eagle family around, getting better and better Nikon gear as I sold Raptors of the West books out of my car. And Bald Eagle Nest too, soon enough.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Donate on the Web

After quite a bit of "dinking" we have a new option to sponsor Raptors of the Rockies- a Donate button on each page of the web site Steve Palmer figured it out, and this site is his baby, launched on Superbowl Sunday 2000. Those long photo panels change everytime you look at a page, his idea. Anyway, our board of directors asked me to look into an easy way for people to support our program, in this day and age of digital transactions and voila! One week later we are up and running. Our very first donate-button-pusher was my pal Dan Varland on the Washington Coast! Give it a try, it's a tax exemption for 2012 and will buy a bunch of frozen quail to feed the Teaching Team.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Farewell to Hero Dave Brubeck

I heard early this morning of the passing of jazz giant Dave Brubeck, master pianist and composer, just one day shy of his 92nd birthday. As announcers on KCSM Bay Area Jazz said, "He is already missed." It doesn't really matter what you have as a musical preference, but I guarantee you have heard "Take Five," the amazing breakout hit from this "West Coast" quartet, written by saxophonist Paul Desmond and on the 1959 album Time Out. This is arguably the first record I ever heard, a favorite of my dad, who inspired my passion in jazz music. Dad and I saw Dave Brubeck and his sons play at a concert in Cincinnati when I was in high school, a night I will never forget. Two generations of fans were in the audience, all loving the man and family. Five minutes after the lights went out my dad leaned over and asked,"Kate, what's that smell?" smoke wafting in the air. HA! Generations, and that night a great bond with my father and his past, who heard Brubeck in the 50's in a club in San Francisco. Dave Brubeck is already missed, but currently spinning on the turntable in this house, a stack of records to enjoy forever.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Girls are Bigger

Here is a good example of what scientists call Reverse Sexual Size Dimorphism (RSSD) or Girls are bigger. Red-tailed Hawks often don't display such an obvious illustration, and the sexes overlap in size with even the experts second-guessing by weight and measurements. I am not the only one to get it wrong it seems, and the first-ever hawk in our program in 1988, Clive, laid an egg at age 5. Like I told my friend Ginny Merriam that was here today for a visit, "Eggs are an indicator."

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Creative Caching

Our resident Saw-whet Owen has a decorative streak, as seen here with his placement of mouse hindquarters. He gets 3 or 4 small mice a day and always eats the front half first (or just the head, yum) then caches the rest. All owls do this; falcons as well. They will return to eat the rest later on unless their caretaker brings a fresh batch the next day. Owen's flair for decoration is seen here, as five mouse butts and one whole gray one are woven into the hardware cloth and stacked on the limb, a work of art.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Falcon in the Osprey Nest

This photo from an hour ago at the MPG Ranch across the Bitterroot River, as Sib temporarily interrupts maintenance work on the Osprey Web Cam. Nick and Gus were reattaching the cables when I warned them of a dangerous incoming predator. Cracked them up. These are the guys that run the cameras at the ranch, equipped with night vision and motion sensors and discovered a Wolverine (no way!) and Spotted Skunk (absolutely impossible!) and they have the videos to prove it.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Landing, Not Hunting

Our friends and neighbors Mari and Dave Laursen just hosted a little Peregrine flight up the Burnt Fork today, light rain and dogs at the ready when the pheasants flew. No game birds but Sib was up in the air for a good long time and landed next to these herons. Too bad the one on the left was behind the tree for the photo, but the lower one flew when he/she saw the falcon. The other two didn't even seem to care. All just stood and looked at each other until we called Sib back for a meal. She seems to know the difference between that meal and neighborly birds.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanks For the Eagles

Just got this shot from the yard, the pair of eagles above their nest across the river. We have a spotting scope set up in the living room, and it's the first thing I check in the morning, after switching on KUFM and the burner under the coffee. This is a thankful morning ritual, and rarely disappointed these days, as they are almost always somewhere to be seen.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Bird That Everyone Loves

I guess maybe vegetarians and vegans will skip the turkey dinner, but not around here with a store-bought variety in the oven tomorrow. These wild turkeys are all over the place at One Horse Creek, and thankfully Sibley the Peregrine has never paid any attention. I'd hate to think of the mid-air collision. We'll look in the freezer for wild turkey to feed the birds tomorrow; on Valentines Day they get heart meat! So have a Happy Thanksgiving from all of the birds at the ranch.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Nathan is Out There

I mean that in a righteous way. Nathan DeBoer is in the field a good part of the day armed with his Nikon and 400 mm lens, and he has documented amazing things that otherwise might be considered doubtful. Saturday he discovered this adult male Harris's Hawk in the Bitterroot, the same bird that was up by Flathead Lake last month. That's about 120 miles from here, and many of us consider it an escapee or released captive bird; they are Southwest natives and simply don't migrate. The same day he photographed an immature Ferruginous Hawk near-by and last year an adult Gyrfalcon, all within a mile of his house. He is a bird magnet, and darn good photographer. Nathan's the one that "captured " the Northern Hawk-Owl at the MPG, and I'll see if he'll let me post that one.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Subaru 2's

It can be done: 2 Peregrine Falcons, 2 dogs in kennels, 2 pigeons, 2 chukars, 2 vests and telemetry set-ups, and 2 humans. And I just bought a second Subaru wagon, my 6th or 7th actually, one exactly like this one minus the stickers on the back. The other 2003 was in a supermarket parking lot with a For Sale sign and apparently no one wanted a 5 speed, so I gave him the "or best offer" and it was mine. Except the "new"green Outback has 55,000 fewer miles, a sunroof, and CD player that works. What a luxury for now, having one car For The Birds.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

New Newsletter Out Now

Raptor Round-Up #42, and my favorite so far. Thanks to webmaster Steve Palmer- Read it here: Raptors of the Rockies turns 25, cover girls in the "Montanan" magazine, upcoming show at the Holter Museum, 2 days with the BBC, Flathead Monsters, and more. In living color on the web site, and in mailboxes later today.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


This is what got those herons all riled up on Sunday.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Sunday in the 'Root

Jay and I had a great day hunting with the falcons. His new bird had a miraculous recovery after an injury months ago, and now full flight. With a broken coracoid bone,  he just left her alone to heal against the advice of all veterinarians, and it worked. Anyway, Sib was also in perfect form, and the most fun a person can have if you ask me. These herons were startled off a favorite perch by a Bald Eagle that was probably just showing off for the photographers. That same eagle was eyeballing Sibley after she caught a mallard, so I ran to her rescue, apparently a very humorous sight to my hunting partner.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Newsletter On the Way

Sticking around at home the last two days with the snow and arctic storm, and a photo of a Great Gray Owl to appear in Raptor Round-Up #42, mostly done at this stage. Check your mail next week, and as Webmaster Steve Palmer says, "How 20th century."  I still love to stick on the address labels and draw a little hawk face on each one, and our biggest fundraiser for the year, thanks to YOU. And Not our Fiscal Cliff.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

"Respectable" Storm

Now there's something you don't see every day-a SouthWest desert hawk flying in the snow. Chesty the Harris's Hawk doesn't mind it a bit and returned to her building and heat lamp after an hour for a nice squirrel leg, and Sib flew before the snow started. Meteorologist Bryan Henry reports: "This character-building storm should give us a proper introduction to winter..." What a perfect time to hunker down and crank out Raptor Round-Up Newsletter #42, and dry my camera.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Grizzly Claw Trading Company

We'd like to think that the happenin' spot for Seeley Lake on Saturday night was the Grizzly Claw. Along with Alpine Artistry, they hosted the Open Book Club, packing them into their rustic shop downtown with Mom at the center of this photo. I don't know how I did it, but with the Powerpoint and Sibley and Jillian, I spoke for an hour and a half (HA!) We spent a wonderful night in a cabin by the Lake courtesy The Lodges, and then Sunday a falconry demonstation. Sibley was the greatest, and came in on a stoop on the lure...when she was darned good and ready. They have invited us back when the Bald Eagle book comes out, but will probably wait till next fall so we can bring Sibley for another fly.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Join Us in Seeley Lake

Tomorrow we will enjoy a program/book signing at the Grizzly Claw Trading Company in Seeley Lake, with Sibley and Jillian as special guests. Sara Wilcox invited us back in July and Mom and I will make the trek for a fun weekend by the lake. The big owl will spend the night in her travel box so as to not hear her constant hooting ( I learned my lesson,) and Sib has a flight demonstration Sunday morning. Thanks to our friends at Seeley!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


A photo from Jillian's very first program, NINE years ago at an elementary school in Hamilton. Ah, I remember it as if it were just yesterday...sort of.
Don't forget to tune in your radios tomorrow, Thursday,  at 4 to 5 pm Mountain Standard Time, for the kids' (and grow-ups') show Pea Green Boat with host Annie Garde and three special birds. Left of the dial on Montana Public Radio and streaming around the world on line, at KUFM and hit "Listen Live."And let me know if you did listen on your computer!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Butcher Watchman

Question: What songbird is most like a falcon? Answer: The Northern Shrike. This one was perched in the yard today, a quick shot before it took off toward the mountains like a little Peregrine. The Cornell Laboratory BNA account by Tom Cade describes them perfectly: "the Northern Shrike appears innocuous and non-predatory. Often tame and unsuspicious, it sometimes sings a feeble though pleasing and rhythmical song, even in winter, utterly belying its true nature, which it reveals the instant a mouse or small bird moves within its range of attack." Their scientific name Lanius excubitor means "butcher watchman," a great name for a scary Halloween movie. And check out that falcon-like beak, made for cracking vertebrae of birds and mammals which are often impaled on thorns and barbed wire for "butchering." What a bird!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Fog Bank and Ferocious Predator

This from a few hours ago across the river and up in the sage brush. Sib was in perfect position high overhead for 20 minutes, and here she is watching a flock of Hungarian Partridge fly away. Right when she landed...what a sport. Then that fog suddenly rolled in with zero visibility, so back home safe and sound, with the dogs that were "hunting 'em up," mostly.

Friday, October 26, 2012

An Osprey?

We just had a great assembly for the kids at DeSmet School, west of Missoula and on the way home I spotted an Osprey flying down O'Brien Creek as it headed toward McClay bridge. I had just driven by the two nests there, reflecting on their long migration and tough life. Shocking, as I thought all of the Ospreys were outa here by now. This photo is from the archives, from the Hellgate nest last year. Then, when I pulled in the driveway to put the Teaching Team away, a flock of 44 Sandhill cranes flew by, accompanied by 6 Snow Geese, all vocalizing as they headed straight south over the Bitterroot River. Migration has to be one of the most demanding spectacles that we can observe. Imagine the diversity of habitats these birds travel to get to the place they'll spend the next half a year, and we just hope their return trip will reward them with the same nesting opportunities they just left behind.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

25 Years of Education!

Check out my new Facebook profile picture...just kidding. It was taken about 23 or so years ago by my brother, releasing an owl that was starved, found eating earthworms in a neighbor's garden in Clinton. Hit by a car and sprayed by a skunk, he weighed about a pound and was fattened up on mice. Lucky the Owl. No more rehab for me, just education and we are at the 25 years celebration!  I came across this photo while putting together a Powerpoint and it's in my first book, Raptors of the Rockies, out of print for a while now. Hey, I still have those gloves.

Monday, October 22, 2012

"Winter" is Just Starting

Just as I finished plugging in the heated perches and heat lamps for the two Harris's Hawks, "winter" began at 5 pm! This photo out the office window and more snow on the way, hurray.

Sunday, October 21, 2012


Today a great Peregrine flight, Sib up and chasing game for over three hours, a record.  Jay and I loved having Rio and Mookie the dogs along, "hunting 'em up." Plus aspen trees nearby. Snow on the way, and thanks for the great weather, Mother Nature.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Yesterday at MPG

Observant folks will notice the broken primary on Sib's left wing, number 9. Molt is such an important process as all or nearly all of the feathers are replaced over the spring and summer - worn, frayed and broken in the process of flying and hunting. Sibley has kept those last two primaries on each wing the last two years, and doubt she'll drop them this late in the season. But hopefully next summer. Our Harris's Hawks molt all year 'round, and the eagles will take three years to replace all of their feathers, so have a checkerboard look on their back of old faded and new dark feathers.
ps: Flying Sib just now she dropped her first (innermost) secondary feather, so there is hope! 
pss: She dropped that nearly three year old primary a few days later. Whew.

Friday, October 19, 2012

October Flight

The leaves will be gone soon, but yesterday in full brilliance flying the Peregrine between wind gusts at One Horse Creek. Sib knows that she's just out for exercise and no game to hunt, so she typically flies around above the trees and fields for about 15 minutes, swoops at the dogs a few times, then circles waiting for the lure and food. Fun for all four of us, every day!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

UFO? No: Lenticular Cloud

This photograph from moments ago and everyone in the Bitterroot must have noticed this giant lenticular cloud, hovering over the valley. Lenticular meaning "lens-shaped." The smoke is finally gone with over an inch of rain on Monday night and a glorious autumn day. And thanks to Jan Burgess and the kids at Lone Rock School for a great program today and me going on and on. And on and on...Degas the Long-eared Owl was one of the heroes.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Big Game Hunting Season

Just shot this photo looking east, and peak colors for the cottonwoods now. This reminds me that big game hunting season is coming up (and bow season is here) and often people have "old" meat in their freezers that needs a home. We can use any non-ground game meat that you can spare, as our eagles have quite the appetites. Roasts, steaks, stew meat and the like, but not burger as the fat makes them ill. Let me know if you have any meat to spare - - or drop it off at H & H Meats on South Avenue in Missoula with the label "raptor food."  Thanks and much appreciated by all of these carnivores!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Fall Is Here

Tonight the faithful dogs at the river, and unbelievably, an Osprey flew by. We thought they were gone, and a great sight. Leaves are falling and will also be gone soon. Get your ski gear out, folks, and see you at The 'Bowl.

Friday, October 12, 2012

What Month Is It?

This shot from just after 4 p.m. today, our house and the Bitterroot Mountains in the backdrop. Fires still rage, despite cold nights, short days and heroic work by wildland firefighters. We have the distinction of a record setting drought, with 49 days without precipitation here, and rains scheduled for tomorrow. Thank you very much, Mother Nature. The last photo I got like this was in August, not October 12th!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Tower of Power

Sibley in two of her eight trips to the top of the Tower of Power at the University Flight lab. This film by Bret Tobalski is 300 frames per second. The BBC's camera was shooting 1500 frames/second and in color, so we'll try to snag a bit of that footage as well.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sibley Superstar

Our Peregrine Sib starred in two days of shows this week with the BBC, appeared at the Festival of the Book program yesterday for two hours, and caught a duck today. Unbelievable bird.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Day Two with the BBC

Sibley did what she does best - flying high and catching game, all captured by the film crew from Britain and Bozeman. We were delighted to have her catch a partridge, filmed later in close-ups, complete with plucking and crunching sounds recorded in high definition. These cameras cost an un-godly amount and are now much coveted by all of us at the University of Montana Flight Lab, me and Jay Sumner who helped with the falcon wrangling. Thanks to our friends at the MPG Ranch for the opportunity to set up this hunt and for the beautiful natural backdrop. We'll let you all know when this airs on the Discovery Channel - prime time!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

BBC Lands

The Tower of Power was the hot spot for bird flight today, University of Montana Flight Lab, with Bret Tobalske reviewing one of the eight (!) flights Sibley took in this two story chamber. She exceded our expectations, cameras capturing her straight upward flight at 1500 frames per second. Footage will appear in a film made by the BBC for the Discovery Channel, and tomorrow - free flight in the Bitterroot and high speed cameras again, Sib catching a partridge. Stay tuned for footage. Man o man.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Harrier Over the Sagebrush

Sibley had some fun with a few Northern Harriers today, flying over the sagebrush hillside across the river. Three hawks, a Short-eared Owl and the only Hungarian Partridge were in my friend James's driveway on the way home!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Farewell to the Fish Hawk

A constant sight around here since April, all of the Ospreys will be gone very soon, and just got this shot at the river. Perhaps it's a northern bird just passing through on his way to the southern hemisphere, or maybe a resident bird lingering. The two fledglings could be seen for weeks in high soars with their parents, or in chase after a fish dangling from dad's talons. Adult birds leave sooner and head to the tropics, often flying over open water and feeding along the way. The young finally depart, even though the fishing is still fine around here, as they have a long migration ahead. A tough life, with the strict live fish diet and flying time to wintering grounds, so most Ospreys die that first year, perhaps as much as 70 %. Maybe their only little break, the young birds stay in the tropics for their first year and only come back when they are two years of age. Where do "our" birds go exactly? We'll know soon enough as Rob Domenech and Raptor View Research Institute have fit several adults and young with satellite transmitters, and we'll keep you posted. In the meantime, say goodbye to the birds biologist Alan Poole says leave the frigid north, "to pursue an endless summer."

Thursday, September 20, 2012


This is getting really old, the last month of smoke so thick we can't see the mountains, or even across the river. It began pouring into the Bitterroot Valley from a huge fire in Idaho, one that has since spread to Montana, and the Sawtooth fire west of Hamilton that has caused hundreds of evacuations. Air quality = very unhealthy. The top photo is hawkwatching at MPG Ranch with Steve Hoffman, and birds drifting through the smoke. Remarkably we saw 4 Broad-winged Hawks, and they spotted 9 the day before, 19 this season and unusual indeed. The pigeons don't seem to mind the smoke, but a few days I opted not to put Sibley the Peregrine up in the stuff. The arrow shows the Bald Eagle nest across the river, barely visible. No end in sight, with precip expected on a distant horizon and not in the near future.