Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Black-chinned Hummingbird is Back

One of my favorite birds eats nectar and catches insects in the air, and for the past three years we have been lucky to have at least one Black-chinned Hummingbird in the yard. Hopefully two. I have a step ladder set up in the yard that is re-located according to the light from morning to evening, and he may be more photographed than even the eagles in the back yard. This species is rather uncommon, and fortunate to get some photos. If this is the same bird, he was featured in a display at the Missoula Art Museum, landing in his favorite dead tree. My goal is to get him catching one of those bugs in the air on film...I mean digital card.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

MCAT Filmmakers Return!

Ron Scholl and I started doing a class for young film directors 13 years ago (even though I always think it's more like 20) and today, the kids and instructors showed up for a big day at the Raptor Ranch. The week-long class with Missoula Community Access Television, or MCAT, started with a tour, lessons in wildlife film ethics and then letting all of the pigeons out of the loft for a practice in camera prowess. The three films made by the kids were the usual interview/overview, superhero-something-or-other, and a new slant by three girls. They created a parody of something called The Hardassisons  or  maybe it was Kardashians with mean, gossiping, yet very attractive owls engaged in backstabbing and vapid banter. Thanks to the group for re-installing our bridge across the slough in the back, and here, filming Chesty flying all over the place. Their films will debut this Friday on MCAT, at 4 or 4:30, and will let you know the details, and what fun!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Owen Joins the Team

We are thankful to have our newest resident, a handsome Saw-whet. He came from our friend Lynn Vaught, rehabilitator and educator with Wildlife Return in Whitefish. Struck by a car two years earlier, he arrived with the name Owen from the folks that recovered him on the roadway, and a huge coincidence as that is the name we would have chosen - that of the young son of Dale and Jennifer Manning on our Board of Directors, Owen. Our last Saw-whet Owl was named Maya, after the daughter of Kathy and John Heffernan also on the board. Poor Maya the owl died this winter after just a short time in programs, hypothermia setting in after a fall in her enclosure and a heartbreak to all that met her.  We hope that Owen will be with us for a while, splitting the appearances with his next-door neighbor iPod, the Pygmy-owl. Lynn dropped him off at the Audubon Bird Festival in Kalispell last weekend, in time to meet the state's finest bird enthusiasts, 280 of them. Support Montana Audubon, our best pals, with a contribution for Director Steve Hoffman's Birdathon!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Birds And Art 2012

Just about the best ever week for Birds at the Missoula Art Museum, and some photos from the Thursday- finished paper mache raptors. A Bald Eagle, Saw-whet Owl, Peregrine, then Barn Owl and Red-tail, Kestrel and first ever Striped Owl.  And kids, I was just kidding when I said that glue was made from horses...just a joke about the olden days, before you were born or even thought of. A nod to the David Sibley Field Guide, which aided the artists in avian accuracy. That's a mouthful! See you next year, first week after school is out in June, our ump-teenth year of fun.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Bald Eagles Growing Like Weeds

The nest in the back yard (across the Bitterroot River) has just been observed through the scope lately, with flood waters rising and falling and now safe to walk down there from the house. Yesterday I lucked out with the Nikon and two ground squirrel deliveries in five minutes by the male, and finally a close-up of all three young. Kristi Dubois of Fish, Wildlife and Parks sent me this aerial photo of the nest, one she took from a Piper Cub Airplane a few weeks earlier. This pair may have moved from another location last year, when they built the nest, but no young were produced. Or maybe it's beginner's luck- new parents and three young instead of the usual two. Kristi reports: "The FWP Bald Eagle database documented 280 breeding territories in 2000 and 550 breeding territories in 2010, an increase of 96% over the last 10 years." WOW what a recovery since the bad old days of DDT. So glad they have been hanging in there with this rain and wind and they sure don't look the worse for wear. Fledging by the end of the month. Hey, get a job, kids.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Year Six at PBGR

A highlight of the year in programs has been a visit to the Rocky Mountain Front, Pine Butte Guest Ranch, and two days with David Sibley. A guest of the Nature Conservancy, David conducts a week-long birders workshop, and this year co-hosted with fellow artist Keith Hansen. I did my Powerpoint which included the Bald Eagle book and new kestrel project, then presented JayDub the American Kestrel, Alisa the Red-tail and finished up with Jillian the Great Horned Owl. Two couples from California knew the hawk's namesake and listen to Alisa Clancy on KCSM Jazz on the radio (and not on the computer, like me!) Here, Keith on the left and David on the right perform their magic in pencil and acrylic paint, fingers and brushes for Mr. Sibley. The next day was spent at Freezeout Lake and we kept seeing an SUV with refuge license plates and a Birdwatcher sticker. They no doubt had their Sibley field guides on hand, and if they only knew who was in that white van - the finest birder in North America!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Clark Fork Eagles

I was delighted to spend nearly 5 hours at the Clark Fork eagle nest today. Our guest Dr. Charles Janson, Associate Dean of the Division of Biological Sciences at the U of M and I talked "shop" and Nikon cameras, waiting for something to happen. Bad timing perhaps, starting at 7:30 am, as the young stood up one at a time, sometimes two, and four hours later all three. Frustrating with no prey deliveries and both parents keeping an eye on things from across the river, flying towards the golf course and eventually the male bringing in a fish at noon. Charlie and I remembered the days of film, and he told me he had 10 rolls of 36 exposures once to last a year in South America, doing his capuchin monkey studies. Make every shot count, unlike the 10 frames a second one can shoot nowadays, review, save, or delete, then download. Remember that, kids: it wasn't always this easy! But still, the waiting and waiting is a lesson in patience and observation of behavior, something that all field biologists must endure and enjoy, especially when we have a reward at the end. Check out the DBS at the University, the most happen' place for science in the hemisphere!