Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!

Yesterday I had a birthday ski at SnowBowl and found a spartan crowd, with a few hardcore Bowl-heads  - 35 years of birthday skiing there (other than when I was in the Peace Corps in Cameroon!) In the Last Run Inn, I was delighted to find my friend from the U of M, Ken Dial and his three offspring biologists. Another family was celebrating a birthday for Sam at 17 years old with cake, candles, and all the frills, so we had a song and fun. They knew all of our Teaching Team birds from programs at Hellgate Elementary School, especially their mascot, Otto the Rough-leg. Go Hellgate Hawks! Then this morning Sonora the Aplomado Falcon was in the house and I heard jingling. She had reached into a jar and was flying back and forth from her perches with bells in her clutches. Cracked me up. Here is Sibley in the snow, and what a life we all have.  Happy New Year, and Best Wishes for 2014!

Sunday, December 29, 2013


Well, a week since Jay's Peregrine flew off to the west and pretty much giving up and think an electrocution. Anyone who has lost an animal friend knows that loss, like Rudy the retriever to the right that died of cancer. We enjoy them so much while they are our companions, and I'll never forget the first time I lost a bird. A neighbor told me, "Every time you care for an animal, it can end in heartbreak." But it's well worth every treasured minute.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Missing Bird

My friend Jay lost this young Peregrine Falcon in the Bitterroot Valley on Sunday, and if you see her, let me know- raptors@montana.com or call Jay at 240-2766.  We've been looking ever since and haven't gotten a signal on her two telemetry transmitters, which is very discouraging. We fear she landed on a power transformer - fatal.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Snowy, Sunny Day with Steve

I had a long visit with Steve Hoffman today, on the shortest day of the year - Winter Solstice. Steve is the founder of HawkWatch International and Director of Montana Audubon, and a hero. We met back at the original Raptor ranch in Clinton, twenty-something years earlier. I was having a streak of bad luck with the death of a bird, a few nightmare programs, and trouble with funding. He gave me what we refer to as "The Pep Talk," and I play it back in my head any time I need to a cheering up. Today we started with a duck hunt with the Peregrine and an impressive mallard capture in "5 or 6 seconds" admits Steve. Not what I had in mind, but still pretty cool. Then a little tour and he met the new kestrels and Sonora the Aplomado Falcon. He had great stories of wild Aplomado's chasing any raptor that flew by on the Mexican Coast, so I guess a family trait and not just this bird. Yep, we could both talk raptors all day long, and night too.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Peregrine Fund Cards

Our pals in Boise, The Peregrine Fund, chose this image for their Christmas cards this year. Inside, they wrote about the American Kestrel Partnership, and then this explanation of the somewhat puzzling  photo: "An American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) hid all bit the tail of a Western Jumping Mouse (Zapus princeps) as Kate Davis took the photo. Her work is featured at www.raptorsoftherockies.com and in a new book about kestrels in 2014."  Cool! It was mammalogy professor Kerry Foresman who identified the mysterious prey. "A Jumping Mouse, fresh out of hibernation." He has a fantastic book out, Mammals of Montana, available everywhere. It's from Mountain Press Publishing, who did three of my previous books, plus one on  the kestrels. One big, happy family. The Peregrine Fund also chose one my photos for their 2014 calendar. I'll post that in March, our month!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Public Radio Rules!

The Pea Green Boat has set sail every weekday at 4 pm since I can remember, more than 30 years of childrens' programming courtesy Montana Public Radio. Digging way back in the filing cabinet, I found that our first appearance was in May 1993, with host Marcia Dunn. I had Max the Golden Eagle, our first Red-tail and Great Horned Owl, and Crackity Jones, the W. Screech Owl (for you Pixies fans.)
Yes, live birds on the radio, I know. But it works and we are guests every two months with Skipper Annie Garde, pictured here in the studio in 2007 with Sib, and interviewing Jay Sumner's bird. She has been playing songs and stories, reading to the listeners, and having guests, children and adults for ten years plus. It's called childrens' programming but we sure have a lot of grown-ups tuning in as well. So tomorrow set sail for an hour starting at 4 pm MST. We'll have the debut of our new kestrels, a Great Horned Owl and Otto the Rough-leg. STREAMING LIVE around the planet - http://kufm.org/ and hit Listen Live at the top! Dan Varland in Hoquiam, WA will be tuned in.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Airborne Friends

For some reason, the Peregrine always seems to have a little fun with Northern Harriers in the sky. That's Sibley below, and just goofing off. Other falcons like Prairies and Peregrines are not always so amicable, but usually nothing to worry about. Hey, check us out on Montana Public Radio on Thursday at 4 p.m., and more news on the way.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Grey Day Falcon

This Prairie Falcon has been hanging around across the river, and a launch sequence today. No, it's not four flying together, although that would be a sight! I'm even squeezing a Prairie Falcon photo in the new kestrel book - one flying out of a cave on a cliff. She was exploring nest options back in March, and unfortunately never saw her back at that scenic spot. Blog on March 30th.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Another Photo of the Goshawk

Wish I could have gotten some shots of the female Northern Harrier that was on the attack here. She persisted until they both disappeared to the south. Hey, it's a great gift idea to purchase some raptor photos, one of our four books, adopt a Teaching Team member, or make a tax-free donation. Easy to do. Send me an email - raptors@montana.com. We love our Raptor Backers, the best folks in the world! You know who you are...and we would love to have new friends join the family.

Thursday, December 12, 2013


Just had a nice flight with the Peregrines here in the Bitterroot Valley and saw this Great Horned Owl out wondering what he was doing on a goose platform. And a young female Goshawk fleeing from a Harrier. Raptors everywhere.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Get Comfortable

It's going to be a long winter!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Slave to Cyberspace

Our internet has been out since I posted the last blog, so got lots of real work done instead of goofing off. This photo was just found in the July archives - a kestrel fledging and leaping from the nest, sibling still in the cavity to the left, and it will appear in the book. A great nest at the MPG Ranch, and thanks Kate Stone for directing me that way for my camera to record the activities. Temperatures are now warming up so three birds are back outside, fed mice heated by the wood stove. We're glad to get through that arctic event unscathed.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Our Living Room

With overnight temperatures of negative 10 or so degrees, we have a houseload of birds. Top is Sonora the Aplomado on her perch on the bookshelf with a Nick Dunlop photo and some bear skulls.  Yes, that's a stuffed duck to the right, one that Sibley caught and Dale Manning mounted. Then below, kennels with the Saw-whet Owl and kestrel, Sibley the Peregrine on her perch on the right, plus some of my metal sculptures in between. In the back bedroom, iPod the Pygmy-owl, and thankfully no owl vocalizations all night. Plus I took the bells off the falcons, a happy family. Outside, everyone is getting fed a few times a day, and warming up to zero!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Female Kestrel

For the new book, IN THE WORKS! Three chapters down and 70 photos selected. Nothing but fun.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Nigel- Eagle Spokesman

I'm sure you've read the headlines and heard the news, "Utility Company Sentenced in Wyoming for Killing Protected Birds at Wind Projects," November 22nd and the shot heard 'round the world! Our friend Bob Anderson is Senior Counsel for the Environmental Crimes Section of the U.S. Dept. of Justice, based right here in Missoula. We met about ten or so years ago, pals with our mutual passion for birds...and movies. Last year he asked that I visit his downtown office with Nigel, as some folks would like to meet a live Golden Eagle. He wouldn't tell me who these people were, despite my curiosity and prodding, and only last week did I find out. They were with Duke Energy Corp., the North Carolina company fined $1 million for killing 14 Golden Eagles and 149 other protected birds at two wind farms in Wyoming. The prosecutor? Our Bob Anderson. He sent me the press release and wrote, "Do you remember our meeting in my office several months ago? This is the outcome of that negotiation." Nigel apparently made the right kind of impression that day. This was the first ever criminal enforcement for killing birds at wind farms, and Bob was also the prosecutor for the first electrocution case, Moon Lake in 1999. Justice has been served, and thanks Bob and Nigel, both Rock Stars!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Winter Arrives

Winter has hit, and a predicted 9 degrees below zero by Friday night. So several birds will be in the house, including the Pygmy-owl, one kestrel, Aplomado, and maybe Peregrine. The Harris's Hawk seems to love the snow!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

And Now, For Something Completely Different...

A raptor tour today for the Agostino Family, and their 7 year old son, Jason. When Sonora the Aplomado Falcon took off on her last (and final) road trip, it was young Jason that found her. By radio telemetry, I had located the wayward bird that night just after dark a few miles from the house. Panicking and knocking on the door, I informed the Agostino family that my lost falcon was in their back yard.  I would be back before light the next morning to try to get her back. With the receiver beeping loudly at dawn, I called Jay on my cell phone to say I had found Sonora and hoped to get her back right away.  Young Jason was standing at my side and was trying to tell me a story. A story I thought, then I re-played what he had just said. "Kate, when you were talking on the phone, a bird flew by and every time it flapped it's wings, it would make a jingling sound." It didn't strike me for a second or two, and then I asked. "Like a bell?!" "Yes, a bell." Jason had found Sonora for which he will go down in the annals of Raptors of the Rockies history as a hero. Oh, and here's a photo of Mookie racing around.

Friday, November 29, 2013


I can appreciate the term, "lucky duck." Over and over again. Still great enjoyment flying the falcon and sort of hunting ducks, but mostly marveling in these flights and camaraderie with the dogs, here in the Bitterroot neighborhood. Hope you had a great day as well!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Our National Bird Holiday

We are thankful for our Teaching Team birds this holiday, plus the dogs, cats, pigeons, quail and mice that all inhabit the place. Have a dandy Thursday with family and friends, and yes, we are having a turkey for dinner, but not one of these.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Steel Gyr

Metals Class 2

Last night's program was at the University for "Montana Wildlife" class with Joel Berger, 6 until 8 pm and chatting up a storm. A big PowerPoint plus Pygmy-owl, Aplomado Falcon and Barred Owl joining us in the lecture hall. Students - you will be tested on the John and Frank Craighead legacy, be forewarned. Today, a brand new PowerPoint at Big Sky High School. Topic? Welding!  It was the Metals 2 (or Metals II) class and instructor Scot Traeder and his students with their metal sculptures here. He asked if I could bring some of mine and could just fit in a few of the small, earlier pieces in the Subaru, standing here on either side, the Barn Owl and Peregrine and young artistes creations in between. A huge portion of the program was on my mentor, Bill Ohrmann, who graciously taught me everything I know, starting in 2004. Man, fun to present a whole new program, and remember: safety first. Always wear your welding mask with that wire-feed, plasma cutter, and torch going.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

That Rooster Fight

This is the photo that will be in Pheasants Forever: rooster fight in the back yard!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

PF Article:

Like a missile from the sky, down plummets the falcon in a vertical dive from hundreds of feet above; the quarry selected is one of a dozen pheasants flushed from the field ahead. Closing in with the final impact and an audible whack, feathers are flying.  Putting on the brakes with a seemingly impossible upturn swoop, she then lands on the rooster, delivers the deadly bite to the neck and it’s over. The Peregrine settles down to pluck as I close in to retrieve my trained bird and our dinner for the evening.
            This would be an ideal pheasant hunt, the kind you dream of and rewind in your head. More often than not though, the game absolutely will not fly when it sees that falcon shape above, and after close flushing, a tail chase ensues with the falcon binding to the pheasant and going for a ride. Diabolically, the intended victim usually runs for cover and simply swipes the falcon off it’s back; the reward is just a foot-full of feathers.
            No shotguns for this type of hunting. It’s the privilege of watching a raptor do what they do best, and it seems a glimpse into the 4000-year history of falconry - hunting wild game with trained birds of prey. The bond between bird and handler may rival any relationship possible, as the raptor is released to hunt and expected to perform.
Lightweight radio telemetry transmitters attached to the bird help the falconer find a raptor that has strayed, or killed game in thick cattails or brush. But they may lend a false sense of security with lots of hazards out there, including power lines, rival raptors, and pheasants that put up a nasty fight. This Peregrine has been particularly spooked after an altercation years ago, and often she will just watch a big rooster sail away without a second thought.
            Maybe sport isn’t the correct term for falconry, as it is more like an all-consuming lifestyle with a rather small following, and rightly so. Never a sure thing and quite often coming home with an empty game bag, pheasant hunting with a falcon can be quite the spectator sport, and we are just along for the ride.

Pheasants Forever Story

In April, I got some great shots of rooster Ring-necked Pheasants fighting in the yard, and the next thing I knew, the editor of Pheasants Forever Magazine was emailing for some high-res copies. I mentioned to Mark Herwig that I had some different kind of pheasant photos, ones with a Peregrine on top. So wrote a little article and an edited version showed up in their winter issue, out this week. The Sibley Story:

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Bonner Lumberjacks!

Today we had an assembly in Bonner, and actually the first school we ever set foot in armed with birds, back in 1988! We try to make it every two years. Go Lumberjacks and principal Ashley Parks here in front of her kids. Featured in the gymnasium on the left is their mascot, a big carved wooden woodsman, complete with a crosscut saw. Mr. Lumberjack was my perfect prop in describing how the Saw-whet Owl, with Owen on hand, was named in the 1800's. One of their calls has been likened to the sound of sharpening (whetting) a crosscut saw. Sibley is on the table to the right, and we arranged a field trip with the 5th graders for the last week of school next June to check out the Peregrine Falcons nesting on a cliff less than a mile away. Perfect.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

"Right On, Brother"

"Power to the people! I mean kestrels!" I have been working on the new book today and found this photo deep in a Lightroom file from July entitled AMKE MPG 2013. That translates to American Kestrels from a nest at the MPG Ranch across the river. This is a shouting newly-fledged female, with fist clenched in defiance. Okay, her foot is in a stretch, and her brother eats a grasshopper just delivered by a parent. This attempt at humor would be lost on anyone under the age of 50 or so.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


My brother Jonathan's son Zach was so happy to find this t-shirt of a favorite book at Rockin' Rudy's this summer during a visit, and a favorite bird Sonora the Aplomado Falcon on hand. This was the original cover artwork of the Anthony Burgess novel from 1962, and truly amazing film by Stanley Kubrick in 1971. Don't know about you, but I am a huge film buff, so re-visit those favorite movies as it's dark out by dinner time. And check out the birds during the day!

Sunday, November 17, 2013


Duck Day

We are so fortunate to have neighbors around that allow Jay and me to hunt with the Peregrines, and today, a mallard drake was part of the scheme. I retrieved falcon and duck from a slough here in the Bitterroot and a feast for all.

And 9 a.m. Today

Saturday, November 16, 2013

This Morning's Blizzard

I just opened the window by my desk to get this photo. SNOW! Bust out the skis friends. It will be great season and can hardly wait. See you at The Bowl.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Flying Falcon

I have been posting these Blogs for years at the suggestion of Webmaster Steve Palmer, and never know how they will go over with the followers of Raptors of the Rockies. Some days we will find 20 views in the "Stats" and one like last night, over 300. I would like to know what motivates people to check in - photos? stories? Beats me. Sonora the Aplomado has been very popular, and her exploits are noteworthy. Let me know why you visit, and thanks for the feedback. We'll keep 'em coming!  

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Sonora Nov.13th

Photo just before our Aplomado Falcon took another road trip.
Back safe and sound and home today at noon. Whew, just as I mailing out 200 RRU Newsletters with her on the cover. Another lucky day. You are grounded Sonora, sorry girl.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

New One On Line

Thanks, Steve! Check it out, in living color: 
In This Issue: Sonora, the Aplomado Falcon, a new book in the works, a trip to Boise and the Peregrine Fund, and update on the Montana Peregrine Institute, the Lolo Complex Fire, and much, much more...

Saturday, November 9, 2013

November 9th

Sibley and Chesty flying today. Plus Sonora to start things off, and what good girls. We're proofreading the new Raptor Round-Up newsletter which will be in the mail this week, and more photos than ever before, I think.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Archives Hooters

Today we have a program for the Chamber of Commerce's Leadership Missoula. We top off natural resources day, and a photo from 2009 and our 1200th program. Held at the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the sponsors provided refreshments served by the gals from Hooters. A few Leadership folks timidly admitted that they didn't get the irony here, and I wrote in the newsletter, "Leave it to the Chamber to keep abreast with Missoula businesses and organizations."

Monday, November 4, 2013

First Snow

Sonora the Aplomado Falcon checks out our first snowfall in the valley, last night and mostly melted already. We'll see about flying this desert bird in the cold weather, but Chesty loves the snow. Harris's Hawks are also semiarid inhabitants but seem to do just fine unless it's way below zero, which is a temperature we haven't experienced in several years. But when it's that cold some spoiled rotten birds come in the house for a while.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Max on the Mend

Our longest resident Teaching Team raptor, Max the Golden Eagle hadn't been feeling well lately with some digestive troubles, and now back on track. I called Lisa Rhodin at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Montana: Fish, Wildlife & Parks in Helena and described the symptoms. She immediately thought of a common, but sometimes deadly ailment called clostridium, picked up from the diet and environment but treatable. Then our other veterinarian friends Dr.'s Dave Bostick and Pam Broussard in Missoula analyzed a fecal sample and voila! That was it. And even better, our pal Dr. Lynn Robin here at the Florence Veterinary Clinic supplied the medication. Max is 24 years old now, nervous damage, and retrieved from the Bob Marshall Wilderness as a fledgling, packed out on horseback for three days in 1989. Thank goodness and another group effort by all that love Max as much as we do (and the kids at all those assemblies over the years!)

Friday, November 1, 2013

Duck Hunting Today

Five lucky ducks but great flying with Jay and his bird Ella and here, Sib. Frozen ponds, sloughs and everything- it's winter up the Blackfoot Valley.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The P Fund Card

Our pals in Boise at The Peregrine Fund are using this photo as their Christmas Card for 2013, mailing over 300 copies to backers and friends. Notice the long white tail hanging down, that of a Western Jumping Mouse (Zapus princeps), an unlucky individual snapped up just as it emerged from  hibernation this spring and caught by a male American Kestrel. This will be one of over a hundred photos in our new book on kestrels, a collaboration with The P Fund and Mountain Press Publishing Company, and in the works. I'm writing and Rob Palmer and I are illustrating, out next year after your emergence from hibernation. Probably a bit later.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

and Three - October 30th


This Morning

I think I have figured out a good weight at which to cut Sonora loose. "Flying weight" falconers call it - just hungry enough to pay attention and less likely that she will stray again. I hope at least. The Bitterroots in the background with a Peregrine nest up that drainage to the left, One Horse Creek, somewhere.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Gold on Gold

The last of the color and one of my favorite little groves of aspens here in Florence, and favorite dogs, Peanut.