Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Back Yard Again

This was a lucky shot, or "capture" as many photographers say. As in, "Nice capture, Bob. Really plays well with the light and narrative." Just joking... Anyway, these eagles looked impressive through the spotting scope in the living room last evening, so I quickly ran out to the beach. I was cranking shots from a quarter mile away, scampering up with the tripod and camera, five more each time until I got right under them and they didn't even care. Let's just say that I deleted at least a hundred photos and gotta love digital. The eagles were looking at me and the dogs and then a big courtship vocalization. I made this into a card for my Mom today, the birds saying Happy Birthday Sally!  I will be joining the greatest raptor photographers in the world tomorrow on the Washington Coast, Rob Palmer and Nick Dunlop, so more "captures" on the way.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Full Moon!

Here's a stretch from bird news, but tonight observing the full moon I had a flashback of our whole family spending the night in the basement in Connecticut in July of 1969.  We had a TV, cots and sleeping pads for the kids, and watched the broadcast live in the middle of the night - Apollo 11 had landed on the moon! My dad took me outside, pointed to the bright object above, and informed me "There are people up there now!" Not made of cheese as we thought as kids. I took this photo during an eclipse of the moon in OUR back yard, December 2010. What a memory, and go outside and re-live that night in '69. If you are old enough to have been around back then...

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Eagle Nest

This photo from last May, and the Bald Eagles are back at it right now. I returned from skiing at SnowBowl and looked through the spotting scope in the living room to see the male eagle bring in a huge stick, then the female flew over to a near-by snag to break off an even more impressive limb to add to the nest. She then nestled down and maybe eggs soon. All this while listening to "A Prairie Home Companion" on NPR and enjoying a beverage. We are so lucky to have this new saga unfolding, three young last year and we'll hope that they do the same in 2013. Maybe four, like in the new book!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Attack of the 'Pies

Magpies everywhere today, and we might have a Bitterroot stronghold thanks to their supplementary feeding. At the risk of offending animal lovers everywhere, today the three eagles were dining on Mountain Lion meat, a donation from a local taxidermy shop. I butchered the animal from one that was "harvested" for a mount, and hate to see anything go to waste, i.e. end up in the dumpster. As I always say in programs, these raptors are carnivores and don't eat apples and yogurt. Magpies are omnivores and will eat just about anything, but here at the Raptor Ranch, they dine on meat that the eagles leave behind, plus the mice hindquarters that the owls don't eat. I throw them up on the roofs of the buildings every day in my feeding rounds, and I swear, when I hear the thump above, I look out to see a magpie flying off. With a smile on it's face, as my Mom would say. So today, a feast for these corvids, today as every day.

Monday, February 18, 2013

BAEA's (That's the Abbreviation)

Bald Eagles in the back yard today, bringing sticks to the nest, hollering a lot, and breeding season for these giant raptors. She should be on eggs very soon, then a quiet time during incubation of 35 days before we are back down at the river evenings with the Nikon, tripod, and dogs a few weeks later. Last year they fledged three young in their first success at this location, nest built the year before with no babies. And all visible from a spotting scope in the living room! A little glimpse of spring to come.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Bitterroot Audubon Raptor Tour

This was the fifth tour organized by Leslie Nyce, the fourth conducted by grand raptor expert Steve Hoffman, Director of Montana Audubon and great friend. He held a 2 hour classroom exploration of Montana birds of prey last night and today a stellar day in the field. We were happy to again visit the Stock Farm, and counts were in the twenties for Red-tails and Rough-legged Hawks. We also observed AMKE's (American Kestrels), Bald Eagles, a Northern Harrier and a one-year old Golden Eagle high above - great spotting Becky Peters! You win. Highlight was a great view of a Harlan's Hawk, subspecies of Red-tail wintering here from central Alaska. A big, black, gorgeous bird. Steve told us that they are rather shy and tend to perch somewhere in the middle of limbs and foliage instead of out in the open, news to me. We even saw two red foxes and watched a very distant Rough-leg turn into a Red-tail. Arguments on identification were very amicable. Mostly. HA! Thanks to Leslie, Kate Stone, and Steve, and this cooperative young Bald Eagle that just posed and posed.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Nick Dunlop's Amazing Video

My pal Nick Dunlop, fellow photographer for Falcons of North America and Raptors of the West has been busy with a huge project of his own. For several years he has pursued these massive flocks of European Starlings near his home in Central California. They ball up and form twisting ribbons in the sky, avoiding Peregrines on the attack (two in the photo above.)  He has published a book called Chaos in the Sky, has a paper in the latest Living Bird, written by Grainger Hunt, and has put together the absolutely most spectacular film I have ever seen. In my entire life. Check it out, and Nick reports that it works best on Google Chrome at 720 dpi. Sonoma County Spectacle unlike anything you have ever seen, and crank up the soundtrack!  Thanks Nick, and you win the Academy Award for Amazing.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Another Action Photo

Keith Fialcowitz got this shot of Sib's tail as she flew right over his head. Check out the shadows in the snow. Very artistic.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Thanks Keith!

It cracks me up that our best pal Keith Fialcowitz got this shot today, laying in the snow with my Nikon and 12-24 mm wide angle lens. Sib was chowing down, camera hanging off my hand, dogs in the background, and pure and beautiful Bitterroot skies. Keith took the photographs for Montanan Magazine, many covers for National Geographic Explorer, and the greatest animal lover I have ever met. Thanks, Keith!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Another Hover

Here is Sibley, this time hovering over a muskrat swimming in a slough. Just curious, I guess!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Kestrel Couple of Days

We were very happy to host Matt Giovanni from the American Kestrel Partnership, the Peregrine Fund, who was in Montana building and installing kestrel nest boxes. Sure got me excited to help out in the education department, and perhaps drum up local support for a nest box monitoring program. We flew the Peregrine and talked kestrels and had chicken for dinner - the 24-7 Bird Channel!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Bird and Sculpture

Danica the Raven perches on the finished sculpture. This bird was an imprint, humanized as a chick by a couple, which is illegal by the way. Believe it or not, ravens and crows are songbirds, protected by state and federal laws. Danica was recovered by a friend in a downtown Missoula tavern as she was fed applesauce on the bar top. We let her fly around our property, and she eventually disappeared, we fear shot by a neighbor. She had the unnerving habit of taking little scraps of twisted steel from the welding studio floor and stuffing them under the tires of any car parked in the driveway. What a strange pastime.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Julie and Danica, the Raven

Back in 2005, I was welding a big raven sculpture, and our friend painter extaordinaire Julie Chapman was asked to create a piece for the Baltimore Ravens football team. Then suddenly a young rehab raven appeared at our doorstep, and we both had "the real McCoy" from which to work. My sculpture is perched in the living room and Julie's painting graces the Ravens' clubhouse wall, a beautiful 27" x 51" piece called appropriately enough, "Ready to Rumble!" Whatever made me think of this story...HA.  Julie is our favorite, and check out her web site. Splendor-ous!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Racing Falcon

Sibley was racing around today at Dale Frey's Ranch near Missoula. I wonder of anyone saw that Discovery Channel Show, "X-Ray Yellowstone" - Sib was the star, flying straight up 28 feet in the Tower Of Power at the University of Montana Flight Lab captured at 5000 frames per second. Let me know, and I can lend you a copy. Amazing stuff.