Tuesday, April 30, 2013

One European Starling, Two American Eagles

A joke and I posted this on Facebook. One comment by our great friend John Ohrmann captioned this shot: "Hank, that little snot-nosed foreign brat is still here." "Don't look at him and maybe he will go away."Another pal Deborah Richie commented, "Love the way they are facing away from each other in disdain." Then I posted a photo from the Bald Eagle nest in 2011, one of the male bringing in a starling as a prey item. One fewer starlings in the world, no problem as roughly 200 million of these birds now live coast to coast, a non-native pest.  And how could the eagle catch such a little, maneuverable, and clever bird? Beats me.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Look At All Of Those Kestrels!

Hover hunting kestrel, this makes a great bookmark. We'll send a pile of 'em to The American Kestrel Partnership.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Tonight, On the Nest

We actually saw a fuzzy gray head through the spotting scope today, poking over the nest and the first so far.  Here was the female at 7 p.m. Nothing more exciting than this, but still fun to see. More shots on the way!

Lucked Out Last Night

I head down to the beach every evening if the light is good, set up the tripod and Nikon D800 camera, and hope something will happen. The night before, zero, but last night the female was off the nest for a while, and I lucked out. Just as the sun went behind the mountains.

Thursday, April 25, 2013


I had the pleasure of spending the day with reporter Daniel Erusha Saturday. He put together a nice story for the KPAX news, and check it out. He even put a little GoPro camera on the roof of the hawk building for an incoming Chesty the Harris's Hawk sequence.  Yep, organizing the Raptor Research Foundation Conference for next year in Corpus Christi, Texas. I also wrote a story on falconry for Pheasant Forever and just found this photo from the 2012 archives, overlooked the first time around. Peregrine in the Sagebrush. I think they are using one of my fighting rooster photos (April 11th Blog) for the cover shot, Pheasants Forever Magazine. In the story I described a stoop and successful pheasant hunt then wrote:

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. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Blackfoot osprey, and our survey of three Peregrine nests? Two out of three had both falcons! Next, back to One Horse Creek across the road, and fingers crossed. Peregrine incubation starts soon and a miracle to find them with split second food deliveries by the male, then he hightails it out of there.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Back From the Bone Store

Our friends at Hamilton Packing save us beef hearts, the eagles' favorite food. All the birds get heart meat on Valentines Day, rabbit on Easter, and we dye their bath water green on St. Patricks. A stickler for tradition around here. Plus we picked up a box of bones for Peanut and Mookie, probably a big temptation for them poking their heads over the back seat, but they waited patiently until we got home. We can use game meet if you'd like to donate, just not burger. Oh, and the Bald Eagle loves halibut steaks... and king crab. And smoked salmon.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Storm at 8 p.m.

The only thing that looks comfortable in this snow storm is a penguin. The sculpture in the driveway...

What a Storm!

I took the dogs down to the river an hour ago, the male eagle hanging on for dear life in the huge wind gusts, me standing in my Muck Boots in about 6 inches of water to try to get a photograph. I thought I was all set, with my Outback Slicker, Coastal Raptors hat, Nikon camera (any more product placement ads?)  Then it hit. The winter storm from the north, man o man! I can barely see the hawk buildings now through the snow! When will this stuff end? And back in the Nick of time, speaking of which, check out Nick Dunlop's web site! Bet it's not snowing and blowing 40 miles an hour in Sebastopol right now. That's California.

Thursday, April 18, 2013


The Western Meadowlark is our Montana State Bird, and this one was singing in the driveway when I pulled up after an "appearance" on Montana Public Radio. Don't forget to send in your pledge this week, and a gangbusters show on the Pea Green Boat today with past host, Marcia Dunn and current hosts Annie Garde and Sam Manno. We all jammed for the hit song, The Hamster Dance at the end. Marcia practically apologized that she had discovered this song, a love/hate tune but I love it. Hey, they play it at Grizzly football games to get everyone on their feet! So why do we have a Meadowlark as the State bird when they all leave for the winter? Good question. Maybe because they are so darned fine-looking with a magnificent song. Perhaps the Black-billed Magpie, a year-round resident should be our bird, but also one of those love/hate things. I love them too!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Ansel Wants Babies

Our utterly handsome male Gyrfalcon/Peregrine hybrid has decided it's time to reproduce, with his constant "chupping" day and night. Ansel made this nest scrape, a depression in the corner of his enclosure a month ago, but no eggs from his roommate the female Red-tailed Hawk. Never happen. He is an imprint 9 year-old, combo male black phase Gyrfalcon and female Peale's Peregrine Falcon produced by artificial insemination. For the kid's programs, we just say he's a Gyr to avoid discussions of the process of collecting semen and, well, you know...

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Pick Up That Baling Twine, Please!

Ospreys love to decorate and line their nests with objects not found in nature, and a particularly attractive addition for some reason is baling twine left on the ground by those feeding hay to livestock. This is quite often fatal to adults and nestlings alike, as many as 5 to 10 % total and a major mortality factor. They become entangled in the polypropylene rope, a persistent problem as it does not break down, and even just one strand can cause a deformity as they grow as chicks or are hung up and die in the nest or elsewhere. Dr. Erick Greene at the University of Montana found one nest that contained over 4000 meters of the stuff, 13,000 feet plus!
Perhaps as much as 75% of all Osprey nests near human habitation have this problem.  Easily remedied - pick up the colorful (or black, too) twine and dispose of it properly out of site from these raptors. Today's photo is a Bitterroot pair just back from migration, hunkering down in a snow squall with the dangerous material blowing in the wind. Birds at this nest have been successful parents for many years, and we only hope they continue without the threat of baling twine. Pick it up, please!

Pheasant Fight

Friday, April 12, 2013

Nest Today

That's the nest just below the stretching male eagle. He took over incubation (or brooding) duties this evening, and the female flew out, rested for ten minutes then actually smacked one of two Canada Geese flying the river below! Not fatal and they both swam around honking while the eagle took a long drink. Wish I had a good photograph of that encounter, but a blur, and it will remain in my memory forever.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Pheasants Forever

Spring is definitely here, as evidenced by two rooster pheasants in a land dispute. These guys were fighting in the yard for about 15 minutes, and hope they stick around. Tom noticed them and I ran out there with the 80-400 mm, and am all set up with the 500 mm and monopod by the door if they decide to go at it again. I can't ever remember seeing so many pheasants here, and glad that Chesty the Harris's Hawk pays them no notice in her daily flights.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Iris the Osprey

One member of the Riverside Health Care Osprey pair is back , the female dubbed Iris for the unique flecks of color in her eyes. Yep, that's her after a 3000 mile migration, and she constantly looked around for her mate. If he doesn't make it back, a "floater" or un-mated adult will almost certainly take over and provide all of the fish while she incubates and broods the young. Yesterday I was in Riverside taking photos of Iris on the TV feed for the residents, when off she flew and broke a limb from a tree in the parking lot. I ran back to the car for the telephoto just as she delivered this one, smacked off a standing tree across the river on Mount Sentinel! When you look at the web cam, notice how many other people are doing the same, 164 right now watching and an empty nest.
UPDATE:  I reviewed the photos, and she actually had taken one particularly branchy and mossy limb from the nest, flew around the parking lot, and brought it back. This one from the TV inside....interesting. And, she was joined by another Osprey Friday, maybe Stanley!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


A Great Blue Heron, posing and preening yesterday. Off to check on the Riverside Health Care Osprey nest (in real life, and not on the web cam.) I need to collect all of that loot from the date-of-arrival bet! Apparently the female, Iris is back and the world waits to see if her mate Stanley returns. Cross your fingers - he was one heck of an excellent provider.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Bad, Evil Sunroof

For some unknown reason, Chesty the Harris's Hawk has a new fixation with car roofs, specifically the 2003 Subaru sunroof. She has spent hours hopping between the two cars, trying to break into one. I just looked and a bunch of owl bookmarks were laying on the seat below. Coincidence, I'm sure, but keeps her out of trouble.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Last Day at the Bowl

Another great season comes to a close (for those riding the chairlift, at least.) Snowbowl was hammered with rain and warm temps, so decided to close a week early. This photo shows last day in 1999, West Bowl in the background, Leaf Magnuson, me in a dress and Kim Thomas complete with feather boa. Wisps of pink feathers were seen blowing all over the hill. I still ski with those boots, yikes. Might get some new equipment for next year. Maybe. We love the BOWL!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

First Friday Downtown Missoula

Join us starting at 5 until 8 pm at the Naturalist's Mercantile at 131 E Main Street and The Artists' Shop, a block away at 127 N Higgins Ave, their new cool location. I have about 25 photos on display, and Sibley the Peregrine will join me. She will sign books, gotta see this. All new photos (mostly) and all wild birds (with one exception - Sibley flying through the cattails.) Even some non-raptors. Don't miss it!

Monday, April 1, 2013

April Fools...Not!

For the zillions of folks that watch the Osprey Web Cam at Riverside Health Care in Missoula, a big day today. When at Riverside last week, I bet Director Tammy Talley that the raptor couple would be back from migration on April 1st at 9:30 a.m. -a betting pool amongst Osprey fans and that was my guess. Tammy emailed me at 9:27 today and announced - "They just showed up. That means you won the pool!" Just three minutes off... She reports that the staff was in a meeting when both birds showed up, Iris a split second before and she landed on the platform, a copulation with we assume is Stanley, then off they went. This photo is from last spring, web cam on the right. I will wisely invest my $25 from the pool in more camera gear, promise. Get ready, folks!