Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Growing Up

Sonora the Aplomado Falcon at 40 days old, almost all of the down gone. She is smart, knows her ABC's, and can count to ten. Currently, her favorite hangouts are the window sills in the house, the couch, and back of my office chair (all protected by geripads and newspaper, don't worry.) Like one of my oft-quoted lines from Raising Arizona, "She's an angel straight from heaven." Sonora is honing her capture skills on a plastic lizard, frog, and Tasmanian Devil. Oh, and a wooden turtle whose head bobs up and down, until she figures out how to decapitate it. Stay tuned.

Monday, July 29, 2013

More Kestrels

I think I am finally done with the vigils at the nests. This last one across the river has been fun, with four screaming babies hanging by the natural cavity, popping back inside over and over, and finally now chasing their parents and being more adventurous. The top photo is one youngster heading back home to perhaps steal a grasshopper from his brother. He grabs dad's tail, frantic for food but look at that crop - well fed all day. Then the female feeding one daughter a hopper, and the male again with an Orthopteran treat. These fledglings sure play up the starvation act, and the parents fall for the high drama for a while at least, then they are on their own. A treat to see so much action and photos for the new book. Time to quit goofing off and sit down and write, right?

Sunday, July 28, 2013

My Sincere Apologies, Mr. Kestrel

I spent the last two mornings at our favorite American Kestrel nest and am finding that the male is a great provider and not at all a bird of bad moral character like I said on Thursday. One young is still in the nest cavity, while his three siblings are stretching, preening and whining in the sun. Father kestrel is bringing prey (today all insects) back to the nest, where he constantly gets mobbed by the little ingrates. This individual sure has white markings, and what a bird.

Friday, July 26, 2013

BirdWatching Magazine

This just sent off to BirdWatching Magazine for their October issue, and a story about the HawkWatch migration site at the Bridger Mountains outside Bozeman. Another photo of this same Golden Eagle taken a split second before will be in the 2014 HawkWatch calendar, what a celebrity bird already, and shots taken a few miles from the house in the Sapphire Mountains. Always have a Nikon or Canon camera on the passenger seat next to you, and make your friends ride in the back to hand you your tripod. Just a thought.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Late Nest

Thanks Kate Stone and Kerr for locating a cottonwood kestrel nest, and young still at home. I don't know how many, but at least one male and female face poking out of the cavity. They'll fledge any minute. Okay, any hour... I don't know because I gave up when it hit 90 degrees. That's a young male begging on the bottom left, after a nice vole delivery. We may have a deadbeat dad, as never did see the adult male.


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Astronomy 101

Just as it was getting dark, I spotted both eagles at their nest tree and thought, tonight's the night, full moon and what a pose. So I fetched all the gear, set up the tripod where I was last night, some extra lenses on hand, and watched the clock. The moon was over the eagle at 9:07 p.m. on Sunday, and I waited and waited. Tom was grumbling something about remember the earth's rotation or angle of the ecliptic with respect to horizon...lunatic something, and I paid no attention. Then, when the moon did rise it was in the wrong place, and 40 minutes late! What a gyp.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Eagle Moon

I couldn't resist posting this on Facebook last night. I said full moon but guess that's tonight!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Shreading Wedding

Our dear friends Adam and Lauren were married yesterday at the scenic MPG Ranch just across the river. As a secret surprise I brought a dozen white "doves" to release when they said their vows, and assured the bride and groom's parents that they would fly out of the two cadges, circle the crowd, and head home. When the time came, Jay and I opened the cadge doors and off the pigeons, I mean doves went. Straight home, and if you weren't looking to the south, you could have missed it, oh well...  This actually did work as described at a wedding a few years ago, and an elderly woman jumped to her feet and shouted, "It's a miracle!' Her daughter tugged her sleeve to sit down and explained that there was a lady with pigeons on the deck.  True story. Way to ruin a miracle.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

All In the Family

Nora the Aplomado Falcon is becoming acquainted with Mookie the Lab and Peanut the Golden; or maybe it's the other way around. Mookie joined us when she was almost a year old and had to learn about raptors and pigeons and cats. Peanut and her predecessors had birds around all their lives and probably think everyone has a Peregrine in the living room for hours at a time.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Taiwan Swoops In

Today we hosted friend Josh Rosenberg and his current students, two high schools from Taiwan enjoying Montana life and instruction with the U of M's English Language Institute. We started with a tour and have never seen so many cameras at once. Or peace signs! When meeting Miles (Davis) the owl, one girl shouted, "Jazz!" So she and everyone else got ROTR posters to take home. Top photo is Sonora on the window sill in the office looking out, about to go outside for her program. Then, we all headed to the beach and check out the poses. Very shy group, to be certain..HA!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Another Brothers

This morning, Mac Donofrio and I scored on Peregrines again, and these just fledged in the Bitterroot. What seems odd to me is that the one on the left has blue-ish legs, while the one on the right has what we usually see - yellow. A mystery as they are siblings with the same diet, and we used to say that Prairie Falcons always sported the nice blue skin tones when they left the nest, Peregrines yellow. Either way, a great second cliff in two days with three youngsters flying the skies, two males and one female again.

"You Talking To Me?"

She will be talking, today at 4 o'clock MST, live on the radio. Steaming live as well on Montana Public Radio. Sonora the Aplomado Falcon was 32 days old yesterday when I got that photo, and barely any down left, the growing girl. We are Annie Garde's guests for an hour on Pea Green Boat, every two months and the debut of our new "star" this afternoon.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

One Horse Creek Peregrine Update

Across the highway from our house - two males and one female fledgling Peregrine, playing and playing today. They started by chasing four ravens, then stooping on each other way in the background. Finally they came right overhead, and I was trying not to fall off the cliff to catch the action. Their curiosity led Mac Donofrio and I to assume that we were the first humans they had ever laid eyes on, and probably why we never see the adults here to escort the young away from harm. One Horse Creek has no public access, and is unlike so many other of these drainages with rock climbers and hikers right at the eyries. Mac reports a record 16 territories in the Bitterroot this season, yes! We hope that rockclimbers wait until the young fledge to practice their skills at nest cliffs, after August. Thanks, adventurers.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Female Kestrel

Day Two in the Real World

Baby kestrels at Nest 1 have fledged and are all over in the cottonwoods and snags (and in the dark shadows) waiting for food.  I saw a few deliveries to the cache in the broken off snag, and a young male stood there all morning with a crop out to here. I thought this photo was a newly fledged bird under attack, but the adult female on closer inspection. The young have short tails and often downy feathers on the top of their head. How many here? I'm guessing four. Out looking for Peregrines tomorrow, and hope to have similar luck with the camera. Nah, never happen...

Monday, July 15, 2013

Calliope In The Yard

Remember that calendar of Backyard Birds (that I just came up with?) Here's a Calliope Hummingbird just now. Check it out, Montana Public Radio on Thursday at 4 to 5 pm, Childrens' programming on The Pea Green Boat. Meet Nora the Aplomado Falcon and two other avian guests!

Bitterroot Audubon

My friend Nathan DeBoer got this excellent portrait of Queen Nora yesterday at a little gathering of photographers for the upcoming Bitterroot Audubon Calenedar. He has 3 of the 12 months, and might as well start his own business for 2015! Check him out on Facebook. They selected my shot of the singing Northern Shrike for the month of February, taken right in the back yard. Ooops, that was taken on Oct 30th...I should make a calendar of "Birds In Our Backyard," and currently the two fledgling Bald Eagles perched on our eagle building.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Ohrmann Gallery, Usually Open

Fantastic Saturday- a visit to Bill and Phyll Ohrmann's in Drummond for lunch and fun in the gallery. I was accompanied by friends Renee Taaffe of the Missoula Art Museum and Deborah Mitchell, my printmaking guru. She lives in South Dakota now, and rode in on her BMW motorcycle, on her way to the national rally in Oregon. Plus I brought Nora the falcon, a great passenger in her laundry basket. We enjoyed major catching-up with the Ohrmanns, then got this photo in the Gallery with the falcon on her perch and Bill's paintings and sculptures all around. On the way home we stopped by the Peregrine eyrie at Bearmouth. Who spotted the fledglings flying around after a few minutes of coaching as to what to look for? Renee, right on! Check out the Ohrmann Gallery, the only spot on Scenic Highway 1 with a 11 foot welded steel Polar Bear next to the road. Can't miss it.

27 Days Old

Sonora the Aplomado Falcon, exploring the front porch yesterday. Getting some nice video too - I finally read the instructions for my Nikon D800! Nora stands or lays down in the window sill as I'm working , and watches one of the fledgling Bald Eagles fly around the yard like a giant Harris's Hawk.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Unfledging Day

This morning a newly fledged Lewis's Woodpecker was at the top of the snag, and I watched him scoot back down, a short flap to the fork with the nest, then back in the cavity he went to join a sibling. Un-
fledging I guess. Both parents continued to bring berries and insects, chase starlings, and even drive another Lewis's adult away. I hate to say it, but almost more fun that a kestrel nest. What blasphemy!

Thursday, July 11, 2013


I struck out with fledging kestrels, but just scored at the Lewis's Woodpecker nest on our road. Lots of shots and I thought the kid would jump out of the nest any minute. Funny how they do that. I never knew they ate fruit and have just seen them "hawking" insects in the air, most of their diet all summer. They are caught in their beak, with a large gape for a woodpecker. Named for Meriwether Lewis, who first described them and brought skins back from the Corps of Discovery Expedition. Also unusual for a woodpecker, they migrate out of here in late fall, so we welcome them back in the spring like our bluebirds...and Ospreys.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Pot Shot

Last night a random Osprey couldn't resist attacking our Bald Eagle pair and little snapshot. This was after I visited kestrel Nest Number Two to discover the young had fledged that morning and could just hear them begging in the distance. Last year, one kestrel fledged while I reached down to pet the dog for 5 seconds, after staring through the camera viewfinder for 40 minutes straight. I can't seem to time it right, and today, a few kestrels fledged from Nest Number One while I was looking for Peregrines
with my young friend Sawyer.  I'll check my horoscope before I head out tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Another Project

This book authored by Sneed Collard on woodpeckers. Why not? They are cool too and with photographers - me, Rob Palmer, Nick Dunlop, and Fi Rust, what fun. A kid's book and lots of action, like this Lewis's Woodpecker blasting off a tree down the road, a nest in the neighborhood. Available in bookstores everywhere soon! Just kidding and this will take a little while.


Sunday, July 7, 2013

21 Days Old

Okay, I'm worse than a grandmother with photos of the offspring, but had to share a snapshot from yesterday. Someone gave me this Peregrine toy, squeeze it and a very pissed off scream comes out, so the new bird has a friend. She always sleeps next to it, I swear. Sibley had a stuffed owl toy friend that she ripped to shreds years after she grew up to be a Big Bird. Tentative name for our new charge is Sonora, as in the Mexican state where Aplomado Falcons formally lived.  And, the first state in Mexico to ban bull fighting, just this year, for you trivia buffs and animal rights activists. I think we'll call the falcon Nora for short, and she's currently sacked out in the sun after a nice meal of ground quail. That's different than ground squirrels, Webmaster Steve. HA!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Enemies in the Air

This morning I was photographing a beautiful kestrel nest box at my fellow taxidermist's house up 8 Mile, Eugene Streekstra, and got these. Attack of the swallows!  These birds want revenge, but actually kestrels mostly dine on insects and rodents, today a harvest of crickets and grasshoppers. Since we gave Eugene a nest box a dozen years ago, it was replaced by his new model; cleaned and repaired at the end of breeding season. Eugene (and his young kids) know their birds, and he says different pairs are nesting nearly every year, judging by plumage and behavior. Pretty savvy and what a taxidermist. Wildfowl Unlimited is his business in Florence, and if you have been to my house, that's his peacock mount in the office!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Osprey and Fish...

...minus one head.

New Book Project

It's official. The new book on American Kestrels will be a collaboration with The Peregrine Fund and Mountain Press Publishing Company. Rob Palmer and I will supply the photos, and I'd better get to work! This morning a female caught a mouse, screaming and letting it know it will soon be in the nest, or in her.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

First Time Out-of-doors

Still haven't thought of a clever name for the new Aplomado Falcon, but here is a better shot of her checking out the front porch. She doesn't think it's hot outside, you big babies- people.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

"Let the Imprinting Begin"

This exclamation from a friend Cathy in Stevensville, regarding the new 18-day-old Aplomado Falcon, here beginning her life at the Raptor Ranch. I picked her up at The Peregrine Fund in Boise and drove back with the bird in a laundry basket, AC blasting in over 100 degree heat.  Her first official music was Mile Davis "Porgy and Bess" then hours and hours of stories by Rudyard Kipling on the stereo. She'll live in a playpen in the office for now, just like Sibley and Ansel before her, getting to know the dogs and routine. Imprinting! Thanks to our friends at the P Fund, Pete Jenny and Cal Sandfort. This will be quite the experience, I know.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Hero Mike

Just back from Boise, and a tour of the Snake River Birds of Prey Area with my hero Mike Kochert yesterday.  And a bunch of other friends in three days, 109 degrees there, so glad to be home safe without the car breaking down, whew! More news on the way...