Sunday, September 29, 2013

Bitter Root Land Trust

A great program tonight here in the valley for about 50 folks holding conservation easements and those that may be tempted to do so. Sonora, Sibley and Miles Davis the Great Horned Owl were spokespeople, or spokesbirds, for the urgency to protect land across the region, and hope the message hit home. We know it did, thanks friends!

HawkWatch International Calendar is Out!

Check it out- the fourteen month calendar from HawkWatch International based in Salt Lake is now available, click here. I have two photos featured. The first month is November 2013 and the shot of the Peregrine stooping on the flock of Dunlins on the Washington Coast, plus a Golden Eagle launching in the Bitterroot Valley. We are so happy to work with our friends at HWI and they are the co-hosts of the Raptor Research Foundation Annual Conference in September next year - Corpus Christi Texas, and I am the Conference Chair. See you in Texas!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Amy and Kerr at MPG

Looking north for the migrants, Lolo in the distance. We just had about 50 Turkey Vultures pass right over the Raptor Ranch heading for southern terrain to overwinter, where their diet of dead animals doesn't freeze solid.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Merlin at MPG Ranch

Record-breaking migration flights at the MPG Ranch across the river yesterday, and seemed like Vera Cruz, Mexico to me today with hundreds of raptors flying by. Thanks to Eric "Kerr" Rasmussen and his uncanny skill at identifying these hawks at such a distance. He writes of yesterday's observations: "We counted a staggering 665 raptors (14 species) in five hours!" Broad-winged Hawks, one after another, and subtle nuances that separate them from the common Red-tailed Hawks, apparent to this hawkwatcher at miles away. Always a correct ID as they flew near-by, and a gliding Cooper's Hawk that I would swear was a falcon. Nope. Right on, Kerr, the Hawk Whisperer!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Two More From Today

Sib and her molting tail and (finally) gone primary feathers number ten, that first one on the each wing. One darned feather lingered for the last three years when all the rest were replaced, one faded and tattered, and weird. The next photo is Chesty and Luna the cat on the front porch. The Harris's Hawk is flying from her "nest" on the arbor, probably to attack the sun roof of the Subaru. She hates the dogs and that sun roof, but not the cats. For some reason, she has peeled off half of the rubber gasket, and I always have to remember to close it when she's out each day. Like I said...weird. Ethology can be a mystery.

Tail Mount

Sonora today, sporting that nice tail mount telemetry set-up from L.L. Electronics. Two silver oxide  batteries slide in place to activate the transmitter, and a spring clip with hooks slides into the little tube permanently attached to a tail feather. I have always used leg mount transmitters, and Rob Palmer said we absolutely need to switch for an Aplomado. With antennas hanging down, hawks think the little falcon is carrying something worth stealing, often a deadly theft. Plus the tail mount is out of the way for the millions of photos taken in the field. I like it !  When we got home, a phone call booked an evening program for the Coeur D'Alene Audubon Society. April 8th 2014! What to wear?...

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Telemetry Saves the Day

That little wire hanging down from Sonora's tail is the antennae of a tiny 4 gram radio transmitter that comes on and off, attached to a little tube mount glued to one of her "deck," or center tail feathers. Thank goodness, because a week ago she started chasing one hawk, then another and the next thing you know I was wading the Bitterroot River behind the house looking for her. Another thank goodness - after an hour and over a mile of walking I randomly ended up in the driveway of my good friend, welder/knifemaker Ron Panko who hustled me home in his truck to start the real search. All down Eastside Highway, the signal on the receiver would get louder then fade - she was flying straight south. In three weeks of training in the neighborhood, Sonora had never even gotten out of my sight, so what's up with this? Let's just say that sweating bullets, sick to my stomach and trying to think rationally, the Aplomado finally stopped her "dispersal" after 4 1/2  hours and I located her on the south end of Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge. Down she came for a chunk of quail and odometer on the Subaru on the way home told me - 12 miles! She's been fine ever since, knock on wood.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Rob Palmer had a long weekend at the Raptor Ranch, and got a few shots for his new book. Plus we looked at kestrel photos for our book, got to fly with Jay Sumner and friends, and even fit in a football game and movie. Action packed. Now he's on his way to Lewistown, then back to Wyoming and Colorado and a falconry meet in California. Very ambitious and we wish him luck (and good light.)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Rob and Lauren and Birds

Our pal Rob Palmer of Falcons of North America and Raptors of the West (among others) book fame is visiting as he travels the country working on his newest book on Falconers of North America, and he got the shot of Sonora and dogs in the rain this morning. Plus, we have Pittsburgh photographer Lauren Zurchin visiting as she works on a calendar of NewYork Times bestselling authors across America. Birds, cameras, more birds and they are reviewing shots with the little falcon perched on the door in the top left corner, listening to "Avalon" by Roxy Music.  Go put that on right now! Then flying Sib in the sagebrush, what a high time had by all in the Big Sky.

Friday, September 20, 2013

KUFM Studio Was the Hotspot

Ever wonder what it looks like inside the KUFM studios? Here is yesterday afternoon with Pea Green Boat host Annie Garde, Cherie Newman behind the glass and Joan Richarde. Plus Sonora the Aplomado Falcon as one the the guests, along with Alisa and iPod. We discussed feather growth, cummerbunds, and Sonora's recent 12 mile cruise to Stevensville with me in chase with the telemetry receiver. Sonora was just checking out my detective skills. The other photo is from this morning in the back yard, our first frost of the fall. Season changes on the way, hurray!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Pea Green Boat Thursday

Join us tomorrow afternoon as we set sail on Montana Public Radio's Pea Green Boat, childrens' (and grown-ups') programming, 89.1 in Missoula, and left of the FM dial across Western Montana - AND streaming live on the internet around the planet earth. Click on listen live at the top of the page. 4 pm MST for an hour and three birds including iPod the Northern Pygmy-owl. Plus, three gals chatting as radio personality extraordinaire Joan Richarde will join us. We are on the air every two months, and yesterday a teller at the bank asked me why, for heaven's sake, would we actually have real birds on the radio? "No one can see them. No one." Oh yea? I'll bet all the listeners can!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

All Photos...

...Taken from the exact same spot in our driveway. First, Sonora back from a fly at Dan's this morning, still in the Subaru and dogs laying down after "hunting 'em up." All those flowers on the deck are soon to go away with freezing temperatures predicted, and loved the colors all summer. Then the photo of the pigeons heading back to the loft this evening, and the Bald Eagle on the nest across the river minutes before dark. Really true and what a scene.

Monday, September 16, 2013

New Plan,Thanks Dan

Sonora the Aplomado Falcon has been flying for three weeks, and it dawned on me that we have the perfect launch pad just down the lane. Tom's buddy since grade school, Dan Duclow bought 16 acres  downstream 10 years ago, and an absentee landlord living in the Boston area. He came out for a visit last summer, but being as it's flood-plane, no house. Or go-kart track, darn it. The little falcon flies the length of the property, and today gave me a scare when she flew across the river. Back for the lure, and a beautiful way to start the day.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Ratites (Also) Rule

Man, would I like to get one of these, a Rhea (and not the pig.) We wouldn't have to go to Brazil or Argentina, as our neighbors here in Florence have a flock (or herd) at their house. Ratites are the flightless birds,  Ostriches, Emus and Cassowaries. I was lucky to meet these guys, big 4 1/2 foot tall birds and friendly, you bet. These ones at least. I just remember that my pal at the Cincinnati Zoo Bill Brasier, had two of them, and he had to arm himself with a garbage can lid to feed them, giant birds pecking away trying to kill him. They were named Gona and Dia, the Rheas.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Selfie Example

The Phillips kids demonstrating a selfie, this with a real camera.  Kayla, Zach and Arden, and warning: two of them have appeared in music videos, commercials and feature films. Don't try this at home. Consult with an expert.

TV Link

I had to set the alarm for this one, but on again tonight, and over the weekend, and in Billings and other MTN stations across the state, and here. It's the KPAX piece "Raptors of the Rockies: 25 Years and Still Going Strong." My favorite parts are Sonora and Chesty flying around. No actually, it's host Justine Judge taking a "selfie" with the owls, and I was so proud to be hip to this lingo, thanks to a recent visit from the nieces and nephew from the big city on the right coast. Selfies are snapshots you take of yourself with your phone, come on Aunt Kate! Check it out and thanks to KPAX and videomaster, Tyler. I'm going to spring for one of those Go-Pro cameras, you bet.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Then and Now

Sonora the Aplomado used to sleep with her stuffed Peregrine toy, first photo at age 19 days. Now, she carries it around the office/living room and eventually will figure out how to remove that stuffing, I bet.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Osprey and Bat

Last night's shot of an Osprey diving for a fish on the Bitterroot, and my first ever photo of a bat, one that was also out hunting over the river. Notice the little hole in the skin by the wrist. That won't be repaired next year with a molt like birds, but it didn't seem to slow him down catching insects in the air. Bat expert Kristi DuBois at MT Fish, Wildlife & Parks thinks it's a silver-haired bat "based on the dark color," and trust Kristi!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

KPAX Update

I just spoke to Justine at KPAX and she said the Raptors of the Rockies segment will air on Friday, between 6:30 and 7:00 am, for you early risers. Plus it will be on in the evening, and maybe over the weekend, and on line too. Sounds like Tyler got lots of falcon footage, great!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Miscellaneous Great News

Lots to report, and first - We made this year's matching grant from the Cinnabar Foundation, and the last sponsors are new Raptor Backers that we just met at the program in Kalispell Saturday. Plus, Cinnabar gave us an incredibly generous donation as a surprise 25th Anniversary gift. They are our longest-serving sponsors, along with the Chutney Foundation, and we probably wouldn't be here without the help of these key backers. Second, we will be on KPAX news this week, I'll let you know what day, and had morning anchorwoman Justine Judge and producer Tyler here all morning Thursday filming and chatting. He even got footage of Sonora the Aplomado Falcon flying around then chowing on some quail meat (photo below, from this morning.) And, for you film buffs out there (like me) we have another new Raptor Backer - Kathryn Bigelow, Oscar-winning director of The Hurt Locker. Beats me how she found out about ROTR but pretty darn cool. I sent her a bunch of photos and an invite for a tour, letter to Beverly Hills, CA.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Speedy and Slowy

These photos taken within an hour today. Sibley the Peregrine racing all over the place at One Horse Creek, and a Western Painted Turtle "migrating" from the slough in the back yard to the one in the front. He had major help from Tom, who cut the journey in half, at least.

Lone Pine State Park

A great program and record crowd, despite 101 other events in the area, like the Dragonboat Races in Bigfork! We were guests for the 6th Annual Raptor Day at Lone Pine near Kalipell, and a great finale for the summer programs. Ashley Mason has asked us to come for many years in the past, and we could finally attend, 300.5 miles round trip. Flathead Audubon President Bob Lopp gave an introduction that was briefly interrupted when a little girl walked right up to Sibley, perched on the left. Cack, cack cack, and Bob explained that birds, like people "need their personal space." Perfect. Nigel the Golden Eagle posed for the cell phone cameras, and Owen the Saw-whet was back on his home turf, struck by a car in Kalispell years before. Finally, Jillian the Great Horned was on her best behavior, and of course, everyone hooted like an owl at the end. On the way back I noticed these little spot fires near St. Ignatius, and nothing to freak out about now, with all of the rain lately. We hope at least.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Baby Bald

Okay, not a baby, but also not a Golden Eagle as many people think. Recently a few people have confessed that they thought Goldens turn into Balds when they get a white head after a few years. Like the age-old question in the National Parks - "What time of year do the deer turn into elk?" And those "miniature" or baby owls flying around all winter don't suddenly become Great Horned Owls either.  I love this shot, and my friend Pat Little asked, " Such a big bird, and such little wings. How do they fly?" Pat's the President of Five Valleys Audubon and has seen his fair share. At last count, nearly 700 nests in the state of Montana, up from a dozen in the early 80's.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Two More WZ's

About to split.
And posing in a light rain.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

WZ - The Greatest Peregrine of All

Rob, Nick and I have more photos of this Peregrine than any other, the famous bird of the Washington Coast, and what a story!  He was color banded with the "W" and "Z" by Dan Varland of Coastal Raptors as a hatch year bird in November of 2007, a male Peale's Peregrine that is particularly photogenic, and "tame as cat" in the words of Nick. He has been sighted 21 times since that day, a star. WZ was just featured on the cover of American Falconry Magazine, a shot by Rob, and will be in the next Peregrine Fund Calendar. At age 6 now, he has been a regular on the migration circuit at Ocean Shores and was photographed by Johnny Palka on August 2nd, snagging a gull at Shi Shi Beach, 90 miles to the north on the tip of the Olympic Peninsula. At that time of year, we assume that he was breeding nearby. Amazing as I had a particularly disastrous camping trip on Shi Shi Beach in 1980 when we accidentally set up the tent in a stream bed, and experienced a little flash flood. Oh well. Either way, this one Peregrine continues to give us all the greatest of thrills, and thanks to Dan for introducing us. Incredible bird, and here, WZ bathes in a stream flowing into the ocean, first day of March.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Best Board in the World

We had a nice board meeting at the Raptor Ranch, and Sonora was the center of attention -
Dale Manning, John and Kathy Heffernan and Deborah Richie. The little falcon spent the entire time perched on John's knee, dogs at his feet, funny! (EDIT_ I wrote gods at his feet, and just caught that mistake!) after Then Sibley had her first day on the wing since March, and we are both WAY out of shape. Check out that tail molt:

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Different Tree, Same Birds

Last night the eagle was joined by the flock of waxwings, just at dark. I haven't seen the two young sister eagles all week, and the Ospreys will be migrating soon, so a quiet time on the beach for a while. Still have to take the camera, because something might fly by, like a kingfisher!