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
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
Sunday, October 27, 2013
Just back from Choteau and a photo from last December with the snow. Skip Tubbs hosts us every year and Sib had a repeat performance yesterday, perching on this wheel line with the Rocky Mountain Front in the background, chasing pheasants. Takes your breath away. I just installed a new heated perch for Sonora the Aplomado Falcon in anticipation of the winter weather on the way tonight. It's an invention of my pal Randy Scanlon - a plugged metal pipe filled with antifreeze, wrapped with heating tape, Rhino Coating the whole thing (like they use in the beds of pick-up trucks) and covered with astroturf. Randy once made a pheasant launcher using a remote control car kit like the kids (and some adults) have in their toy chests. Pure genius. Plus some clear shower curtains stapled up as wind breaks - Tom's idea. A group effort.
Thursday, October 24, 2013
What a molt still going on with Sibley, a shot from up in the Sapphires today with friend James. The dogs were perfect, at least. Tomorrow, off to the Rocky Mountain Front to meet up with Skip Tubbs whose breeding anatum Peregrines created this bird over 10 years ago at Springhill Falcons, Bozeman.
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
I have several friends going through this syndrome at this time: What to do now that the kids are away at college? My answer to you - Netflix. Pick a director, actor, genre or documentary topic and watch them all. Re-visit every movie by Terry Gilliam, or film with Kate Winslet, zombie flick or 911 conspiracy doc. You could even rent (or stream, just not at this house) all 8 seasons of Dexter! The eagles behind the house have an empty nest there at the bottom right, photo from last night. Do they look distraught, pining for the olden days of the hundreds of food deliveries to the ungrateful offspring? No way. Of course I am kidding, as we don't have kids, but that's what I would do. Netflix. Wait, I already do. It cracks up our friends at the Florence Post Office.
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Sunday, October 20, 2013
Just one more - Sib at MPG Ranch again today. This one shows the one bell and two radio transmitters, 8 grams each, attached to her legs with clever little leather straps. Each one is on a slightly different frequency, and I found out the hard way many years ago that mountain lion hunters sometimes use the same channels. Jay and I tracked Sibley's signal 12 miles until the receiver peaked out at a house near Stevensville. In the back yard was a pigeon loft, chicken coop and dog kennel, uh-oh. I pounded on the door and explained to the man that my falcon had flown off and I thought she was in his yard. After walking out of the pigeon loft, it dawned on him why I was at his house. He laughed and said, "All those hound dogs have tranmitters attached to their collars!" It was a truly sick feeling when he turned off the transmitters one by one and the beeping was now silence. Still, we had a good laugh, especially an hour later when we found Sibley standing on a duck blind at Metcalf refuge.
Saturday, October 19, 2013
Friday, October 18, 2013
Just now a Prairie Falcon showed up to harass Sibley the Peregrine, flying up at One Horse Creek, and without thinking I shot right into the sun. A little Lightroom 4 and Photoshop CS6 fixed that. But not a good idea. It's like watching a solar eclipse, sort of.
Thursday, October 17, 2013
Tom Dickson, editor of Montana Outdoors Magazine paid us a visit today to work on an upcoming story, tentatively entitled "The Good Enough Guide to Raptor ID." Here we are at the MPG Ranch, chatting with bird experts Kate Stone and Kerr Rassmusen, giving us tips on what to look for in hawk flights. We started the day by meeting Sonora in the living room (!), flying the Peregrine, and then a trek up to this observation site, looking south. Plus a tour of the Raptor Ranch and trip to Lee Metcalf, where Tom learned to ID those Red-tails from the "little light V of scapulars" seen on their backs. A pro already. Then Chesty the Harris's Hawk flew around the yard and we didn't need to learn their ID as they don't live here. Fun day and great story forthcoming.
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Here is a little map of Sonora's travels over three (long, torturous) days. She started at the house in Florence and flew all over before settling in for the night on Sunset Bench, Stevensville. The red dots are where we saw her or had her on "low" or the closest setting on the telemetry receiver. Furthest south was yesterday morning, then flying all over Hamilton and Corvallis before finally landing at the fishing access at Tucker Crossing East, blue dot. To get an idea of scale, from Florence to the southern dot is 51 miles. Today the wayward falcon joined me for a program at Lone Rock School, acting as if nothing had happened and she hadn't nearly caused a nervous breakdown in the family. We followed her journey in a PowerPoint presentation, laser pointer tracing the route. Everyone kept looking over at the bird perched to the side, as if they couldn't believe it. I still can't.
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Starting Sunday morning until 3:30 this afternoon, I have been chasing Sonora who decided to split and fly to the south of Darby. That's 60 miles, plus ventures up several drainages including a foray up the Skalkaho Highway 6 miles. Thanks to ultimate hero Jay Sumner and his telemetry tracking skills, we got her back north at Tucker Crossing East in Corvallis. "She was headed back home," said Jay. But I doubt it and a miracle. More news on the way, I am celebrating, and here is what I thought would be the last photo of this bird ever, from Sunday. Unbelievable.
Saturday, October 12, 2013
Sonora the 11 ounce Aplomado Falcon tried to force this Great Blue Heron from his lofty perch yesterday, but didn't work. Later Jay and I had a duck hunt up the Blackfoot, and I got to go swimming to retrieve falcon and duck on an island. It was about 40 degrees, so it could have been a lot worse like the time I broke through the ice doing the same thing, and hot shower and perch by the wood stove when I got home.
Thursday, October 10, 2013
Last night the Bald Eagle looked up from a preening bout as a flock of Canada Geese headed straight south. These Bald Eagles at least are here all year around, and he's perched just over the nest. By the way, "Canadian" Geese strictly refers to country of origin.
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
I just got this in the mail, and there is WZ the Peale's Peregrine perched on top of the lettering for this Audubon publication for kids! They also used one of my Goshawk-eating-a-bird photos, some of the finest raptor species out there. Below is the real photo taken last year on the Washington Coast with Dan Varland and Coastal Raptors, who banded the falcon six years ago with a W and Z. He was sighted at the Northwest corner of the U.S. over the summer, more than likely breeding near Shi Shi Beach (the bird, not necessarily Dan.) Check out the Sept. 4th Blog, "WZ - The Greatest Peregrine of All" ...except for our Sibley, of course. Mighty duck catcher and educator, and for over ten years.
Monday, October 7, 2013
The 3rd and 4th graders from Sussex School joined us for a day of journaling, perhaps the last full-blown beautiful autumn weather. The first image is the frost at dawn, cottonwoods turning and MPG Ranch in the background. Teacher Carrie Brunger came over for a instructors' workshop when Ansel the Gyr/Peregrine hybrid was still in a playpen, so over nine years ago. Now at Sussex, she thought the kids would love a day of sketching and writing. After at tour and lunch, they staked out their spots for some creativity. In the last photo they show of the fruits of their labor. Maybe a better word choice would be fruit of their fun. Like I always say, at this age they are not afraid to use brilliant colors, fill the page, and put a sombrero on an hawk's head.
Saturday, October 5, 2013
Sibley chases a mallard, rather half-heartedly, but she'll remember how much fun this is soon enough. Let me know if you have a slough or pond and would like to see some falcons in action. Big lakes don't work as those ducks sit tight and never leave the water, clever birds. Ever seen a duck duck?
Thursday, October 3, 2013
Our demonstration yesterday went perfectly (mostly), and here is Jay, Tali the young Peregrine and Rio the English Setter addressing the crowd. Next is Karen Francis and Linda Helding the day before, enjoying the sights and birds at the Metcalf Refuge, Bald Eagles and a rainbow in the background. Snow in the mountains, and the seasons, they are a changin'. In the last week, I've rolled up watering hoses, raked out buildings and replaced sand and pine needles on the floors, changed perching material all around and put up some plastic wind breaks. Plus the heated perches and red 100 watt bulbs to help keep the Harris's Hawk and Aplomado Falcon warm were installed, and the big Mr. Turtle swimming pool that graced the eagle enclosure for months had to go away. Next, taking down the eagle shade cloth and folding that up, then finding those snow shovels in the garage. Whew, glad that's done (mostly.)
Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Jay Sumner and I are slated for a discussion on Peregrine Falcon recovery for a group of forest managers from the west. State employees so not furloughed, for now at least! Thanks to friend Frank Maus of Lubrecht Experimental Forest, U of M College of Forestry and Conservation for organizing the program. Some falcon flying as well, so fingers are crossed that all goes well. I'll let you know, and Sonora chasing something an hour ago: