Thursday, July 31, 2014

Bitterroot Audubon Calendar!

It's here! The 2015 calendar and happy to have my photo on the cover plus the month of January, the Northern Goshawk in the yard. All photos of birds in the Bitterroot, local photographers, from Ruffed Grouse to Mountain Chickadee. Becky Peters tells us, "You can buy them at the Hamilton Farmer's Market every Saturday morning!  And they can get them online at  Plus we have them for sale at Sam's Spade, Chapter One,  Robbins Hallmark and Art Focus in Hamilton." Proceeds to benefit Audubon's ambitious educational programs, so get one or two today.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Two From Yesterday

Throwing sticks for the two labs and two golden retrievers and talking shop with Rob Williams yesterday, got these two snapshots. An Osprey checking us out and a stock tank full of merry-makers navigating the Bitterroot River. A stock tank.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Spotted Sandpiper

Darby Fire

Here's a little forest fire, looks like way up in the wilderness just south of Darby yesterday. Jay Sumner and I visited the Painted Rocks Peregrine cliff in hopes of counting fledglings, but just a little late and no young. Same with Chamberlain up the Blackfoot, but we did hear one briefly. Peregrine monitoring season is over for the year, and 2015 is the last for formal surveys from the Fish and Wildlife Service and Jay and the Montana Peregrine Institute. I guarantee we'll still be watching our favorite cliffs long into the future, just as tourists!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Fish Hand-off

Last night, the action was way down stream from the nest and everything all at once. I packed up the gear and hustled down the beach and here's the story. The adult eagle came flying in with a fish, again an Osprey in pursuit and a Red-tailed Hawk just for good measure. The fledgling was begging loudly and had a fish hand-off on the beach. The adult then flew right into a flotilla of about twenty young and old  mergansers that beat it swimming like crazy. He was probably just teasing them, right? Actually, might have been as eagles, hawks and falcons have a sense of play, or actions of exuberance that have no benefit to their well being. Just goofing off, like kids.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

New Book!

Our new book from Mountain Press Publishing Company was sent off to print a few weeks ago, and we hope to have it in time for the Raptor Research Foundation Conference Sept 24-28. I am the Conference Chair, and have organized the annual meeting for this year in Corpus Christi, Texas including a symposium on kestrels with Chris McClure of The Peregrine Fund. Would be great to have copies on hand. This is my fifth book, third with photographer pal Rob Palmer (and his third cover shot!) We have just over 100 photos, 130 pages, including a chapter "Kestrels in the 21st Century" discussing huge regional population declines and possible reasons. I blushed when I read the back cover... aw, thanks Mountain Press!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


Theft on the River

Last evening I was just setting up the tripod when this drama unfolded. The female eagle came flying upriver like a bat out of Hades, carrying a partially-chewed-on sucker. Hot on her tail was an Osprey that swooped at her in the tree, then took his frustration out on her mate. He gave up after a minute or two and left, behavior that convinces me the fish was stolen from him.  The female eagle flew over and landed in the nest with the fish, joined briefly by the male. He then flew to a nearby tree and the female and fish stayed in the nest. Whew, what action, and more to come judging from the last few years when August has traditionally been Osprey-Eagle Warfare Month. I missed some shots that I really would like to have, so a new project since the swallows split the scene.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Resident Hummer

This Black-chinned Hummingbird is a feature in our yard starting in the spring. He has a few favorite perches, and sure doesn't act like he has a mate as he is always hanging around. This species is uncommon around here, the Calliope and Rufous seen far more frequently, but this guy rules his domain. The longevity records for wild hummingbird are into their teens, so this might be the same bird the last half dozen years. I have spent hours standing on a ladder, shooting off a sandbag at 5000 frames per second, and like the swallows - hundreds of "delete rejected photos."

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Blackfoot Mystery

Once again a favorite Peregrine Falcon nest site up the Blackfoot River is keeping us guessing. Jay has been watching this site for about 15 years - Johnsrud Park or Party Central for boaters and swimmers. The falcons haven't successfully nested there lately, and a mystery again this year. Both adults have been present on and off since the spring. The female in the top photo from Wednesday is instantly recognizable with brown plumage and could be a youngster retaining some juvenile feathers. Or as my mom who was with me suggested, "maybe she's taking a lot of dust baths." The male (below) visited the old nest ledge several times, but we never saw or heard any chicks. Variations of this behavior has been observed the last four years, and we thought is was the result of activity above the ledge. Peregrines tolerate activity below but not over the nest site, and someone had set up a folf (frizbee golf) course up on the hill. No one home yesterday afternoon, but we're not giving up, entirely.

Friday, July 18, 2014


Last Swallows

Yesterday I wrote my friend Julie Chapman that I wished these swallows would leave so I could get something done. Be careful what you wish because we've gone from clouds of Cliff Swallows in the yard to one or two today.  My project for the summer has been catching them in flight, and I've never deleted so many photos in my life. Time to do some serious editing in Lightroom now, or go look for Peregrines with Jay. I choose the latter.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Out the Window

Just got this from the window of the office - the fledgling eagle on our eagle building, out there most of the day somewhere. That's my Gyrfalcon sculpture on the left, newly installed. It's been in my living room for two years, and looks better outside. Plus now we have loads more room inside! It hit with a few coats of acrylic sealer so hopefully it won't rust. Or not too much, we'll see.
ps: The eagle was just trying to pull the shade cloth off the Harris's Hawk building roof, Chesty screaming, and scared off by the dogs. A circus I tell you.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Maybe My Favorite

Please Disregard...

Disregard my post from ten days ago about the Cliff Swallows all fledging. They are still here, dozens and dozens landing back under the eves and I got these photos (and hundreds of blurs and sky.) These are all sharp as can be, and I'll pick a few to post. Anyway, seems like the old birds that tried to nest here came back, and looking at the photos from last night, they were even bringing beak-fulls
of mud as if to rebuild. Weird, and so temping to stand out there for hours, waving the camera wildly, cheering on these little insect eaters (such as mosquitos.)  Lots of these poses could be mistaken for a falcon!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


A photo of our driveway tonight and nearly an inch of rain in the last day. Last night was the loudest thunder I have ever heard in my life, and I shrieked like a child. Still have goosebumps. Major Cliff Swallow photos to come - took a couple hundred, and most deleted, with lots of blue sky, wing tips and nothing. Gotta love digital.

Monday, July 14, 2014


One year ago today - Sonora the Aplomado Falcon attacking a toad. Just kidding, it's a little toy perch and her lizard to the right. By now all of her down feathers were nearly gone (all over the house) and you won't recognize her in a month with adult plumage after the molt. The orange is now white, breast streaks almost gone but she still has her favorite lizard to carry around.  Below is a reflection of me in the window, Sonora looking at the big, wide world outside. She has been grounded from flying in falconry by Montana Fish,Wildlife & Parks who consider her an endangered species. So she just flies in the house now, but that's okay.

Sunday, July 13, 2014


The young eagle from the nest on the river spends hours a day somewhere in the yard. Here he is on the eagle enclosure, and the kestrels nearby don't dig it. No food inside and he isn't fed, but he can't resist begging even though the two on the right are Golden Eagles. This happens every July and August and part of the summer landscape - when the babies fledge, they head over to the Raptor Ranch. One time all three fledglings from the nest and one stray were all lined up in a row!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Lucked Out

After getting back from town I took the dogs and camera down to the beach and got skunked, missed an eagle launch photo while swatting a bug. A few hours later I ran inside, switched lenses and came out to get this shot. Way better than an eagle jumping off a limb. That's the fledgling to the left below. I lucked out.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Another Painter

Last July, we had another painter over to the ranch, Andrew Denman. He and Julie Chapman are admiring a young Sonora, and those aren't real toads and lizards, just falcon toys. Last week I was delighted to see Andrew's Bald Eagle painting, and thought that bird looked strangely familiar. It's Sonny, reference he got during his tour here. Julie made some lovely owl scratchboard pieces, all Teaching Team portraits. We have her Max the Eagle scratchboard in the living room, or Bird Shrine as we call it. Check out Andrew's Art, unbelievable... And all in the family, Guy Combes, too!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Painter Pals

I had the greatest experience yesterday, spending several hours with my dear friend Julie Chapman in her studio in Huson, learning from a hero. We had talked about it for years, and on a whim we decided to both render an oil painting of Sonora side by side. She set up the palette and I watched carefully, the master at work. I quickly learned about thin washes, establishing values and shapes, and had a mess going in no time. That's Julie's piece on the left and check out her web site and sign up the the ArtZine. It will make your day. Then we were joined by artist extraordinaire Guy Combes, traveling from a workshop in Canada on his way back to CA, and even more art-talk. He just stopped by over here, a tour and exchange of gifts. I won, with a signed Giraffe painting gallery-wrap, on my wall already. With Chesty in the background below: "She followed me home. Can I keep her?"

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Osprey from Deerlodge

I had two Ospreys fly upriver right overhead last night and noticed the "jewelry" or band on this one's leg. I sent it to Adam Shreading, Raptor View Research Institute and he reported: "AWESOME! 
This bird was banded as a nestling in 2012 at Beck's Pond near Deerlodge. We saw it a few weeks ago, at one of the MPG Osprey nests hanging out with one of the adults that had attempted to breed there (failed nest). I was wondering if it was still around."  That's exactly 100 miles according to Google Maps, fewer "as the crow flies." Ospreys stay on the wintering grounds far south their first year and don't make it back, well, until they are two!  

Monday, July 7, 2014

Independence Day

I had a program at the home of Charles Schwab on the 4th, just down the road at Tucker Crossing Ranch, and a little 2-year-old cutie named Whitney loved Sibley the Peregrine. She shouted "habitat!" over and over when she saw her, which Katie her mom told me is a very popular rap song on Sesame Street nowadays. I remember when that show debuted in 1969 or so. It was a big deal back then, when there were three network stations and PBS, and still going strong today, sounds like. Big Bird was and is a Rock Star.
The concentrating Sandhill Crane photo was taken on the way home, not one single other person in the Metcalf Refuge, cool.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Swallows Fledge!

Every evening I think,  this will be my last night to photograph the Cliff Swallows in the yard. All but two nests fell off the eaves, a tragedy.  Top is the last photo of young being fed. This morning all the fledglings were expertly flying around the yard for a half hour or so, a dozen in the air at once with the  Bitterroot Mountains in the background. Hoping they come back next year, we are going to borrow a ladder and install an even bigger shelf for them.  The flying circus!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Big Hole Trip

Every year I drive over to the Big Hole Valley to meet up with my pal Jack Kirkley, professor at U of M Western in Dillon, Dr. Goshawk. Tragically a Northern Goshawk nest he had been watching for over a decade was wiped out by a Great Horned Owl, again. So we stomped around in the woods for an hour looking for a Great Gray Owl that eluded us. We had a great way to track it to the nest - baiting it with a medium-sized rodent equipped with a tiny radio transmitter. It would have worked...and we'll try it again. The baby Eastern Fox Squirrel went back in the freezer for another time. The lower photo is of our target species, taken a few years earlier.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

One Year Ago Today

The anniversary of my drive back from The Peregrine Fund in Boise with our 17-day-old Aplomado Falcon, Sonora. Similar weather here today, and hovering just under 100 degrees. However, the Boise temps reached 108 or so last year, a scary ride home and I will never forget it, thinking the car would die and so would we. Safe and sound and our Angel Bird, Sonora, program expert with one on the 4th of July on Friday.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

One More

Dad just dropped that squirrel. He flew back  20 minutes later and landed very low in the tree, perhaps looking for it.

Fledged Today!

I was wrong in guessing the young Bald Eagle would stay put in the nest for a while longer, and he flew the coop Monday! I say he because two were perched together in the big snag about 75 yards downstream, both a little smaller than the one at the nest tree, the female. The male left for about ten mintes to return with a chunk of ground squirrel, the newly fledged bird begging. Surprisingly he dropped the food and flew off in embarrassment (not really) so the youngster flew back to the nest tree to perch by mom. I was remarking to myself that he seemed fairly confident in his new talent for flight, when he landed on a puny little limb in a pine tree, crashing into the foliage. Oh well. Lots of photos and this one my favorite.