Sunday, August 31, 2014

Woodpecker Fight

 No eagles in sight, but lots of action on the beach with this Black-billed Magpie teasing a juvenile Lewis's Woodpecker.  At first the woodpecker (115 grams) dodged the magpie's (175 grams) advances, then actually got in attack mode. He goes out "hawking" insects in the air and returning to the snag, night after night.  This was strange and amusing behavior as no food was involved. It's probably just a curious magpie playing, smart birds and right up there with crows and ravens as the cleverest in the world.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

More Flathead Lake

Run Away

Yesterday I was at my desk and saw the young Bald Eagle in flight 20 yards away. Chesty our 24-year-old Harris's Hawk was out - she flies around the yard nearly every day.  Suddenly the hawk jumped off the roof over the window, giving me a start, and I ran outside. The eagle landed on the garage and Chesty knocked her right off and chased her away with that Juarassic Park scream they do so well. That's the second time I've seen her smack that eagle, and wish she wouldn't. Below he is landing/begging next to his father after eating a big dead fish on the beach.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Eagle Versus Kestrels

The fledgling Bald Eagle can be spotted nearly all day long, either on the hawk buildings, in the yard or perched in trees nearby. When I returned from Flathead Lake Sunday evening I was dismayed to discover that he had chewed a hole in the shade cloth on the roof of the kestrel building and our little male, Wes was gone. I quickly stapled up some screen over the 2 by 2 inch kennel wire, and wondered if the eagle reached in there and killed the falcon, so sad. Then I heard a kestrel in the front yard and there was Wes flying from two mobbing magpies! I ran to the garage, got a mouse and down he flew, just like feeding time in his enclosure. From dejection to elation in 15 minutes, and another miracle. I have since attached 1/4 inch hardware cloth to the open section of the roof and top walls, so no more disasters I hope.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Wildhorse Wildlife

Just 24 hours at my friend Barry Gordon's cabin on Flathead Lake and I took over 700 photographs! Ah, digital. Ospreys everywhere and one particularly tame Bald Eagle fledgling. Barry says that in the heat of the late summer, fish tend to hang out in the colder water on the bottom of the lake, less accessible to Bald Eagles. Ospreys completely submerge, diving deeper and are the subject of thefts from their larger shoremates. We witnessed quite a bit of aggression between the two, eagles sometimes hiding in the foliage like they do in my back yard. What a slice of heaven, Barry's cabin on the shore built by Clancy Gordon in 1963. Dad used to have Barry swim to the dock on mainland every summer, over two miles. What a feat...Either that or you can't use the boat, Barry!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Back To the Beach

Ex-nestling begging and a curious magpie. Off to Flathead Lake, Wildhorse Island to meet up with Barry Gordon and his friendly Ospreys, car loaded with cameras!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

And Now For Something Completely Different

I finally had a chance to work on that painting of Sonora I started last month and finished.  Julie Chapman (July 10 Blog) and I each painted a portrait side by side and finally had a chance to bust out the oils to give it another shot. Julie will have me doing quick 60 minute paintings as an exercise, "more time and you'll just mess it up through overwork and needless noodling." I have wanted to oil paint for years with all of these models at the Raptor Ranch, but a very different mindset than welding. It has eluded and intrigued me, starting with a white canvas and adding color. Julie is my mentor, and Bill Ohrmann, both the masters. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Bald Eagles Overhead

I just took these in the back yard, and young eagles playing 400 feet overhead. Lots more shots of tangled birds, flipping upside down and backwards. These both seem to be males and just one fledged from the nest on the beach, so who is "our" bird's pal? Not his brother! Maybe the random one that was bitten on the foot by the dad the other day. Okay, not very scientific, sorry. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Windy Tuesday

It was about gale force winds last night, over 40 mph gusts at the airport (but who lives at the airport?) Down at the river two Ospreys were braving the winds and hunting, both adults, and I waited a half hour for the second one to fly. He missed the fish but then got in a scrap with the fledgling Bald Eagle when I packed up and headed home. The bewitching hour - right after the sun sets!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Popular Hang-out

The first photo is the fledgling eagle Saturday evening, the next is a Merlin in the exact same spot last night. She flew in with a kingbird hot on her tail, food in her left foot. Could it be another Northern Alligator Lizard (May 14th Blog)? Heck no, it's a big dragonfly consumed in a few bites. That's the first Merlin I've seen this season, and think that fall must be right around the corner, as they don't breed on this side of the divide. This is the same spot as the Biting Bald Eagle below as well!

Saturday, August 16, 2014


Beach Party

Get this - about 30 nighthawks, two kestrels, three Ospreys, two Bald Eagles in flight, a Red-tail and Peregrine all in about 10 minutes on the beach last night. The clouds were changing light conditions non-stop, switching ISO and f stops, but photographed a site that made me laugh. The fledgling Bald Eagle was perched just over the old nest, weakly begging every now and then, his father perched in the big snag downstream. A random juvenile flew right in and tried to perch next to him. A little flapping and screaming and the adult reached over and bit the baby's toe! Off the youngster went to go sulk somewhere else. Plus a nighthawk, honorary raptor.

Friday, August 15, 2014

More Skaggs Biomedical Research Symposium

My friend Wendy Adam came as a guest, and the physicians, researchers and pharmacists funnel in. That's the Dean Dr. Reed Humphrey to the left and below is Sibley standing on Nigel's T-perch, Nig still in his kennel. We also had iPod the Pygmy-Owl along, and finished with Jillian the Great Horned Owl, her turn after Miles went with me to Bannack the week before. A treat to speak to a hundred top professionals from around the country, all WAY smarter than I am.


A fun one last night, the University of Montana's Skaggs School of Pharmacy conference, and the birds were at their best, for the most part. I was proud anyway. It was up in the UC Ballroom, right where we saw Bootsy Collins play thirty years before. I started with a PowerPoint, these two slides near the beginning:
I remember when we had our 1000th program at Metcalf Refuge a few people said they hoped they would be at the 2000th. I cracked up, and thought, never happen... but half way there.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Eagles Relaxing

The eagle pair at the river last night, alert for Ospreys and briefly excited as perhaps the female above spotted one in the distance. Yesterday, she was tucked away deep in the foliage at the slough while an Osprey patrolled the river. This time of year, Ospreys seem to be on the offensive. These are two rival raptors, eagles stealing fish all spring and maybe the Ospreys are now "getting even."

Monday, August 11, 2014


A Belted Kingfisher flies by while setting up for a photo of the SuperMoon:

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Old and New

Here is our host Tom Lowe's outhouse:
And, I just remembered a gentleman approaching me after the Bannack program. He remarked, " I just want you to know that I didn't hear a word you said, but that was my favorite program ever. My only complaint is that it was too short. I'm deaf as a post." What a compliment, something about being quite animated...

Return to Our Favorite Ghost Town

This was our fifth program at Bannack State Park and a three hour drive from the Bitterroot through the beautiful Big Hole Valley toward Dillon. Right as I turned off the two lane onto Bannack Bench Road, a song by the Specials came on Sirius XM radio - "This town ain't nothin' but a ghost town." A record crowd this year of 200 adults and kids, always a great group and I signed a bunch of books. Right when I arrived I was witness to what they affectionately call the Pottie Press, flyers for upcoming programs posted in the unisex bathroom. Some young bird lovers pose at the pottie.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Bannack Day

Our Bannack State Park/Ghost town engagement last year was canceled due to flash floods! So we re-scheduled and can't believe it's our turn for Saturday Speakers tomorrow. Sonora the Aplomado Falcon, Alisa the Red-tail, and two owls will woo the crowd, always a favorite program and place. In the campground, 2 pm, free and open to everyone. Pick up a brand new Aplomado T-shirt, and explore the ghost town, Montana's first Territorial Capital, founded in 1862 in gold rush days.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Lemon Aid

Here's one to make you smile and just got this in the mail. The note says, "I got 20 dolers for you" from her stand Lemonade for Wildlife. I think Cidney Tawney is about 4 years old, perhaps our youngest Raptor Backer ever, and I remember when her dad Land was about that age. I'm pals with his mom, Robin Tawney Nichols, and lately we only cross paths every now and again. Land is on the boards of the Phil Tawney Hunters Conservation Endowment, named after his late father, and Hellgate Hunters and Anglers, plus works for the National Wildlife Federation.  The Tawney's are a family of conservationists and sportsmen that treasure and work to protect our natural world. Young Cidney has a legacy of activists and a life enjoying the out-of-doors. Like she says at the end, "By!" and best wishes, young philanthropist!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Awesome Photo!

OMG as they say in text messages. What a photo!
(Nothing the last three nights...about due for another Osprey fight.)

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Peregrines Today

Today, a nice trip to the top of One Horse Creek across the road, Peregrine productivity with Mac Donofrio and we always score. Fledgling Peregrines once again and Mac and I had a slow start way up on the hill, but eventually two young showed up. We could just hear them begging back in the trees, then saw one youngster catching insects high overhead. Then an adult dropped a food item to one in the air, only to have her miss it and the adult stoop to grab it 50 feet below, then hand it off again. Sparrow-sized.
Finally, Attack on the Golden Eagle: The adult hit this eagle with the two young on either side. Of course, missed that shot, oh well.... Great to see these "brownies" in the Bitterroot.

Monday, August 4, 2014

On a Lighter Note

What a hassle, the fried appliances from the accident in the driveway, so on a happier note:
Paleontologist Dr. Julia Clarke and Your Humble Narrator with my metal penguin. Julia wrote about evolutionary development of underwater flight, studying penguins in the Southern Hemisphere, cool! One of my favorite lines in her show is, "Dinosaurs aren't really extinct. Today, we just call them birds."

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Last Field Trip Ever

We hosted another tour for the English Language Institute, this time high school students from Japan and older students from a ten or so countries from Central African Republic to Argentiana. Then the unthinkable - their bus driver plowed right into our power pole in the driveway, lines tumbling to the ground, appliances popping in the house and garage. With the immediate power surge from having the neutral line disconnected, we lost our stove, refrigerator, microwave, garage doors lifters, and furnace, and some other random items that were plugged in. A surge protector saved the computers, thank goodness. NorthWestern Energy to the rescue, and Ryan Gibbs was back with his crew to install a new pole. This will continue to be very painful. Stay tuned.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Veriscope Swoops In

Filmakers from Boston yesterday and the project: the Evolution of Flight with host, paleontologist Julia Clarke. We were seeking shade in 95 degrees, and cameraman Kris "made some" with all of the gear he had on hand. Sibley the Peregrine was on her best behavior, mostly, and seemed to feel comfortable perched on Julia's glove. Then close-ups of a few other raptors, and Chesty flying all over the place. Whew, a nerve-wracking several months hoping everything would go without a hitch. The film will be played in high school science classrooms across the country, cool. Julia is from the University of Texas at Austin and I invited her to come to our Raptor Research Foundation Conference in Corpus Christi. As Conference Chair I am in the position to offer several bribes, I mean incentives. Here is Kris, host Julia, sound-man and ex-Missoulian Spence, director Dan Levitt, and Cody from the good old U of M film school, and yes we got to talk films.