Thursday, July 30, 2015

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Rest In Peace Chest

I am saddened to report that Chesty the Harris's Hawk died yesterday, 24 years of age and very full life. She was a gift from our friend Ric Jinotti, his beloved falconry bird. A Vietnam veteran and wheel chair bound, Chesty would dash after pheasants and land on his arm or head. She is named for Chesty Puller, Korean war hero. Ric had taken a bad turn health-wise and was moving to a new house, so his hawk joined us in 2003. He and his sister Toni paid us a visit to see Chesty in 2007, and she flew down and landed on his arm, the last time he would see her before he passed. Chest flew around the property nearly every day for the last 12 years for which she won the award for "Best Behavior Enrichment" from the International Association of Avian Trainers and Educators in 2009, the video on YouTube. She rarely left the yard, and had an ongoing project of building a nest on the arbor. She delighted visitors like the MCAT Young Filmmakers Class by catching tidbits of meat tossed in the air.

Chesty apparently succumbed to old age despite some emergency veterinary treatment by Dr. Scott Bovard, flying in the evening and laying on the ground in her building yesterday morning. She will be very much missed by everyone, except our dogs and a few guys, whom she startled some times.  As a matter of fact, the night before she forced my brother-in-law into the safety of the garage, swooping near him just in fun. She just liked to see grown men duck for cover. I loved that bird.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Another Big Night on the Beach

The dogs and I had quite the evening last night after zero photographs the night before. Both adults perched together, that shot on the way. One fledgling crashed right into the snag and tumbled down (they know how to fly, just not how to land.) Then they were all together, first time I've been privileged to see that, one big happy biting, begging family.  Finally an intruder, a two-year-old Bald Eagle landed in the tree and they didn't seem too concerned. Out there until way after dark, too much fun to behold.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Turah Ospreys

Mom and I paid a visit to my sister Betsy yesterday east of Missoula and she asked that I bring the big camera. This nest is on a huge power tower, sticks added every year and it must weigh a ton. I got these photos standing on her patio, sipping a beverage, chatting away. Tough job, but somebody's got to do it.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Attacks Shift

I've seen kestrels attack eagles, orioles attack kestrels, kestrels attack magpies and vice versa, magpies attack eagles, and now Red-wing Blackbirds attacking Ospreys. The last two nights the Osprey couldn't shake a particularly annoyed blackbird, and wonder why. Below a Lewis's Woodpecker fights with a magpie. Coming up in August it will be the battle between Ospreys and Bald Eagles, always tough to photograph but I'm feeling lucky this year. It's a jungle out there.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Dad To the Rescue

This male kestrel and his mate chased a Red-tail away from their nesting area, scaring the young hawk nearly to death. My neighbors across the road, Mike and Ginny DeNeve installed one of our kestrel nest boxes this spring and I spaced it out. Either that box or one of the numerous cottonwood cavities housed these baby kestrels until Friday or so. Darn it, should have been there when they baled. I blew it, but here are two daughters, more crying babies in the dense Ponderosa Pine needles at the very top, invisible and safe.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Back Home

The first hour I could just hear weak little eagle cries from across the river, then all three fledglings flew in to perch in the nest tree. One of them actually ran around in the nest itself, probably looking for a nice squirrel leg or fish tail. No sign of the parents, but doubt these guys will starve to death!

Friday, July 17, 2015


Not another eagle photo...This a fledgling Great Horned Owl.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Eagle Attack

Currently two young eagles are standing on our eagle building, both kestrels Wes and Ella screaming in protest. Printing the new Raptor Round-Up Newsletter today, filled with eagle photos! Sure takes a while to write one of So on line and in the mail soon. And here is another kestrel attack from two nights ago, tennis ball time.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015


Look what the youngsters were playing with tonight - a tennis ball on the beach. I'm sure it was for a dog to fetch and not a new river sport. Hey, join us tomorrow at the Public Library in Hamilton for a free program out on the lawn. I'm bringing the Aplomado and three more birds! 1:30 sharp and buy some books, okay?

Monday, July 13, 2015

More Excitement

As if seeing the heron wasn't fun enough, just then in flew all three fledgling eagles, perched in the snag across the river. The kestrel attacks began immediately and I finally figured out where they are nesting - in a dead broken off tree exactly in between the eagle nest tree and this favorite snag. No wonder they get all worked up every time someone perches here. That's the male kestrel and the female screamed from above. By the way, one of those big dark birds is currently perched in the back yard, our kestrels calling.
Check out our fun story on MTPR by Cherie!

Heron Flees in Terror

Last evening this Great Blue Heron landed in the eagle nest tree, curious about one of the adults perched nearby. Then in came the male, perturbed to find his favorite perch occupied. Bet that heron won't perch there again. And thanks for the great story on MT Public Radio today, Cherie Newman!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

New Hang-Out

Every year the fledgling Bald Eagles hang out on top of the eagle building, other enclosures, fences, roof, swallow boxes, etc. Okay just four years now since they started nesting behind the house. This was moments ago, and look at the size difference - huge female and our smaller male Golden Eagles. Size is no way to judge the species of eagles, just the sexes. AND check out Montana Public Radio tomorrow at 7:45 a.m. and 6:44 p.m. for a story about the Raptor Ranch Executive Director, courtesy our pal at MTPR Cherie Newman. She's had quite the editing job as I babbled on and on...hard to believe.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

You Go, Girl!

Blackfoot Peregrines

We had a full day of visiting Peregrine territories this week, Jay Sumner and his volunteers - me, Tyler Roady and his nephew from Minnesota, Vince. Our 12-year-old researcher diligently kept track of numbers, ages and sexes of the falcons. The grand total was 12 birds, and this nest at Chamberlain Creek had three downy chicks racing around the ledge at a different part of the cliff than past years. These Peregrines will keep you on your toes. This cliff is always a little later for fledging, but Jay reports that in general they are about two weeks early. And he has found 16 NEW territories, the latest at a minor cliff near the majestic Chief Mountain on the west side of Flathead Lake, cool! My total for the day was 13 Peregrines as one stooped on a duck at the river that evening. Saw it with my eyes and not my camera. Way too fast.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Big Night

Again, nothing for an hour and by the time I left in the dark, all three chicks and the adult male were in the same tree, the other one near the nest. Kestrel attacks, fishing, and more kestrel o man. Where I was standing would normally be about the middle of the river, the water is so low.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Almost Too Close

The big boy was standing almost too close tonight for photography, 30 yards from our hangout spot on the bank, perched in a cottonwood limb over the river for 20 minutes. Then both dogs underneath before he left for a little fly downsteam. THIS far away! Absolutely not afraid of us.


An hour of nothing then everything at once. The female flew in and was immediately attacked by that crazy female kestrel. The look of terror in the eagle's eyes, man. Then she was joined by the male and she tried to bite his tail. Off he went swooping right in front of me at a fish that I think may have washed up in the shallows. Geez, the whole Bitterroot River is shallows already. I could hear the young begging in the foliage, one appearing after dark and perhaps the same one that was standing on the garage roof Saturday night! Back today at 6:30 pm. and can hardly wait.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Fourth of July Photos

First one of the females is attacked repeatedly by an angry female kestrel, and this was over and over. She might have even made contact, crazy falcon. Then the same fledgling regards a fledgling Great Blue Heron, finely barred plumage and gray crown means it's a youngster. This GBH was a first for the beach, as they usually just keep going flying by over the river. Not this curious one, and safe from harm from this big baby. Might have to blow this one up for the living room.


My latest project is trying to figure out how to work a Panasonic Lumix camera, and not as easy as I thought. I've been hauling around nearly 7 pounds of gear when out flying the birds, so thought I'd lighten the load to 1.8 lbs. I tested it with this photo of a robin nest just outside the door of the office. One of the chicks was on the ground so I put her back. I took some fireworks shots from our Florence display using the "handheld night shot" mode and looks like I need to read the directions more thoroughly...

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Kestrel Attack

Non-stop action last night with kestrel attacks, fish delivery, general begging by all three chicks.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Listen Today!

A photo of the Salish Kootenai College Upward Bound kids on the deck after a big morning of raptors. A fine group of high schoolers, next they are headed west to look at some colleges then a visit to The Peregrine Fund in Boise - The Mecca.

Check out Montana Public Radio from 4:00-5:00 pm today and The Pea Green Boat with skipper Annie Garde. Bev Glueckert and I are sketching Miles the owl...on the air! It will be fun. Left of the FM dial across the west, or hit the Listen Live button on the MTPR web site.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Flying Out the Door

Even though above is wide open to the skies!

Crazy Place for a Nest

Three or four Great Horned Owl chicks were raised in this old building foundation, discovered by a friend that was changing irrigation pipe. They startled him as they flew out, and me too on Monday. Yesterday I crept up so that they wouldn't fly, it being so hot out. I didn't even see the second bird on the right at the time. This is very close to one of my kestrel nests in the book, and ironically, not far from a coyote den that "fledged" 6 young that same year!