Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Couple of Birds

An Osprey made a brief appearance, an another in a fly-by so they are still here.  Then just as I was packing it up the adult eagles flew in a perched over the nest. Something interesting going on in the water below.
I'm working on my PowerPoint for the Bridger Raptor Festival in Bozeman this weekend if you can make it. I'm on at 7 pm Friday at the Museum of the Rockies and 11 am Saturday at the Bridger Ski Area. Nigel the Golden Eagle has no idea he'll be in the limelight, and in a kennel overnight!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Youngster's Plunge

Here is perhaps that same young Osprey, hunting like crazy last evening flying up and down the river and thankfully parked in front of me for a short time. Hatch-year birds get better at fishing before their big departure and migrate weeks after their parents. Good Luck!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Sib's 13th Season

We sure hope our Peregrine Falcon continues to dazzle! Those are radio transmitters with leather "bewits" or straps on her legs, two different brands and frequencies. Plus she has a  bell on her left leg so I can hear where she is and don't have to constantly look up when I'm walking or charging in to scare up game. Pheasants now, then ducks when that season opens. I might be the only one that still uses a bell, old-fashioned I know. The new-fangle radio telemetry uses GPS and tells you how far, high  and fast your bird goes, all facts that falconers have been exagerating for 4000 years!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Farewell To the Fish Hawk

Not much going on at the beach lately. One very nervous adult Bald Eagle that was glancing about and trembling. Yes, as in fear. I've seen our birds do that when they are terrified, especially Sibley when she gets in fights with wild Peregrines or Prairie Falcons, just shaking uncontrollably. Then a young female Osprey flew overhead THIS close. She'll stay on the "wintering" grounds for the next two years at least, an interesting fact. Notice the red eyes, white edges on the covert feathers and immaculate plumage all indicating hatch-year bird. My friend Tyler says that will be the name of his next band, The Immaculate Plumage.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Raptor Ranch


First a wild adult female Peregrine got in a scrap with Sib when I was flying her, or I guess watching her fly at One Horse Creek. The other bird scared her to death, acting like she owned the place. Then a nice cloud show on the beach with the adult female eagle above her nest on the right, top of the tree. We haven't seen her an a while.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Some Other Birds

I even got down to river early yesterday but didn't see a raptor except some migrating Turkey Vultures.
So got some shorebirds instead, a Killdeer in the shade, look at how large his pupils are, dark! Then a noisy Lesser Yellowlegs. I thought I heard an Osprey in the distance, but pretty scarce around here now.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Merlins All Over

This male Richardson's or Prairie Merlin (Falco columbarius richardsoni) was down at the beach, the third Merlin I saw yesterday. The bottom photo was a female Taiga or Boreal (f. c. columbarius) that was chasing my pigeons, then a few magpies, then eleven of them ganged up and drove the falcon away. When I looked at the photo I noticed the bird had a full crop, so not hungry and what was up with all the commotion. The first Merlin I saw was at MPG Ranch and might have been a Black or Pacific (f. c. suckleyi) the third subspecies and one that which occasionally makes it here from the west - I rehabbed one many many years ago. These little falcons used to be called Pigeon Hawks because they resemble a pigeon in flight, but like one that's turbocharged.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Fly By

Sibley and Sandhill

Sandhill's in the Sand

After Pea Green Boat on Thursday I returned the birds to their enclosures with some nice mice then ran down to the beach with the camera for the last hour of light. I heard them calling first then looked downstream to see this pair of Sandhill Cranes landing. No offspring with them unfortunately, as they will migrate as a family. These two got a drink and flew by so close I couldn't get both of them in the same shot! Magnificent birds, about my favorite (non-raptor.)

Friday, September 18, 2015

Pea Green Boat

Like Annie and I always say, "That was the best show ever." And it really was! Thanks Owen and Jennifer Manning, Sonora and Owen the Saw-whet Owl.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Check Us Out On MTPR

Thursday is the day for our bi-monthly "appearance" on Montana Public Radio, the Pea Green Boat kid's show hosted by our pal Annie Garde. Tomorrow we have a special guest, ten year old Owen Manning with his internationally award-winning taxidermy piece, a Swamphen from New Zealand. Wait 'till you hear this story! He won the whole kit and kaboodle, just like his dad Dale has done for years. Check it out on the left of the FM dial (89.1 in Missoula) starting at 4 pm MST, or streaming at and hit Listen Live. Plus we'll have a couple of our birds including Sonora the Aplomado Falcon and Owen the owl, of course. You can't miss this!
Jennifer just sent this:

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


Underwater in the first photo then leaping from the river with a score. This was the fish that the Osprey flew off with,  I hope to eat in peace without eagle interference.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Sunday Funday

These mergansers made an appearance swimming upriver, eleven in all. In the meantime an Osprey dove on fish right in front of me several times, then caught a nice one. An adult Bald Eagle came out of nowhere at hyperspeed and away the both went. The Osprey returned in just a few minutes, empty-handed then caught this nice whitefish. He did one quick pass then headed for the hills to hopefully enjoy it in peace. Our last Osprey watches for the year, then off they go south until next April. He'll be back!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Good-bye Margo

Our Sharp-shinned Hawk Margo passed away, a program hero for over a dozen years. She made it through they worst of the yellow jacket season, particularly bad in her building, and was just adopted by some Raptor Backers in the Flathead. Her last appearances were on Montana Public Radio and at the Missoula Art Museum, a star performer. This photo was in the Bitterroot Audubon calendar. She was relatively calm and stood on the glove like a pro, very unusual for this high-strung species, so we used her in Dr. Erick Greene's alarm call study. Perched in the open she inspired a great deal of mobbing and vocalizations from freaked out songbirds,  recorded and analyzed. "Look! a predator!" the other birds were saying. She wasn't a typical bird to have in programs and yet had a long life at over 13 years. Thanks, Margo. We sure loved you!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Montana Quarterly Magazine

Check out the latest issue and a story by Lisa Baril entitled "Watching the Wanderer" about Peregrine Falcon recovery, our favorite topic. It follows Montana Peregrine Institute Director's lifelong love of the falcon, starting in 1961 when John Craighead had him rappel down a cliff in his home town of Livingston to get a chick for falconry (which he later gave to John as "I realized I didn't know what I was doing.") Cool story with a happy ending and some of my photos like the one on the Rocky Mountain Front and Jay and his bird in the Bitterroot last season. And this season has started, Sibley out flying starting last Sunday.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Falcon vs. Osprey

Here's a first. This Osprey caught a very small fish in a plunge to the middle of the river, did a nice in flight shake-off of the water, then proceeded upstream. Out of nowhere came a Peregrine and they both disappeared at high speed so quickly I had to replay the scene in my head. The falcon wanted the fish? He returned and was mobbed by magpies, all this in about 5 minutes on the beach. Whew! I watched a Peregrine chasing an Osprey on August 22nd, but I figured it was just in play. Plus that was the same evening I saw three kestrels perched in the top of the nest tree, a Peregrine flew in to the foliage near-by, and the female kestrel mobbed it until it flew. What a mob scene down there!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Saturday's Swifts

Last night dozens of Vaux's Swifts were flying downriver and circling back, or else waves of them were moving downstream catching little aerial morsel of insects. I had a slow evening with just one eagle standing in the snag so thought I'd try to get some photos and slammed just these four right in a row- a small, distant, zig-zagging bird but shows the characteristic shape. When you see the "stiff and rapid wingbeats and abrupt turns," thanks David Sibley, it says swift. Nothing like it and different from a graceful swallow. Their Family name Apodidae means "without feet" and  always in the air, except when they sleep!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Blast From the Past

Camp Mak-A-Dream near Gold Creek, Montana just celebrated their 20th anniversary and we were there for that grand opening evening! At the time it was a place for children with cancer to spend a peaceful week in the mountains and since have expanded to all-womens' and siblings of cancer patients retreats. Our program was on July 22nd, the first ever bonfire in the fire pit on the patio, 46 kids from all around the country plus counselors, staff and parents. Since then we have done at least a dozen more presentations mostly for the womens' camps. Then yesterday a man approached me in town and said, "Remember me from camp?" and sure enough I did. It was at Camp Paxon on Seeley Lake for Opportunity Resources on Aug 9, 2001 (I looked it up in my records.) Opportunity is a center for disabled adults and David was a particularly talkative and enthusiastic camper, how could I forget? One link in these two camp appearances happens to be Max, the Golden Eagle. He was there at both, 26 years old now and Emperor of the Eagle Enclosure! Just ask his roomates, Nigel and Sonny.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Raptor Haven

Last night on the beach we were visited by a Merlin (top), two Peregrines, and Cooper's Hawk right at dark that landed right in the middle of a bunch of ravens. Plus the Usual Suspects made appearances, a young Bald Eagle whining from the trees across the river.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Osprey's Parting Shots

The Ospreys are starting migration and it will be a lot quieter around here when they are all gone for seven months. Bald Eagles will breath a collective sigh of relief. This is that scruffy Bald Eagle swooped upon by two Ospreys that were passing by heading upriver in big winds.  Feels like fall!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Tuesday In the Sun

With the blue skies and puffy clouds I was anxious to see what was going on at the beach, so started at 5 pm. A nervous Osprey flew in with a fish, ate the head in a few bites and left. A Peregrine joined us a few times, and this scruffy-looking Bald Eagle landed in the snag and was harassed by magpies. Not "our" bird by his looks. At 6:30 the skies darkened and I thought it was the return of the wildfire smoke. It's a beauty day today so I was wrong, thank goodness. I just read in Audubon Magazine that a banded Bald Eagle was killed by a car while eating roadkill in upstate New York. 38 years old! A record, and an individual that saw endangered status become full recovery of the species, what a story. Numbers of Bald Eagle nests in Montana are in the upper 700's now, up from a dozen in the bad old days.