Thursday, March 31, 2016


I heard a show on National Public Radio over the weekend in which a Bald Eagle fanatic on the East Coast claimed that all these birds do is "fly and kill," something like that. I have been tying to find that quote, but I beg to differ. They stand around, scrounge, and preen their feathers for hours like this one last night.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Hellgate Hawks

We had a program for a gym-full of kids yesterday, 530 to be exact at Hellgate Elementary School. They were the best-behaved group EVER, and you could have heard a pin drop when they all came in, instructed to be quiet so as to not frighten the birds. They all did "golf claps" after each bird, a very quiet round of applause.
We first set foot in that school in 1989, back when I would do two or three programs in a row with six or seven birds. They adopted a hawk every year as their mascot, a penny drive organized by teacher Kathy Meyers who retired last year. One time, Deja the Harris's Hawk was doing a flight demonstration and she decided to perch on that basketball hoop until everyone had left. "Stay!" I told her and the kids thought she was well-trained. Lastly a group portrait with my young pal Aidan flashing a peace sign. Thanks principal Chris Clevenger - you should be very proud of your students!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Peregrine Spying

Mom and I were up the Blackfoot yesterday looking for Peregrines, and if we stayed out of the wind it was quite comfortable. The meteorologists are promising 70 degrees by the end of the week. The other photo is from this spot last year, our target species carrying what looks like a coot.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Last Photo

This is the final shot of the 2015-'16 falconry season, Sib flying across the road looking for pheasants with the dogs. Instead of hunting, she was goofing off with two male harriers, then time to go home, take off the bell, and stash the telemetry receiver. Always sad to see the season end - seven months total, her 13th year and a major highlight. Okay, maybe one more flight…

Friday, March 25, 2016

Change of Guard

Last night in some frigid conditions I enjoyed an incubation swap at the eagle nest and got some flight shots. I am guessing that we'll have some hatching action around April 17th after a 35 day incubation period. Not much activity other than the occasional food delivery and change of guard, but when the Ospreys start returning, we'll see some beach battles. Always root for the Osprey, that's my motto. They only eat live fish, and the eagles eat anything, alive or dead. No danger of starvation here with the golden acres of ground squirrels across the river from this nest.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Deja Vu

When reviewing the cool robin photos from the other night I had a really difficult time picking a favorite. He's a beautiful bird in great light, showing off. This preening picture looked oddly familiar to me then I realized it resembles Rob Palmer's shot that's in our book American Kestrel: Pint-sized Predator. Check out Rob's web site for hundreds more gems like this falcon photo.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Back To Back

I got these all last evening - turkeys in the yard and robin and eagle at the beach!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Spring Snapshots

Sibley had some nice air time yesterday but no pheasants to be found. With her molt and egg-laying soon, this is the end of the season for Sib, but don't tell her or the dogs. Then down at the river, nothing for well over an hour, then the male flew in to check things out and returned three minutes later with a Columbian Ground Squirrel, I swear. Some nice gore for your Monday morning. I think I'll spend some time watching the squirrel colonies across the road in May and June when prey demands are greater with chicks and try to figure out how he catches them so easily. It's as if he just opens the refrigerator door for a meal.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Welcome Spring!

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

Friday, March 18, 2016

St. Patrick's Day

Man, did I blow this one. I was freezing down at the river this evening watching the male Bald Eagle eat a ground squirrel, first one of the year. Some fisherman came over and asked to see the nest through the camera lens. That second, a Red-tailed Hawk flew out of the sky and attacked the eagle. Missed the shot, but got this one and still bemoaning my bad timing. Hopefully that hawk will be back for a nice a snapshot.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Show Off

Nest News!

I have been in the photographer's doldrums lately, figuring the eagles by the house were skipping a year of breeding. Then I wouldn't have anything to do every evening and instead would have to head down to the casino. Just kidding. The pair that were featured in my book had four young in 2011 (hence the book!) then skipped 2013, hanging around but no young. Last night at the beach nothing for a hour then a eagle flew high over the river and I heard some calling from the nest. Voila, she was in there, and just on the back side so can't see her from the scope in the house. She flew out and back, top photo with the nest in the corner,  then the male brought in a nice chunk of viscera that he quickly ate and didn't share.  We might just have a breeding pair folks, two weeks later than last year. News on the way, and I really am joking about the casino…

Monday, March 14, 2016

"If you don't like the weather…"

Yesterday - almost 60 degrees with dog and falcon out for some exercise. Then just now looking out the office window and living room with scope pointed at the eagle nest. Dumpin'!

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Billboard Story

Front page news! My little Blog and Facebook post about the Bitterroot Bass Fishing Capital caught the eye of our pal Perry Backus. He got a much better photo, not taken from a moving car!
Check it out!

Spring Cleaning

I'm going down the line in a cleaning frenzy, removing wind breaks, all new pine needles on the floors, some new perch coverings, and brand new shade cloth on the way. I still have Sonora's 100 watt red light plugged in, but almost ready to wind up the extension cords and roll out the garden hoses. Sonora the Aplomado takes a nap with her face tucked in her scapular feathers, as I take down the plastic shower-curtains installed in October to keep her out of the wind. The kestrel building gets a power wash and water baths a nice scrub. Spring is on the way - Change those clocks tonight.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Today and 2005

Another comparison, and Sibley flying in high winds today. Plus my 5 1/2 foot metal sculpture of her flying, welded eleven years ago. Photos are dorsal/ventral, real/steel. Both are in my living room right now, but one goes outside for the night - the real one.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Bird Festival!

Coming to Missoula in June and they used my design for the cover of the flier, check your mail. One note: this is described as a "photo taken in the beautiful Bitterroot Valley." It is actually two photos, one of the clouds over the nest with the tiny camera and another of an eagle flying by with the giant one. Photochopped as my brother calls it! That would be a near-impossible shot to get with bird and background in focus, and I figured everyone would know it was fabricated for design quality. Two photos.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Bitterroot Bass Fever!

This billboard near Lolo informs drivers on 93 that they entering the Bass Fishing Mecca of the Bitterroot. I wonder who thought this one up, and where you could find a bass for the next 50 miles. Perhaps some stocked farm pond somewhere…Could it have been a little confusion between bass and trout? Speed boats, lakes, bait versus drift boats, rivers, flies. Cracks me up every time I drive by that sign - Small Towns, Big Adventures, Bass Galore. Huh?
ps: I stand corrected. Bass have been introduced in many places (Metcalf NWR, etc.) My point was that these are not the target species for 99% of anglers in the Bitterroot.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Get Real

That song came on as I was editing the new photos from tonight, on the All Bowie Station.

Two Photos

These two photographs were practically back to back in my camera. The Black-billed Magpie image was taken just now in my yard, Sibley the Peregrine yesterday afternoon at One Horse Creek. Eerie….but true. Not kidding!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Pileated Pair In the Front Yard

New Projects

My latest book was turned into the design guru Jeannie at Mountain Press Publishing Company this week (!), so time to try something new. The first new obsession project is to record all of the sounds around the Raptor Ranch and play them over the airways next time we're on Montana Public Radio and Pea Green Boat in April. Dr. Erick Greene has loaned me some sophisticated sound recording equipment and more on that as soon I can figure out how to post these recordings on the Blog. The first of one of our Great Horned Owls "barking." The other project is to photograph these super-tame magpies all over the place; tame it turns out until they see a camera, I'm not kidding. Very shy then. One pair is building a nest in the front yard so hope to get some great shots, the first one today. It's harder than it sounds with the contrasting black and white plumage.

Thursday, March 3, 2016


Just landing at 4 pm., launching at 5 pm.
and both birds at the nest at dark!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Just After Mating

Three's a Charm

The last two evenings at the river, no eagles showed their faces and I was starting to get nervous. I feared they were going to skip a year of breeding, had moved on, or worse case, suffered some tragedy. Yesterday they showed up at 4 pm, mated in the top of the tree, posed for an hour then the male flew off to return with big stick. As I left in the dark, I shouted "thank-you" and at that moment the female joined her mate in the nest. Hallelujah (I hope.)