Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Over a year - a long story

I was in a funk.  Yes, it is true.  Losing Gonzo was the single biggest loss of my falconry career.  I got angry and sad, then determined.  I went out looking for new birds.  I was going to get Tess a possible mate.

No, she has never shown much interest in mating, I'll get two.

I don't have that kind of money.

Then I hear that for breeding, you should really just keep the birds together.

So then - what do I fly??

Will I fly Tess solo?  I have before.

... and I caved.

I acquired a mature male, and a female breeder from up north. In the process, I picked up another juvi male to fly with Tess.

Three birds over the course of a summer - very cool.

I reworked my weathering areas to be sure to minimize racoon impact, I covered all my "natural" perches in long leaf astroturf.

And my new female laid her first egg on the way home in the giant hood.  Crap. crap. crap

I didn't have an appropriate incubator yet, but I did have my cheap styrofoam chicken hatcher.  It would have to do. I didn't know anything. 
Was the egg fertile?  It was laid in the hood on the drive home from Pennsylvania, what are the chances it would hatch after rolling around on the car ride home.

The female was in a chamber full of its own offspring?  Would the parents have been breeding?  What are the chances it would hatch?  Shoot - it's the middle of summer, why is she laying now?.,,

I put the egg in the incubator with little hope.  I hand turned it multiple times a day.  Hoping - not hoping - scared to hope.

I tried to put a chicken egg out with the momma - to see if she would set.  She was in a new environment, and not interested.

The egg hatched.

This was last fall. 

The chick seemed happy and healthy - I hand fed it for the first few months.  I did not know at the time that she wasn't right.  I fostered her out to Jimmy in Georgia.  I still can't thank him enough for all he did for my first "baby".

Soon after returning too me she died.  Not being sure what happened, I had a necropsy done.  She hadn't grown right.  Her spine was curved and her hips were wrong.  Her lungs were underdeveloped, and her brain smaller than expected.

It could be traced back to poor incubation.

My year continued to suck. 

I trained my new male to hunt.  He flew at the same weight a Gonzo, 650 (plus or minus).  First on his own, then with Tess. His name is Boomer.

I compared hime to Gonzo ( I shouldn't have, not yet)

It was a rebuilding year.  I was shorter on time, and went away for two weeks in the middle of the season.  It was less than stellar.  Game was caught and flights were interesting.  We all learned a lot.

It was a rebuilding year.  This year should be interesting.

The newest egg hatched in June.  A female, it stormed for weeks and weeks after she was born.

So my daughter named her Rain.  She is 17 weeks and ready to start training.  Boomer is slowly starting to drop weight. Trapping season is just around the corner and there is so much to do. and everything is hitting at once.

I'll try and keep my writing caught up.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

aaarrrgh - makes me mad

State's Only Breeding Goshawk, Chicks Found Dead

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources said the state's only known breeding female northern goshawk, a bird of prey, was shot and killed in Grantsville last week.A DNR biologist said the remains of a female northern goshawk were found last Friday in the Savage River State Forest near Westernport and McAndrews Hill roads, and evidence indicated that the animal was shot and killed, leaving three orphaned chicks in the nest to die.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Rats and bees could solve the problem

What problem, you may ask. The problem of many African animals facing extinction. Currently, some animals are being pushed towards extinction because the people in Africa have to eat (yeah, the nerve of them). It is called bush meat.

Scientific American states:

The riBees in a Kenyan top bar, a type of man-made beehive used for beekeeping in Africasing and often illegal trade in bushmeat—wild-caught animals, often threatened species such as primates, birds and elephants—threatens African biodiversity and could drive numerous species into extinction. Finding replacements for that trade could solve the need for both income and subsistence in many African communities. The answer, according to experts speaking at a meeting held in Nairobi this week, could include promoting beekeeping and farming jumbo-size African rodents known as cane rats (two species of the genus Thryonomys) for food.

Bees, of course, make perfect sense. We do that here. But then, I tried to imagine how rats could feed a nation - I've seen them in the pet stores, there's not much meat on them. And really, how good could they taste?

Then I found this:

The cane rat is not your average subway rat. It can grow almost two feet long and weigh 20 pounds.

That’s about the size of a healthy cat or a small dog.

In parts of West and Central Africa, cane rat meat is considered a delicacy. People have traditionally hunted the animals in the wild, but in Cameroon there are efforts underway to domesticate them.

Imagine your Harris Hawk trying to tackle one of those.

Rats have been a food source for thousands of years - This seems like a good plan to me.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Crazy busy

Things are nuts here. I'm working both jobs right now, and on the only days I have had off since April I had to make a run to New York to see my brother get married.

12+ hours each way, with a two night stay. Crazy.

Coming from North Carolina, it seems strange that going to New York feels like I'm driving to the country. It is a nice drive, but Long.

Gordon came with me and we spent some quality time wandering the woods and fields whenever we got a break. We spent some time walking with my father and the big dogs. Soon these trails would be overgrown for the summer, so it was good we got onto them now.

On the way home, we stopped to see Patrick and his dogs and took a morning to go out hunting. I finally got to meet Gideon, his newest terrier. He is a solid, funny little dog with a brick like body. and boy does he like to hump. Gordon had to keep showing teeth to keep Gideon off of his back.

We wandered the bottom lands of a familiar farm looking for groundhog. We found lots of holes, but soon realized that with the recent rains, much of that area must have been flooded and the groundhogs had moved on.

Late in the morning, I had to leave but we had lost Mountain somewhere - underground. Patrick went to find him. It was a good morning, as usual, spending time in the fields with the dogs - even if we came home empty handed.

I found out later that Mountain had squared off underground with a coon and didn't want to leave it. Patrick was able to dig them both up and release the coon.

I spent the rest of the time making plans for the new hawking season.

There will be news, but right now my time is being spent upgrading my hawk housing, and getting things ready.

There will be new additions, and new challenges.

My posting will probably continue to be erratic until I get it all figured out.

Monday, June 6, 2011

hunters.... shame on you

Found this on a falconry chat site...

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Kestrels compared

I'm thinking a lot about what is going to happen next season and the idea of a kestrel has cropped up more than once. Then I saw this little nugget over at Little Mews on the Prairie. It is a great little article about the differences in kestrels and how to tell a passage falcon from a hag. I have a hard time with this, but the pictures really help.

A walk with the dogs

I don't get out with my dogs enough. They love to get out and run, off lead, and I think it is good for them to do that.

I was able to find a few hours last week to get them up in the dunes. It was the perfect spring day for it, slight breeze and slowly rising temps.

We meandered through the sloping sand and found lots of holes to explore.

This time of year there is not much chance that there will be a fox underground, but the dogs went and explored them, both dogs pushing to get inside.

We don't have groundhogs in my area, so the fox have nothing to dig their holes. These holes are much bigger than the ones that we see up north when we go to ground and the dogs squirt in and out easily, no digging or squirming for my overlarge dogs.

Our fox are mostly grays, but we also have a smattering of reds. I've also seen a few that I believe may be a mix of the two. These holes most likely belonged to the reds, as grays generally do not dig dens, they use holes in trees and root balls.

After a few hours of exploring, the dogs were exhausted. We didn't catch anything, and that was just as well, but ended up at home, tired and happy.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


For those of you that don't know - I teach school. But with summer just around the corner, my "other" job has started. The one that allows me to afford my teaching habit.

My other job allows me to spend more quiet time, driving on some back roads, places I don't usually go.

On these trips I am fortunate to see things I wouldn't normally see.

This guys was just traveling along the road, places to go and all that.

I'm not usually a big fan of opossums - but this guy was the cutest I had ever seen.

This bruiser was sitting on the side of the road, laying eggs. She was gone the next time I drove by.

Box turtles are cool.

And on the side of the road there was this hole.

Obviously fox, surrounded by tracks and bones. The dogs could have a field day in here.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Smarter critters

I've written about smart critters before. They're out there. Animals that use tools, animals that work cooperatively, animals that have their own types of language.

Crows are some of those animals: tools and languages and dialects - cool stuff.

The new one I just read about was whales. Yeah, they are some smart mammals, and you have all heard whale song before. But did you know that whales from different pods have dialects.

Like those southern cousins of yours..

When they dive together, sperm whales make patterns of clicks to each other known as "codas." Recent findings suggest that not only do different codas mean different things, but that whales can also tell which member of their community is speaking based on the sound properties of the codas. Just as we can tell our friends apart by the sounds of their voices and the way they pronounce their words, different sperm whales make the same pattern of clicks, but with different accents.

Caribbean and Pacific whales have different repertoires of codas, like a regional dialect, but the "Five Regular" call -- a pattern of five evenly spaced clicks -- is thought to have the universal function of individual identity because it is used by sperm whales worldwide.

You can read more here.

Saturday, May 7, 2011


I took a break.

I haven't been reading blogs - or posting on my own. In the meantime, Spring has truly sprung here in eastern NC.

I kept waiting to post, hoping that I would have big news from the breeding chambers of the harris hawks.


We had the nest all made up for the birds, carefully intertwining vines and branches. I padded it well with pine needles in the bottom to keep any eggs from cracking. Then I watched, and waited.

Gonzo would go and move a stick here or there. Tess would take all of her food up to the ledge to eat at the nest.

The birds would perch shoulder to shoulder.

Gonzo's foot seemed to be healing well. even though it was partially immobilized, he would use both feet for perching and seemed very comfortable. I changed all the perching surfaces to long leaf astroturf to protect Gonzo's feet.

No eggs, no eggs, no eggs.

Then they tore the nest apart. Could be a good thing. They are acknowledging that it is there. I replaced the pine needles and made sure that there were plenty of sticks in the cage for building.

And I waited.

They messed around with it, bringing sticks in and removing more of the "bedding" material. Tess would settle into it while she tore at her breakfast.

But still, nothing.

I had to run to Raleigh for a teacher "thing" this last week, so I called up Arnaud to see if we could change Gonzo's bandages on his toe. The scheduling was perfect.

When we got the bandages off of the foot, the toe had healed perfectly! Well done Arnaud. The toe was straight and yellow. You could hardly even see where it hadn't been working.

Unfortunately, Gonzo was dead.

He had died sometime that day in his box. The necropsy (still waiting for some tests) showed that Gonzo had some signs consistent with West Nile Virus - but we're still unsure of the cause of death.


No babies this year. I am in the market for a new male harris hawk. I was hoping to pick one up that was of breeding age, but I may end up getting a young bird.

And Tess is all alone:(

If you hear of any birds for sale (preferably on the East coast) let me know.

I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Bad news Good news

Gonzo's talon did not heal correctly. Even though we wrapped it, then splinted it. It still was pulling to the left an alarming amount, and the toe was starting to swell.

Obviously, my doctoring didn't work.

I loaded the bird into the car and took him to Raleigh to see Arnaud. He is a vet at the college there and specializes in raptors - and he is just a great guy.

I held Gonzo on the kitchen table while Arnaud took a good look - the prognosis wasn't great.

The middle toe had a severed tendon on one side, leaving an imbalance in the amount of tension on the other side of the toe, so it was like the tip was being pulled on one side by a rubber band.

He reset the toe - using some thick, plastic tubing and gauze and duct tape. It looks like it might work. The toe is currently straight, and should heal that way.

He has lost the use of the tip of that toe - I can't get around that - but being that it is the center talon - he should still be able to hunt.

Worst case scenario... the toe won't heal and we have to cut it off. Sucks - but even then he will still be able to hunt. Big picture - we're going to be okay.

I seem to have misplaced my camera - when I find it I'll post foot pictures.

As a side note - no eggs from the hawks yet...

Sunday, February 20, 2011

When does one species become more important than another?

The spotted owl.

Steeped in controversy and the bane of northwest loggers. Is the continuation of this species (subspecies) more important than other similar species?

Fish and wildlife may think so.

If the spotted owl isn't able to compete, do we "thin out" its competitors? Is that right?

The ever-controversial northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis caurina) has been protected under the Endangered Species Act since 1990, but despite the best efforts of lawmakers and conservationists the bird's population numbers continue to dwindle. Now the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has a radical plan to help the raptor: kill some of the barred owls (S. varia) that are outcompeting their spotted cousins for food and habitat.

Spotted owls became notorious following several decades, starting in the 1980s, of back-and-forth lawsuits as environmentalists tried to end logging in the Pacific Northwest's old-growth forests, the habitat the owls depend on for their nests and food. Logging on federal land was banned in 1991, and since then logging in Oregon alone has declined 95 percent, from 4.9 billion board feet of timber in 1988 to just 240 million board feet in 2009, according to The Oregonian. But even with less of its habitat being destroyed the spotted owl population has yet to bounce back.

Aside from its shrinking habitat, the major threat now, according to the FWS, is the growing number of barred owls in the area. These birds are more aggressive, can live in any type of forest, and eat more types of food than spotted owls, making them more adaptable to the current Pacific Northwest landscape.

According to the FWS's latest draft recovery plan for the spotted owl: "Limited experimental evidence, correlational studies and copious anecdotal information all strongly suggest barred owls compete with spotted owls for nesting sites, roosting sites and food—and possibly predate spotted owls. The threat posed by barred owls to spotted owl recovery is better understood now than when the spotted owl was listed. Because the abundance of barred owls continues to increase, the effectiveness in addressing this threat depends on action as soon as possible."

The recovery plan doesn't spell it out how it would control the barred owl population, but The Oregonian reports that "over the next year, in three or more study areas from Washington [State] to northern California, they might kill 1,200 to 1,500 barred owls."

We have barred owls all over on the east coast. They are a handsome species - but... does their commonality make them less important?

Just something to think about. You can read more here.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Coyotes get big

whenever I get the chance I like to spend time with my parents in upstate New York. My brother has a farm out there and we like to get out and walk the land when we have the opportunity.

A new thing that we need to consider now - crossbreeds.

Bigger than coyotes but smaller than wolves, their howl is high-pitched and their diet includes deer and small rodents. They are "coywolves" (pronounced "coy," as in playful, "wolves"), and they are flourishing in the northeastern U.S., according to a study published today in Biology Letters.

Although coyote–wolf breeding has been reported in Ontario, where coyotes started migrating from the Great Plains in the 1920s, this study provides the first evidence of coywolves—also known as coydogs or eastern coyotes—in the Northeast. And even though they are more coyote (Canis latrans) than wolf (gray wolves are Canis lupus, and red wolves are Canis rufus), the expansion of these hybrids into western New York State marks the return of wolves to the Empire State.

"It's kind of interesting that we drove this species from the area and it sort of came back in another form," says Roland Kays, curator of mammals at the New York State Museum in Albany and first author on the study.

Read the rest here....

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Hunting with a sharp shin

Cold, windy, and crappy describes the weather over the last few weeks. I have been sequestered in my house working on the "honey-do" list.

The harris hawks are together, spending time in and around the nest. I am missing my outside time with the birds (dogs too for that matter).

I was thankful when I got a text from Johnathan asking if I wanted to go hunting with him when he passed through town.


Packed my stuff so that I could change after school and meet him at the fields.

When school let out, it was raining and the wind had picked up.

We decided to give it a try anyway.

We pulled down a muddy track, splashing through puddles and spinning tires (still so glad I bought the Jeep). The fields were plowed a few months back and the was pooling on the short vegetation that grew there. Rain spit from the lead sky.

I don't have much (any) experience with sharp shins and my experience hunting with any small birds are minimal. This little guy was like a rocket, wet feathers and all.

We wandered through the grass, pushing small birds in front of us, Johnathan holding "Lady" up on his fist. A bird would flush, and like a rocket, she would explode after it.

After we pushed them through the grass, we tried our luck along a small, mowed ditch.

Little sparrows bail, the hawk screams after them, and they would dump back into the weeds. It was exciting to watch. I have to admit, it was amazing how well those little birds can hide in any bit of vegetation, and then never flush.

I forgot my camera, but soon the bird was too wet and heavy to fly well. No kills for the day, but a good time nonetheless.

Here is a video of Johnathan's bird catching quail front he deep grass.