Saturday, January 31, 2009

On Being Alone

I got this one from the guys over at Querencia. One thing I see even in my own children is a fear of being by themselves. Where as I often covet moments by myself, in the quiet (preferably in the woods), the kids at school fear it. There has been a shift in society, beginning with some of the newer technologies.
our great fear is not submersion by the mass but isolation from the herd. Urbanization gave way to suburbanization, and with it the universal threat of loneliness. What technologies of transportation exacerbated — we could live farther and farther apart — technologies of communication redressed — we could bring ourselves closer and closer together. Or at least, so we have imagined.

You can read the rest here.

"The game bag is no longer empty!"

So sayeth Andrew who took the pictures today. We wandered through the canebrake bottoms and saw little to nothing. Lots of nests today, but it was cold and a bit windy in the tree tops. The only thing I could figure was that the squirrels were holed up against the wind in the hollows of the trees.

At one point we came upon the remains of what could only be the old Baum residence. In the 1800's, this house was moved closer to the water in Nags Head Woods from its original location to escape being swallowed by a giant, slowly moving sand dune. This dune is still there (Jockey's Ridge), but the house has long been swallowed by the woods themselves.

We found this huge holly tree growing sideways from the bank. I could almost walk the trunk.

We did see two squirrels that the hawks chased, but couldn't catch before they disappeared into the thick underbrush. An immature bald eagle cruised low and slow over the top of the canopy. We froze, waiting for it to move on. After Gonzo got knocked out of a tree by another bald, I don't take these big birds for granted any more. After it passed, we got the birds moving again.

At one point, the hawks dove into the underbrush like they were on something. I clamored through the thick growth and found Gonzo under a bush on the ground.

"He's got it!" Andrew exclaimed from the other side of the brush pile.

And sure enough, gonzo clutched something in his talons. I reached for him, pulling him out of the bush. He had a wood mouse in his clutches. I took away and slipped it in the bag.

"The game bag is no longer empty!"

Thanks Andrew.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


I had a little over an hour to get out after work today for a quick hunt. I started out following the ridges, but quickly found that my quarry was going to be down in the bottoms. In this particular spot, the bottoms are actually swampy, with standing water and muck. One had to be careful where they step. I found my feet being sucked into the mud on more than one occasion.

The birds, weights were great and the temperature was in the mid forties. This was a spot I'd never hunted, but there were plenty of nests and young trees. The downside was the thick canebrake, the holes formed by exposed root bundles, and in some cases, nearly impenetrable thickets.

But after wandering the ridge for almost 45 minutes without seeing a single squirrel, we flushed one as soon as we got down into the marsh. I never saw him. Leaves and branches were in the way, but the sound of the hawks bells let me know that they were in pursuit of something. I did my best to keep up, and at one point I did see them crash through the low canopy, into the shrubs in front of me.

I don't know who really scored the squirrel. They were both attached to it when I arrived. Gonzo firmly held the head.

I traded them off, realizing that my time was drawing short. My daughter needed me to drive her to soccer, so I needed to get going. I began working my way back to the truck, and soon enough, the birds were on another squirrel. I got to see some of the chase this time. The squirrel bailed out of the tree tops and bounded across the marsh, between trees, and through piles of debris. The hawks were right behind it, coming in low. Gonzo hugged the ground like a fighter jet, and Tess was off of his left wing and behind. The squirrel dove under a thick branch, through the water. Gonzo closed, grabbing the squirrel from behind, while Tess pulled up, over the branch, and nailed him from above. The squirrel was caught between them, laying in the shallow water.
I traded them off after a bit of squabbling.

Tess ended up getting soaked and had a hard time staying in the air when she flew back to the car, but her crop was filling up after two good trade offs and and extra mouse. Her recall was still perfect.

I really needed to go this time.

I got my daughter to practice on time - then put up the birds. I cut off the squirrel tails. My sponsor taught me to do this as kind of a way to keep track. Like a trophy wall, I hang them up to dry. The board I'm using is full, and the season isn't even over yet.

I'll be out again on Saturday.

Falconers in the news

One of our local falconers was in the news. He flies a pair of Harris' hawks in the Charlotte area. Here is the link:

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Ten years ago, I never saw eagles here. As a kid I saw them when we went out west, but in the east, they were rare.

Now, there are frequent eagle sightings for those who care to look. When I drove to Lillington yesterday, I saw three. I had one knock Gonzo out of a tree the other day near my house - that's a story for another day.

Occasionally, I get calls to come and rescue this bird or that. People here on the beach call me "the bird man". Most of them know I keep birds of different kinds, usually because of the school kids.

That's me in the hat.

I got a call one evening from Jen, a rehabber friend of mine who needed some help with an eagle. It had been rescued and was severely underweight. They'd brought it back from the brink, and after several months of work, decided that it was time to release the bird back into the wild.

Jen was nervous. She was the one who was had rescued the bird in the beginning, but she was going to be handling this bird now in front of everyone: newspapers, FWS people, as well as the public.

We pulled into Alligator River Wildlife Refuge.

It was rainy and nasty. The mud squelched under our feet and the rain ran in rivulets down the dirt road. The clouds hung low over the field where the release was ging to happen. It was miserable. Some people hung back in in their cars to stay out of the rain, but there was still a crowd, standing their dripping in the mud, waiting for the eagle to be released. My kids were there, so was Andrew, watching from the side.

I've never handled an eagle before. It was big. It's feet were huge! But even then, it wasn't large for an eagle. I reached into the dog Kennel, where it was being kept for transport and pulled the bird out, feeling its weight in my hands. It didn't want to be handled and was ready to escape. I cradled it in my arms and brought it over to Jen for the release.

It was a small tiercel (male) bald eagle. You could tell it was young because it didn't have its white head. It was brown all over, except for blotches of white beneath the wings. Maybe three years old.

He reluctantly stood for a moment to pose for pictures, and then Jen thrust him into the air.

He launched and circled our heads. I figured he would just land and sit in the puring rain. But he flew for us, looking huge and masterful close above our heads, and then he took off for the treeline.
It was cool.


Friday, January 23, 2009


Ulrich has been on the back burner lately. With the new puppy, and baby-sitting Andrew's bird, kids' soccer, graduate school, and of course - work, I've been waiting for things to calm down a bit.

Ulrich visited the classroom today and charmed the children. He always does - Kestrels have such great little personalities. He free flew over their heads across the classroom, his weight right at 102 grams. I'll need to drop him a bit before I get him outside. His training is about two weeks behind schedule.

We are out tonight. We have a falconry meet tomorrow with the North Carolina Falconers' Guild.
The meet is being hosted by Chip. I hope to have lots of pictures tomorrow.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

How the City Hurts your Brain

I often comment that I don't like people. Technically, that's not true. I don't like large groups of people. Oh, I can take it in small doses, but soon enough I get claustrophobic and have to escape.

The Boston Globe writes:
Now scientists have begun to examine how the city affects the brain, and the results are chastening. Just being in an urban environment, they have found, impairs our basic mental processes. After spending a few minutes on a crowded city street, the brain is less able to hold things in memory, and suffers from reduced self-control. While it's long been recognized that city life is exhausting -- that's why Picasso left Paris -- this new research suggests that cities actually dull our thinking, sometimes dramatically so.

I can't say that I'm surprised. I often don't understand how "city people" can stand it.

For the complete article go here:

Loss of Habitat

I hunt in small areas. It seems that most falconers in the east have limited access to large tracts of land. So every spot is precious. I have a limited number of areas that I frequent, and most of these lay on the fringes of populated areas. Sometimes I hunt in ecological preserves, sometimes parks, sometimes in overgrown vacant lots between strip malls. Every spot is precious, and every spot is subject to urban sprawl.

As I drove home from work, one of the places I want to hunt, but haven't had the opportunity, was meeting the bulldozer. They were taking down every tree, every bush. Sure, they would go in later and plant nonnative palm trees, and shrubs, but the natural spaces were gone. Will it be another bank, pharmacy, strip mall? There are dozens in a two mile radius.

I feel the loss of habitat as a physical blow. I drive by and I feel pressure in my chest and I wince. Green space is precious. I do not deny the need for expansion, but I desire a more controlled spread.

In a 2002 article NASA wrote:

"While space technology was undergoing its spectacular birth during the 1950s and '60s, and visionaries were predicting the spread of human colonies into space, another kind of human colony was spreading rapidly--right here on Earth!

It was the dawn of the modern suburb, a time of post-war prosperity when housing developments popped up across the landscape like mushrooms after a rain...

A half-century later, we now understand that many environmental problems accompany the outward spread of cities: fragmenting and destroying wildlife habitat, for example, and discharging polluted runoff water into streams and lakes."

I don't know how to stop it. We can't deny others space in which to live and thrive. My best suggestion is to do your best to buy up the land or support others that can.

Support smart environmental groups like
Ducks Unlimited -,
The Nature Conservancy -,
and others.

Join a hunt club.
Start your own.

No one protects the wild space like hunters do. Get involved.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Morning Hunt

Due to the inclement weather, work opened late today so I was able to sneak in a quick morning hunt. The temperature was in the 20's and the new snow crunched underfoot as I tromped through the quiet morning woods.

Gonzo's weight was perfect, but Tess had lost more weight over night than I had anticipated. Her performance today showed it. Usually she follows directly above my head, but she hung back today. Her perches were still high, but she just didn't seem into it.

I tried to follow along the ridges where there was less snow, but the hawks had other plans. The squirrel nests tended towards the bottoms, near the swamp. So I ended up wading through the snow covered canebrake. This stuff is thick, like miniature bamboo. and my legs were soon wet and cold from the snow brushing onto them.

We soon located a squirrel. I didn't see it at first, but Gonzo was circling a tree and then dove into the canebrake and out of sight. Tess soon followed as I ran, earthbound, trying to catch up.

I caught a glimpse of the squirrel crossing a downed tree and disappearing into a root bundle on the other side of the water. Gonzo pitched up and sat for a minute, considering.

In the meantime, Tess had found another and was attempting to flush it from under a brush pile. I picked her up and tossed her onto a low branch and I started methodically tromping my way through the pile. The squirrel burst out and clawed it's way up a leafless tree, freezing between the branches. Gonzo circled up the trunk, following.

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a large shadow passing overhead and alighting in a tree nearby. It was a large resident Red Tail. She sat and watched the chase for a while. I had a hard time concentrating on the action, as I kept expecting the Red tail to go after one of my birds. But she seemed contented to play the spectator today. In another couple of weeks, that may change as mating season approaches.

I found a vine and began to shake, trying to get the squirrel to move. He apparently didn't like the pressure and bailed out of the tree.

Gonzo folded his wings and dropped in after him. The squirrel hit, throwing up a spray of powder, and Gonzo hammered in after him.

Score one for Gonzo.

Everyone got traded off, fed up, and we made it back to the house in plenty of time to get me to work.

It's a good way to start the day.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

New Pup

My wife decided that she wanted a puppy of her very own. Originally, she was going to help with the breeding of her fathers very small, miniature schnauzer. Her family has always kept schnauzers. We have one as well, sweet dog, but she has adopted me, and Traci wants her own.

But she wants a little dog that we can take with us wherever we go. The mating with her dad's dog didn't take, and the vet informed us that the dog was getting too old anyway. He told us we'd be better off looking into other options.

Traci was upset. She'd been counting on this puppy for close to a year now, and it wasn't going to be coming.

She started to research her alternatives. She was going to get one of those designer dogs. We went out to the breeder to see his dogs. The dog she thought she would like was ugly and scrawny.

She decided instead on another of the breeders dogs.

A little yorkie.

I've gotta admit, he's cute.

Workin' with Murph - more snow

And the snow keeps coming down.

I took Murphy and the kids out into the woods to work on her recall. She bolted out the door yesterday and off into the trees and wouldn't come when called. I want to say it was because she didnt' hear me, but I think she realizes when she is truly off lead.

I had her on a dragged line again today, with her shock collar. I did not have to make any corrections. Her recall was great. She stayed close. She climbed a tree after she sniffed at some squirrel tracks.

We are going to keep working at it.

But the woods were gorgeous.

Turning 40- with snow

I turn 40 today.
There's no real change. My wife complains that there is no way to embarrass me, so my turning 40 isn't any fun. I was supposed to go hunting this morning with Andrew, but a winter storm whipped up overnight with high wind, so we called it off this morning.

Where I live we haven't had snow accumulate in over five years, so the kids are outside, giddy with excitement.

I got a camera, so I don't have to keep stealing my wife and kids to take pictures. I'll be taking the kids sledding in a little while. Then tomorrow, I hawk in the snow. It'll only be the second time in my life for that. I'll be taking pictures.

Oh yeah - Go Steelers

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Working with Murphy

Murphy is a Patterdale terrier, some would call her a Fell terrier.

Her breed is bred to go underground in search of groundhog, fox, and the like. Murphy loves to do that kind of work, but unfortunately, we don't have the right kind of terrain here on these barrier islands. There are no groundhogs here to dig the holes. So fox will shelter wherever they can, under tree roots, in crawl spaces, etc. Coon and opossum do the same. So having a hole dog here is sometimes tough.

The original thought was that I would use Murphy to bust rabbits and squirrels for the Harris'. But I honestly haven't done much of that. I get scared that the dog will run off.
I was one of those kids that never had a dog as a kid, so all the training I attempt doesn't come easily to me.

And Murphy likes to run deer.

So as breeding season for the hawks quickly approaches, I have decided that I need to spend more time training the dog.
Today was the first day in a long time that I took her out to walk. Not just the normal walk around the block, but out where she can run a bit
She was dragging a lead, and she had a low power shock coller on, but I rarely needed either.
I think I had to shock her once (hate doing it). Then she remembered real quickly what the COME command means - or more accurately - C'MON.

It was gray and cold. Just a few degrees above freezing, and the rain spit at us in bursts. It was the perfect day for it.

We wandered through the coastal dunes, and along the ridges next to where the sand is slowly swallowing the maritime forest as the dunes migrate towards the sound.
The wind blew, and the dog listened.

She did great.

We wandered into the pine forest, with the wet needles beneath our feet, holding the animal scent. She was more distracted, but she still listened.

It was a good day.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Losing pigeons

I got back from hunting today and had to clean house. I spent the afternoon inside, doing what I had to do, and as the sun was slowly bleeding itself out of the sky, I decided to let the pigeons fly from my small coop while I fed the chickens and rabbits.

As I let the pigeons out, a feathered missle raced straight for my head. The pigeons scattered and I yelled, "what the ....!"
How'd the hawks get out?

But it wasn't my hawk. A passage coopers hawk landed in the tree not ten feet from where I was standing. It took another dive at the pigeons and zeroed in on one in particular, chasing it out of sight.

When I checked on my pigeons later, I was missing one.

I expect the coopers will be back. Too bad trapping season's over.


It was the perfect day for hunting. The temps were in the twenties and the wind was still. The weather over the last week has been cold, wet, and windy so seeing the sun today was a nice change.

The hawks' weights were good, though Gonzo was on the high side at 670 grams. I usually hunt him around 650.

Tess was right on.

I got permission this year to hunt on a tract of land in Nags Head that I have been wanting to hunt for ten years, but I have never been able too. The terrain is great, mixed hardwoods, with oak, pine, and hickory. Some old growth maritime forest with areas that had been cleared in the last twenty years mixed in. There was a bunch of squirrel sign, stripped pine cones, middens, and squirrel nests up in the trees.

At the base of the ridges that run through the woods are small ponds and vernal pools that are home to lots of animals in the summer; duck, otter, turtles, but they were freezing over today.

The sun shone in spears through the pines.

We hunted.

There were no squirrels.




I walked for over two hours (it was gorgeous), without seeing a single glimpse of a squirrel. The hawks did dive at something, once, over a hill ,where I couldn't see, but that was it.

I made it back to the truck somewhat crestfallen.

We tried another spot. This one is tried and true. I hadn't been there in a few weeks, but here I can normally walk out with doubles, or at least a single.




The hawks played great. We spent some time talking to a group of mountian bikers at the end of the hunt. They'd heard the bells as they were riding. The hawks sat low on the branches as we talked giving everyone a good view. They don't get spooked easily. Good birds.

We'll try again on Monday.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

PeTA says: Dogs are too good for the handicapped

I was amazed when I read this post over at the Pet Connection blog. Christie Keith summarizes what happened when she found the blog of Karen Porreca, an editor and editorial staff manager for PETA. Ms. Porreca basically states that dogs bred for work should not be subject to having to work for the handicapped. It is amazing to know that there is a widely followed organization out there that is so out of touch with how the real world works.

check out the whole post here:

Monday, January 12, 2009

I love this shot

This pic was taken by John Maxwell, who tagged along with us on a hunting trip.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Deer Hunters vs. Falconers

Deer hunting and falconry are different sides of the same coin. But they can conflict with one another. I come from a long line of deer hunters: fathers, grandfathers, nephews, etc. But I myself have never been. I bare deer hunters no grudge, nor ill will - as a matter of fact I envy them in a way. Anytime spent in the field, quietly observing the slow rotation of nature is time well spent. I never get enough of it.

Falconry for me is often fast and sometimes loud. There is running and falling and yelling, quick blurs of action in the treetops followed by short lulls while the birds develope their next move to put their quarry into checkmate. I would appreciate more quiet time.
The problem lies often in the two different styles of hunting. While the deer hunter still hunts like a wild red tail, falconry is more active, and when the two styles occur in the same space, conflict can occur.

Many of my hunting spots are also open to deer hunters, and I am never one to piss off the other hunters. I don't want to interrupt their hunt with my birds and I crashing through the brush, chasing after squirrels above our heads.

How can we minimize any clashes between deer hunters and falconers?
North Carolina falconers are trying to change legislation so that falconers will have the opportunity to hunt on Sundays.

Until now, hunting on Sundays has been illegal. There is no biological basis for this, it is simply and old tradition that originated so that hunters' butts would remain in the pew seats on Sundays.

Falconry, in general, has no effect on game species numbers, and an additional day of hunting will make no difference one way or another to the prey. After all, they don't know it's Sunday.

Again, there is no biological basis to oppose Sunday falconry, but in North Carolina there is a lobby that puts forth the slippery slope argument, citing that first comes falconers then comes bow hunters. And you know what comes next - Anarchy, and the fall of civilization - I suppose.

What do I want from all of this?

I want to be able to take my birds in the woods, without worrying about either they, or myself being shot. I don't want there to be any conflict with my fellow hunters while we each persue our individual goals.

I encourage anyone reading this to pass along their comments about Sunday Falconry.

H25. Allow falconry on Sundays, except for migratory game birds.*
Justification: There is no biological, legal or management reason to prohibit falconry on Sundays.

Next year, I think I'll try deer hunting.

Saturday, January 10, 2009