Monday, August 30, 2010

Hope for the Honey Bee

The Varroa mite has been wiping out bee populations around the world.
Now there may be hope to fight the pesticide resistant strain.

A British beekeeper said on Wednesday he may have discovered a strain of honey bee immune to a parasite that has been gradually wiping out populations of the vital insect worldwide.

Scientists have been trying to find a way to fight the pesticide-resistant Varroa mite.

But now a retired heating engineer who has spent 18 years searching for a mite-resistant breed may have made a breakthrough.

Ron Hoskins, 79, from Swindon in southern England, says he has managed to isolate and breed a strain of bees which "groom" one another, removing the mites.

Read the rest here.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Classroom visitor

I found a little hog nose snake in a pool skimmer the other day. These are great little snakes. What an opportunity.

I took the little guy into school and tried to impress upon them the importance of being aware of their surroundings. They need to know their snakes, and don't kill them.

Hog nose snakes are "mimics". They pretend to be vicious, venomous snakes and around her, most people believe them. They are often mistaken for cottonmouth water Moccasins. It is really too bad, cause they are great little snakes.

We showed him to the kids, handled him - taught them about mimics, then let him go.

Getting Ready

I've been out of the loop for a bit - and for that I apologize. The temperature has finally cooled, and school has started. I'm still working the summer job on the weekends, as well as trying to get the birds to a healthy flying weight (we're real close). The combination of these things has made time a commodity of which I have had little as of late.

Regardless, the getting ready games have begun.

Emails have been flying back and forth as preparations are made for trapping season to begin. A new friend down the coast is helping to trap bait birds.

I've always had a problem with securing enough sparrows and starlings to use as bait for merlins, so he brought me up a few and I'm housing them in a make shift shed next to the pigeon loft. I've also set my own elevator trap. Hopefully, I'll get one or two in the next few weeks.

I've been checking the hawk watch counts for the best times to trap. We're after both merlins and Peregrines, their migration time overlap at around the end of September, beginning of October.

I pulled out all my nets, poles, blinds and such to see how they have fared, waiting in the shed for trapping season to roll around. I had forgotten that I had let another trapper borrow my nets, and equipment, so I regarded their storage with trepidation. I hate untangling a net. - let alone three or four.

I set up the blinds, only to find that my oldest ( and cheapest) has lost its shape, and I don't think it will be any use to us this year. Hopefully, some of the other trappers will have blinds they can use. If not - I suppose we could always just use a tent.

The nets beckoned. With the air being cooler, and the humidity lower than it has been all summer, the coming of Fall truly seems like a reality. I am giddy with anticipation. Its silly really how much emotion I have wrapped into all this, but I can't wait.

I pulled the poles apart. The other trapper hadn't stored them the way I would have liked. I unhitched the thread, and then began to unwind the nets. They came apart easily - he did well.

I checked the thread, the knots. Then I wound them back up (my way) and set them back in the corner. I'm about ready - I just need a few things and it won't take long. Trapping will be here before I know it.

Friday, August 13, 2010

To the Fist

While Gonzo continues to be flighty, snacking at the food on the glove without landing, Tess has come right down, landed, and claimed the food offered to her. I can now start weighing her and bringing her weight down to be ready for hunting.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Didn't take long

We had our first critter volunteer to try out the new critter box. An opossum had apparently been prowling around the chicken coop and was caught in the traps set for the raccoons. That is fine. I have no problem with opossums, but what a great opportunity.

I loaded him into the critter box and attached the box to the end of a short run of go to ground tunnel. I loaded some dirt into the tunnel (dogs gotta get used to digging) and brought Gordon out to check it out.

The critter cage is separated from the run by some half inch hardware cloth. It didn't take long for Gordon to run down the tunnel and start whining at the opossum. Whining is okay - I was hoping for more. I offered encouragement.

Gordon started biting a bit on the hardware cloth. Good, good.

Then he backed off a bit, as if to consider the situation, and started barking.


It wasn't a deep bay, but more high pitched. He wasn't lunging or attacking, only intimidating. I removed the hardware cloth to see what Gordon would do. It didn't seem like he had any desire to engage the opossum.

I was right.

The two stood face to face, Gordon sounding off, just like he is supposed to. He didn't stop until I removed the critter. Gordon tumbled out of the tunnel, tongue out and smiling. Good dog.

I separated the two new friends and then the opossum was released unharmed.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Time to start paying attention

It is mid August and for the last five months my hawks have been hog fat. They've been up for breeding, but apparently I didn't accommodate them with the right mood music. They've been down in their weathering area and I have been pretty much leaving them alone while they molt.

The molt is about done. If you look closely at the tail feathers of Gonzo, the last few tail feathers are just about grown in.

Squirrel season doesn't open until mid October, but it is time to start watching the hawks weight.

Neither bird will come to the fist right now for food, so I need to start cutting their food intake. Once they get to a point that they will start snatching at the fist, I will snag one and start weighing them.

I would like to start car hawking Gonzo by mid September. This will get him into shape for squirrels in October.

In the meantime, I need to get out all my nets and B.C. s and start checking them over. Trapping is about a month away and school starts in two weeks, limiting my time. Things should start to get interesting here real soon.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Bee Concerned

We went into the hive yesterday. The idea was to check on honey stores and see if we would be in a position to try and harvest some honey at the end of the month.

But their progress has been less than stellar. When we added the third super, the bees had quickly filled the first two. Honey was copious and I was really excited about their progress. This time was different.

While I was feeling much better about handling the bees and the frames and such (I'm still not bare handed), the bees hadn't moved into the third super.

The bottom two were full of capped honey. The bees were building everywhere, but they had not moved up at all. My son and I were both surprised and disappointed.

I've read that sometimes the worker bees don't know to move up when you add a new super, so I moved some of the filled honey comb up a level, in hopes that the bees would do the same.

I was hoping to treat for mites and disease in the beginning of September, after we harvested just a few pounds of honey. Unless something big happens, I don't know that we will get any honey. My son was counting on getting some this year. He wanted to give it as presents for Christmas.

Would the bees go into overdrive if I started feeding right now? I don't know. But I might try it.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Harris hawks and sparrows

When I take the hawks out and hunt edges of fields, Gonzo often gets distracted. Like most male harris hawks, Gonzo is swift off the fist (and out the car window) and he does well chasing small birds in the high grass. Gonzo especially liked chasing those giant flying grasshoppers.

While I don't necessarily condone these activities, it is awfully fun to watch.

This is a video of a harris hawk flying sparrows. Turn the volume down a bit as the music is a bit loud.

Male Harris at Grassland Sparrow from Slope Hawker on Vimeo.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Mammal- crocodile

ScienceDaily (Aug. 4, 2010) Fossils of an ancient crocodile with mammal-like teeth have been discovered in the Rukwa Rift Basin of Tanzania, scientists report in the journal Nature. The unusual creature is changing the picture of animal life at 100 million years ago in what is now sub-Saharan Africa.

"If you only looked at the teeth, you wouldn't think this was a crocodile. You would wonder what kind of strange mammal or mammal-like reptile it is," said study lead author Patrick O'Connor, associate professor of anatomy in the Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine.

The scientists describe the new species of notosuchian crocodyliform as a small animal -- "its head would fit in the palm of your hand," O'Connor said -- that wasn't as heavily armored as other crocodiles, except along the tail. Other aspects of its anatomy suggest it was a land-dwelling creature that likely feasted on insects and other small animals to survive.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Monday, August 2, 2010

Tunnel completed

I finished the go-to-ground tunnel today. Using the remaining bits of plywood and some scrap I had laying around, I added a 'T' , a three foot pipe, and a den. No one could ever accuse me of being a carpenter, but the finished product should be serviceable.

All of the parts are able to be turned so that the whole tunnel can be rearranged into different designs. I set it up on the edge of the yard while Gordon investigated.

He didn't enter, and I didn't encourage him either.

Once I had it set up, I decided to see what Gordon would think.

I loaded up the den section with some used bedding from the rabbit cage and a third of a hot dog.

Then I loaded up one section of pipe with a wall of dirt and sand.

Gordon had been running the short tunnel pretty easily lately, I was wondering how he would do with the new twists, turns, and obstacles.

He entered at the tunnel at the T. I had to coax him at first, but then he was in and running.

Pat, pat, pat, his paws thumped through the tunnel. He ignored the dead end tunnel and headed straight for the den. Some tasty smells should have been eminateing from their as it was full of the used bedding.

I forgot to fasten down the trap door and it started to pop open as he trundled through. I held it closed with my foot.

Then Gordon started to dig. I could hear him in there, and dirt was being pushed out of the seams of the tunnel. Go, dog, go.

He paused once to rest, then finished the job. Next thing I knew he was tearing up the den, and chomping down on some well earned hot dog.

We repeated the exercise a few more times. He did awesome. I've got the trap out for a squirrel to see how Gordon likes that. In the meantime, I'm going to pick up a rat and see if that helps to make more positive associations.

It was a good exercise.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Harris - hatching to hunting

Where are the dingos

The Australian dingo is disappearing. The question now is, should this feared predator be saved? Like the wolf in North America in the 1800's, the dingo is considered a dangerous predator that is a threat to livestock. The dingo is hated by much of Australia. On the other side, it is a part of their national identity.

What to do?

Where did the Australian dingo go? Once present throughout that country, the feared predator (Canis lupus dingo) in its current form is on its way to extinction as it is either killed or breeds and hybridizes with domesticated dogs. With the disappearance of the purebred dingo comes the loss of an important part of the region's ecosystem as well as a greater chance of environmental destruction by invasive species such as foxes and feral cats...

...Back in 2008 the Victoria Department of Sustainability and Environment declared the dingo a threatened species and has now, finally, taken the first steps toward preventing the dingo's extinction by planning to set aside public land for dingo preservation. (No land has actually been set aside yet, however.)

Part of the problem is that so many Australians, to put it mildly, hate the dingo. Farmers see the predator as a pest and threat to livestock. There is also a history of dingo attacks on humans, typified by the oft-quoted line spoken by Meryl Streep in A Cry in the Dark, "the dingo ate my baby."

Read the rest here.