State's Only Breeding Goshawk, Chicks Found DeadGRANTSVILLE, Md. -- 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.
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Friday, June 17, 2011
Scientific American states:
The rising 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:
Imagine your Harris Hawk trying to tackle one of those.
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.
Rats have been a food source for thousands of years - This seems like a good plan to me.
Sunday, June 12, 2011
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
Saturday, May 21, 2011
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.
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
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 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
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
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
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
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.
Thursday, February 3, 2011
Both hawks are out in the weathering area eating their fill of squirrely, meaty, goodness. Gonzo has kept his talon, though it is canted at a slightly off angle.
So without a back up bird in the wings, I am forced to find other ways to spend the waning days of hunting season.
My duck hunt plans fell through - maybe I could still go out and snag myself a pig, I did get my first real gun, after all.
Instead - We took last Sunday to load the family on one of the local ferries and chug our way over to Knotts Island.
It is a little out of the way place that happens to be the home of some decent little vineyards.
It also has some great wide open fields, and prime rabbit spots. I have never actually hunted here, but I might need to come over and scout out some prime spots.
Additionally, it looks like a great place to trap migrating falcons.
Something to think about.
Anyway. It was a perfect blustery, sunny day. We spent the afternoon inside, cozied up by a fire, catching something other than game.
I think I might need a vine yard. If you would like to donate money towards this cause, please contact me via the comments section below.
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
This squid has always got a smile on its face! The skin pigmentation of this little deep water squid gives it a huge grin, while the tentacles seem to form a mass of curly 'hair', combining to give it an almost cartoon appearance.
Copyright © Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, Gary Florin
The Piglet squid, Helicocranchia pfefferi, is roughly the size of a small avocado, and is common in the deep water of virtually all oceans, living at depths of around 100m/320ft.Its common name comes from its habit of filling up with water and the unique location of its syphon, with a wild-looking tuft of eight arms and two tentacles.
Saturday, January 29, 2011
I started out the season with an aggressive goal.
35 head of game. That would beat out my all time record by four. I thought at the time it was realistically attainable, if I hunted hard.
I've been a falconer since 1999, hunting squirrels almost exclusively, averaging around 25-30 a season. I hunt two to three times a week. With my growing family - I'm okay with that number
Last weekend was my last hunt for the season. It was planned.
I originally started this blog to toot my hawks horns - so that when breeding time finally happened, people would want to buy my hawks. I have not had them breed yet. I'm not sure why,, but it has been suggested that I might want to try and get them together earlier.
Around here, hawks start pairing up in the next month. During February, I often catch red shouldered hawks in the act. So I decided to put the birds up early, and maybe they will finally breed.
So on Saturday, we went out for our last hunt of the season.
Of course, I forgot my camera.
A pair of red tails were circling over the adjacent field where we were hunting - making me more firm in my decision to be done.
Late season squirrels are tough, and these were no exception. We had a few great chases, but these squirrels were smart - maybe they had been practicing evasive maneuvers with the local red tails.
They knew how to hide behind vine bundles, and run across the ground through the tangles. The hawks had a hard time connecting. Finally, from the top of a pine, the squirrel bailed out, landing in a pile of brush. the hawks couldn't get through, so I started flushing - the hawks gave chase across the forest floor, while I tried to keep up.
Tess did a roll-over into the brush, then pulled back up. She missed.
Then Gonzo dove. The squirrel had tried to squeeze under a downed log, and didn't make it.
I found them with the squirrel half under the log, and Gonzo firmly planted on his back, one talon on the head, the other on his rump.
Quick trade, put the birds back up.
I had about another 20 minutes before I had to head back, maybe time for one more squirrel. It was the last hunt of the season for me, after all.
The next chase was uneventful, except for the fact that this was one wily squirrel. tree to tree, nest, tree, and on, never coming to the ground. Gonzo tore apart two nests, before pulling the squirrel out, boxing with it in mid air, before dropping it.
Tess closed the deal on the ground, crashing into the squirrel.
I seemed like a successful hunt until I saw the bright red blood, it wasn't the squirrels, as it had dripped on the squirrels fur, and stood out in relief against his white belly fur.
I inspected Tess' talons as they held onto the squirrel, they were clean. Traded Tess off, then called up Gonzo.
He had tussled with this squirrel too.
He landed on the glove, great fist response, acting like he was ready to hunt.
His middle toe on the right talon was leaking blood, but it didn't look too bad, until he shifted his feet. The middle toe canted dangerously at the last joint.
It was a bite, and it was deep. The toe was pointing in an unnatural direction.
In 10 plus years hunting squirrels - this was only my second bad bite - and it was in a bad place.
I rushed the birds home, got Gonzo in the house, and immobilized the foot. I have done this type of doctoring before, and I am hopeful that Gonzo will keep the toe. Though he may lose the talon.
Disappointing - to say the least.
We ended the season with 57 head of (furry) game - my most successful ever. The hawks have performed amazingly all season long.
They have done things that I wouldn't have believed just a year ago.
Now I have to worry about that bite. I'll keep monitoring it.
For the next week or so, the birds will be getting fat in their respective cages.
Tess is already there.
Soon, I'll let them get together and cross my fingers.
Monday, January 24, 2011
Last Saturday ended with us heading out to a large farm field to watch Ben's falcon fly. He didn't catch anything with his little tiercel, but the flights were spectacular. The day before, he had gotten a double on hooded merganser.
Then a business meeting.
Sunday morning dawned bright and cool. Temps would be rising quickly. We met at McDonalds and headed out to fly Arnaud's merlin.
I am a merlin virgin - I'd never seen one fly. We ended up at a giant farm field with a shallow overgrown ditch running down the center.
Arnaud unhooded the handsome little bird and held him aloft. He roused, and bobbed his head, getting a feel for the lay of the land, then launched.
Once he was airborn, zipping around like a heat seeking missile, it was our job to run through the fields to flush game.
It worked. Pretty soon birds were popping out of the grass like popcorn, and the little falcon was stooping repeatedly. If he missed, he'd turn and wait for the reflush.
Running, ho-ing, and beating at the grass was exhausting - and since the this field held standing water, had potential to create dampness. Arnaud fell in, and I stepped into a hole almost to my knee.
We worked our way down the grass, finally bagging one bird near the end. The merlin snagged it on the wing, carrying it a little ways past. He hopped around in the grass for a bit, then stashed it under a thicker patch of weeds. He hopped up and took to the air again, waiting for another flight.
This was an awesome little bird. We grabbed another one out of the air, and I'm pretty sure he would have kept flying, but we had harris hawks to fly. Arnaud apologized later about the birds lack of "style". I didn't care about its style - he was a cool little rocket, that knew its job. Fun fun.
We moved to another field - one we had been to earlier this weekend. Richard got out his pair of harris hawks. Both birds were wild birds - one trapped in Texas, the other in Arizona.
The birds worked well together, and followed like they were supposed to.
I've been wondering a lot about the differences between the hunting habits of wild caught and captive bred birds. There doesn't seem to be much.
We lined up and coursed a field for these two birds. They followed - we popped a rabbit and the birds followed it from the air. We closed in.
Ho Ho - the rabbit moved and the hawks made pass after pass, before the final squeal of success.
Chip showed up with his harris hawks. We got out his and my two and put them all up together again.
I admit, I love having all four birds up together. They work well together and I love the chaos.
We tromped through the woods and saw no game. I was getting nervous that the birds might get bored and start to bicker.
It never happened.
We finally found squirrels in a patch of huge old hardwoods at the back of the property. This tree was so big, it would have taken ten of us holding hands to surround it.
This squirrel knew every nook and cranny of the tree, and the chase was a chess match. One squirrel vs four hawks.
Each branch was as large as a normal tree - and the squirrel would hide over, under, and around these branches. The squirrels strategy was brilliant, until he tried to switch trees. The hawks pressured it to the point where it leapt, and Eli grabbed it.
We traded off and moved to the next giant tree. We chased a few more squirrels, Gonzo took one of them, Eli one other, and ended the day with three more in the bag.
There was a lot of running, falling, laughing - and great chases from both the hawks and the squirrels.
I left the meet with three squirrels that I could claim and a rabbit (plus the one I caught on the way there).
We took a picture of a partial head count for the weekend.
Not too bad.
A very successful weekend. On the way home, I had plenty of time to review what I wanted for the rest of the season, and revised my goals.
Friday, January 21, 2011
It's Squirrel Day. Really
By Mike Brownlee
WORLD-HERALD NEWS SERVICE
COUNCIL BLUFFS — Today is National Squirrel Appreciation Day.
To celebrate, residents are encouraged to nibble food furiously, climb trees and appear to be scared of everything. Well, not really.
But it really is a day to celebrate an animal whose black incarnation is celebrated by Council Bluffs
“We certainly appreciate squirrels, every day,” said Kathy Fiscus, director of leisure marketing for the Council Bluffs Area Chamber of Commerce.
Fiscus mentioned Chipper, the black squirrel that serves as the official mascot of the city.
“That’s our way of embracing the black squirrel. It’s a way to introduce some natural history to children in a fun and positive way,” Fiscus said.
Christy Hargrove, a wildlife rehabilitator in Asheville, N.C., established National Squirrel Appreciation Day in 2001, according to holidayinsights.com. “Celebration of the event itself is up to the individual or group,” she said, “anything from putting out extra food for the squirrels to learning something new about the species.”
Today also is National Hugging Day, though a combination of the two holidays is not advised.
I will be hugging them - as will Tess and Gonzo. If you get a chance to celebrate, let me know!
Thanks Kathy for sharing the link!
Thursday, January 20, 2011
During lunch on our first day of the meet - we reorganized our groups, set things up and got ready to go. Chip, who organized the whole thing, comes up to me and says.
"I wanna go hunting with you."
So we did. It started out with his red tail. Chip hunts with lots of birds, and uses them for abatement as well, and all his birds hunt well.
The red tail was an accomplished hunter and proved it on this outing. With a dozen spectators the red tail chased down and cornered a squirrel in short order.
In a mix of tall pines and hardwoods, the red tail stalked the squirrel as it tried to sneak away and up a tree. The hawk soon cornered it 60 feet up at the top of a pine with no where to go.
The red tail folded and dove. The squirrel hit first, bounced in the leaf litter, and the hawk nailed it on the rebound. One down.
We put the red tail up to get out the harris hawks. Tess and Gonzo got tossed up into the tree and Chip got out his two tiercels - Rudy and Eli.
We've done this before, hunted with all four hawks at once - and it almost isn't fair to the squirrels. What generally results is bedlam - controlled chaos.
The hawks start out working as individuals, but by the end of the hunt, they were coordinating. Eli was the stealth hawk. He tends to wait lower in the trees and wait for the squirrels to bail out. He is very successful with this technique.
The other three hawks will pursue, pushing the squirrel into a mistake. The birds swipe at the squirrel, scraping them from the side of the tree, but the squirrel will circle, corkscrewing around to get away from the hawks.
One squirrel finally found itself at the tippy top of a scrawny oak, clutching on to a spindly limb. Four harris hawks perched around him at each point of the compass.
I can only imagine what the squirrel was thinking.
Multiple chases ensued, Eli took (finished) two of the chases, Tess one and the last one was taken by Gonzo, and was notable.
Gonzo drowned the squirrel in a narrow brook. I have to wonder if he learned this from Tess. Hard to believe it was only coincidence since three of the last five squirrels had been drowned.
We ended our hunt with four squirrels for the afternoon - my take for the whole day was three squirrels and a rabbit, and there was one more day to go (gotta love Sunday Hunting).
Last picture is by Jimmy Campbell, previous are by Paula B Page.
Sunday, January 16, 2011
Before we move on to more hunting stories - I have to say I enjoy meets. It gives falconers a chance to catch up - and it allows me to see lots of birds that I don't normally see. That's Arnaud up above, with the merlin we trapped this fall.
This is Bobby with his Kestrel.
Anytime you can get a bunch of falconers together to share stories and knowledge it has got to be a good thing.
Richard's passage harris - right after it caught a rabbit.
Red Tail on a Squirrel.
And Ben's Peregrine. He got a double on ducks. Great day for him!