Sunday, October 10, 2010


Spent some time on this warm October afternoon, driving around a large vineyard
in southern Canyon county. I was curious to see if there was any depredation of the ripe grapes
in progress. My young male (tiercel)Peregrine Falcon, "Pokie" had been flying strong and I was interested in seeing how he would fly over grape vines.

We concentrated on a picturesque location with a perfect growing situation. Framed by a lava ridge on it's north boundary, the high point of ground, the orderly vines spread south towards the canyon of the Snake River.

The very warm, dry day, typical of the last 6 weeks, seemed like the makings of perfect wine grapes, which still hung in profusion from the well tended vines. No frost had occurred yet, maybe not for a couple of weeks yet.

I watched a flock of black-birds circle and swoop over the vines like a flock of ducks looking to land in corn stubble. Most of the vines were un-protected from birds. A few selected rows were draped with bird netting. I could only surmise that these were varieties of special standing, warranting extra protection from loss. Throughout the rest of the property lay piles of grapes at different stages of maturity, just spoiling in the sun, covered with bees. I really know nothing about viticulture so I could only guess as to what bunches were left on the vines as opposed to those piled at the ends of the rows.
As a horticulturist , I know of the value of thinning to help produce superior fruits, to concentrate quality on those left longer on the plant. Perhaps some loss to birds is considered a form of thinning, at least in the varieties of lessor value or greater abundance.
The falcon ran that flock of black-birds right out of there after surveying the expanse from the car top, parked up on a prominent outcrop. I kept hoping some farm manager would come up to see what I was up too. No one ever does. The Hispanic workers don't even seem to notice me. I would like to talk to someone about what they are doing here, to learn more about whether falconry can offer a real service in crop protection, or if that protection is even needed.

Monday, July 12, 2010

This is my desert, tomorrow.

Pokie stretching (actually called warbling in old falconry parlance) from the top of my Nisson Xterra out in the Morley Nelson SRBPNA. Yesterday, he circled straight up a couple hundred feet and finally sailed back to the car.
Today, I did not let him fly. The wind was picking up and there were a bunch of bored ravens downwind that would have loved to have this little guy to work over. It won't be long before he is putting those corvids in their place, but not this morning. I have had a few bad experiences with young Prairie Falcons and Ravens at this stage.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Tale of two punks

Tough guy, Pokie being a playful imprint. He jumped up and footed the camera a second after this shot was snapped. He isn't being being mean, but boy can he play bite. My nose is all scarred up.
Next is me and rambuncuous grandson Daniel. Man, can this little guy wear me out. He will scratch my nose too with his sharp little fingernails. Or more likely grab my glasses off and slime them.
Kids! They keep you young.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Love the water

Pokie, the tiercel Peregrine watches Skula the Gyrfalcon bath with great interest. Enough to interupt eating his morning sparrow breakfast.
When Skula was done, Pokie was in that pan in a flash and had a ball. I think Peregrines were called Duck Hawks because they love the water as much as a duck.
While Skula jumps out the minute he feels like he is being watched, Pokie had to be removed from it to dry off in the sun. Just like any kid.
Since this is an age that young Peregrines are still staying up on their nest ledge, makes you wonder if bathing interest is one of the forces that makes them fly for the first time. Urban Peregrine watchers might put bath pans on nearby rooftops so that the young branchers can get some relief.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Newest member of the family

It is hard to imagine this fuzzy baby peregrine being scarry to anything (other than this wad of tissue). Just home with me, from his breeder's hands, Pokie, a tiercel, is growing rapidly. His mother is an anatum peregrine of Canadian origins. His father is from California stock. Both, results of the re-introduction efforts started 30 years ago, no longer needed today for wild release.
I can't wait to start taking the little guy out for his first flights. While he is still so young I am taking him to work and everywhere so as to make him as tame as possible.
It is still too early to tell if he will be a human imprint. I think he was left with his parents a few days too long(for imprinting to me). He still hisses at the approach of my hand. He can probably be paired with another peregrine in a couple of years, if I should want to attempt falcon breeding.
This morning I sat with him on Main street in Boise, out front of the Owyhee Plaza, waiting for my wife. Pokie was able to watch the Boise peregrines fly in and out of their nest box with great interest. Little did he know(at least in a way I could recognize) there were four baby peregrines like him up there, waiting for their day to fly. He may even end up interacting with one of them later this summer in their flights around the Treasure Valley.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Unexpected Jewels

Little jewel surprises at Cloverdale Nursery this morning. Black Hills spruce cones.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Whats missing?

What the ...
A bad omen has appeared at the Nursery. Last year, a pair of Swainson's Hawks were nesting in a big, old Black Locust tree, across a busy street in someone's yard, in a subdivision. It is the site of an old farm house.The house had been recently renovated, but it looked like these hawks had nested in this tree since the days when there was open farmland all around. Now they are urban hawks, hunting in the tree farm and fields about a mile away. They showed up on their spring migration from Argentina or somewhere, just about the same day I returned to work.I heard the light-phase pair, way up high before I could see them, on a bright spring day with a strong south wind.

I did not notice it right away. Something was amiss as I watched the hawks flying around the nursery and neighborhood in a confused manner. Then I saw it, or rather didn't see it. The nest tree was gone. There was a big gaping hole in the tree line across the street. Sometime this winter, the owners had that tree removed.The male sat in one of his hunting trees, staring at the emptiness all day yesterday. I felt sorry for him and his mate. "What the hell are we going to do now?"I could imagine him saying to himself. Nesting sites for hawks are getting squeezed out of the environment around here at an alarming rate.Will they try to re-build in one of the younger trees on the same lot? Or will they vacate this very marginal territory and try to find a new place where there is not already an established pair of Swainsons or red-tails. That would be tough.If they leave, I will be sad for their absence in my daily work place.

They were very entertaining to watch, especially when they were hunting fledgling birds in the nursery and when their young were making their first clumsy flights. Should I go over and ask the people why they took the tree away? Did they dislike the hawks?An old Black Locust can be a miserable tree to have in a manicured yard, so I guess I can see why they might have wanted it gone. At least it was removed when the hawks were gone for the winter. Just imagine how terrible it would be to return home from a long trip to find your house gone. It bothers me anyway.
Expect updates on these birds. I am curious to see just what they do. I am also watching a pair of red-tails whose old nest blew down in a wind recently. They seem to be re-building.
Current Location: Cloverdale Nursery
Current Mood: distressed
Current Music: Their conversations in the sky

Monday, March 15, 2010

Coopers Falcon ?

Finally back to work at Cloverdale Nursery for spring 2010. I was getting re-acquainted with the trees, healed in the back area, when I noticed a large(female) Coopers Hawk rising into the sky in a soar. Once she reached a few hundred feet, she was right above me, as I moved through a section of crab apple trees. A "herd" of Robins, on their way north, chattered nervously at the end of the row. The 2" to 3" caliper trees were still full of old, dried- out fruit, left from last season. Snowdrift and Indian Magic crabs for the most part, for those who might be interested in good wildlife varieties.

Suddenly, the hawk folded into a tear drop shape and stooped like a falcon into the bird laden trees in front of me. Dozens of red-breasted thrushes busted out of their lunch room and headed for the adjacent neighborhood,
with the hawk right behind them. She appeared to be an adult, flashing some blue as she scooted over a cedar fence. "Blue Darter" indeed !

Could not tell if she scored. I don't suppose she will have a hard time finding food around the nursery, on her way to the mountains. Last fall, I found a pile of Robin feathers on top of a big root ball, which had the mark of the accipiter all over it.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tumbleweed Road

I found this rather impressive sight along a road south of Kuna. A couple of miles of tumbleweeds piling up against a fence, at least twenty feet deep. A month ago they actually covered the road like a crunchy, brown snowdrift. More wind and some traffic has revealed the road more evenly since then.

Thousands of acres of old farmland and burned off sagebrush has created an invasive plant species nightmare out there on the edge of the Birds of Prey area. Efforts to protect and restore what natives are still hanging on ,are greeted with this bullet-holed statement from some of the locals.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Zone what ?

Photos show burned stand of "Hardy Bamboo",
Weeping giant Sequoia
and Photina fraseri hedge.
So the debate goes on about what USDA cold hardiness zone Boise is really in. Anyone who has been here since the seventies knows what winter can bring to the area. Zone 5 regions can experience periods of close to twenty below zero degrees F. It has actually been, since 1991, I think it was, when we had any serious arctic cold to contend with. That makes eighteen or so years of zone 7 temperatures, never dropping below zero degrees F in Boise proper.

Well this winter, we had a week in December (2009), where the night-time low hit 5-10 below each night. I suspected that we would see some damage to the numerous plant varieties that have been planted here over the last two decades, as if we had suddenly joined Seattle as a coastal community.

Deodar Cedars, Bamboos, Photinias, Sequoias and other evergreen trees and shrubs have been planted with great gusto around Meridian, Eagle and south Boise and for the most part have thrived for a good long while.

I have been seeing some cold burn showing up around town lately and went out to take a few pictures of examples. Being a nursery saleman, I just know I will be talking to lots of people about their exotic landscape plants that are suddenly all rusty brown. "Is it dead?"many will ask. "Will you replace it if it does not recover ? We bought it from you ten years ago."? Yeah, right. Well those along Eagle road, on the island, are so beautiful. we just had to have some like those.

Most of what I am seeing will recover with time and spring growth. I think there is more damage that has yet to show itself on things like roses and grapes. It was just a little reminder that we are still in Idaho and hardiness zones don't change themselves over such short periods of time.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Flying Gyrfalcons

Felt like showing these flight shots of the Peregrine Fund's Gyrfalcons, performing for the public in October of 2008. Dave Wells, Archives of Falconry curator took these shots and more. I was there, waiting to fly my Prairie Falcon when these were taken.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

People Scaring Birds

Bald Eagle Day at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival in late January has become somewhat of a Boise community event. It is put on by the Idaho Bird Observatory, a research group connected with BSU . The Idaho Falconers Association has been invited to participate for several years and we have a varied presence, at times having enough people and raptors to put on a formal presentation. This year, one of our long-time members who usually does the talking (thank you Jesse, you do great, but there are others among us who could this too)
Anyway, Jesse was recovering from foot surgery and couldn't come and therefore, no one in the club knew what to do. So, a few of us who kind of enjoy this sort of thing every now and then, showed up to loiter around the grounds and talk to people. We were invited to do this after all.
I don't know what got into me, but I got the idea to get dressed up in a Shakespeare period costume and play the role of a nobleman with his gyrfalcon. The Costume Shop in Garden City was quite an adventure the previous morning. I finally settled on what I learned was more renaissance
than Elizabethan. Close enough for this short time frame. The hat was big enough for my swelling head and I got a lot of comments about my official Shakespearean converse sneakers. ( costume boots were too much $$$$.)
Long story short, it was a good way to spend six hours on a otherwise unexciting winter Saturday (I am not a skier) and the attendance seemed pretty good, with a lot of smart, inquisitive kids. There was not much happening in Barber Pool, wild bird wise, only two eagles flew by. Maybe I scared them off with my get up. For the most part, I think people enjoyed seeing it and of course, a white gyrfalcon is always popular. At least no one burst into laughter at the sight of me (except my son when I left the house dressed up). Who knows, I may have started something. Or, more likely Jesse will send out a club e-mail asking me not to come back as King Eric of drama and attention grabbing.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Multi-tasking in the desert again

Epic mud was everywhere from snow melt, hastened by recent rains. I don't think there is a soil type anywhere that can become so muddy, or as dry and dusty as those of the Snake River Plain. I was not complaining too much mind you, knowing how hard a grip winter still has on much of the country.
Forty degrees and no wind I can take.

Duck season just ended but upland game birds are still open to falconers.
My eyes were peeled for any kind, from Grey Partridge to Sage Grouse, to hunt with Skula, my young Gyrfalcon. This has been a particularly poignant year, to think that Sage Grouse may be declared an endangered species soon and therefore placed off limits to hunting. We ended up getting a decent flight on pheasants. I saw no grouse. The soggy desert was keeping them safe and isolated from the prowling vehicles of falconers.

Not far away, down Hammett Hill, sits Cold Springs winery. Since my professional game plan is to visit such operations in the region and introduce myself and my bird control service, I decided to stop by and see if anyone was around to talk to. Cold call at Cold Springs it was.
Usually I see this vineyard while shooting by on the nearby interstate. Nestled down among lava cliffs, the undulating rows of grape vines lead to a hilltop where the winery sits. A huge sign, painted on an enormously long metal shed, points out the location to passers by, who at this point will have to go another few miles to the Glenns Ferry exit to turn around, if coming from Boise.
No one was around today, not that I blame anyone for not wanting to be outside on this chilly, dreary-skied day. I left a calling card in the door and drove slowly through the vines on my way out. I noticed that they all had trunk guards on them. With the expanse of healthy sagebrush all around, I wondered if rabbits were a problem with their nocturnal nibbling. The thought occurred to me that these folks might appreciate a little rabbit culling around their place. I happen to have the perfect rabbit abatement bird, my big red-tail "Morrigan", who would just love to help out here if needed. I had not even considered that she might be used in my pest control work.
I tried to imagine big flocks of Starlings, swirling up from the river, checking out these vines in the fall. A peregrine could drive them right out of here in a hurry. Today, there was not a bird in sight. I would like to come back. Hope I get a call.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Land of the Free, home of the regulated

This is a shot of a Bald Eagle at Dollywood, a tourist attraction inspired/created by Dolly Parton in Tennessee. I think this is the same eagle that is being flown at the opening of big football games lately. I saw it at the Fiesta Bowl (on TV) and just yesterday before the Saints/ Vikings NFL playoff game.

It is a very adroit, obviously very healthy and fit baldy that seems to enjoy doing it's thing in front of thousands. If you squint your eyes, you can just imagine him maneuvering around to pluck a fish from the water, Not !

Now what I want to know is who is profiting from this birds talent and beauty. Seems like quite a racket someone has going there. I thought it was illegal to possess Bald Eagles for "Falconry" .

Maybe the fee is being donated/generated for eagle conservation. If it is for someones profit, all I have to say is good for the enterprising falconer, finding a loophole to make a living.

But whats fair is fair, there are lots of us around who could do this and need some income to support our hawking habit.

It may not even be the right bird. I just thought I caught something about it on a News show awhile back. Could be some Canadians, coming down with one of "our" eagles to rub it our faces, eh ?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

An Idaho original

Here are some recent photos of an Idaho original, falconer/mountain man, devoted grandfather and husband to a delightful lady named Connie, who was a fireman in Rockford, Illinois in a previous life. No, it's not Santa Claus.
He breeds beautiful white Gyrfalcons, but also captured and hunts with a wild grey Gyr, caught during her first winter, o6 I think, wandering south from her arctic home.
He also breeds and hunts with a beautiful strain of Red Setters. The current litter, seen here, plays with a guest who takes one home with him.
He is a student of Lewis and Clark and other things to do with the early American West. He also hunts with an eagle off of horse back. His name is Jack Oar and I am lucky enough to hang out with him on rare ocassion.
These pictures were taken by friends Charles Schwartz and Marty Browne.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Toxic sport ?

While driving around Melba, Idaho on a gorgeous late winter day (Looked more like early spring), I checked out a very strange situation found right on the eastern edge of town. I was checking out this really promising looking section of corn stubble, dotted with little rocky islands of heavy cover. Looked absolutely primo for pheasants. A small group of mallards were spotted dropping into a flooded low spot out in the corn.

To my surprise, just a short distance west of this low spot , right on top of a nearby rise was a skeet shooting facility, a gun club if you will. The field right next to it was orange with broken "clay pigeons". The duck hole was easily within range of the shot produced by this place. I hoped the skeet shooters were using steel shot. If not, that field was getting a major peppering of lead which could not have been good for those ducks.

Some time later, as evening was falling, a big flight of mallards dropped into that spot to feed on the waste corn. I wanted to return here to fly the falcon after finding the owner to secure permission. I wondered if they had the same concerns as I did. I'll be back, just not on shooting day.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Birds killing birds

Skula's first drake mallard.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Skula, the joyful jerkin

A few shots of the white boy from October.
Skula means joyful in Swedish.
Bred by Charles Schwartz and Marty Browne of Lost River Falcons

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Another pair?

I was following up a lead of an adult peregrine sighting in Nampa this morning and found a pair of them sitting serenely together on a big construction crane by the Sorrento plant at Franklin and Star Rd.

I had lost a one and a half year old Peales Peregrine tiercel in the area, a year ago at Christmas and was checking to see if it was my old "Bow"

These two dark capped Anatum Peregrines were looking very relaxed in spite of the busy construction site. Welding sparks were spitting from the big structure going up within 100 feet of them.
It seemed like the tiercel was saying , "I hope they get this thing built by spring Mildrid." Yes Henry, I think it might be perfect.", she said.

The Sugar Beet plant is several miles to the west, so I suppose it could be that pair. Need to keep an eye on them. Other interested eyes might do the same.