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.