Friday, September 23, 2016

Hawk "Haus"

Over the past year Richard has been building me a new hawk mews, specifically designed to house the Harris Hawks.  I wanted a mew that had divided chambers, but which are right next to each other, which would safely allow the birds to get acquainted with each other.  The goal is to try and get Wyvern and Flint flying in a cast together.  The divider between the two chambers can be removed to form a super chamber for either Harris Hawk co-habitation, or for a red tail, which I plan to trap for this year.  For now, the Harris Hawks will share this mew, but will have to go back to their old chambers when it gets cold, as I do not yet have electricity to this building for heat.  That will be next year's project.  There is also no lights, so we are on daylight time now.

Over this last week he has mostly finished it, and I did my part to get the chambers ready for use. There is still some work to be done to the entry area, some shelves to be added where I can put my hawk scale, and store a few items.  Most of my equipment will continue to stay in the other mews, which we call the "Hawk Shack".  That was made by Richard some time ago, converted from a job shack trailer.  It has a lot more storage space, and I'm also keeping the feeder rats in there right now.  I am calling the new mew the Hawk "Haus", as it is a bit more upscale from the facilities I've been using.

Today, after getting the new rug cut, cleaning up the water bowls and getting the plastic hung up that catches most of the mutes, I let the hawks into their new chambers.  Last night, in preparation for their release, I caught them both up and put new leather on them.

I am trying out this year some rolled anklets.  In years past, I've used a removable anklet that I could zip tie a bell to.  However, sometimes the bird will get their halux caught in this design of anklet. Because there is no place to attach a bell to this design of anklet, I had to make bewits for the bells.

You can see Wyvern's healed up foot.  She lost the tip of her right foot to a squirrel bite / frost bite this last year.  Both birds have very sharp talons, and are ready for the new hunting season.  Although, I'm not quite ready to pull them from their chamber, as they still have some major feathers that need to finish growing out.  However, they are getting about another two weeks, and then ready or not, we need to get out of the chamber and start some re-manning (they have not been handled all summer so are quite wild) and training.

Flint perched on his high perch, apparently comfortable, as he has his foot tucked up.

Wyvern getting comfortable in her new chamber, with a bulging crop from the meal I just gave each of them.
Here is a quick video I took after release and their having ate.  I hope they like their new mew.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Sister's Weekend

Over the long weekend of Friday, September 16 through Monday, September 19 I met up with my sisters in Mackinaw City, Michigan, to visit Macinac Island, and other surrounding sights.  I'll come back soon to blog about our adventures.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Trapping on the North Shore

Over the weekend I attended the Minnesota Falconers' meeting which was held up in Duluth.  This was organized to also allow club members to come see the trapping action going on at several sites on the North Shore, and most especially by Frank Taylor.  Frank has been running a hawk banding station for 47 years, and he is still very enthusiastic about the whole process.  I've been reading his weekend reports now for awhile, and have wanted to accept his open invitation to falconers and birders and conservationists to see trapping in person.  This last weekend was my opportunity.

He and his wife Trudi have a nice bit of land that they have named "Hawk Harbor" where they keep their own trailer to sleep, and where others have brought trailers, and there is space for tents.  Each night when falconers and banders are present a bonfire is usually going in the burn pit, and conversation can be had with interesting people.  Alongside his land is a place where falconers may trap for migrating birds for falconry.  Across from his land is a large, open grassy field that he has had permission from the landowner for years to trap for banding then release.  All trapping is done under Federal permits.

This picture below was taken by Frank of his wife Trudi, myself, and his trapping parter this day, Rick.

When I first arrived, I saw several kestrels flying and chasing each other.  The early autumn field is still green, but with many of the grasses turning yellow.  It is alive with grasshoppers and dragonflies.  It is no wonder there are kestrels here, as there is a lot of good food for them.  Kestrels include insects in their list of things to eat.

I apparently came on a very good day.  Later, when I checked the numbers at Hawk Ridge, which is just down the coast a short distance, you can see there was a significant jump in the number of Sharp-Shinned Hawks as well as Broad-winged Hawks migrating this day.

At this time of the year, this early time of migration, mostly the smaller raptors are starting to move, kestrels, sharp-shinned hawks, broad-winged hawks, a few merlins.  The larger raptors don't start to move until later, mostly, however on this day one passage red-tailed hawk was caught.  Frank is putting the band on it.  His smile tells the whole story.  He loves this work that he does, and is super enthusiastic about it.  The hawk is not so impressed, but very soon would be free again.

During my time visiting in the blind I think we caught about 5 "shins" as they were called.  Once freed from the net that snags them when they make a pass at the lure pigeon, they are measured, their condition and any significant information about them logged, and then they are given a numbered band which will be registered.  The data collected here, and from other banding stations around the US and world, from over the years helps to understand the migrating patterns and population density of the various species observed. For this reason, whenever I notice a dead hawk on the side of the road, I will usually stop to see if they have a leg band.  I have yet to find one that did, but if I did I would write down the information and submit it.  The band has the info on who to contact.

(Special Note: Any dead birds found on the road are left exactly where they were found.  I just check for a leg band, and also to make sure the bird is dead.  If it wasn't I know who to call to try and get it to the Raptor Center.)

Here is a close-up of one of the shins just before it was released.

And a super close-up taken by Frank's much better camera.

When he has guests at his blind, he will let them release the birds once their band is secure and the information recorded.  If there is a large group, he has a lottery for the "winner".  When I was visiting, I was the only guest, so I got to release 2 birds.

It looks like I am flipping it upside down, but quickly it gains control and flew off and melted into the tree line, as any good accipiter would.

After the exciting evening of banding, we all went into Duluth and met up with some of the club members for a quick meeting.  We then re-located to a Perkins for dinner.  Upon returning to Hawk Harbor I headed to bed, as it had been a very long day for me.

The following morning, slowly, everyone woke up and gathered at the camp "kitchen" for caffeine drinks of choice, and to share some of the cookies I brought.  For Sunday, I was invited by Greg, on the far left below, to check out the blind he has been using further down the coast and on a high ridge.

He explained the location has been an active trapping site for well over 100 years.  The current owner of the land has kindly given Greg permission to trap there.  Greg is more interested in goshawks, or the ultimate bonus, a gyrfalcon, should one pass through, however like many falconers, he just enjoys trapping.  We had to climb up to the location, and whereas it was not too hard a journey, if you did not know where you were going, you could easily get lost.  There are also many slippery rocks that you could easily twist an ankle on.

The video below is not the greatest, but you can see it overlooks the lake.  He explained that this particular location is really good for falcons, especially peregrines, as they like to follow along the coast.  Whereas, there is another blind that he walked me over to, which was not active on this day, but which straddles the spine of the ridge.  He explained that goshawks prefer to fly along the spine, and along the wooded side, being forest hawks.  That all being said, on the previous evening, as he had already shut down his trapping operation and put away the nets and the pigeon, a passage gos came in, took a perch in a nearby tree, and observed him for 10 minutes.  He shared this tale with us at the camp on Saturday evening.

Within 2 minutes of getting set up, this little male kestrel flew into the net.  Greg carefully worked to free him, and tried to not get bit.  This tiniest of the North American falcons can deliver quite the pinch.
The male kestrel has the gray on it's wings.  It also has a solid reddish brown tail, which you cannot see in this picture.  The female lacks the gray, and has stripes down her tail.  Also, like all raptors, the female is bigger!

There was only one other catch while I was there, this passage shin.  We did have another come into the area, and perch nearby so we could watch it with our binoculars, and then we saw it take off after some birds that flew up over the ridge.  I had to leave by 10 am as I had a long drive home.

It was truly an exciting weekend for me.  I've wanted to get up to see North Shore trapping for some time, and now I can check that off my "bucket list".

I'm headed out the following weekend to meet up with my sisters in Mackinaw City for a Sister's Weekend.  When I get home, I'm going to be setting up my own trapping station.  I hope to catch a new red-tail for the coming season.  Hopefully, the location I will be trapping at will be a good location where many hawks fly over.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Door County - Take Two

From August 24th through August 26th I took my Guy to Door County, Wisconsin.  I had been there previously, in 2007, and enjoyed the visit very much, even though at the time I was a single gal, and a little sad about that.  This time I was able to "Do the Door" a second time, and with company.

On Wednesday, after getting up and getting the rest of the camping gear packed and saying farewell to our house sitter, we got on the road for the approximate 5.5 hour drive. Our destination this first night was Peninsula State Park, just outside of Fish Creek. We would camp the first night. My plan was also to partake in a fish boil. It is a unique Door County "thing", and I wanted to share it with Rich. I had initially scheduled a boil with the Old Post Office in Ephraim, but as we got closer to Door County I realized we just simply would not make it in time, and also get our camping site set up. A quick phone call to one of the other locations that offer fish boils, the White Gull Inn, and we were able to snag someone else's cancellation for later in the evening.  This one was at 8:15, we would be able to make that, no problem.  The White Gull Inn is actually where I experienced my first (and up to this point only) fish boil on my previous visit.

We got to the park, registered, found our camp site, set up our tent, admired the view (right next to the water), then got off to our dinner date.  On the way over we caught the sunset. Close-up pictures by Rich and his better camera, and the panorama by me and my iPhone.

OK, what is a Fish Boil?  I explained this before on my previous trip, but I'll do it again for this blog post.  Door County has a history of logging.  A fish boil was a way to feed large groups of people quickly. It started out to be practical, then was adopted for church socials, and eventually was presented to the general public by places like the White Gull Inn.

A large pot of water is brought to a boil, outside. Small red potatoes are placed in first to cook, in their own basket, along with a lot of salt, which brings the boil temperature of the water up, and also seasons the potatoes. Once the potatoes are done, and the "boil master" checks this, another basket is placed above the potatoes, and the fish is put in.  The fish is white fish, caught in Green Bay, or over in Lake Michigan.  The fish cooks for about 9 minutes, or until judged done by the boil master.  Then the show has a dramatic finale! 

Fats and oils from the fish rise to the top. In order to get rid of those, a final splash of kerosene is poured onto the fire, and the flames burst up into a tower of fire, instant flash boiling the water, overflowing the brim and draining off the fats.  The flame dies down quickly, and a large plank is passed through the handles of the nested baskets in the water pot to remove the fish and potatoes. This is immediately taken inside, and an all-you-can-eat fish meal is served.

On my last visit, our meal was accompanied by an accordion player. There was not one this time.

The picture below was snagged from the White Gull Inn's page, as I did not take a picture of my own meal. As soon as it was sitting in front of me, I dove into it.  I love fish!!  This is a really great meal!! If you go to Door County, you simply MUST go to a fish boil.  Along with the fish and potatoes you get coleslaw, a basket of breads, and a slice of Door County cherry pie with ice cream.  Yummy!

If you'd like to experience a little more about a Fish Boil, check out this video made to highlight some of the cool things to do in Door County:

Fish Boil

After our meal we went back to our camp, and took our chairs down to the shore of Nicolet Bay and watched the stars come out.  Horseshoe Island was directly in front of us, with some kind of light beacon.  Off to the right Door County disappeared off into the horizon.  It was a very pleasant, non-buggy night, and end of our first day of our trip.

I found this very nice little map of Door County out on the Internet.  I contacted the artist, and she has allowed me to keep her drawing here.  If you like the work, or would like to see more like it, or buy some nice postcards, go visit her Etsy page and show her some love:

Door County Map

Thank You Terri!

The next day dawned beautiful and bright.  We would have an excellent, mostly 70s kind of day for driving the Door.  We started the morning as we had ended it, sitting next to the water and watching the Bay come to life.  A few early fishermen were out in their boats.  Several early fisher-birds were out as well, mostly pelicans.  After striking our tent and leaving the park, we made our way into Fish Creek and found a little doughnut shop serving a Door County favorite, apple cider fry doughnuts, but with a twist.  These had lots of specialty toppings drizzled over the top, maple, chocolate or vanilla frosting, nuts, bits of bacon, butter crackers and raspberry syrup, making a box of 6 cost $9. A bit steep, but they were very tasty, and a terribly filling start to a day of over-eating.

Door County consists of several small towns, disbursed along County Road 42 to the West, and 57 to the East. The distance is not great, and you can easily drive it all in one day, depending on how much time you spend at each stop.  There are lots of antique shops and high-end clothing boutiques, as well as lots of places dedicated to all things cherry and apple.  We focused mostly on the latter.  The soil and landscape make the growing of cherries and apples something unique in Door County.  We missed fresh cherry season, and apple season had yet to start, but there are still many things to sample without being fresh off the tree.

Our first orchard stop was at Seaquist Orchards.  I bought some jams to share and fresh cherry juice, with more of those apple cider doughnuts, only this time just plain with sugar sprinkle.  Rich and I took a quick little break to eat some of them.  Very Tasty!  Here, and everywhere, the late summer flowers are in full bloom.  Fall has not yet started, so no colored leaves yet.

After our orchard stop we made our way up to the tip, to Gills Rock.  On this trip I did not park my car and walk out to the shore and look over to Washington Island.  We did find a marine museum that Rich thought looked interesting, so we stopped in there for a look.  We posed in front of several items outside of the building.  Below is an air scoop that was common on some of the old freighters, which brought fresh air down below deck.

Me in front of a very large anchor.  Below, Rich by a large rudder from an even larger, not present ship.

~Insert joke here about me "weighing" him down, and him "steering" the correct course.~

We did go inside and look at the displays, and learn a little history about the area and the vessels that have tread the waters in and around Door County.

After leaving the museum we made our way back to Ellison Bay and found the Viking Grill, where we had lunch.  After lunch we made our way across the peninsula to Newport State Park and walked out and took a picture of Newport Bay.  Lake Michigan was rather calm today, compared to when I visited in October of 2007.  We then navigated over to Rowleys Bay and found Grandma's Swedish Bakery where we bought even more sweets, but we didn't eat these at this time, being pretty stuffed already.

Our final travel destination of the day was Whitefish Dunes State Park, and more specifically Cave Point County Park.  Here you could truly see the difference in Lake Michigan from my visit long ago. It is very, very calm.  If you click over to my previous visit I comment about the waves and the thunder they make when crashing into the cave at Cave Point.  Today it was calm, with kayakers on the lake, and a lot of kids and teenagers who were jumping off the rocks and into the deep water around the cave.  When I was a much younger person, I may have considered doing this.

No, Wait . . . I was never that reckless!  They looked like they were having fun, but it looked risky to me.

When I was last here, it was with the morning light, and I thought I took a much nicer photo.  In the pictures from this trip, the sun was in the afternoon West, placing much of this vista in shadow. Rich's shot two below has more depth of color.  Check out my picture previous and decide if you like it better in fall color and more active waves.

I also found a nice video you could go see that gives a good flavor of what it is like to visit this park:

Cave Point County Park

We walked down a trail that hugged the rocky beach, and each posed for a picture overlooking the water.

I think I framed the picture I took (below of Rich) better than he did of me (above).  He looks so confident and commanding.  I just look like I'm full of doughnuts.

Walking North of Cave Point you could then see some of the wave action, which was very minimal.

As we walked down the beach we came across a very curious endeavor that someone undertook.  I don't know if this is a yearly thing, or maybe just this year, but at some point this season someone (or several someones) have stacked the bits of flaked dolomite, of which the beach is made of.  It made for a very curious site.

And it made for a very interesting photograph, below.  I think this may have been the nicest, and most curious of this trip.

Once we were done playing in the parks and the water, we crossed the peninsula again and made our way to Egg Harbor, and our place where we would sleep that night.  I was very lucky to have found the Shipwrecked Brew Pub. It had everything we were looking for:  8 nice rooms to sleep in, in-house brewed beers for Rich to enjoy, and is alleged to be haunted.  The room we stayed in was comfortable, we slept great, Rich had some of their brews, and no ghosts bothered us.  Rich even took pictures, several times, of empty halls, but we didn't catch any ghosts.

Once we had our stuff stored in the room we walked around the town a little, and found the Macready Artisan Bread Store, just before it closed.  I love fresh baked bread!  Rich calls me a "breadator".  It is fitting.  Here I am enjoying, and sharing an artisan loaf filled with, what else, cherries, as well as cranberries.  It was fantastic!

A little later Rich tried out the brews at the pub.  As is customary in places like this, he was able to get a "plank" of beers to try.  He finished the drinks off with something that they bottle, and we both had some seafood chowder.  Stuffed to the gills, after a day around the Door, we crawled upstairs to our beds, and I was out.  Maybe Rich stayed awake and talked to ghosts.  I don't know.

The morning dawned another bright and beautiful day.  As the name implies, Egg Harbor has a harbor, where many expensive and beautiful sailboats are docked.  We walked out to the edge of the harbor and took pictures.

Rich taking a picture of something interesting to him across the harbor.

After our morning stroll, we packed up our stuff and drove North again, this time to stop in Sister Bay.  If you come to Door County, you simply must come to Al Johnson's Swedish Restaurant.  In the summer months, there are goats on the roof.  Really!

The establishment started as just a tiny little restaurant many years ago, but as sometimes these things happen, it grew in popularity, and then the family expanded the building, going with a sod roof design, made by carpenters in Norway and brought over by boat, to be re-assembled around the old building.  The story is told that sometime after the new building was built, one of Al Johnson's friends, who always gave him a live animal every year on his birthday as a joke, brought a goat and put it on the roof.  Thus was begun a tradition.  Now the goats come every day, weather permitting and summer only, from their barn not far from the restaurant and spend the day munching the grass on the sod roof.

Here is a video the family had made to tell all about the restaurant, which also plays in the lobby as you wait for your table, which could be a long wait, as it is a very popular place, but very worth the wait.

Al Johnson's Family Video

Here is another video from the Explore the Door series:

Explore Wisconsin - Goats on the Roof

Once you get to sit down, of course, you should order the Swedish Pancakes with Swedish Meatballs.  Here Rich had a mug that says "Living with a Norwegian Builds Character".  Well, he's my Norwegian descent spouse, and pretty easy to live with.

Breakfast was fabulous, to include those lingonberries on the pancakes.

After stuffing ourselves, yet again, we drove back down the Door and looped by the Koepsels Farm Market where I picked up a couple bottles of local wine, one for myself, and one to give to a kindly co-worker who picked up a half day I had scheduled that interfered with our trip.  Outside was a carved troll which I asked Rich to pose next to.  He's such a nice guy to let me post this.

In the farm market they had some smoked fish which the little sign indicated came from Bearcats Fish House in Algoma.  Rather than buy it there, I looked it up and found Algoma was just about a half hour away. So we plugged the directions into the GPS, and went there ourselves. There we picked up some fresh that day smoked fish, as well as a couple fresh white fish to have our own boil at home.

Now it was really time to set our course back home.  As we drove between Green Bay and Wausau, we stopped at a roadside attraction to take the picture above for my friend who was watching our critters and keeping our house safe.  She loves all things 60s.  When I got out to take the pictures a most enticing smell attracted me to go inside the Timeline Saloon where we found tasty bar-b-que.  We bought a couple sandwiches for the road.  If you are a Harley fan, or even just a bar-b-que fan, you should stop by and check it out.

It was a great trip, and I very much enjoyed doing a Take Two, but this time with someone to share the journey with me.