Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Rebloom

Last year, just before Easter, I purchased two discounted orchid plants in tiny plastic pots from a nameless big box store.  I've never owned an orchid before, and they were cheap enough I figured I wouldn't be out much if I killed them.  Well . . . they both kept their blooms for far longer than I expected, well into spring, finally wilting as summer got going.  I cut them back per instructions found on the internet, re-potted them into larger terracotta pots and then proceeded to pretty much ignore the plants for the rest of the year, giving them water once a week, when I remembered.

Here recently both shot out new flower spikes, and first one, and now the other, have put off a new spike off of the old ones.  This past week the first flowers have re-bloomed.  Very Pretty!  The other plant's new stem will bloom in a couple weeks, most likely, and at this time has 7 buds.  If they follow the pattern from last year, I should have lovely blossoms for most of the winter.

It is a touch of spring as we get into the dark of winter.  Note in the picture the yard outside does NOT have snow!  In fact, we had a rather Texas-like Christmas . . . into the high 30s, sunny, and clear.  I should stop making blog entries about flowers . . . and go take my bird hunting!

*** Postscript ***

I flew Hit Girl behind the school in Houston.  A few squirrel chases, but she really was not at the best weight to chase.  Two bunny flushes, and she contacted the second one, unfortunately crashing with quite a lot of force, snagging bunny as it tried to escape into a huge brush pile.  She caught it, and it was wailing, but she was so far in when I got there (just a twisted head and feathers poofing out of the branchy hole she crashed into) that when I was trying to figure out how to get my arm in beyond her to where her bunny was, and tried to gently lift her out by her wings, bunny popped free, and was home clear into the pile.  Hit Girl was very frustrated, and downright crabby after that.  Hopefully she will burn through what I let her eat to fly again tomorrow.  She needs to kill something to get her aggression out . . . preferably not on me, or Rich.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Bunny

It was an early morning wake up for me this Christmas day.  I wanted to fly at least one of the birdies before we had to get cleaned up and dressed and go for family dinner over at one of Rich's sister's house.  I had wanted to fly Hit Girl . . . but despite the fact that over the weekend she seems to have burned her calories fairly reliably, she didn't do so yesterday and last night.  She was way over flight weight, and unsafe to fly.  I tied her out in the fresh air and sunshine, hoping maybe later in the day she could be flown . . . but even then she was still too fat.  She was put into her mews, with just a little food to hold her over through Monday, and will be taken out on Tuesday.  The squirrels got the day off.
Sassy was way above flight weight too . . . but it just doesn't seem to matter with this girl.  She was taken out, took commanding perches, followed well, and snatched up the first bunny we kicked up within 10 minutes into our hunt.  If it had been any other day, I would have traded her off and kept going . . . however we were expected for lunch, and I had stuff to do before we left, so an end to the day's fun in the field was declared, she was fed up and we went home.
This is Number 5 for the Sass.  She really is quite a great bird!  This was not a great holiday for the bunny . . . but the start of a fun day for us.  The remaining day was spent feasting and hanging out with Rich's family.  They are a game playing group . . . always fun.

OK . . . gotta go to work tomorrow . . . so better get to bed.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Snowy Owls

We are experiencing an irruption year for Snowy Owls.  Those who are authorities on this matter inform us that sometimes irruptions (which are unusual movements of more Northern birds into more Southern territory) happen because of a crash in the population of their target prey species.  However, this year we are informed it was a bumper crop year for voles up in the arctic, and as a result there was an unusually higher number of predators that were fledged.  Now that winter is here, the younger, less experienced birds are getting pushed out of the territory which now can not support the extra numbers.  Thus, we have the opportunity to see what are otherwise rare birds for our area.

I found out about this event from Birdchick.  Here is a link to a listserve that is tracking sitings.    eBird   You can check to see if you are close to one of the hot spots.  I happen to be close to one . . . the La Crosse Airport.  Rich and I had reason to go to La Crosse today, so we left early, and searched for snowy owls.  We found one . . . . almost at the edge of my optics.
I messed with my spotting scope and got only one 'ok' photo.  Otherwise, we moved to 3 locations, with the last finding some professional bird watchers who let me peek through their better scope.  I got to see him really well, face details, and watched him preen some.  Pretty neat!
This was the best my equipment could do.  Sorry it's not clearer . . . but hey . . . normally we don't see them at all!!

Here are a few links to articles in various La Crosse publications:

couleenews
lacrossetribune

Oh . . . and a really nice video!

Winter Solstice 2011


This is the fourth year that I have made my own holiday cards - I like to keep my eyes open for things of beauty, and capture them with my digital camera.  Some are nicer than others, and I wish I had a better camera.  The above image was used with my cards this year . . . in fact, I still need to assemble some of them and get them into the mail.  I also used this image below of the bluff that overlooks my workplace.
On this Winter Solstice 2011, the shortest day (as far as sunlight goes) I would like to wish all the best to those who visit my blog ~

Happy Holidays

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

What's Justin Up To??

He's out there . . . killing critters, with his trained hawk!  It was a bit of a slow start for him, due to the loss of Annabelle early in the season, but he got Goldie going, and as of today she has caught 7 squirrels, and a couple bunnies.  Like me, he is having a hard time finding bunnies, but Goldie is just as keen for squirrels . . . . and I think he prefers that.  She did take a bite today to her suborbital ridge (the bump over her eye).  He'll keep an eye on it to make sure it heals OK.  He also, FINALLY, sent me some pics, so here they are:
I think this may have been his first head of game, a cotton-tail rabbit.
Here is Goldie's most recent conquest . . . a 2.5 lb squirrel.  That's as big as she is!  Quite the catch!

Congratulations Justin!  You are doing great!

I flew both my girls today, but in different locations.  Sassy was flown later and on the property of one of Rich's old high school friends.  We've flown there several times but not caught any of the bunnies stirred up.  Today Sassy changed that stat, AND did so with Rich's friend watching.  Bunny #4 for her in the bag.  Sorry, I didn't turn bunny so as not to show the gore . . . but if gore bothered you, WHY are you reading my blog, eh?  It's quite possible I may put her up for the winter, not because I'm not getting good response, or weather, as it has continued to be mild, but she is molting!  Some time shortly after her coming to me she dropped one of her deck feathers, which I never found.  I just noticed she was missing the feather.  Well, she has a blood quill coming in right now, and I'd not like for her to break that.  She's also losing downy feathers.  I might have to go ahead and do a reverse-molt on her.  I'm not sure what has stimulated this start to molt.  She's on natural lighting, and tomorrow is the Solstice, although I have been keeping her cozy, at 50 degrees or so.  Not exactly summer weather!

Hit Girl was flown earlier in the day, and we got permission to fly in a new area, which I will have to explore again at a later date.  She did engage a couple squirrels early on, but after that encounter we didn't see anything else.  Near the end of our flight time with her we also were getting screamed at by what was probably local hawks.  The territory may be owned, so the squirrels there may be pressured already by hawks, and thus are good at avoiding them.  We called it quits as she has sustained a wound on her foot in her mews, somehow, and flying today broke it open again.  She even seems to have been favoring it.  I took her home and soaked her feet, then let her dry, and applied a topical poultice.  She will probably get soaked again tomorrow, and receive the same treatment.  It looks like the girls will not be doing any flying for a few days, due to my plans to get together with my girlfriend for some shopping, and then my work weekend.  Maybe we'll get out for a few hours Christmas Day.  I get that day off!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Death among the Dead

Work responsibilities brought me to Winona today for a few hours, to do my special "job".  All employees have additional duties that have to be done monthly/quarterly . . . mine is doing regular maintenance on our crash carts, used for patient resuscitation.  Today was one of those days when it needed major bi-yearly maintenance, so required some additional time while not doing regular job duties.  I was going to meet up with Justin afterwards to fly birds, but it took me longer than anticipated.  I called and told him to just go ahead without me.  Once I was done, we went looking for a place to fly the birdies.
Our stretch of mild weather ended.  Today was cold and windy.  I was wanting to find someplace that was sheltered a bit from the wind.  I knew of a place to explore.  One of the oldest and largest cemeteries in Winona rolls back into the bluffs.  Rich and I had been there last summer looking for the oldest known revolutionary war veteran's grave, which we found.  It is a stately old cemetery, with very mature trees, and lots of quiet, secluded back areas.  We entered and drove all the way back, finally ending at a compost spot tucked away. Upon releasing Hit Girl, we also discovered there are lots of trails all up the hillside.
Hit Girl flew strong and bold.  She doesn't keep up with us, per se, as she should, however she doesn't fly off too far, and allows us to catch up with her.  It took awhile to find anything moving.  It was very cold, and the squirrels were hiding in their warm nests.  However, it was deathly still in this protected valley, and I could hear the occasional alarm call.  The tree rats were there, just laying low.  We continued to walk the paths and follow her.  It was rather a very nice walk, even if it was very cold and dreary weather wise.  After about a half hour of walking, we finally bumped a squirrel, then two, then three . . . a hot spot.  Hit Girl engaged.  The first squirrel she chased with gusto made a break to the top of the tree, then jumped over to another where there was a nest.  It missed in it's leap, and came crashing down to the ground.  Hit Girl was in hot pursuit, but the squirrel had a bounce and leap ahead of her and got back onto the tree and back up to safety.  However, the action in the tree got her attention there.  At the very top was a leaf nest.  When she made a go again, two other squirrels popped out.  She managed to twist down the tree after one of them, and came to ground with #6 for the bag.
Rich and I both work tomorrow, and then we'll be going to Illinois to visit my sister, so this is the last chance the birds have to fly for a few days.  I cropped Hit Girl up on her prize, letting her have more than usual, then hooded her and returned to the car.  This lead through some of the older parts of the cemetery . . . 1880s were the dates on many of the graves.  We got Sassy out, not to hunt, but just to stretch her wings some.  It was getting late, and really was too cold for her to be out too long, but I did want her to gets some exercise.  After a little walk around, calling her from time to time for a big hunk of food from my glove, we returned to the car and headed for home.

I was much impressed with this new site, and will probably return from time to time, and share the location with Justin.  Most of the walking was in the forest and trails, but in my experience, many old cemeteries make very good hunting spots . . . for trained birds.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

News Flash

We interrupt your regularly scheduled blog about Falconry in Rural Minnesota to bring you a very important Public Service Message regarding . . .

Flannel Bed Sheets

They are VERY warm and cozy . . . especially on cold Northern nights.


I grew up in Texas where we had more of a concern to bleed off heat, than to conserve it.  I've always used cotton sheets, which are nice and cool in hot weather, but not so great in cold weather.  Crawling into a fresh bed always takes an effort to warm everything up before settling in for sleep.  Well . . . my husband kept telling me we should put the flannel sheets on the bed.  I was skeptical . . . I equate flannel to stuffy, and static, so resisted.  Well, finally last week I pulled out his set of flannel sheets and put them on the bed.  Ooooooo . . . I admit to being very wrong!  They are soft and static-free, and oh so warm without needing several blankets on top.  I'm sold!

Tonight we were at a store looking at other things.  They had flannel sheets on sale . . . so we purchased a new set . . . a Moose motif set.  Fitting as a moose proposed to me, and essentially brought me to this bed that has the flannel sheets.


OK . . . we now return you to your regularly scheduled squirrel and rabbit killing.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Two-fer Tuesday

Rich and I got out today to Rochester, and met up with a couple of artist friends for some hawkin.  At the end of the day I had two hawks returned to their boxes, and two squirrels.  A really good day!  Rich is holding Sassy away from Hit Girl, as Sassy doesn't take a hood (I should work on that) but also I'm holding the squirrels back so she doesn't see them and want more, even though she had already been cropped up.
After lunch we found a place to fly Hit Girl.  We tried a new spot that I've seen but never tried.  We didn't get very far into the patch, with my big red tail laying into a couple of tree rats.  They had some pretty good trees, thick, branchy, but no holes to duck into.  Hit Girl pressured them hard for about 20 minutes, getting a lot of really good exercise, and some stunning strikes and misses.  If I could offer her some ibuprofen tonight, she'd probably accept it if she could, as I suspect she could be sore from the hits she took on her dives through the branches.  I was just about to call it quits and let those squirrels off the hook, and move on, when she made a last dive and scrape, knocking the squirrel off the branch, but following closely and sealing the deal on the ground.  So her 5th squirrel was brought to the bag.
Here I'm posing with our hunting party today.  Foxfeather is on my right (yes, that is her REAL name), and Amber on my left.  Both are artists, and their work often incorporates their photography.  They also took pictures, so I hope in the future to get to post a couple.
I had to include the above picture . . . Amber is getting wing whapped.  There has been a lot of wing whapping going on this year . . . usually directed at me.
We then moved to a different location to fly Sassy.  I was focusing on rabbits for her, but she had other plans.  No bunnies were found, but she initially chased one squirrel, and then after it escaped, moved off to another part of the park we were in, and flushed a nest of them at the top of an evergreen.  She caught one, but was stuck at the top holding her prize.  She must have pierced it with her razor-sharp talons, because it died pretty quick.  She then had to work herself free, and fall to the ground.  I think the above picture was caught as she was on her way down . . . . bounce, bounce, bonk, whap.  She might like some ibuprofen tonight too . . . if only they could swallow one.
This makes 2 squirrels and 3 bunnies for Sassy . . . . and 5 squirrels for Hit Girl.  These girls are HOT!!

And I'm having a fabulous time with them!!

Thanks ladies for sharing the adventure today!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Motaki

This blog that I keep and maintain is an open-forum creation.  It is an open-book journal of my adventures, and sometimes my observations, though I tend to keep many opinions to myself, as I don't want controversy out here.  I'd like to think of it as a positive advertisement for falconry, and how it can be a good and rewarding past-time, hobby, obsession in our modern world.  Most visitors probably came here because I invited them over, however sometimes I get visitors who just find me out on the Internet, as this blog is searchable.  Ms. Motaki (not her real name) is just such a person who found me, and has become one of my more loyal readers.
We have corresponded for awhile now.  She asks me questions about falconry specifically, and about wildlife and nature in general, and shares her thoughts and dreams and stories about animals, and hunting (she has been spending time in a deer blind, just wasn't successful this last season).

A member of the Minnesota Falconry community hosted a min-meet on Saturday, December 10, and having the day off, I thought it would be a good opportunity to go to the Cities and meet her, and show off my birds, but also let this young person see other falconers and their birds.  We met up for breakfast, she and a guardian, Dean (which I insisted on . . . she is a young lady after all).  She got to see two other falconers work their hawks over bunnies, with one in particular who has a very nice, very well-trained cattle dog.  Sassy was also flown briefly (it was pretty cold) and she furred a bunny as it escaped down a hole, but otherwise was distracted by all the mice in the grass, of which she did not catch any.  I wanted to fly Hit Girl on squirrels, so broke away from the rest of the club and went with Motaki and Dean to a woods that they knew of.  I figured this was a good move as well, because I wanted her to experience a personal hunt without the distraction of the hoard of people that turned out for the meet.  I still don't know quite how well Hit Girl would respond with so many people in the field, and didn't want to find out the hard way, with her flying off.
We relocated to the new woods, and Hit Girl got to business quick.  She was roving with a bit of distance and speed, making me ever so slightly uncomfortable as we were not keeping up with her, blocked by some pretty thick patches of marsh cattails, and houses, but then she/we bumped a squirrel, and the race was on.  My Goodness . . . but this girl is quick when she means business!  The squirrel was moved around on the tree only very briefly, for a twist or two around the branch, before she grabbed it and was down on the ground with it.  I think Dean saw the grab, but I'm not sure if Motaki did.  Both got to see what happens at the ground level.  Hit Girl was fed up on the good parts, and then finished with what I had in my pocket.  We then went back to the cars for pictures.

Motaki is fascinated by falconry, and thinks she just might like to get into this.  She'd like to do so now . . . I've cautioned that it might take time, perhaps many years, but it never hurts to start learning now.  Above I let her hold Sassy, and showed her how we position them on the glove.  We even flew Sassy a little more in this park, and I let Motaki call her to the fist a couple times.  I think she is hooked!  I know I would have been at her age . . . . and wish I could have met someone like me when I was 12.

It was nice putting a face to the pen pal who has been writing to me for a few months now.  I'd also like to thank Dean for bringing her along for the day's adventures . . . . and to her mom for letting her come.  The Cities are a bit of a hike, but I could come that way from time to time, so we will definitely keep in touch.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Sprague Woods

WHEW . . . finally my 6-day work stint is done.  12-hour a day schedule for six days can wear a gal down . . . especially if it's busy . . . and it has been the last couple nights.  So was great to get out for a little walk today, even though I was pretty tired.  Hit Girl was on fire and got to business right away.  We were not in the woods we were working much more than 10 minutes and she had a squirrel.  Rich's brother was along so got a picture of Mr. Russian Hat and I . . . usually Rich is behind the camera.  Sprague Woods is minus one squirrel after today.
I don't have as tight field control over this gal like I did with Bailey last year.  When hunting, she is very reluctant to come to my fist for a tidbit.  She seems to be saying "Heck with those tiny bits of food you have, let's catch something bigger".  She does have instant response to the lure, so I'm not too worried, so do focus getting to hunting . . . which is what we are supposed to be doing.  However, today she demonstrated a behavior that she does manifest from time to time, and which is sooooo appropriate for her name sake.  I'll offer a tidbit and call her.  She will fly at me with incredible speed and force, and strike my fist, and keep going.  Sometimes she grabs what I'm offering, most times she does not, as I'm holding onto it.  She is definitely "HIT" girl . . . even if the name was given to her before I observed this behavior.  Just as long as she never starts hitting me in the head.
Got Blood?

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

I'm really having a good time this year with both my girls.  Hit Girl is clearly getting the hang of what we are doing.  I've got her target weight pretty well dialed in, and when I release her she gets about the business of hunting right away.  Sometimes she is a bit far roving, chasing a few bunnies I kicked up for far too long when she was not in position when they first ran, but 'stick-to-it-ness' is a good trait.  I should endeavor to set up an opportunity to expose her to jack rabbits, and see how she would do with them.  That involves travel, 'cuz they are not found around here.
She was flown during a very small window on Tuesday morning, when I was involved in a shift change, from daytime the day before to the overnight on Tuesday.  I was able to get out for a couple hours, then run home and get a nap and go to work.  Rich and I were almost ready to call it quits . . . having worked the park for awhile, and had her chase several squirrels and bunnies unsuccessfully . . . when walking back to the car a squirrel bailed in the high top branches of one of the trees I had just walked past.  HG zoomed in and plucked it out of the tree canopy, as easy as pie, and brought it to the ground.  Number 2 squirrel in the bag.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Entered!!

Today Hit Girl proved she's got what it takes to be a falconry bird.  The last few times I've flown her she was higher in weight than what I've come to expect to be a good response weight from her.  This was proved by the fact she has been pretty lazy in the field the last couple times out.  Colder weather has slimmed her back down to the 1300 grams, give or take, that she should be flown at.  Today she was 1290, and flew aggressive. 

We worked the park up town which is loaded with squirrels.  I kept her hooded and climbed up a slope, hoping to kick out a bunny for her.  After unhooding she took a commanding perch over us, and seemed to know her business.  Rich and I were not in the patch we were working much more than a couple minutes when she came screaming in after a squirrel neither of us saw.  She scraped it off the tree, and it hit the ground running, but she was in hot pursuit and wrapped it up like she's been doing this her whole life . . . which maybe she was up until the time she was snagged in my bow net.  After suffocating the squirrel (there is no "stretching" like you do with a bunny, to break the neck, as squirrels are a heck of a lot tougher) I opened it up and allowed her to feed on her prize, again getting the best, warm parts (heart, lungs, liver).  She then sweetly traded onto her lure allowing me to put squirrel away so we could take some pictures later.

This makes a complete set now.  Justin's bird Goldie caught her first bunny yesterday.  He has promised a picture for the blog, and as soon as I have it I'll post it.  Hit Girl caught a squirrel today.  Two new hawks, now Game Hawks! 

Squirrels and Bunnies . . . . BEWARE!!!!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Gotta Love that Sassy!


Today, Monday November 28, Justin met up with Rich and I in Rochester.  I showed him one of my all-time best hunting spots in Byron.  We flew his bird, Goldie, first.  Both our red tailed hawks need to be entered.  Goldie did pretty good, a bit stubborn at times, and she furred several bunnies, but didn't bring one to the bag.  Justin had a very limited time to fly today, so after awhile she was brought down and had to go home.  Instead of further pushing my favorite spot,  preserving a few bunnies in there, we went and checked out a new and different place, as recommended by one of Rich's relatives.  That spot turned out to not be so good . . . looked good, but we didn't flush anything.  Also, Hit Girl is a bit heavier than I wanted her to be today, as I soaked her feet last night for several hours, to help sharpen up her talons which have gotten a bit dull, then let her stay inside the warm mews to dry off, so she didn't burn her calories as much as I would have liked.  It was also a bit warmish today, high 30s being "warmish" for Minnesota in late November.  I called her down to the lure, and we put her away, and went to hunt down some lunch.  After lunch we looked for a place to fly the Harris Hawk.
The bad news is that one of my hunt locations that I've flown birds at is gone.  It was a remote industrial park north of town which is abandoned, and which I flew my bird from last year in.  This year it is active, being cleaned up, all the trees cut down, and the junk cleared away.  So, that site was lost . . . . which is not too much of a loss, as it was marginal at best.  The good news is I found a new site!!  It is just perfect, a nice brushy, marshy spot in the middle of a neighborhood, and currently dry.  In fact, as we worked it, and kicked up several bunnies, we even kicked up a deer . . . that's how perfect it is!  Just as we were about to call it a day, Sassy snagged her third bunny.  I dispatched and traded her off onto her lure, then fed her what I had in my pocket for her.  After we got back to the car I dressed out the bunny, and then let her have the nice warm "good" innards (heart, lungs, liver).  She was put away into her box very fat and Sassy!  Gotta Love this Girl!!  She's been keeping fresh bunny on the menu for both birds.  Now it's time for Hit Girl to get her act together and start bringing home the bacon, or at least the bunny, as well.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

This would be very bad . . . .

Oh . . . I hope I never run into one of these while out hawking squirrels!


JEDI SQUIRRELS! GIF - JEDI SQUIRRELS!
see more Gifs

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Hit Girl

 Meet the new hawk.  I'm calling her "Hit Girl", and she shows potential to be a downright vicious, hopefully squirrel-killing machine.
 In this instance, vicious is GOOD!!  I like a strong, pushy female red tailed hawk!  :-D
She was trapped using a bow net overlooking the Mississippi River.  Trap weight was 1400 grams (49.4 ounces . . . that's over THREE LBS!!)  She's responded to the training quickly.  Flight weight is around 1300 grams (45.8 ounces), give or take a little.  I need to zero in a little closer, possibly higher, as she may be flying right now a little too sharp . . . or she is just being the bitch that she is promising to be.  Read on for details.
She is a standard colored Eastern red tail, but it sure feels different having this big girl hit my fist, after the little wimpy guy I had last year.  It's amazing what one more pound of pure power can feel like hitting your arm.  Thus far, she is not as footy as Nina was, my last big female red tail, but this girl, unlike most red tailed hawks I have worked with, likes to use her beak.  She strikes and bites often, like she was a falcon or something.  I don't look forward to the day she does hand shake me . . . she has quite the grip through the glove.

(After the video be sure to click to see more . . . this blog post is doing weird things, going into an extended page, which I've never seen it do before.  More content to see!)


video

Sassy Strikes Again

On Tuesday, November 15 I met up with my girlfriend, Patti, for a little shopping, a little hawking, and lunch.  Rich came along . . . he doesn't mind tagging along with the girls.  We are planning another get together soon, and will run to the Mall of America for the holidays.  Rich will be our driver, 'cuz it's more fun that way, and also in case we wanna drink.

But anyways . . . . this was the first time Patti has seen me hawking.  I even let her hold briefly my bird, as she is such a sweetie.  We flew Sassy, and she performed stellar, catching her second bunny in quick order.  Patti didn't see the actual catch, well, none of us did, as it happened at the bottom of a fairly steep slope.  Rich got some pictures, but it recorded onto his internal memory on his camera, and we can't find the 'fire wire' to transfer.  A new one is on the way, mail order, so I'll have new pics when that arrives.  We also flew free very briefly the new girl.  She is doing well.  Her 'coming out' post is next.

**** UPDATE****

Firewire arrived . . . here are a couple more pictures from that day.

A nice bunny catch
Getting wing whapped

Farm Art

Sometime in the unknown past year or two Richard went to a farm auction, and found this really unique piece of metal.  He did auction battle with a junk man, and placed the winning bid on what he thinks was the bottom to an old furnace.  He saw potential in this large and heavy chunk of metal, and here is the end result.  He brought it home, and it sat idle for a long while.  Then he got busy and sanded and primed it, then delivered to a friend, a co-worker of his, who has made several artistic creations based on photography that both Rich and I have taken with my various birds. 
It combines two themes which are representative of our union.  For me, the kestrel is a significant animal which I much admire, and always enjoy spotting in the wild.  I had a kestrel as a falconry bird once, and plan to do so again, some day.  For Richard, tractors have always been favored objects of utility, and of function, and dare I even say, beauty?  The tractor painted above is a 1940 Farmall H, Rich's own personal tractor.  When I first came to the farm, after meeting his family, I met the tractor.  It lives in one of the many barns, and comes out once in awhile to make hay.

The artist is Karen Lewis, and she is available for commission work.  If you click her name you will be directed to her own web page.  Eventually I envision this lovely work sitting outside our front door, welcoming friends to our home.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sassy

Today Richard and I and the Harris Hawk made a trip to Rochester to meet up with some friends there, have some yummy Indian food for lunch, and fly the bird.  I've been calling her Sassy Pants, or just Sassy, and it seems to be sticking.  I like this girl!  She is so nice, for a hawk, but she's a tough girl and hunts too.  Today we worked a favorite spot along a RR track in Byron, and within 20 minutes, and about the third bunny flush, she caught this bunny.  She's had two other catches of squirrels lately, scraping them off their branch and bringing them to the ground, but they were big gray squirrels that kicked her off.  She's chased several others.  She has heart . . . and I'm having a good time with her.  When we arrived to Rochester we had to make a quick stop due to some of our cargo shifting, and when we stopped there were some city crows milling about.  I'm told this girl will hunt crows, so I had to pick up a guide to find out when they can be hunted.  We missed the fall season, but it will pick up again in the spring, so I just might have to do some car hawking with her.  Soon it will probably be too cold to hunt her . . . . so the new bird is being groomed and will be ready.

New Bird??

Yes . . . soon I'll have the Coming Out Party for my new Red Tailed Hawk.  Come visit again.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Meet Goldie

Meet "Goldie" (or maybe that is "Goldy").  This is Justin's new bird, and I guess could be called my "step-bird" or "god-child bird" or something silly like that.  She was trapped under my license, then immediately transferred as a gift to Justin, due to the loss of Annabelle.  She retains, or better shows off the golden breast feathers which some of the Eastern red tailed hawk juveniles show, but which I have not noticed that prominently in all the birds I have worked with.  Justin was going to adopt the practice of naming his birds alphabetically, starting with A on the first bird, then B for this one, but he got out-voted by his wife and kids, so his new bird is being called "Goldie".  I guess I need to check with his wife to find out how she is spelling it.
I went over today to visit, and see how she is doing, and also to help Justin install a backpack.  This is a relatively newer form of attaching a transmitter to a bird, one of the more difficult installations, but placing the transmitter on the best possible location.  The bird wears a close fitting harness which gets tucked under their feathers and lays comfortably across their breast.  The transmitter is attached to a smooth plate on their back.  It is out of the way of their feet, is not at any risk of breaking any major feathers (another attachment location is a deck feather on the tail, which can result in the tail feather being yanked out) and puts the transmitter on the highest location on the bird for best signal pickup when tracking.  I've watched the installation video by Marshall, and then saw two installed on my Harris Hawk and one of Dave's birds last week.  It went fairly smoothly, and his bird took the whole process well with minimal fuss.  She is ready, transmitter wise, now for her first flight . . . though she is not ready to fly free.  She is coming to the fist outside, but needs further weight reduction for better response.
You can see the transmitter in this photo above.  There is an antenna which comes out below.  She's not too happy about it right now, and 'jazzing' with it, but should settle down after worrying it a bit, and accept its presence.
Here is Justin working with his new bird.  I'm glad I was able to help get him back into his first season.  He is eager to get his bird trained and get out hunting.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Little Video of the New (warm) Mews

video

A New (warm) Hawk Mews

OK, I have been holding off blogging about this project so that I could present the entire story, with a lot of pictures, though the project is not considered complete.  There is still a lot to be done, but for now one of the first major goals has been achieved, with much thanks to my husband Richard, with a lot of help from his brother Brian.

Back in July Richard saw the following item up for auction on one of the many sites he follows.  He pointed it out to me, and at first I was skeptical, but with further thought about it, decided it was not such a bad idea.  We took the 3.5 hour trip to go see it, West of the Twin Cities.  It was an electrician contractor's job shack.  It has seen some wear and tear, but is basically sound, and a good shell to build up a "mobile" mews . . . that is, one that could be moved from the farm to our eventual home, once we purchase one.  I decided it was a worthy project, so Richard was on hand at the end of the online auction, and placed the winning bid for me.  With taxes and fees, it was $470.  Not really a bad price for a little trailer.
It has updated wiring inside (they were electricians after all) and there is a propane heating unit, which up to this point still has not been tested, and may never be.  It also came with two air conditioning units, one of which is totally shot, and was parted out.  The other runs, but not sure if it cools.  I'm not particularly concerned about it right now.  Richard and Brian and myself made the trip back to where it was located, and Rich hitched it to his truck, and drove it back to the farm.  It took twice as long to return as we couldn't go much faster than about 45 to 50 mph.  They parked it alongside one of the many work sheds on the farm.
Both dogs inspected it when it arrived.
I've taken pictures of what the entire inside looked like, but for now I'm only going to focus on the one room (which is now the South room) as it is the first room to be converted.  Originally I wanted to have a warm mews so I could get a kestrel, or maybe a merlin, but then the Harris Hawk became available and I added her to my license.  So she was the bird that the room was destined for.  Let me clarify as well . . . when I say I need a "warm" mews, I simply mean one that I can maintain above freezing.  Harris Hawks are adapted to live in the desert, and it does get cold at night in the desert, but they are not adapted to deal with anything much below the 20s Fahrenheit.  She will be comfortable in her new home.

This is the BEFORE picture, taken on site before we won the auction.  There were shelves installed holding the electrician's equipment.  After the auction all of this stuff was gone, but there were still shelves.  This is the only room in the trailer, with a sealing door, so we started there.  Also to clarify, I say "we" but really, I didn't do anything, other than dump money into my own personal money pit.  Rich and Brian did all the work.
Out those shelves go!  The parts were saved and reconstructed to make stand alone shelves which were moved into our storage shed, so my stuff in storage got re-organized as well.
As the shelves were removed, it was discovered that the floor and wall on the back side were highly damaged from a water leak.  The leak was isolated, and fixed, but that side of the building needed to be completely rebuilt.
The insulation was substandard as well, so with the refit, all new insulation was installed.
Here they are completely rebuilding the wall.
And the floor . . . though the floor was actually done first.
Then there are some missing pictures, because a lot of progress was made over a period of days that I was working, so I wasn't around to take pictures.  All four windows in the room were replaced with brand new ones, then the new insulation installed, and here below, the new panels over it all.  These are bathroom style panels, easily cleaned up from the hawk poop (slices) which surely will be coating the walls quickly.
Rich is finishing up the new wall panels.
He then custom built the window bars as required by the falconry regulations, but went one step further and made them attached to hinges, so in the summer months I may easily open the windows to let the fresh air in.
At some point during all this construction they also replaced one of the two doors (the more inferior of the two) on the 'Hawk Shack'.  This replacement door was also purchased from an auction.  The other door opens into the room that is being converted.  For now it is being closed off for the winter.  Next year when it gets warm, I'd like to have a full door with the bars made so I can open that in good weather. 
Rich used his welding skills to custom make perch fittings.  Here he is installing one of them.
I had him pose with his drill.  Actually . . . that's MY battery operated drill!!  Behind him is the closed off door.  The hawk gets to look at the Pink Panther all winter.
The final stage was to introduce the room to the hawk.  She has taken to it quickly, and bounces between the windows to see what is going on outside.

So that is the one room of the 'Hawk Shack'.  The rest of the shack has a lot of storage shelves, which I will be leaving to store all my junk.  The floor at the door needs work, and the other side of the trailer could also be converted to a second mews . . . but that is a project for another day.  For now . . . I am quite delighted with the gift I've been given from Rich.  Thank You Rich!!  And Brian!!