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.
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.
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:
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 ~
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!
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.
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.
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!!
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.
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.
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.
Falconry! Or more appropriately for me, Hawking! It is a passion, and a way of life. I happily pursue this sport, with the loving assistance of my husband. Come along with me for our adventures with the birds. Primarily we actively pursue it in the colder months . . . the rest of the time I try to make this blog as interesting as possible. Come let me share my stories, and feel free to contact me. I always enjoy talking about my obsession with this sport.