Sunday, July 21, 2013

Fledging Kestrels

Last weekend I invited my very good friend, and former falconry sponsor, Dave Noble and his girlfriend, Sue to come to the farm and try to catch pictures of the kestrels in the nestbox, which I anticipated would fledge.  They came both Saturday and Sunday, with Sunday being the best day.  Saturday was wet and dreary.  Sunday was sunny and temperate.  It was a most fortuitous day for them both.  While I was at work, they came to the farm and set up their blind and captured the action.  Having watched the nest boxes myself previously, I know there are long hours of waiting, with quick moments of action.  They caught these fantastic pictures, which Dave was kind enough to allow me to share here on my blog.  All these pictures are his work, and he holds the copyright.  They are posted here by permission.

I like this picture above best of all!  It took a lot of patience to capture it.
As they were there photographing, several of the four eyases fledged.  They caught this action shot above of the event.  Later, Dave posted on his Facebook page that another of the fledglings launched into the world, and while making its way to a treeline was spotted by a crow, which quickly headed its way, hoping to make a quick meal.  Crows and raptors are bitter enemies, sometimes competing for the same food resources.  Dave expressed that he thought the fledgling was a 'goner', but the parents were attentive and quickly came in to defend their offspring from the offending crow, which was beaten into submission by them both.
The male kestrel was hovering at some point in the day with a tasty grub in his beak.  Last year, during a nest inspection, I found a half-eaten mouse.  These little raptors do prey on many insects, but can also hunt small songbirds . . . especially the female, which is larger.  I do so love the look of the North American Kestrel.  It is a very colorful little falcon!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Meet Monty

We got a dog!

Well . . . I got a dog!  Richard didn't have a whole lot of input to the process, but he didn't mind me going forward with the plan.  Now that I have a house of my own, I was coming to the point where I wanted to add a dog to my life again.  I have always been a fan of the herding breeds, for their intelligence, and their willingness to take training.  However, I've also been wanting to try to add a little dog to the hawking team.  Whereas many dogs can make excellent hawking dogs, certain dogs take on the job a lot better.  Terriers tend to be excellent . . . . except that they sometimes have a tendency to be stubborn in the training area.  It is a trade off.
I went searching on Petfinder to see what was available.  I was also of a mind to rescue a dog, if the opportunity presented itself.  I did not want to buy anything expensive, and thus also did not want to subsidize any 'backyard' breeders.  My searching found me two possibilities . . . this little guy, and another puppy, a rat terrier, in a different rescue organization.  It just worked out that I was able to meet this guy first, and I decided he would be the one.

He is a wire-haired Jack Russel Terrier, who came with the name Higgins.  I didn't care for that name too much, and he didn't seem to be too attached to it . . . . as he doesn't seem to listen too much either way.  Upon reflection, the name Monty came to my mind, and it seemed to fit . . . so Monty it is!

I am writing this text several weeks after having brought him into our home, so I have had several weeks to get acquainted with him.  He is a pretty good boy in the house!  He does not pace like JRT tend to do, and also does not bark that much.  Sometimes he does alarm to something outside, which will be a good thing . . . but unlike the Shelties I had before (or my mother's dog, Puddin, the Pomeranian) once he has barked a time or two, he SHUTS UP!!  He slept the first night in the kennel, but ever since, now sleeps on our bed.  For whatever reason, he has selected one spot downstairs in our dusty 'man cave' room (which still needs to be moved into - currently is dirty, dusty, and has lots of storage boxes) to put the occasional pile of turds.  I try to get him outside often, and he does eventually go out there, but that one spot gets visited from time to time if I'm not paying attention to him.  Perhaps that habit is what caused him to lose his previous home(s).  We've put newspaper down, and he just goes on there . . . which may be an acceptable solution.  When we are gone to work, he is kennelled, and he seems to do well with that.  I am told that he had two previous owners.  the last one gave him up because they got a new puppy, and just "liked the puppy better".  How's that for an excuse to get rid of a dog.  Well, he seems to be fitting in just fine here with us.  Currently, he follows me from room to room, and is asleep under my desk as I type this.
He has demonstrated that he has a mind in that little skull of his.  It appears that he has had some training previous.  He is food motivated, and very soon (maybe even today) I plan to get some liver, cook it up, and see if I can begin to get some recall on him.  Outside, he's a wild hooligan!  He likes to play ball, and frisbee (which I think was new to him, but he took to it pretty quick, and very soon may even catch it), however his mind is his own, and sometimes it is pretty stubborn.  When he fixes his intent on something he wants to do, he can be quite focused on achieving it.  He also likes to use his nose, which would be good as a hawking dog.  I think of this behavior, the independent streak, very much in line with the hawks I have worked with.  I won't mind him asserting his will in the field, to sniff and to chase, as long as I can get some recall on him.  If I am successful with that, I may end up hawking with raw tidbits in one pocket for the hawk, and liver tidbits in the other for the dog.
Sassy hates him!  He has shown respect for our cat, because he now knows that cats can scratch.  As long as my cat doesn't run from him, and stands up to him, he leaves the cat alone.  However he does not know that hawks can be dangerous.  I carefully monitored a controlled meeting, but Sassy was all hissy and screamy, and the dog was just going nuts.  He got his nose boxed a couple times, but not enough to teach him a lesson.  I'm going to have to continue to coordinate some exposure time, and tether them each on opposite sides of the room and see if I can begin to get them used to each other.  Too bad I no longer have my big red tail.  She'd teach Monty some manners as regards hawks.

In addition to my post here about my new dog, I'll include the only other picture I took of the kestrel nestlings.  I came back and discovered there were four in the box.  I never returned to determine what their sexes were.  It was easier to check when I lived on the farm.  Later, my friend came and photographed their fledging (see the next post).  Perhaps this fall we'll put up several more boxes and have a few more active nests next year.