Tuesday, August 20, 2013


It is amazing sometimes, the intelligence of the Harris Hawk.  This is not the first time she has done this.  Granted, she doesn't do it often.  On those few times I have to tie her out, without the weathering yard around her, I tie a double knot.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Summer Idylls

We are in the lazy days of summer.  Actually, it has been rather cool of late.  Our Spring was long in arriving, and if the trend keeps up, our Autumn will quickly arrive.  Well, if it can hold off from snow, a long, cool Autumn is great for hawking!  Sassy has spent a goodly amount of her Summer time in her mews, because the bugs have been just awful.  There has been a break in the flies lately, so she is getting to spend some time outside now, weathering.  Her molt has been progressing quite nicely, and she has dropped all her tail feathers.  There are still some wing feathers to go, but I think she has mostly replaced all her body feathers.  The growth on her injured wing is looking really good.  I gave a talk at the Houston Nature Center this previous Saturday, and after a bate, she knocked out a blood quill from that right wing.  The whole feather and shaft came out, so did not bleed from the wing (always the danger with a blood quill).  Because all those missing feathers were growing back from the injured wing, it should just grow back.  She's lost tail feathers before, not during the molt, and they just come back.  Loosing a feather outside the regular molt sometimes may result in no feather growing back until the next molt season, or damage to the feather shaft and no growth back at all.  Time will tell.  
It was high time to get moving on the construction of the new chamber for the hawk shack.  In one month Rich and I will be driving down to New Mexico to hopefully trap a passage Harris Hawk.  I need an appropriate home for the hawk, should we be successful.  As a reminder to my audience, previously we had purchased this little job shack trailer and converted it to serve as a mews and storage for all my falconry gear.  Here is the link to the previous transformation.  The Hawk Shack has performed the job most excellently.  In the winter I'm able to keep it quite toasty . . . although the goal is to keep it at about 40 degrees Fahrenheit.  I'm also loving all the storage shelves between the two chambers to keep all my junk . . . and there is a lot of it!

Like the previous construction, the floor and one side have seen a lot of water damage.  Rich stripped away everything and completely reconstructed the frame and floor.  He will install new windows, and insulation.  One window and a hole that accommodated the air conditioner are being closed up.  He is getting the occasional help from his brother Brian, and his sister Deb also comes and helps.  My contribution is in funding the operation, and feeding the workers.  I appreciate the help of his siblings, as they have to drive a distance to come to our house now. 
When the job is all done, I'll post new pictures.  Eventually we will put a skirt or a fence or something on the bottom of this thing to make it look less like trailer trash.  We will also paint it.  That red color just needs to go away sometime.  One project at a time!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Amorphophallus titanum

Before too much time passes, I really need to put some text to this posting.  It's been two weeks!

On Wednesday, July 31st I noticed a posting on Facebook from one of my links, the Olbrich Gardens in Madison, WI.  It was informing the public that the DC Smith Greenhouse at the University of WI at Madison had a blooming corpse plant.  At the time of the posting, the 'bloom' was still tightly folded, but the assumption was that it would open sometime in the upcoming weekend.  I was scheduled to work the entire following weekend, but had one day left - the Thursday.  I hoped it would bloom then.
The Amorphophallus titanum, or Titan Arum is a native plant to Indonesia.  It exists in various stages, cycling between a leafing phase, and a blooming phase.  The plant can live upwards to 40 years, and may bloom only 4 or 5 times during its life, unpredictably.  It's bloom is the largest of any plant in the world.  The species has been taken into horticulture for only the past 100 years, and during that time blooms are rare and wondrous events.  As time goes by, there are more botanical experts in arboretums and greenhouses that are raising this rare flora species, so the opportunity to see a bloom becomes possible.  Such was this opportunity!

If you would like to read more about this plant, click on the link below.

Titan Arum

Via a web cam the University set up, as well as their web page, it was announced at 1 pm on Thursday that the bloom was opening, a process which takes about 3 to 4 hours.  The bloom of a Titan arum only lasts for about 2 days.  It is also quite famous for its fragrance . . . or perhaps I should call it a stench.  The corpse plant relies on flies and beetles to pollinate it, and thus it emits a rather foul odor to attract them.  The unusual appearance of the plant, as well as its rather anti-social fragrance, makes it a darling to the general community.  When one blooms, they get lots of visitors.  It was crazy, on a work night, but I wanted to see it!  Richard was a good sport, and humored me by taking me (going with me ~ I can drive on my own) on the three-hour drive, each way, to see it.  The greenhouse was staying open until 9 pm for the guests who would come and visit.  For my part, I bought him a bubble tea while in town, and then dinner at the Dells on the way home.

Yes!  The plant was smelly!  It is common for those who have successfully raised and coaxed a corpse plant to bloom to name the plant.  This one was called Dennis, in honor of one of the botany professors who had passes away recently.  Dennis was rather small, as corpse plants go, but still oh so interesting to see.  To my nose it smelled rather like sewer, than rotting meat.  Either way, you don't want to stay in the same room with Dennis for a long time, as it could make you a bit nauseated.  Richard didn't really want to get too close, but let me take his picture.

The staff will pollinate the flower with pollen from other corpse plants, secured from other locations that have had blooming corpse plants.  The resulting seeds will be shared among the botanical community.  They most likely also harvested the pollen to share in the future.

It was possibly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!  Thank You Rich for letting me meet Dennis.