Monday, February 23, 2009

NFA field meet, February '09—more photos

Just in: Some more pictures from the meet, this time courtesy of Pat Stull.

Stekoa on a rabbit.

This was a tough spot to reach for me...

...but not for Anya, who gets a sharp look for wandering too close.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

That noise in the chimney isn't Santa Claus...

...or even the Grinch. It took a concerted team effort as well as a bit of trial and error, but Elaine Bachel from Raptor Recovery Nebraska, Steve & Kim from Country Sweep Chimney Service, and I finally extracted this barred owl (Strix varia) from a residential chimney down in Beatrice. [Photo by Elaine.]

A falling limb knocked the cap off the chimney several days ago, and the owl evidently fell in while exploring the new cavity that had suddenly appeared in her territory. (The damaged tree itself is a potential nesting location.) Elaine and the homeowners had tried last night to pull the bird up with a rope, but couldn't get her past a narrowing of the flue six or seven feet from the top. Today we tried to push her up using the sweeps' brush, but again failed to get her past the chokepoint. Fortunately, she took a good hold on the brush and Steve was finally able to pull her down far enough so we could grab her legs and guide her out past the damper.

Despite being worked up and down the narrow confines of the chimney like a bottle brush, she emerged without feather damage (most cavity-nesting birds have very flexible feathers) or other injury. And despite having been inside for several days, she was in remarkably good condition—a bit thirsty, but nowhere near starving. She did some bill-popping, but otherwise handled the ordeal with equanimity.

Nothing in the world could be as soft as the body plumage of a barred owl...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

NFA field meet, February '09

The Nebraska Falconers' Association field meet was held this past weekend in Grand Island. Plenty of falconers attended the business/policy meeting, but (for reasons ranging from perfectly legitimate to highly dubious) most of them left their hawks at home. No accipiters, no falcons, just three bunny hawks. So in the absence of any real story arc—we caught five rabbits over two days and then went home—I'll just post a few photos (taken by me unless otherwise noted).

Bob Noble flushing birds for Hannibal, a Harris' hawk trained by Mike Cox, in an unsuccessful flight out of the hood.

Hannibal flying off a rail car.

Hannibal cruises overhead in search of quarry.

Happy Bob, with Hannibal on the fist and a bunny in the bag.

Reunion: Mike checking Hannibal's keel after the flight.

Hannibal's sister, Clarice, atop a brushpile. (Yes, the names are from The Silence of the Lambs.)

Clarice, still with a footful of grass and fur from a previous flight, launches again from Karl Linderholm's fist.

Flight photos.

Go time!

"Which one is not like the others?"—Stekoa in flight. [Photo by Mitchell Renteria.]

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Spotted at a farm pond west of Syracuse, Nebraska:

Around the blogosphere

Observant readers will have noticed a couple of recent additions to the blogroll. Rebecca has apparently discontinued Operation Desert Dove (but I highly recommend reading her final entries there) in favor of the new Operation Delta Duck. I'm flattered that Flyover Country is a charter member of the Delta Duck blogroll, and looking forward to more California adventures as only Rebecca can tell them.

Another new blog is Trevor Herriot's Grass Notes, a prairie blog from a Canadian perspective. (HT John at Prairie Ice.)

Excellent new post at Accipitrarius Sordatus, as well as from both Dan and Gervase at Cheyenne River Updates here and here. Also new tazi puppies at Querencia, so congratulations Steve & Libby.

Here in Lincoln they're making a big deal about the upcoming 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth; less so about Charles Darwin's, which of course falls on the same day. Patrick has a great collection of Darwinian cartoons at Terrierman's Daily Dose, missing out only the Northwoods t-shirt that depicts the final step as a falconer with a peregrine on his fist.

I'm highlighting my neighbours' work largely because I've not been writing much at all lately, but maybe I can at least post a picture later on.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Hawai'ian falconry? Not holding my breath

Catching up on the Internet after at least a week's absence, I see that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is considering delisting the Hawai'ian hawk or 'io (Buteo solitarius). [HT Terrierman.] The 'io breeds on the Big Island of Hawai'i, where as the island's only resident raptor it preys on a wide variety of avian, mammalian (mostly introduced rodents) and invertebrate prey, and is occasionally found as a vagrant on other islands in the archipelago. On Hawai'i it can be found in agricultural areas and secondary (largely non-native) forest as well as its historical habitat of native forest. Apparently its willingness to utilize such secondary habitats has contributed to its relatively secure (for an island endemic species) status, as populations have remained stable over a twenty-year period.

Over the last few years, as states like Delaware and Connecticut finally put falconry regulations into place, the North American Falconers' Association (NAFA) finally achieved its goal of legal falconry in 49 states. Hawai'i had always been considered a non-starter because the 'io was listed as an endangered species, and the state was understandably opposed to the use of non-native raptors. If the 'io is in fact delisted, it will be interesting to see if Hawai'ian falconry with the 'io might someday become a possibility. Of course, any efforts in that direction will be need to be extremely sensitive not only to the usual opposition from opponents of field sports, but also to the bird's significance as an 'amakua or (roughly translated) totem animal in traditional Hawai'ian culture.