Friday, February 26, 2010

Snow, Red-Tailed Hawk Sex, Wildlife EXPO!

So, I will finally give a brief report on the Wildlife Expo. I can blame the delay in posting this report on lots of things, but I won't.  Just be happy it happened before the original predicted date of 2016!

We had a great year this year as usual.  It was stressful as could be throughout, but despite rain, snow, and several local birds, all went off without much of a hitch.In our first rehearsal, a wild coop gave our lanner falcon (Falco biarmicus) a flyby on the ground and then landed on the A-frame perch just a few feet away and looked at us for a minute or two.  Audrey debated trying to catch another one bare handed, but decided to let this guy go.  We saw him periodically throughout the weekend, but fortunately, no more close calls.

As if on cue, the aforementioned lanner took a 30 minute leisurely stroll around the city on Thursday in his second rehearsal.  While he was never out of radio range, he was out of visual contact for longer than I would have liked especially considering the recent appearance of the coop and the onlooker on the church steeple.  I tell you, my life gets shorter by years with each passing EXPO.
The same onlooker and her mate gave the audience a show again this year on Sunday afternoon.  They sure do like to be watched.  On a church steeple?  And on the sabbath no less.  The nerve.  Another example of the really important fact that birds don't observe the same set of "rules" that humans do!

We also had snow this year for EXPO.  Friday night was a virtual whiteout for Charleston with 4+ inches of the fluffy stuff.  It made for a beautiful drive into the Center to load birds and added a nice touch to the events at Marion Square.

As with all EXPO's past, the best thing about this one is that it is over.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Fast as Lightning

OK.  A lot happened in my little bird world this week. Today was the first day of the Southeastern Wildlife EXPO here in charleston.  It was a nice, slow first day. I had interesting conversations with several nice folks on topics ranging from litter, to murder suspects from the genus Bubo, to our friends Bombycilla cedorum. More on that later in the EXPO report (available in late spring 2016).

photo from 
Cooper's Hawks (Accipiter cooperii originally from the Latin accipere "to understand" or "to grasp" and William Cooper (1798-1864) zoologist, collector, conchologist, and author) have been on my mind a lot for some reason the last week or so.  Some of you chuckle. These are some of the coolest, most often seen raptors.  Like a flash.  Short wings, long tail, bursts of power, unmatched agility, bird killing toes (see above photo).  We had a rogue coop around the Center last week with a penchant for kestrels.  He attempted to eat them all.  We found evidence that he killed a wild eastern screech owl (Megascops asio   the big little eared owl owl) as well. New word for the day: Raptivore.

We tried to catch him with a Bal Chatri (wire box covered in monofilament nooses containing bait.) He flew inches over the nooses directly to the kestrel in the enclosure.  This happened more than once.  I was less that 10 feet away from him more than once. On Monday, Audrey caught the bird bare handed.  She's fast as lightning.  He was hungry, sure, but I did say bare handed.  OK, she had her falconer's glove on, but she used here right hand to catch him.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Psychology and Second Graders

Funny story.  I was visiting with some second grade students at Sangaree Elementary school earlier this week during the last flooding rainstorm here in Charleston.  It was a fun visit full of interesting questions and insights from the young minds in the room.  They have been watching birds as a part of project feeder watch and my visit was the culmination of their bird unit.  I was flying one of our Harris' Hawks around their classroom when an astute young lady asked me how I trained the bird to come to my glove.  I explained to her that it was by using a training method that their parents probably use on them all the time (meaning positive reinforcement.) She interrupted saying, "Oh, reverse psychology."

Stephen:  "Don't soar endlessly up to 1000 feet."
Black Vulture: "I'm heading up to 1000 feet now."

I wish.