My Life With Raptorial Birds

Generally, ones introduction to raptorial birds is in the negative vein. Chicken Hawk, Buzzard, Butcherbird, Shite-hawk, Carrion Crow, Quail Hawk, etc., all derogatory titles to describe members of this group of avian predators. Farmers wrongly believe they choose to primarily prey on their poultry; sport hunters promote the false premise that they significantly reduce the populations of those small game species (quail, rabbits, etc.) they seek to shoot themselves; and children are taught animals that kill other animals are in some sense, “bad” (of course, exempting we humans).

Red-tailed Hawk (“Chicken Hawk”)

RTHawk38

When I was a child my Dad identified American kestrels (sparrow hawks) as “Butcherbirds,” confusing their predatory activity with the shrike ( a passerine bird that impales its insect and small rodent prey on thorns or barbed wire fences because it has no grasping talons to hold it while it feeds.) The kestrel’s practice of hovering in place while seeking prey would entice him to throw rocks at it. Later, I wondered why he’d want to protect the kestrel’s prey species (grasshopper, mice) since he set traps for mice in the garage and sprayed DDT in our vegetable garden to kill grasshoppers. I doubt he ever thought much about it.

American Kestrel (“Butcherbird”)

Kestrel 10a

Loggerhead Shrike (“Butcherbird”)

Loggerhead Shrike 5

Recently, my neighbor insisted a large oak snag be removed from the field behind our homes because it was occasionally used as a nighttime roost for a half-dozen turkey vultures that she termed ‘harbingers of death.” (The snag eventually fell in a winter storm much to her delight).

Turkey Vultures (“Buzzard”, “Carrion Crow”)

IMG_4299 (3)

My interest in birds, including raptors began early in life and increased exponentially as I studied birdlife through college. I vividly recall seeing my first bald eagle; identifying the various species of raptors in Arizona; and, later, being hired by the US Forest Service to study California condors. That work allowed me to spend a bulk of my time in the field with Fred Sibley, a Fish and Wildlife Service ornithologist who schooled me in observing and identifying many raptorial species. Red-tailed hawks, golden eagles, peregrine falcons, and many others. Later, Sandy Wilbur shared these experiences with me.

California Condor

condor1

Moving on to northern Idaho I became intricately involved in the osprey populations that frequented the rivers and lakes– St. Joe, Coeur d’Alene, Pend Oreille– of that area. Although the area provided ideal habitat for this species–significant fish populations, natural and man-made nesting structures–the populations had declined due to reduced reproductive success. Becoming participant in the studies conducted by Wayne Melquist and Don Johnson of the University of Idaho, we surveyed osprey populations, banded nestlings and assessed DDT levels in the population. As the DDT levels began to decline due to the ban in 1972, reproductive success began to rise and there is currently a healthy viable population in that area, not to speak lightly of the return of nesting bald eagles, once extirpated from the area.

Osprey (“Fish Hawk”)

Osprey38

From Idaho I returned to California and headed up Forest Service programs to recover endangered species. None the least of these were the California condor, bald eagle, peregrine falcon and spotted owl. Here I was lucky enough to spend field time with Butch Olendorff, Dave Harlow, and Brian Walton and other pillars of the raptor community of biologists. And, then as now, my photographic efforts always highlighted raptorial bird species.

Peregrine Falcon (“Duck Hawk”)

Peregrine 10
A few species, such as the osprey, are termed circumpolar because they are found world-wide. Others are found in both North and South America and others spend the winters on one continent while spending the summers on another. In review of my photo portfolio I realized I now had images of 23 of the 33 North American raptor species and 26 found in South America and South Africa that I’ve taken on my photography excursions.

Ornate Hawk Eagle (Central America)

Ornate Hawk-Eagle 4copy

I continue to add to this collection but for now, these are my chosen images, Part One includes the North American Species and Part Two, those from other countries. Enjoy!

 

Part One-North American Raptors

 

Bald Eagle (Washington)

Bald Eagle, Seabeck, WA

Golden Eagle (California)

Golden Eagle, Clovis, CA

Red-tailed Hawk (California)

RTHawk29

Rough-legged Hawk (Oregon)

Rough-legged Hawk 3

Red-shouldered Hawk (California)

Red-shouldered Hawk 16

Swainson’s Hawk (Texas)

Swainson's hawk 4

Harris Hawk (Texas)

Harris Hawk 1

Gray Hawk (Arizona)

Gray Hawk 7

Cooper’s Hawk (California)

Cooper's Hawk 6

Northern Goshawk (Montana)

Goshawk25

Northern Harrier (California)

Harrier3

Swallow-tailed Kite (Florida)

Swallow-tailed Kite 1

White-tailed Kite (California)

Black-shouldered Kite 1

Snail Kite (Florida)

Snail Kite 1

Crested Caracara (Texas)

Northern Caracara 5

Peregrine Falcon (California)

Peregrine 12

Merlin (Oregon)

Merlin 10

American Kestrel (California)

Kestrel 15

Turkey Vulture (California)

TV14

Black Vulture (Baja)

Black Vulture 1

California Condor (California)

California Condor 2

Barn Owl (California)

Barn Owl 2

Great Gray Owl (Montana)

GGOwl 1

Burrowing Owl (Idaho)

Burrowing owl 14

Long-eared Owl (California)

Long-eared Owl 2

Pygmy Owl (California)

Pygmy Owl 10

Great Horned Owl (California)

GtHOwl 2

“ALMOST WINNING” IS REALLY LOSING!

I was away last week and when I returned I noted a lead story in national news service that bragged, “Democrat Danny O’Connor almost won it in his race against Republican Troy Balderson” and then went on to crow about how close he had come and the ensuing future “Blue Wave.” Well, I hate to rain on your parade, Progressives, but celebrating “almost winning” doesn’t get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks!

 
In my younger days I was a pretty fair college track athlete. However, many times did I endure the slaps on the back and comments of my teammates, “Good job, you ALMOST won that one.” So, experience allows me to dampen your elation Progressives, because “almost winning” is simply LOSING! Almost winning didn’t put my name in the record books; didn’t give me a spot on the USA Olympic Team; didn’t put my face on the Wheaties Box or in the Nike ads.

 
I’m a Progressive who wants to see America continue to move forward as a democratic society, not a fascist state; as a leader in science, education and human rights, not as a puppet of the oligarchs; towards what inspired those who wrote our Constitution and who looked to the day when we might be world leaders (we were once…remember?), Where do you think we’d be if on June 7, 1944, Dwight Eisenhower had said, “Don’t be discouraged because WE ALMOST WON!” Yet I see the pundits on tv and in the logs yelling “Looking good because we ALMOST won that one.” The truth is, if you “almost won” you’d better start trying harder.  Do you hear me, Progressives?

 

High Desert

Back to Oregon…back to Fort Rock where several miles beyond pine forest meets high desert sage. The summer heat draws to birds to the shallow basins where water from the winter rains, caught on steel aprons and directed into underground cisterns, flows into these two sites and provides a source of life-giving water to many bird and mammal species.

Even though it was hot and dry, bird activity was much less this year than before. I logged in about 21 species in 3 days but many were only single sightings. But, only a year away from 80 I prided myself on still being able to camp out again, even though I needed the comfortable cot and foam futon to replace sleeping on the ground on a thin Thermopad. But away from the light pollution of our cities and two moonless nights, the star show was spectacular. How it brought back my many nights almost 60 years ago in the Arizona deserts.

Fort Rock

Fort Rock, Oregon

Ponderosa & Sage Ecotone

DSC03514

Water Basin

DSC03278

Photo BlindDSC03411(1)

Camp

DSC03136(1)

Pinyon Jay

Pinyon Jay 15

Red Crossbill

Red Crossbill 16

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler 14

Mourning Dove

MourningDove 14

Western Tanager

Western Tanager 3

Clark’s Nutcracker

Clark's Nutcracker 22

Green-tailed Towhee

Green-tailed Towhee 9

Sage Thrasher

Sage Thrasher 12

Brewer’s Blackbird

Brewer's Blackbird 1

Mountain Chickadee

Mt Chickadee 20

Chipping Sparrow

Chipping Sparrow 1

Lazuli Bunting

Lazuli Bunting 4

Cassin’s Finch

Cassin's Finch 13

American Robin

Robin 13

Mountain Bluebird

Mountain Bluebird 8

Western Bluebird

Western Bluebird 25

Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker 21

White-headed Woodpecker

White-headed Woodpecker 24

 

 

 

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

“Just remember, what you are seeing and what you are reading is not what’s happening,” Trump told his minions in Chicago yesterday. If not for the threat of protests I have no doubts he would have continued, paraphrasing Exodus 20:2-3 by saying “I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of immigrants, out of the house of Democracy.”
Then he would have followed by taking credit for paraphrasing quotes of the Italian fascist dictator, Hitler’s ally, Benito Mussolini, in:
• The Press of Italy is free…as long as it supports the regime.”
• “Democracy is beautiful in theory; in practice it is a fallacy. You in America will see that some day.”
• “Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.”
• “We become the strongest…when we have no friends upon whom to lean, or to look to for moral guidance.”
Of course, at the end of WWII the Italian people executed Mussolini and dumped his body in a public square in Milan. We can only hope.

The Trumpian Circus

As a child, growing up in one of the beach cities of Southern California, I vividly recall the trained seal shows that were offered in many places to draw in tourists. This was before Marineland and Marine World and their huge tanks for dolphins and orcas, so seals (actually sea lions) were the big draw. The trainers would parade them out on the stage and they would clap their flippers and bark on command in an effort to get a dead anchovy thrown to them. It always seemed to me to be degrading to this beautiful animal that was so well suited to a life on the coast where they swam, fed, played and basked on the beaches and coastal rocks. Thankfully, this activity dissipated as other technological activities (massive roller coasters, etc.) became more and more popular and the massive aquaria (now in decline) took away the excitement of it.

 
I’d almost forgotten about the trained seal shows until this morning when I watched the Donald Trump rally in Montana on the morning news. I became aware that in this State, one of our largest but more minimally populated (a state that appears to pride itself by “still maintaining the values of the old American west” ), had latched onto some of the aspects of sea lion training that had long ago disappeared here in California. Of course, not having access to a sea coast, obviously Montana had to improvise. Luckily for them there was a significant element of registered Republicans to count on and when they applied the tried and true techniques developed by the old seal trainers on the coast to party members, having them to bark and clap on command from specific words (Obama, Hillary, etc.) and hand signals by a lead trainer, they responded brilliantly. Of course their incentive was the hope of getting that anchovy snack tossed their way but, as yet, it really hasn’t come. Lots of promises and only a few inedible packages of paper towels have been thrown out to any clapping/barking crowds, but they are trained well and anticipate that someday the anchovies will fly through the air in abundance.

 
What is truly surprising to me is that there are, within this crowd of trained seals, a number of those who currently have more anchovies than they can possibly eat…refrigerators not only full of anchovies but salmon, scallops and king crab, some of it already past the time for consumption. Yet these people for whatever reason believe they deserve more and willingly clap and bark in the hopes of getting it, buying more and more refrigerators for storage (and more and more guns to keep others from pillaging it!)

 
I’m glad that the trained seal shows have disappeared from the coast and I certainly wouldn’t want to live in Montana where they have just now been discovered.

As the Bible Tells Us So…

It always amazes me how many of our outspoken clergy (and particularly politicians) can locate obscure elements buried deep in the Bible to satisfy their immediate personal, social and moral dogmas, while ignoring those more notable ones that may be in deference to their biases. Such was evident in our Attorney General’s quoting Paul in Romans 13 regarding citizens to always submit to governments as “the authorities that exist have been established by God.” Using this as a justification, one has to accept that the atrocities of Stalin, Hitler, Mao Tse Tung, Hussein, Assad and others as being blessed by God. What bothers me most in our evolving political climate is the out-and-out ignorance of Matthew 7:12, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you…” This “Golden Rule”, along with the indisputable requirement of honesty and truthfulness was a primary focus of my father’s stern lessons to me as a child. But today, one can claim anything or accuse anyone, no matter its lack of factual value. I fear Trump’s actions when he finds in Deuteronomy 7:6 that God favors the Israelites exclusively (and then sent them out to murder everyone else.) Will he then convert to Judaism?

Curiosity Killed the Cat!

Again my curiosity gets the best of me. I am ever curious as to how you “Make America Great Again” by abolishing all the aspects that made it great in the first place. It seems analogous to reviving the automobile industry by eliminating the internal combustion engine, rubber tires and hydraulic brakes. But, what I have come to realize is how much the Republicans hated this country in the many years prior to Donald Trump. Obviously President Reagan– who we once believed was their icon– was not a supporter of dictatorships (“Mr. Gorbachev…tear down this wall!” -1987); or of eliminating immigration (“Our nation is a nation of immigrants. More than any other country, our strength comes from our own immigrant heritage and our capacity to welcome those from other lands.”-1981); on abolishing free trade (“I’ve seen in my lifetime what happens when leaders forget these timeless principles. They seek to protect industries and jobs, but they end up doing the opposite. One economic lesson of the 1930’s is protectionism increases international tensions.”-1983). Yet, in a little more than a year, and with the unwavering support of a Republican Congress, POTUS has cut these values to the bone. So I’m curious. What was it about President Reagan’s policies that so aggravated the Republican Party that they so bravely hid from us and only now can openly and unswervingly support the policies of Trump and his abolishment of almost all of them? And I continue to wonder, how was it I missed this hatred of country in the many years of associating with Republican friends and neighbors. Curious, indeed!

Child’s Play

From the results of the interviews recently conducted by the New York Times of Republican Trump supporters– now approaching 90%–one insidious statistic burns through: “If what he does; no matter how illegal; no matter how immoral; no matter how dishonest; no matter how incompetent; irritates the Democrats and Progressives, then we love and support it!” Given this, I would fully expect the Republican reaction to Trump deciding to create a national waste dump in Yosemite Valley to be, “Gosh darn, I used to love vacationing there, it’s such a pretty place, but, hey, this will absolutely freak out those environmental liberals so I’m all for it!”

 
Our national problem isn’t so much lack of education, it’s a lack of maturity; a lack of the ability to weigh problems and potential solutions on their merits rather than on who proposes them (remember, the Republican Congress refused to pass their own bills if Obama supported them). It’s our recently achieved demand of instant gratification. Why take time to look at the facts, review the options, weigh the consequences when it’s easier to stand there and scream “Make America Great Again!” It reminds me of two neighbors who both hate hard rock music but don’t get along otherwise. One gleefully decides that if he blasts loud electric guitar recordings all day over his stereo he’ll put up with the hated sounds because he knows how it so irritates the other. Childlike? Yes, and that’s where we are politically. Hopefully the next generation will have a bit more humility.

We Should Have Done Something Then!

Does history repeat itself? In essence, that was the question my wife posed to me this evening as we watched the television news reports of the federally-invoked separation of mothers and babies; the tent cities housing thousands of minor children; and the terror of parents who had sought refuge in this country from chaos and potentially certain death in their own countries only to find it worse here. Mothers, forcibly separated from their infants and toddlers who were shuttled away to be placed in facilities within which no one but designated federal agents were allowed to observe. Children sobbing as they were taken by armed military strangers to hidden interment facilities. Thus, my wife’s question, “Do you think in 1936, 1937, or 1938, as a middle-class husband and wife sat in their living room in Berlin, Germany and listened on the radio to the actions of the Nazi regime, they asked each other, ‘What is happening to our country?’” seemed justified. Are we truly experiencing history repeating itself?

 
An answer of “absolutely” becomes more and more accurate with the dawn of each day and the new series of ‘Trumpian Twitters’ that appear to now be the process of which we steer the political direction of our nation. Sadly, in the eyes of other nations we are now seen to applaud dictatorial authoritarianism where the leader replicates an infallible deity. We are noted to define ‘human rights’ as any action that benefits the wealthy Caucasian minority (who control 90% of the world’s wealth). We regularly find scapegoats in those groups of limited wealth and education without power to fight back, and we pride ourselves as Biblical scholars and interpreters, misusing scripture and evangelical Christians as our shield. In essence, we are a country in rapid decline; a country, if not wrought by revolution in the future, that will become subservient to countries that better interpret history, if there ever is such a country. As our current leader has so regularly tweeted…Sad!

 

 

The Sound of Silence?

The irony of being hearing impaired is that you don’t appear physically different from anyone else. You don’t walk with a white cane, or a seeing-eye dog, or with help from others as you would if you were blind. You’re not confined to a wheel chair or use a cane or crutches or have visible deformities, scars or missing limbs. You simply can’t hear. You look like everyone else, wear bright t-shirts, tennis shoes, ball caps. You drive a car…you can even ride a bike. You smile, nod, sneeze, cough. Thus when you converse with the soft-voiced grocery store checker; the waitress with the foreign accent; or the slurred answer of the hardware store salesperson and ask them to repeat themselves (often more than once) they assume you just don’t understand them. You’re old, senile, and confused or have a low IQ. When you ask them to repeat, often for a second time, they become irritated. They treat you as if you were simply stupid.

 
Hearing aids, often hidden, don’t necessarily compensate for hearing loss and in some cases even aggravate the situation. They increase the volume but often further impair the clarity. You hear the noise but not the words. And you are never really sure just what direction the noise is coming from.

 
Hearing impaired people often have to significantly change their habits. Attending parties, meetings or other crowded events is exasperating because the confusion of a multitude of voices prevents you from being able to converse, even when someone standing in front of you. You regularly wonder if you should have nodded when you shook your head. Thus, you choose to avoid such events. Of course concerts and music festivals become a thing of the past. You remember music but no longer hear much of it without earphones, and then only partially. Sound systems in automobiles are a waste of money. So is going to the movies because no matter how much you want to see the picture, the dialog is lost. Watching television requires high volume, annoying to others in the room, or requires wearing earphones that eliminates conversation and only partially improves comprehension. You get an inkling of what’s going on but not all the specifics. Situation comedies are a thing of the past and you get most of your news by reading.

 
Thus, one reverts to spending more time in activities where verbal intercourse is not required, avoiding situations where hearing might be required. These are lonely activities; sitting at a computer, walking in the woods, crafts and art, reading. You wave to your neighbors rather than walking over and having a conversation. You smile when your grandchildren whisper “secrets” in your ear and don’t tell them that you heard nothing. Your dog accepts your problem… your spouse no so much.

 
A number of years ago I gave a nature program to a nursing home. A well-dressed man sat in a chair alone in the corner. I asked. “Why don’t you come over where you can better see the slides?” I asked. “He can’t hear you,” the nurse said, “he’d rather be alone.” Now I know why.