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Empty Nest

July 20, 2017

Empty Nest….a phrase with multiple meanings, but in my case quite literally.

I followed seven raptor nests from birth (incubation) until graduation (fledge) this season.  An arduous task barely completed, but I’m ready to show you my journey.

I followed three Red-tailed Hawk nests, (Nest #1, Nest #2 and Nest #3)

…a Great Horned Owl, (link to post here)

…Prairie Falcon triplets (link to post here),

…Peregrine Falcon triplets  (link to post here),

…and a Bald Eagle (link to post here).

I’ve followed nests before, but not this consistently or with as much determination; and never from beginning until end.  I did a ‘nest check’ every 4 to 5 days in the beginning, then every 3 to 4, then 2 to 3 days until the raptors were close to fledging when I checked every other day….and sometimes every day!

Starting mid to late March with a couple of nests, I picked up more as I went along.  My last day was July 4th when the Bald Eaglet fledged (I now call him ‘Freedom’, of course!)  Some days I shot thousands of photos, some days only a few, depending on circumstances at each nest site.

What got me started you ask?  I participate in a raptor survey each winter for East Cascades Audubon Society.  This winter I noticed empty nests through branches of deciduous trees and decided to keep my eye on them.  I also noticed a Prairie Falcon perched at the opening of a ‘stick’ nest high on a cliff that was likely occupied by Ravens last season.  A couple of people gave me leads for other nests when they heard about my project and I followed up on those.  Only one location was on private land and I’m grateful for owner permission to enter that gate.

Special thanks to mentor cjflick on this project.  She showed me many historical falcon sites and while together one day, we observed Peregrine Falcons flying into a known location that was formerly a Red-tailed Hawk nest.  She is also instrumental in my education as I travel through this wondrous adventure, always available for my many questions!

Also thanks to Rowena Wildlife Clinic who I called on several heartbreaking occasions.  Leigh put my mind at rest, told me what to expect and how to handle what I observed in the morning before most of my friends were even out of bed.

If you want to learn more about these amazing raptors there are many sources.  I used Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds,  The Crossley ID Guide, took a fabulous Raptor ID class from Dick Ashford at Winter Wings, followed up with many questions to mentors cjflick and others; and chased down each bit of information I came across.  I’ve learned much, but mostly learned I still have much to learn.

I tell the story of each nest as I lived the adventure.  I tend to personify or anthropomorphize so forgive me if I call ‘my raptors’ he or she, Mom or Dad; or even suggest a human relationship action that may not be accurate in the real world of raptors.  I appreciate corrections for any mistakes, comments, and additions that you care to give.

Just so you know, I use a 150 to 600 mm zoom lens and my photos are all cropped.  Most of my nests were photographed from my car without disturbing the raptors in any way.   It’s unethical to bait, lure, flush or otherwise disturb wildlife and in some situations illegal … especially when nesting or raising young.  I also don’t use bird calls from my phone apps to lure or engage.  My goal in this series of posts is to share the stages of each nest with the hope of educating and building respect for these creatures that we share the planet with.

All my photos are now loaded, I simply have to add written content…a task that would be so much easier if I could read my notes.  And if I’d dated my notes.  And if I hadn’t let them get rained on….you get the gist!

 

 

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On Saturday morning, my third day at Winter Wings Festival, I went on a field trip with Dick Ashford to improve my ability to identify raptors in the field.  Lucky me, I was placed in the lead car with Dick!

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After Friday’s classroom training, I was already far more confident in my ability to age Bald Eagles and identify various Buteos

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Most of the raptors we saw were far away sitting in a field atop a pivot, or like these in flight far above our heads.

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These were a pair of juvenile Bald Eagles, one chasing the other hoping to steal food.  If you look close, you can see a rodent trapped in the front eagle’s talons.

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We don’t know how it ended, they continued the chase until well out of sight.

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I saw something move on the ground and look!  More Coyotes!!  This pair was hunting for rodents or perhaps small squirrels that race across the fields then dive into underground tunnels.

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We saw several Rough-legged Hawks ~ aren’t they gorgeous?!!

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And THEN I saw my first Ferruginous Hawk!!  He didn’t stay long for this portrait.

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Shortly after we arrived he took off in flight and of course I followed as best I could.

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We saw a few more that day, but this was the only one close enough for me to get a good shot at.

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We saw a few American Kestrels and they are always a challenge to capture because they’re so fast.

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I was thrilled to keep this one mostly centered in my viewfinder until he landed….

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….and then he let me take a portrait while he hunted from his wire perch.

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We saw over 100 Bald Eagles.  We tried to keep track of what we saw, but I didn’t hear the final tally.

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We watched him fly closer to us…

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…then he turned and flew away….

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We moved on to find a Red-tailed Hawk perched on a post and Dick indulged me to grab this photo because the bird was right next to the road.

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One of our last stops of the day was for this Great Horned Owl sitting in her nest.  If you didn’t know she was there she’d be easy to miss.

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Wherever Mama sits, Daddy is somewhere nearby and one of our participants spotted him right away.  I went back another day but could not find him again.

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Lucky us, our last sighting of the day was a Golden Eagle.  Like any bird, he was not going to sit for us very long at this close distance, so in order for everyone behind the lead car to get a good look at him, we drove past him pretty fast after I took a few shots.

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Sitting in the back seat, window down, driving fast over a very bumpy road I grabbed as many shots as I could while we drove by.  This is a ‘drive-by-shooting’ in my world.  I mostly got shots of his feet, his perch, and air ~ check out those talons!  Lucky me, I also managed to capture this ONE shot.  All in all it was an inspiring day filled with literally hundreds of raptors mostly in the Butte Valley and near the two refuges south of Klamath Falls, Tulelake and Lower Klamath.

Saturday’s keynote speaker was author and researcher Scott Weidensaul who shared his research on Snowy Owls and Project Snowstorm.  Again my friend and I sat in the back row because there was no way we’d stay awake until the end of his talk after yet another full day that began too early.  You guessed it…mesmerized by his talk, we stayed for his book signing because after hearing about Project Snowstorm we HAD to have his new book, “Peterson Reference Guide to Owls of North America and the Caribbean” …with autograph of course!

Tomorrow will be our earliest wake-up call ~ 4:30am to get to our field trip on time….

A Month Without Internet

January 10, 2016

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Yes.  A month without internet.  Could you do without online communication, shopping, banking, game playing, and more for a month?  I decided I couldn’t, so am sitting in a warm cheery wi-fi cafe in Hood River checking up on all the above.

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It started with a snow storm.  Then an ice storm.  Then more snow & more ice.  Eventually after only a few days the snowy, ice-encrusted trees completely blocked my line of sight to the internet tower on Underwood Mountain.  When will the ice melt?  March?

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I’m not waiting.  I ordered a new service, but alas the installer has left for vacation and won’t be back for another two weeks.  So, until then, I’ve cleaned out closets.  I’ve gone through reams of old paperwork from my business; and design ideas stacked in my studio.

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I’ve shoveled my deck countless times and romped in the snow with my dog.

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I’ve watched my icicles grow and fade and grow again.

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I’ve checked on my trees to see how much longer the ice might remain.  Looks like forever to me!

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I’ve played with bubbles in the snow and ice….

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…on more than one occasion!

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One day the sun even came out, but the temperature didn’t rise above 30º.

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I can sometimes see the sunset glow outside our constant inversion.

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One snowy day a Northern Goshawk landed on the snag below my deck!

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He didn’t stay long, but I was glad to witness his presence in my neighborhood!

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I’ve come into town every couple of days to keep up with my email but also to watch for eagles since it is the season.  This pair was right off Hwy 14 between Lyle and Bingen.

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A couple of occasions I was able to watch eagles chase each other and fight over food.

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I saw other raptors like this little Kestrel and a Peregrine Falcon!

Steider Studios.Raptors.12.27.15-10 I even saw a Northern Harrier at Bingen Marina for the first time.  I usually see them in more open spaces.

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Each adventure down my mountain first involves a hike up to the road where our cars are kept.

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And a hike back down at the end of the day.

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In between, it’s a 30 minute drive down to the river, and when I arrive, it’s Raptor Heaven.

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I think this guy pretty much sums it up.  I want my internet!!

In case I don’t have another opportunity to sit in a cafe for this long, I’ll catch up with you again at the end of the month when I’m ‘connected’ again.  I hope!!

Birds and The Blues

January 12, 2013

Steider Studios:  Heron Perched Near The Dalles Dam

I’ve been working hard for an upcoming show at Columbia Art Gallery:  The Blues.  The opening is Feb 1st from 6pm until 8pm.  Many local gorge artists are participating and the opening reception will include a rare acoustic performance by local blues greats, Tess & Patrik Barr!

Steider Studios:  Heron in Flight

Today I decided to take a day off to go looking for eagles again.  The Dalles Dam is a magnet for eagles this time of year.  While I looked around, several herons flew by & I was thrilled when this one landed so close to me !

Steider Studios:  Eagles at The Dalles DamAs you can see, my lens does not reach the eagles across the Columbia River from The Dalles Dam Visitor Center!  I couldn’t figure out how to enter the facility to get a closer shot – all the gates were closed and I’ve never seen them open.  This was just one section, there were plenty of eagles if only I could figure out how to get closer!

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Lucky for me I’d stopped at the Klickitat River enroute to The Dalles.  This time I hiked along the east side of the river.

Steider Studios:  Pine Siskin at Klickitat River

Maybe it’s the time of year, but I wonder if I’ve ever seen a pine siskin so bright.

Steider Studios:  Flicker at Klickitat River

Flickers were abundant!  I haven’t seen this many in one spot, ever.

Steider Studios:  Eagle in TreeI didn’t think my camera caught this eagle with all the branches in my way.  I only saw two eagles at the Klickitat River today, both in the same tree.  It was interesting viewing them from the opposite side.  I know there must be a way to get closer and will investigate next time.

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I made it back to White Salmon just in time for sunset.  Tomorrow I’d better get back to the studio.  My water line to the flat lap is frozen, so I have to figure out how I’m going to coldwork my pieces for the show next month!  See you at the reception?

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Here’s the link to our Facebook Event page, please join us & invite your friends!

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In case you didn’t know, you can see many of my photographs published as all occasion greeting cards in my Zibbet shop. Just click this link.

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