Sunday, May 15, 2022

Mosaic Monday #177: Revelry with Raptors

Spousal Unit is generally our tour guide operator when we travel to the UK.  My in-laws and I have the opportunity for input, but my dear husband conducts all the research, scouring TripAdvisor and other reliable sources for activities/sights we will enjoy.  This trip, he found a rare experience that was an ideal fit with my interest in birds.  Walks with Hawks allows for personal interaction with several species of raptors!

As someone who puts animal welfare high on my list of priorities, I was mildly concerned about the source of the birds and their care.  Having spent 2.5 hours with Clare, the owner of the operation, I learned she hand raises each raptor and they become part of her family.  The young raptors are hatched from eggs that are commercially produced - not from the wild.

Before she even started, she checked our "gross-out" tolerance.  After all, raptors are carnivores, and she uses chicken pieces and whole dead chicks during the experience.  No worries for us!  (There are only one or two pictures in this series that someone might find unpleasant - I apologize if that's the case.)  

I regret that I don't remember the name of the Great Horned Owl, the first bird we saw.  Most of the raptors started on a perch, and Clare would put chicken on my glove, leading the bird to fly to me.  Spousal Unit had practiced with the slo-mo feature on my phone, which is ideal for this type of videography.  The only down side? The sound is odd!  Below is a clip of the Great Horned Owl in flight.

She gave the chicks to the raptors at the end of their segment, partly as reward and partly because offering it to them at the beginning might result in no more flight that day (see explanation below).


I couldn't possibly remember everything that Clare taught us that day (I interacted with the raptors while Spousal Unit served as photographer and videographer); she is extremely knowledgeable about each species.  I was impressed that she could also recite the weight of each bird not only for that day but for the day before.  As I learned, this was not just some gimmick.  Raptors will only fly if they are hungry, and the way to know they are hungry is by weight; when their food is sufficiently digested, their weight goes down and they will want to hunt.  (And this is not to imply that she is starving them so they will "perform."  She has enough birds that she can monitor the weight and know which ones to bring to a particular session.)  Fascinating!

It prompted me to ask if a raptor (such as a Bald Eagle) flies for "fun".  This has often occurred to me when I see one circling ever higher on a thermal air current.  The answer is no.  Most flying is for hunting.  And by the way, Clare told us, this is the origin of the phrase "fed up".  A raptor that is "fed up" will not fly or hunt.

Below is a video of Eboo flying.  (I may have mis-spelled its name.)  Eboo was distracted by the planes flying to and from the small airfield near the farm, and needed a little more coaxing.

 

"Oreo", a Barn Owl, was the third and final owl we would meet.  Oreo is quite rare due to melanism, a development of dark-colored pigment that is the opposite of albinism.  With Oreo, we also learned how small an owl's head is, camouflaged under all those feathers.  Gently, we put a finger into the feathers at the back of the owl's head; our hand practically disappeared before we felt anything firm!

By now, you will also have noticed some common equipment with each of the raptors.  Gloves - those talons are sharp and the birds have quite a grip!  Jesses, strips of strong leather that allow for extra control of the raptor if needed (which never happened at our session).  Reward tags - includes a serial number and contact information.  Clare noted that is very uncommon for her birds to "fly off", particularly the owls.  Unlike the other raptors, the owls bond with her, and won't stray.  But as a precaution, she put a transmitter on each bird as it came out of its case.

Below are two videos of Oreo in flight.


 

The next raptor we met was "Ronnie," a Harris's Hawk.  With Ronnie, we walked a short distance around the farm (hence "Walks with Hawks").  The hawk would fly from my glove to a tree.  Tree to glove.  Glove to fence post.  And so on.  These hawks feed mostly on medium-sized mammals such as hares, ground squirrels and other rodents.  Thus, it was not surprising that Ronnie swept close to the ground in flight.  Check out the video.

Throughout our time together, Clare shared many phrases that have come from falconry.  "Eyes like a hawk": if we had the vision of a hawk, we could read a newspaper being held at the other end of a football field.  Here is Ronnie looking intently at something!

In that picture, you can also clearly see the jesses.  Several common terms relate to these leather straps:  "end of my tether" , "wrapped around my little finger" and "under my thumb".  

At the end of our time with Ronnie, Clare had us stand close together.  And not move.  And then Ronnie flew right past our ears!  You could easily imagine how the raptor might use this skill to fly through a hedge for prey.


"Kibbles", an American Kestrel, was our next raptor.  Can you see the bell on one of the jesses?  Falconry bells are commonly used to locate the bird, let the falconer know if the bird is active and signal if the bird is near a predator.  Another piece of equipment that is commonly associated with falconry is the hood.  We did not see one that day, but Clare informed us that falconry hoods are the source of the term "hoodwinked".  A bird was kept calm by using a small hood - being tricked into calming themselves.  Hoodwinked means to be fooled into doing something!

Here is Kibbles in flight.

You may be wondering about the location for Walks with Hawks - Clare is not associated with the farm; she has permission to use it for her operation.   She shared with us that her time with families often brings a silver lining: she has an opportunity to educate them, especially children, about the role of farms.  Can you imagine that many people do not understand the source of beef, or tomatoes, (just to name two examples she mentioned)? 

The final raptor of the day was "Hope", the Chilean Blue Eagle you saw at the beginning of the post.  Is this a majestic bird, or what?  


Clare explained that in the wild, birds will lose two feathers in a symmetrical manner, particularly on the wings, so that it does not affect flight.  For some reason, Hope had gone through a complete molt, and therefore she could not fly.  But it was OK; she was stunning just being stationary!  Just look at the blue of the feathers on her back - doesn't even look real!

Suffice it to say that Spousal Unit hit it out of the park, arranging this spectacular experience.  I am grateful beyond words! 

Welcome to Mosaic Monday, a weekly meme where we get together to share our photo mosaics and collages.
Please include at least one photo mosaic/collage in your post.
The link will be open from 1 p.m. Sunday until 11 p.m. Tuesday (U.S. Mountain time).
Remember to add the link to your Mosaic Monday post and not the one to your blog.
Please link back to this post so that your readers will be able to visit and enjoy more wonderful mosaics; taking the MM blog button from my sidebar is an easy way to link back.
As host I will visit every participant and leave a comment so that you know I stopped by.
Please try and visit as many other blogs as you can, especially those that join in later, so that everyone's creativity can be appreciated fully.
Thank you for joining in today and sharing your mosaics with us. 


You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Mosaic Monday #176: A Walk in the Woods

Our time in the UK sped by like the Concorde making a flight from London to New York!  The good news for all you loyal readers?  Writing about our adventures will be more akin to the QE2 on a transatlantic crossing!  So settle yourself with a favorite beverage and let's go for a ride.

A walk along the River Greta, beginning at Scargill, was a delightful start to our holiday.  Initially, we traversed farm fields and open moorland.  Lapwings circled above our heads, their shrill, wailing cries echoing around us.  Did you know a group of lapwings is called a "deceit"?  We spotted Curlews as well; the long beaks are a give-away.  Spousal Unit found this egg along the path; of course, we would never pick up an egg from a nest - what you can't see is that it was crushed on the other side.  How it got there and what happened to it is a mystery.  (Throughout our time in the UK, we read plenty of signs that warned walkers this is nesting season and to keep dogs on leads ...)

Eventually, we came to the river, and we skirted to the left, which led to a trail down to the water's edge.  The rest of the walk zig-zagged across the river, with numerous footbridges to aid the crossings.



Wildflowers and birds were prolific; I am much better capturing flowers than winged creatures!


Below is the only Bluebell bloom in the woods, and it was barely open.  As you will read in another post, it was an appetizer for what we saw later in our visit.

I pulled these photos from the Web; I am fairly confident these are some of the birds we saw in the woods that day.  A question to my UK birders - I saw a bird at a stream, and it was acting like a Dipper.  It had yellow coloring on its back.  What would it be? (Thanks to David of Travels with Birds - it was a Yellow Wagtail.)


After our walk, we visited Mainsgill Farm Shop.  I wrote about this shop in 2019 - here.  It has grown since then - even more gorgeous home decor items and mouth-watering delectables.  Knowing #1 Son loves plump ceramic birds, I took the picture of this whimsical chicken.  And we sampled their scones with clotted cream/strawberry jam.  Yum yum!

We rounded out the day with a meal at the Dun Cow Inn.  Fish and chips and mushy peas.  Can you get more quintessential English than that?  And our joyful time in the UK had begun!


Welcome to Mosaic Monday, a weekly meme where we get together to share our photo mosaics and collages.
Please include at least one photo mosaic/collage in your post.
The link will be open from 1 p.m. Sunday until 11 p.m. Tuesday (U.S. Mountain time).
Remember to add the link to your Mosaic Monday post and not the one to your blog.
Please link back to this post so that your readers will be able to visit and enjoy more wonderful mosaics; taking the MM blog button from my sidebar is an easy way to link back.
As host I will visit every participant and leave a comment so that you know I stopped by.
Please try and visit as many other blogs as you can, especially those that join in later, so that everyone's creativity can be appreciated fully.
Thank you for joining in today and sharing your mosaics with us. 


You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Mosaic Monday #175: Five Years in Montana

Tomorrow, May 2, marks the fifth anniversary of our migration from Ohio to Montana.  Coincidently, tomorrow we will also be flying home from the UK to Montana, an apt parallel that marks the length of our journey since we first began dating in the Northeast of England in February 1990.  What an adventure it has been! 

I have written many posts about Montana, and trying to choose my favorites would be time-consuming and just more work than I am willing to do!  So, I am taking the easy way out, and highlighting (mostly) the posts that were published on dates closest to the May 2 anniversary.  (I might cheat now and then and throw in an extra post that represents a particularly important event in the last five years, but hey! whose blog is this anyway?)


Day 6 - Malta, Montana (5/2/2017)

With two cars, two cats and a parakeet, we had made it this far.  "Overnight we are in Malta, a town nestled along the Milk River (think chocolate milk), the railroad that runs from Chicago to Whitefish and beyond, and Highway 2, which will take us to Whitefish tomorrow."


"So, tomorrow, we will finish our emigration, and we are very excited.  To celebrate, we cracked open a bottle of Honey Jack, which we have been saving since last Memorial Day.  This wasn't just any bottle - it is one that was given to us by dear friends at that time, with a note that said 'Can only be opened in the state of Montana.'  Guys, it's open now!"


Day 7 - Whitefish, Montana
 (5/5/2017)

"Finally, we arrived at the town house, home for the next 9 months or so.  The menagerie was glad to unpack the cars (completely) and get settled in. At least, when we weren't too busy looking at the view from the master bedroom!"

Keep Calm and Carry On (3/22/2018)

"June 23, 2016, the day that two-thirds of our household possessions were packed and transferred to a United Van Lines warehouse near Cleveland, Ohio.  And on March 19, 2018, Billy, Eric and Levi delivered them to our new house near Kila, Montana." 



To Infinity and Beyond (4/21/2018)

"The nights here are quiet, with a velvet black sky littered with sparkling stars.  Fresh, crisp air enters your lungs with each deep breath you unconsciously draw, the body's natural reaction to the serenity and awe of standing underneath the mighty constellations.  An occasional sighing sound reaches your ears as the breeze rustles the pine boughs.  Another deep breath brings the scent of earth and living things.  No longer just the figment of my dreams, this is my new reality - as of April 14, our new log house is HOME!"


Graduate with Hat 
(5/3/2018)

"#1 Daughter (AKA Graduate with Hat) graduated from the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) on April 28.  

"A whirlwind week with family and friends began quietly at my sister's house with a morning garden walk.  I used to claim Autumn as my favorite season, but these days I give my affection to Spring.  Pregnant buds giving birth to unblemished leaves.  Vibrant floral hues taking over from the gray of winter.  The promise of fruit hidden within the flowers.  All of it a fitting metaphor for the bright-eyed hope of spring commencement."

Dithering April (5/5/2019)

"The ski season ended with a cool vibe as Whitefish Mountain Resort hosted Employee Ski/Ride Day.  In keeping with the "fun" character of the resort, costumes were encouraged and each department adopted a theme to identify its employees.  In the case of the Mountain Ambassadors, everyone decked out in retro/60s gear.  We don't often get the opportunity to ski/board at the same time, so this was treasured team bonding."


We have been blessed to build a number of strong friendships in Montana; for Spousal Unit, many of them are fishing buddies drawn from the Ambassador group.  In my case, God led me to a soul sister just across the street - Dear Neighbor Friend.  Our journeys in life have been vastly different, but we share a deep love for God, and a profound appreciation of the outdoors and the flora and fauna that live within it.  I am so grateful to have this beautiful person in my world. 

In the five years we have lived in Montana, we have lost all of our feathered and furred traveling companions.  Tom the parakeet died while we were still living in Whitefish as our log home was being built.  Josie passed on September 20, 2019, and I celebrated her life in this post.  A year later, I paid tribute to Maggie in this post after her passing on September 21, 2020.  I am so glad that they made the journey to Montana with us.



A "Wait"-y Month 
(5/3/2020)

"#1 Son celebrated his birthday during the month, and on one our Skype calls he jokingly threw up a picture of a $800 Lego set of the Millennium Falcon, with “Birthday?” scrawled across it.  We couldn’t (and wouldn’t) get close to buying it for him, so I did the next best thing and stitched him up a Falcon.  This joined several other quirky items meant to create a mini-Grand Cayman care package – sun cream, mini bottles of rum, a sea shell, biryani recipe, cardamoms and bay leaves.  After all, it became very apparent as April marched on, that we would not be going to Grand Cayman to celebrate his college graduation.  This care package would have to do for now.In the end, there was no graduation ceremony and no trip to Grand Cayman.  Glacier National Park cancelled all backcountry camping permits that summer, and the Alaska fishing trip for Man with Hat  was cancelled.  It was tempting to complain, but not in the face of thousands of people dying around the world from COVID.

Three Years in Montana (5/10/2020)

"Can you believe it?  May 3, 2020 marked the third anniversary of our arrival in Montana.  (If you need a refresher on our epic cross-country journey, check out this post.)  I perused my blog and came to the shocking realization that I have not written about this anniversary.  You can read posts about the firstsecond and third recurrence of my retirement, but you will find zip, zero, zilch about an event that was a decade in the planning. Well, I ask you - what's more significant, the retirement or the destination?  It's the destination, my friends.  So, I am about to rectify this disappointing oversight.  Buckle your seat belts, and welcome to Montana!"  This collection of 32 pictures and collages is a photographic diary and National Geographic magazine rolled into one.  Featuring some of my best photos from those three years, you can quickly experience hikes, Halloween fun in Whitefish, skiing, critters of all kinds, my garden and our house.  Here are just a few.




Since our arrival in Montana, we have been honored to host a number of guests, documented in the collages below.  Would you like to add your name and comments to our guest book?







Under the Weather (5/2/2021)

"I need a distraction.  I had my second COVID shot yesterday, and I am racked with chills, a headache and a tight feeling across my chest.  I have no appetite, much less a desire to write a blog post right now.  Also, it has been a tough week for other reasons that I am not prepared to write about at this moment.  But maybe focusing on something other than my symptoms would be beneficial.  This might be a short post, or maybe I will get a second wind."  I did recover, and this post recounts fun Spring activities such as visiting baby goats, coloring Easter eggs and celebrating the birthday of #1 Son.  Looking at this collage is especially poignant since I am typing this particular section on his 24th birthday!  As I have written in other posts, we relished a year of his living at home AND we are thrilled that he moved on to Idaho Falls after landing the job with the Idaho National Laboratory.

Keeping Her Memory Alive (5/9/2021)

"On April 28, 2021, my Mom joined my father, one of my sisters, a beloved niece and all of her siblings in Heaven.  If it is like any other family reunion I have attended, it would begin with Mass.  Faith was front and center for the German Catholic families on both sides, and especially for my Mom; you wouldn’t think to begin anything without having given thanks to God.  And THEN you could tuck into the bountiful buffet before you – home-made fried chicken, roast beef, chicken with noodles, potato salad, Jell-O with the requisite shredded carrots or cabbage, and desserts that seem to outnumber the stars in the sky."  It is hard to believe that 12 months have passed since her death.  I think of her often, and miss her terribly.  It is especially at family celebrations, or significant life events, that I wish she could be with us.  Such as ...

The Engagement (11/7/2021)

The engagement of #1 Daughter and The Boyfriend while the entire family was on vacation in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  "Later, over dinner, The Boyfriend would recall the minutes leading up to his proposal.  His heart was about to pop out of his chest, while #1 Son and I leisurely read the historical information.  And I was shooting a picture of a bush, of all things, while he was trying to get me, the better photographer, to focus on what was about to happen.  Oh my!  And this is how wonderful family stories, ones that get handed down and told repeatedly, are made!"

The moral of the story?  The circle of life continues.  Children grow up, get married and move away.  World events can impact us in ways we can't possibly anticipate.  Parents and friends age, and some of them have made it to heaven before us.  At the least, we cope.  At the best, we adapt and thrive. On the fifth anniversary of "living our dream", I am reminded - don't become complacent.  I pray to God that I will be blessed enough in five years' time to give you another such report, chock full of new adventures!



Welcome to Mosaic Monday, a weekly meme where we get together to share our photo mosaics and collages.
Please include at least one photo mosaic/collage in your post.
The link will be open from 1 p.m. Sunday until 11 p.m. Tuesday (U.S. Mountain time).
Remember to add the link to your Mosaic Monday post and not the one to your blog.
Please link back to this post so that your readers will be able to visit and enjoy more wonderful mosaics; taking the MM blog button from my sidebar is an easy way to link back.
As host I will visit every participant and leave a comment so that you know I stopped by.
Please try and visit as many other blogs as you can, especially those that join in later, so that everyone's creativity can be appreciated fully.
Thank you for joining in today and sharing your mosaics with us. 


You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter
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