Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Couple of Fantastic Videos

Excuse some of the language in this one. Falconers tend to get a bit excited when they see good flights!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Post-season Torture

Last night I took my son for a short walk on the nature trail near our apartment complex. I had seen some starlings hanging out in a particular clump of bushes and thought I'd set a trap there to see if I could catch some for my friend's kestrel that we've been trying to get going. Things looked good when probably half a dozen starlings jumped up from the bushes when I approached. *Sigh* And me without a bird.

The rabbits have reached plague-like proportions in the area as well. In the evenings when my son has a little too much energy I like to take him out to chase bunnies. The other night there were twelve on a patch of grass about 30 yards wide! On Sunday, driving around an industrial park looking for starlings with my friends bird we saw two or three rabbits on just about every patch of open ground. And me without a bird.

After I'd set the starling trap last night my son and I wandered around tossing a ball back and forth while the sun dipped below the horizon. A drainage area just outside of our complex is rather marshy looking due to the heavy snow we recieved over the weekend and two mallards circled over us before landing in shallow water. A perfect slip for a gos...and me without a bird.

Now admittedly, rabbits and ducks are out of season so even if I had a bird I wouldn't be chasing them (not to mention with my current state of affairs I wouldn't have a bird that could take rabbits or ducks...) but seeing so much game around really makes the off season hard!

Is it September yet??

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


It's that time of the year.

I see birds paired up just about everywhere I go these days. There's a red-tail nest that I pass on my way to and from work and I can always see Momma's head just over the edge of the nest. About a hundred yards away from that nest I saw a pair of kestrels. As I was watching, the male flew down and nabbed something off the ground and then hopped his way back along the telephone line to pass it off to the female. No doubt they've got a nest somewhere nearby too.

I have yet to go back to waste station where Dulci was killed to find the nest of that pair but it's on my "to-do" list.

Whenever I'm fishing I like to think, "What is the next fish I'm going to catch doing right now?" Naturally, I wonder the same thing about the next bird I'm going to fly. Of course, the next bird I'm going to fly probably hasn't hatched yet so I suppose I should be wondering what it's parent's are doing. Everytime I see a pair of kestrels I wonder, "Is that the pair that is going to produce my next bird?"

While I don't have any kestrels nests locked down (kestrels nest in cavities, hollow trees, nest boxes, etc.) I'm keeping my eye out so that I can be sure to get a young bird on the first day of trapping season.

In the meantime, there's always nestcams. Mark over at Flyover Country posted these:

Kestrel nestbox in Nebraska

Peregrine Falcon nestbox on the Nebraska state capitol

and this Bald Eagle nest from British Columbia.

Should keep me entertained for awhile anyway! Enjoy!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Follow up on HR669

Good video about how to get involved regarding the bill in my previous post.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Action Alert

I'm posting this alert I saw on a forum I am a member of:

ACTION ALERT - FROM AFA, ASA, and NAIA, with additional information from PIJACWE


AND OUT" is not just limited to purebred dogs and cats. Now our "non-native
species" are targets of the animal prohibitionist agenda. Under HR 669,
"non-native" basically means if a species ofanimal didn't live in the US before
the arrival of Columbus it is"non-native", and if HR 669 passes, most non-native
species of animal (i.e., exotic animals) won't remain in the US much longer.
That means your exotic pet bird, reptile, fish, or mammal. HR 669 is a very
serious and harmful animal prohibition proposal. HR669 is not needed to protect
our environment. HR 699 is the legislative equivalent of a nuclear bomb that is
aimed at the entire US exotic pet industry, all US exotic pet owners, and all
exotic animals in the US. HR 669 is an "anti-animal bill". There is no
amendment that can fix this bill.
HR 669 will hurt everyone who owns an
animal, and it will hurt our animals. Breeder, pet owner, rescuer,
rehabilitator, zoo,service or product provider - it doesn't matter - we will all
be hurt by this bill.

HR 669 needs to be killed at the April
23rd hearing - not amended, not "made better" - HR 669 NEEDS TO BE
Please contact the Representatives hearing this bill NOW and
ask them to KILL HR 669 (see below for contact information). All import, export,
transport across State lines, selling, buying, bartering, or offering to sell,
buy or barter, and all breeding, and release, of all non-native species not on
the "approved list" will be prohibited - even by zoos, sanctuaries, and licensed
breeders. Permits authorizing only "importation" may be issued to "zoos,
scientific research, medical, accredited zoological or aquarium display
purposes, or for educational purposes that are specifically reviewed, approved,
and verified by the Secretary". There is no requirement that any permits be
granted. Even if these institutions are able to obtain the required permits,
where will they obtain their imported animals? Habitat for many species is
declining worldwide, many species are endangered or threatened in the wild, and
many species cannot be imported to the US under the CITES treaty. The result of
this bill will be to put a stop domestic breeding of most endangered or
threatened species in the US for zoos, conservation, or reintroduction programs.
Zoos are not immune from the animal prohibitionist agenda. If you "possess" a
non-approved species "legally" prior to enactment of the law, you will be
allowed to keep it, but all of the other restrictions of HR 669 will still apply
to your species - you will not be allowed to sell, transfer, transport across
State lines, export, barter,trade, breed, or give that animal to anyone else. Pet owners will not be allowed to take their non-approved pets with them
if they move to another state, and they will not be allowed to transfer them to
anyone else who can care for them. Those pets will be euthanized when their
owners move, die, or can no longer keep their pets for whatever reason.

Pet owners and their pets are not immune from the animal prohibitionist
agenda."Rescue" and "sanctuary" will not be available for any non-approved
species unless the rescue or sanctuary keeps only species found within their
respective States. That result has been contemplated for years. Rescues and
Sanctuaries are not immune from the animal prohibitionist agenda. Any person or
company manufacturing or selling food or products for non-native (exotic)
species will be affected by this act. If non-native(exotic) species cannot be
legally possessed, bought, sold, or transferred, there will be no incentive for
manufacturers of food, caging, and supplies for these animals to remain in
business. Where will non-native (exotic) animal owners obtain the food and
materials needed to keep their animals?

Free flight of exotic birds will
be prohibited. [This is the part falconers should be particularly worried

Under existing federal
law, it must be shown that a species is harmful before it is prohibited. That
approach is reasonable, and has worked reasonably well for many years. In
essence, HR 669 turns that reasonable approach on its head, and substitutes the
unreasonable and unjustified approach of "bomb first, ask questions later". HR
669 requires the government to create an "approved" list of"non-native" species
that will be allowed in the US. Any species not on the "approved" list will be
prohibited. Under HR 668 the "approved"list shall include "nonnative wildlife
species that the Secretary finds... based on scientific and commercial
information .... (A) are not harmful to the United States' economy, the
environment, or other animal species' or human health; or (B) may be harmful to
the United States' economy, the environment, or other animal species' or human
health, but already are so widespread in the United States that it is clear to
the Secretary that any import prohibitions or restrictions would have no
practical utility for the United States." It takes time and money for the
government to study any species and make a "finding". Time and money are always
in short supply, and are especially in short supply in this economy. If your
species is not included on the original "approved list", then under HR 669 you
can try to get your species "approved" by paying a fee and submitting a proposal
to our government to include it on the "approved list". Your "proposal" must
include sufficient scientific and commercial information to allow the Secretary
to evaluate whether the proposed nonnative wildlife species is likely to cause
economic or environmental harm or harm to other animal species' or human
health." While your proposal is being "evaluated" by our government, you and
your animals are still subject to the restrictions of HR 669. Whether your
proposal will ever be granted is pure speculation. There are more than 9000 bird
species, and thousands of species of birds are kept in the US. There are many
other non-native (exotic) species owned by animal lovers across the US. How many
bird or other non-native(exotic) species do you think our government can afford
to study and determine that they can be added to this newly created "approved
list"? If the required study can't be made of a species, and the required
finding isn't made about a species, the animal won't make it to the approved
list. That applies to every species of non-native (exotic) animal.

Contact your Representatives NOW. You can use
NAIA's Capwiz tool to send an automatic email or fax to each of the
Representatives who will hear this bill to ask them to KILL HR 669. Here's the
link to send your email using Capwiz:

Please contact your own Representatives NOW, and tell them to KILL HR
669. Be polite and respectful, but be clear and firm in your opposition to this
bill. Be brief, and tell them a few reasons why you think it is a bad bill.
Short and to the point works best. If you have time, you can also contact all of
the other Representatives in your State.Write to your Representative using their
contact pages on their websites.

Be sure to contact the local office of
your own Representative by phone, and if you can, make a personal visit. Our
congressional representatives are now on recess, and will return to their work
at the Capitol next week. Let your Representatives' local offices know NOWthat
you want them to KILL HR 669. If the local staff hear from enough constituents
that they want a bill killed, they will let their Representatives know that
their constituents hate this bill.

Distribute this email, widely to
everyone you know who loves animals and wants to keep them in our lives. In
particular, send it to any pet lists you are on. This bill will impact almost
all non-native animals. Ask them to contact the representatives and ask them to
KILL HR 669.

You can see the full text of the bill here.

If you have a website or belong to a discussion list, post this Alert.
Ask your friends to do the same.

We need every one of you to help again,
and we need the help ofeveryone you know. It doesn't matter if they own a bird,
a dog, a cat, a turtle, a hamster, a fish, a snake, a tiger, a monkey, or any
other animal. We are all affected by this bill. Don't let the animal
prohibitionists force their agenda on the rest of us.

For falconers, that would mean no more saker, barbary, or tiata falcons, no European goshawks. Want to fly an aplomado but don't live in Texas? Sorry! I imagine Harris Hawks restricted to their native habitat would upset more than a few...

Friday, April 03, 2009

"The Study"

I hear falconers say, "A study by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife determined that falconry has no impact on wild raptor populations..." all the time, particularly now that new regulations are being considered and passage peregrine take is a possibility.

As anyone who has ever forwarded me a chain email can attest, I am highly skeptical of hearsay and am usually the first one on Google to debunk the unbelievable. Not that this "study" sounded unbelievable, but it did sound a little too good to be true and I hear it referenced so often that I highly doubt all those that reference it have actually read the study, which was cause for concern...But I'll admit that this was one study I didn't want to find out was false.

Well, I am more than happy to report that after seeing "the study" referenced yet again recently I went ahead and did some digging. The study does exist and can be found here. (At least this appears to be the study that is referenced...)

Here's the money quote:

Our assessment indicates take of wild raptors for falconry is very unlikely to have a significant adverse impact on wild raptor populations in the United
States. Because of the limited participation in falconry and because nearly half
of all raptors used in the sport are produced through captive breeding and not
taken from the wild (Peyton et al. 1995), we believe impacts are
unlikely to increase.

So now I can at least say, "A study by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife has determined that falconry has no significant adverse impacts on wild raptor populations..." without reservations.

I encourage all falconers to read it.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Why Falconry?

My Mother recently sent me this "fodder for another thoughtful post":

"An admittedly 'tree-hugging' Sierra Club type friend of mine wondered aloud to me recently about the 'why' of falconry. 'Aren't they supposed to be wild birds?' she said. 'Do falconers intend to re-introduce their birds into the wild?' ...what could/should I have said and to what links or books should I refer her (and others like her) when they ask such questions?"

I suppose I can only answer for myself and the answer is likely to be lacking in the rationale that a "tree-hugging-Sierra-Club-type-friend" would like and probably the thoughtfulness that my Mother expects:

Why falconry? Because I like it!

Sure I could wax poetic about the reasons I like it, the challenge, the bond with the bird, the closeness I feel with nature when I participate in it, or direct her to others who have written similar discourses, but will that convince the friend of the validity of the pursuit? I think not.

I could justify it with the explanation that falconers only take immature birds from the wild who have only recently left the nest, explaining that these birds are facing the prospect of a difficult winter where mortality can be up to 80% and suggest that a guaranteed meal, regardless of whether or not it makes a kill, and a safe place to roost every night is probably preferred to the alternative. And I could further explain that many of these first year birds are released back into the wild in the spring after becoming proficient hunters with the help of their falconers, actually improving on its chances of survival. But then would the friend understand? I doubt it.

I could cite the recovery of the peregrine falcon, in large part due to the efforts of falconers, as justification for our existence, or cite this study suggesting that injured raptors rehabilitated using traditional falconry techniques have a better chance for survival than others. But does that really mean anything to that individual? Probably not.

I could even direct her to this post suggesting that I do it because its the perfect hobby...but I don't think she would be satisfied.

The bottom line is I do it because I like it and feel it needs no further justification.

It takes a falconer to understand falconry, if you don't "get it", then you probably never will and explaining it wastes my time and yours. I'd rather be hawking.

So, all you other falconers out there, how would/do YOU answer the question??