Category Archives: Bird-watching

Falconer and His Hawk in Mexico

A Harris's Hawk stands on a falconer's fist at a Cancun, Mexico, resort.

A Harris’s Hawk stands on a falconer’s gloved fist at a Cancun, Mexico, resort.

I’ve been reading “H is for Hawk” by Helen MacDonald, about a woman training a goshawk, and I took the book to a resort in Cancun, Mexico, where my husband and I were attending a wedding. So with falconry on my mind, I was excited to see a man with hawk at the resort. My husband spotted the bird first. He trained his own hawk many years ago.

I rushed over and asked the man many questions and took some photos (lucky to have my camera with me.)

The bird, a Harris’s Hawk, named Runner, was two years old and had been bred by the man’s family, which has been in the bird breeding and training business for five generations (now including his son.) It took three months to train the bird to return to the fist. “He thinks of us as his parents,” he said.

He calls the bird back to his fist with a click and then feeds it. The bird is gentle (except with food) and good with children.  I was able to pet it a little.

The man brings Runner to the resort about three times a week to discourage smaller birds from taking up residence in the trees and around the pool, where they would leave bird droppings, and at outdoor restaurants.

The man said that Harris’s Hawks were very smart and were some of the few birds of prey that hunted in groups.

“They are called the wolf of the desert,” he said. “They live in Sonora and Chihuahua.”

The Harris’s hawk (Parabuteo unicinctus) formerly known as the bay-winged hawk or dusky hawk, is a medium-large bird of prey that breeds from the southwestern United States south to Chile, central Argentina, and Brazil

Runner lives in the man’s house, along with 18 other birds. “They live like kings.” In all, the family business owns 300 birds that they have bred, including eagles and macaws in addition to hawks.

I wish I would have thought to ask him his name and the name of his business, but at least I was able to take some photos.

A falconer brings a Harris's Hawk to a Cancun, Mexico, resort to discourage smaller birds from hanging out on the grounds and pool areas, where they might soil the landscape. Clockwise from the upper left, the hawk flies to a palm tree; the hawk sitting in a tree; a little girl petting the hawk; the hawk resting on the man's gloved fist; and the hawk eating some food after being called back from the palm tree with a click.

A falconer brings a Harris’s Hawk to a Cancun, Mexico, resort to discourage smaller birds from hanging out on the grounds and pool areas, where they might soil the landscape. Clockwise from the upper left, the hawk flies to a palm tree; the hawk sitting in a tree; a little girl petting the hawk; the hawk resting on the man’s gloved fist; and the hawk eating some food after being called back from the palm tree with a click.

About the Harris’s Hawk.
“H is for Hawk” by Helen MacDonald

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Filed under Animals, Biology, Bird-watching, Birds, Photography, Travel

Great Blue Heron at Watts Mill Waterfall

   A Great Blue Heron watches for fish at the base of a waterfall at the Watts Mill Historic Site in Kansas City, Missouri.

A Great Blue Heron watches for fish at the base of a waterfall at the Watts Mill Historic Site in Kansas City, Missouri.

I’ve driven by the Watts Mill Historic Site a thousand times. Although it’s somewhat hidden,  it’s across from where I bought groceries for many years and down the street from my stylist’s former salon. I’d picked up my husband many times at the nearby car dealer when he was getting his car serviced. Favorite restaurants were nearby. How could I have missed this idyllic spot? I even knew about it. I just didn’t realize how peaceful and lovely it would be, nestled as it is among shopping centers and car dealerships.

My friend Lynn and I were on a photography expedition, and she pulled into the parking lot to check out the falls for a photography opportunity. We’ve had a lot of rain, so the water was really flowing.

The park, at 103rd and State Line, was a campsite for people heading out on the Oregon, California and Santa Fe Trails. The area that is now a park was the site of gristmill, built in 1832, known as Watts Mill (first known as Fitzhugh’s Mill), and then Watts Mill. The park is situated on the banks of Indian Creek where the creek flows across flat rocks and tumbles over a waterfall. This location was dedicated June 10, 1974, as a historic site.

Also enjoying the creek were plenty of Canada geese and mallard ducks, as well as songbirds.

The Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) is a large wading bird in the heron family Ardeidae, common near the shores of open water and in wetlands over most of North America and Central America as well as the Caribbean and the Galapagos Islands.

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Filed under Animals, Biology, Bird-watching, Birds, Environment, History, Kansas City

Make Way for Ducklings!

A mother duck leads her ducklings through Deanna Rose Children's  Farmstead to a pond.

A mother duck leads her ducklings through Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead to a pond.

I love to visit the Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead, even without children in tow. I try to go a couple of times a summer, but this year I didn’t go until mid-July and at almost noon. It was hot and sunny. I was soon drooping until I spotted a mother duck with her ducklings following close behind her. I knew she was heading to the swan pond so I followed her, snapping photos as quickly as I could. She was fast! I wish I would have captured at least one of the ducklings jumping into the pond, but they were too fast for me to focus.

If you click on the photo collage, you’ll get a larger view.

About the Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead.

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Don’t Be a Silly Goose! Fly South for the Winter!

Whose idea was it to spend winter here?

Recently, I was walking Loki, the family dog, when I saw a flock of Canada Geese (a gaggle ?) on a frozen pond in my Kansas City area neighborhood. It was a beautiful sight. The low afternoon sun cast a golden glow onto the melting water, reflecting the geese and the yellow foliage of grass and cat tails. If you didn’t look too closely, you wouldn’t see the goose poop scattered artistically across the frozen surface. I took the dog home and returned with my camera. The geese don’t like paparazzi, so they headed to the opposite side of the pond.

These geese like the neighborhood.  After a heavy snow, I saw the geese gathered on a golf course, taking advantage of a lack of golfers.

About Canada Geese.

This golf gallery is a gaggle of geese gawking on a golf green (now white with snow.)

This golf gallery is a gaggle of geese gawking on a golf green (now white with snow.)

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Filed under Animals, Biology, Bird-watching, Birds, Humor, Kansas City, Natural History, Photography

Birds on a Snowy Day

 Whenever it snows, birds of all kinds flock to our bird feeder.  Most of the birds wait on the nearby trees for a spot on the feeder. Our two cats love the snow, because it's excellent bird-watching.  They seem to know that there's no chance of catching any birds, but they are vigilant anyway.

Whenever it snows, birds of all kinds flock to our bird feeder. Most of the birds wait on the nearby trees for a spot on the feeder. Our two cats love the snow, because it’s excellent bird-watching. They seem to know that there’s no chance of catching any birds, but they are vigilant anyway.

I hate snow, but our cats love it.  It’s great for bird watching.  We got about a foot of snow today in the Kansas City area, and the forecast calls for more.  The crowds at the bird feeder were huge today. I saw five pairs of cardinals, black-capped chickadees, blue jays, doves, nuthatches, a red-bellied woodpeckers and some birds I didn’t recognize. Click on the photos for a better view.

When the snow was falling hard, birds mobbed the feeder and filled the nearby trees as they waited their turn.  When the snow stopped, the traffic thinned out.  In the bottom photo, a cardinal leisurely eats his meal.

When the snow was falling hard, birds mobbed the feeder and filled the nearby trees as they waited their turn. When the snow stopped, the traffic thinned out. In the bottom photo, a cardinal leisurely eats his meal.

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Filed under Animals, Bird-watching, Birds, Photography

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-Bellied Woodpecker Postcard postcard 

A red-bellied woodpecker in our background.

Red-Bellied Woodpecker Postcard postcard

A red-bellied woodpecker in our backyard.

Red-bellied Woodpecker at Bird Feeder Postcard postcard

A red-bellied woodpecker at our feeder.

In my post on January 8, I spoke too soon about enjoying a snow-free winter.  A few days later, more than seven inches fell, and it’s not likely to melt any time soon in the below-freezing temperatures forecast to last for a week.

The birds are very active at our bird feeder now that their food sources are covered with snow, so I get lots of great photo opportunities.  The red-bellied woodpecker is among many species of birds taking a turn getting seeds from our feeder. The red-bellied woodpecker eats insects, fruits, nuts and seeds. We’re lucky that we live in a forested area, so that we can catch a glimpse of these colorful woodpeckers, which depend on large trees for nesting.

About Red-Bellied Woodpeckers.

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Filed under Bird-watching, Birds, Kansas, Kansas City, Life, Nature, Photography

Nuthatch in the Snow

Nuthatch in the Snow Postcard postcard

“Hey, look at these huge sunflakes coming down in the sunshine,” my husband called to me as I was hunched over my keyboard (Where else?) “It might make a good picture.”

I grabbed my camera.  I soon spotted this nuthatch waiting on a tree branch for his turn at the bird feeder. After a few minutes, the snowflakes stopped falling. We’ve been lucky so far not to get any accumulated snowfall. Last year, we suffered here in Kansas City from lots and lots of snow! In fact, we had the third snowiest winter and tied for the 11th coldest winter in the 122 years of record-keeping in Kansas City.  On Dec. 24, 2009, a blizzard hit us, extending even into Texas, where my sister said they got more snow on one day than they’d had altogether in the nine years they’d lived in Texas.

I should knock on wood at our good fortune so far this season. The winter is still young.

The National Weather Service Summary from NOAA of the winter of 2009-2010 in Kansas City is below.

Winter 2009-2010 temperatures were below average in Kansas City, with slightly below average precipitation and much above average snowfall

The average temperature at the Kansas City International Airport for the winter 2009-2010 season (December-February) was 26.5 degrees, which is 3.9 degrees below the 30-year average. Based on the longer term historical 122 year record from various Kansas City observation points, winter 2009-2010 has tied for the 11th coldest on record. The average high temperature for the season was 33.8 degrees, which is 5.7 degrees below normal, while the average low temperature was 19.3 degrees, which is 1.9 degrees below normal. The highest temperature of season was 59 degrees recorded on December 1st, and the lowest temperature of 5 degrees below zero occurred on January 2nd.

The total precipitation at the Kansas City International Airport for the winter 2009-2010 season (December-February) was 3.45 inches, which is 0.65 inches below the 30-year average. This would rank winter 2009-2010 as the 49th driest winter season in the longer term 122 year record in Kansas City. Snowfall was measured at 34.3 inches, which is 19.2 inches above the 30-year average of 15.1 inches for the winter season. This places the winter of 2009-2010 as the 3rd snowiest winter in the 122 year history of Kansas City observations.

National Weather Service Summary for Kansas City Winter 2009-2010.

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Filed under Bird-watching, Birds, Kansas City, Life, Photography