Tag Archives: Vacation

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

Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island, Michigan

Horseback riders pass the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan. Opened in 1887, the Grand Hotel is the largest summer hotel in the world. Motorized vehicles aren’t allowed on Mackinac Island, so everyone walks, rides bicycles, takes a horse-drawn carriage or goes on horseback.

This June, I finally visited Mackinac Island, Michigan. I’ve wanted to visited Mackinac Island, Michigan, and the Grand Hotel, ever since I saw “Somewhere in Time,” the 1980 romantic time-traveling movie starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour. (Thanks to my husband. He did all of the driving.) What took me so long? The island and the hotel are fabulous.

The island is definitely a trip back in time. No motorized vehicles are allowed on the island, except an ambulance and a police car and snow mobiles in the winter. People get around on bicycles, on horse back, in horse-drawn carriages and on foot. The island is famous for its lilacs and fudge. The island was the second U.S. National Park, after Yellowstone National Park, but it was turned over to the state of Michigan. Now, eighty percent of the island is Michigan State Park.

Opened in 1887, the Grand Hotel is celebrating its 125th anniversary this summer.  Five U.S. Presidents have visited: Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Gerald Ford (who was raised in Michigan and helped to build cabins on the island as a Boy Scout) George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton.  Thomas Edison demonstrated his phonograph for the public for the first time on the hotel’s porch, as well as demonstrating other new inventions during Edison’s frequent stays. Mark Twain spoke frequently at the Grand Hotel during his speaking tours. In recent years, Russian leaders Vladimir Putin and Dmitri Medvedev have visited.

The Grand Hotel Sign.

The Grand Hotel, opened in 1887, is the largest summer hotel in the world and has the world’s longest front porch. The Grand Hotel is a National Historic Landmark and is considered by many travel experts to be one of the best hotels in the world. We didn’t stay at the Grand Hotel (maybe some day), but we did pay the ten dollars each to visit the hotel and grounds. The fee was instituted last year, probably because without the fee the hotel would be swarmed with the thousands of day trippers from the mainland who could take all of the seats on the porch. It may be the longest porch in the world, but it can’t fit everyone! Links below take you to more information about the hotel and the island, plus there’s a link to my post about Mackinac Island fudge.

Here’s rush hour on Mackinac Island, Michigan. These carriages are passing by the Grand Hotel. There are about 500 horses on the island at peak tourist season in the summer, mostly Percheron and Belgian Draft horses, our carriage drivers told us. The carriage horses work a few hours every other day in the summer and rest all winter on the mainland.

A family plays croquet on the lawn of the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan.

Here’s one section of the porch of Mackinac Island’s Grand Hotel, the longest porch in the world. You can see the Grand Hotel’s signature red geraniums in the flower boxes and on the steps.

A pianist entertains guests during tea time in the lobby of the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan. Note the design of large red geraniums in the carpet. Interior designer Carleton Varney designed the Grand Hotel in its late 19th century decor including its Pelargonium geraniums.

A large chess set is ready for play on the porch of the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan. On the horizon is the Mackinac Bridge, which connects the Upper and Lower Penisulas of Michigan.

The 1947 musical-comedy “This Time for Keeps” was filmed at the Grand Hotel. The movie starred Jimmy Durante and Esther Williams, and the hotel’s pool is named after Williams. Williams was a frequent guest at the hotel, one of our guides said.

This view from the Cupola Bar at the top of of the Grand Hotel shows the hotel grounds, Mackinac Island town and the ferries making their way across Lake Huron from the island to the mainland.

A restaurant in the Grand Hotel.

A carriage delivers passengers to the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan.

Interior Designer Carleton Varney designed the late 19th century interiors of the Grand Hotel. All of the 385 guest rooms have a different design.

A carriage takes guests to the Grand Hotel from the ferry landing on Mackinac Island, Michigan.

Summer houses line West Bluff Road just beyond the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan.

Unless you are a registered guest at the Grand Hotel, you must pay ten dollars to tour the hotel and grounds.

Map of Mackinac Island, Michigan.

Scenes from “Somewhere in Time”

About the “Somewhere in Time” movie.

About the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan.

Views of some of the beautifully decorated rooms can be seen here: Official website of the Grand Hotel.

My post about Mackinac Island Fudge.

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Filed under Photography, Travel