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Sunday, March 31, 2013

March 30th, 2013:  Past two days have been lovely, mid-70's with a light breeze.   Cleaned bird boxes and did tome equipment modifications, including placing PVC pipes in places around the key to be able  to set up T posts where we fly the birds.  Changed the telemetry to fresh batteries.   Did patrols on foot and flight patrols at pool/beach area during the day.  Mercedes is perfect for this, she flies back and forth, keeping birds at the pool/beach away from guest food.

Evening patrols included flying birds around 6:30 to discourage the blackbirds from coming in to roost. This strategy seems to be working.  Grackles are greatly diminished in numbers.  I patrol with the hawks on the cadge and periodically fly the back and forth to establish a territory that the blackbirds will see.   Blackbirds, especially crows and other flocking, especially crows species send scouts to see the potential area.  When there are hawks in the area, they move on.

I also spotted a bait box for rodent poison on the key.  I would much rather see the use of barn owl boxes instead for rodent control.  Rat poison is a terrible way to take care of rodents.  For, the risk of secondary poisoning to our allies, the owls at night and the hawks and falcons during the day.  Rodents when poisoned seek water sources, especially in the daytime.  The ill rodent then attracts the raptors, who then die and slow and painful death from internal bleeding.  A facebook page entitled RATS (Raptors are the Solution) started in the San Francisco Bay area is a great program, to encourage the installation of raptor nest boxes, (kestrels, owls, and hawk friendly nesting platform and trees).  A barn owl will take 23 mice in a 1/2 hour period during nesting season, far more effective than the mis-guided use of cats, (which are an introduced species and highly destructive to our native birds and small wildlife)  and a totally natural solution, using native species.  My veterinarian told me that the nest boxes now used in the sugar cane fields in S. Florida have really made a dent in the pest rodent populations there.  

Friday, March 29, 2013

Thursday, March 28, 2013:   Started the day with the birds sitting out with flight and walking patrols.   The beach area was busy and I had quite a few guests come over to see the birds and inquire about their purpose as pest control.  One guest was a father and son where the son is very interested in sustainable methods of pest control and other environmental issues.  They came over several times.  I started the patrols earlier flying between 6:00 and 6:30.  This seems to be working, the blackbirds see the presence of the hawks and are greatly reduced in numbers.  I flew all of the hawks that evening.  Then I put up Tobasco, my best hawk.  Then, the winds picked up and she was flying around, but getting wind-blown.   As darkness approached.  She started sitting on the office building across the street from the hotel.  I was concerned about her being blown across the water to downtown so I kept an close eye on her through the telemetry signal to make sure she had settled in.   Friday morning, I went out just at sunrise and she was still on the office building.  She was reluctant to come down. Tobasco made a pass at the pigeons on the office building but did not connect with one.   I had already brought up her sleeping crate and she still was reluctant.  So i brought over Mercedes, the  hawk that stays so close to me.   After about 8:00-9:00 Mercedes flew into Tobasco's box and Tobasco finally decided to come in.  I called her to a large portion of food.  She fed on her meal and is now safely tucked away in her box.   Now, to set up for another day.   

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Wednesday, March 27, 2013:   Cool, Sunny, mid-70's   Lovely weather.   When I was setting up I was informed of some birds flying in the 4 level garage.  Some thought they were hawks.  But, they are nightjars, an insect eating bird.  They were disoriented and could not get out.  So I called the wildlife center at the Museum of Science in Miami and they referred me to Pelican Island.  I let Security know and the folks came out and safely removed the nightjars.  Then set up and  Flew the hawks during the day to deter the birds from the pool area.  Especially during busy times when guests are dining outside. Then the night patrols started a bit earlier, to see if the presence of the hawk would discourage roosting activity.   I saw positive results, very few birds gathered at the area, but some were pushed to the next condo on the key.  So, I will concentrate on the hotel tonight for most of the flights and abatement work.  

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Tuesday, March 26, 2013:    A wonderful, dry cooler day in Miami.  I set the birds out and greeted guests who were intrigued by the concept of bird control with hawks.  One couple from Oxford, England was quite familiar with the method, since it is used extensively in the UK and Europe.  The birds were both on fist and flight patrols.  It was a dry day, warm in the sun, cool in the shade, temps in the 70's.  During the early evening, I noted activity at the Banyon tree by St. Louis at the exit circle.  I saw a larger bird, the size of a coopers hawk, being harassed by the mockingbirds.  I thought initially it was a Cooper's hawk.  But spotting it again after dark, I saw that it is a type of NightJar.  An insect eating bird that flies like a hawk.  Security had released it from being trapped in the garage area of the hotel.   Evening flight patrols were concentrated at the second circle, per request of Brickell security.  2 hawks were put up.  One, Tobasco seemed pre-occupied with things other than me after I put her up.  The other, Pepper, is very focused on me and is practically a shadow.  Pepper came down right away after flying around, but Tobasco flew, caught a a bird and ate it in the tree right at nightall.  She had a meal and did not come down until abut 7:15 the next morning from the same tree I saw her the night before.  But, she is safe and we start another day.  

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Monday, March 25th, 2013.   A calm day.  I got the birds out, cleaned boxes, straightened out the area and went on both fist and flight patrols during the day.  It was a quiet day, a handful of grackles were visiting the pool area, and I flew Mercedes during the day on patrols.  She likes the pool railing to sit on, as well as the wall at the back gate.  Two good places to deter birds.   She is a naive hawk and is a good one for such work.   I saw some local wildlife, the dolphins, the resident iguanas.  There is a resident peregrine falcon in the area.  I saw it soaring the previous evening around St. Louis.  At 6:00 evening abatement patrols stared.   Just as the staging set up.  I looked up and saw the wild peregrine fly right over the parking garage with a kill (likely a pigeon) in her feet, heading towards St. Louis.  The grackles are getting later in the day arriving, so I let the hawks up just before 7:00.  I flew 2 hawks to keep a close eye on the birds.  One hawk stays with me well, the other is a bit more aloof and she had moved to the back garage across the street., it took me some time to find her later in the evening, using the telemetry receiver.   The second one had moved away and I had some trouble locating her. She had moved around the office building across the street and was roosting for the night.  As I was getting her down.  We moved a lot of birds out of the trees in the area.  So that will be a new part of our route in the evening.   To locate her, transmitters were removed from the remaining three, I then could locate her by the transmitter.  She had settled in to roost in a tree  and the long pole 16 foot pole came in handy again.  She was carefully lowered down to be safely tucked away in her sleeping crate for the evening.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Sunday, March 24, 2013.  Hot, but being very windy helped with the heat of the day.  I did walking patrols with both falcons during the day.  Later when the winds slowed, I put Mercedes up to deter bathing at the pool by the grackles.  Then I got everything ready for the evening grackle roost flights.  I flew all 4 hawks because the traffic was lower and started at 6:30.  The hawks make their rounds and one again caught a bird in the tree and started feeding.  I put the others up and then concentrated on getting the hawk down.  The hawk started to roost after and I used one T post to try to get him down.  Security at the gate helped me immensely.  They watched the birds while I got the long 16 foot t post ready.  Maurico took me over to the security tool shed to put a perch on the top T post.  Thankfully, it was long enough.  Maurico held it, the hawk stepped up to the post.  Slowly, the post was lowered to the post I was holding.  Then secured the hawk by the feet and held him until I could secure the leash.  I was so thankful.  I did not want the hawk to end up in downtown Miami over the night.  With the bright city lights at night, the hawk see well enough to move anywhere.  Then, everyone was put away safely and I could sleep that night.   We start again tomorrow.   

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Today was the weather that I remember when I was in Miami for the Italian Renaissance Festival n Vizcaya.    Hot, sunny, and dripping with humidity.  Not a bother to the Harris hawks, they live in humid areas in Louisiana,  Texas and Central and South America.  

The day started very early (4:20 a.m.)  with a courteous call from the front desk that the local police needed to see my permits.   They were investigating another incident (sadly, a fatal hit and run) on the key.  looked at a car that fit the description of the suspect car in the parking garage.  The car turned out to not be the one they were looking for.   They spotted the kennels in the truck and inquired further.  After verifying my permits, Florida FWC also came out that morning to check the housing of the birds.  I showed them the kennels and the weathering area where the birds stay when not flying.  And checked the paperwork on the hawks.  All passed just fine.  So, my day was delayed, but the nuisance birds were fewer.  A handful around the dining areas, beach and pool.  I went on patrol with a falcon on the glove, and the nuisance birds cleared out when they saw us.  I put up a hawk later in the day near the pool.  Birds were getting interested in taking  bath.  So one hawk, was on sentry duty during that time.  Birds then moved out of the area.  Then we waited for the roosting event each evening.  I put up two hawks rather than three, one was a bit over weight so it was not flying today.  They did well, chasing the birds all over the area around the hotel.  Across the street is a bigger challenge.  The birds roost in some very dense trees.  Around the hotel and park area next to the beach, the trees are thinned out at the canopy to allow a view of the water.  I feel that the dense foliage of the roosting trees could also use thinning to discourage roosting.  The tree by the bridge, and across the street.  all have very dense, un thinned branches and leaves.  I also prefer the more open look of trees, I like to see the branches as well as the leaves.  

Friday, March 22, 2013

Today started rather slowly. I set the birds out, cleaned their enclosures, just did some cleaning and equipment maintenance at the cabana.   Birds were scarcer today.   Cooler, (mid 70's) windy and cloudy all day with short, light rain showers.  I took the hawks on two patrols during lunch and afternoon.   The wild birds saw us and moved on.  I am hearing from the staff that the birds are greatly reduced in number.  I waited for the evening roosting to start and put up 3 Harris hawks.  They first watched the birds come flocking in to the trees.  Hawks then took off, one on the top of the roof, one in the tree, one across the street.  I watched them and listened for their bells.  I kept one behind, she has a tendency to land in unsafe places, such as roadways and such.   So she was kept hooded on the cadge.  I walked across the street and the 3 were quite seriously hazing the birds.  Whenever a hawk would land in the tree, the birds moved out quickly.  Then, I noticed one staying on a branch, I then used my flashlight and saw that he was eating something.  He had caught a bird,  good, I thought.  As darkness increases, they flew around chasing the birds, my oldest had decided it was dark enough and landed beside me.  She was hooded and placed on the cadge.   The other one and the one in the tree with it's meal were still out in the dark. I attempted to call one down and a woman was on the sidewalk with her small dog.  Hawks give their dog/intruder warning and I asked the woman to leave with the dog.  I told her that the dog upsets the birds and they will not come down with it there.  She would not comply with several requests (about 5) and gate security took care of it.  She finally left while I went over to retrieve the hawks.  She stated that she was a resident of the area and did not like what the hawks were doing.  All I wanted was the dog to leave.  Security was very supportive, helpful, (held the T post until I got the cadge in the area) and I will let them handle explaining what is happening, but I do need to protect the birds from potential harm from any dogs.  That is my responsibility as a falconer.   But the birds are safe in their sleeping kennels, and one is very happy with a fresh meal.  They all did exceptionally well tonight. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

A new challenge here: Thousands of grackles (boat tailed and common) are coming it at dusk to roost in the beautiful trees and building around the square and bridges leading to the keys in downtown Miami.  The greenery and trees are a beautiful addition, but the birds also find it appealing for safe roosting.  The peak of this problem is in the winter months, where these birds roost together to keep warm.  There is also a problem of the same birds stealing food from customers dining outside.  And bathing in the swimming pools.  Today, there was an afternoon patrol with a pair of Harris' hawks.  They followed well, but really likes the big banyon trees in the area.  I then brought all four hawks down to a staging area at the side of the hotel, on a cadge, waiting for the birds to start flocking in.  Again I was patient to let the hawks learn the new area and see that they are to chase the birds.  Two hawks paired up and chased the birds around.  Whenever they landed in a tree, about 90% of the birds moved on.  My survey of the area after dark, showed fewer no roosting birds in the area I put the most pressure on, and they were primarily across the street.  We will put pressure on them each evening to see how each patrol drives more birds away.

As a falconer, we see things in nature that many miss.  A dove flew across the street while the Harris' hawks were in a tree.  She started waiving her wings, I initially thought she was taking a dust bath in the road.  The Harris hawks could not resist the fluttering wings and gave chase.  The clever dove was feigning injury to draw the hawks away from her nesting area.   It worked and I thought that only killdeer do a false injury to draw predators away from their ground nests.

Photos coming later