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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Monday, December 30th, 2013:

Cloudy most of the day.  Which I like, my eyes are sun-sensitive to I appreciate it.  This was clean and organize day.  I got the hawks and falcons out to weather, then cleaned enclosures and organized equipment.   Hawks were flown primarily around the pool and beach area.  All four were flown for a while, but just two at a time.  Winds were low, so I let the hawks spend a lot of time out, just preening and hanging out in the trees.  After sundown, I walked around the key to the residential area.   Surely enough, across the harbor, the grackles have returned to the trees.  I stayed and watched their movements.  A group of about 50 or so circled the residences, but went back across the harbor.  The next night, I will defiantly concentrate on the residence area at dusk.  

Monday, December 30, 2013

December, 29, 2013,  Sunday

Intermittent clouds and rain.  Took time to concentrate on the pool and beach area with the hawks.  The areas were busy with guests and I wanted to make sure the hawks were there to keep the pest grackles away from the food.  I was able to get all 4 hawks flown that day and they did well.  The residential area has very few grackles.  But, I am waiting to see when this rainy spell passes to see what patterns occur.  The grackles and blackbirds seem to have moved onshore, but I have heard that they are at hanging and roosting around a gas station on the mainland.  Scouts still fly around at dusk, so we make sure that the hawks are present and in the air until after sunset.  

Sunday, December 29, 2013

December 28, 2013:

Windy, cloudy, chance of rain all day.  I walked the entire area and key this morning to see if there were signs of birds roosting overnight.  Only a few were seen.  The winds were quite high, so I had to wait until the winds slowed before I set the hawks and falcons out to weather. I was asked to show and educate the guests about the birds at the beach area and took one of the falcons there.  Then was able to use the falcon to keep grackles moving in and taking guest food and bathing in the pool. I could not fly around the pool, there were guest that were uncomfortable with birds.   Flights started later in the day, around 4:30.   We went to the residential area and a few scout birds were circling around the area.  We stayed until dark, and could not fly the hawks, it was very windy.  Then some rains started as we returned back and put the hawks and falcons away for the night.  Hopefully this weather is passing.  The wind is now from the west and I can start daytime flights soon.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Friday, December 27, 2013.

It was breezy and mixed rain and clouds all day.  I took time between showers to set the hawks and falcons out at the beach to enjoy being outside.  I cleaned their enclosures and straightened up the gear. When it started raining around 1:00, I put them in their enclosures and had lunch.  Then the rains persisted off and on all afternoon.   The hawks were then loaded up to be flown at the roosting area near the residences.   We walked over and saw only a small group of  scout grackles flying about.  The grackles were not across the harbor.  I am speculating they have found a place to roost out of the rains which have persisted for days.  Such as a parking garage or other open air cover.   We flew 2 Harris hawks to make sure that their presence was still known to the grackles.  The residents appreciated us flying them.  We kept them out until dusk and placed them back in their enclosures.  On the way back it started raining.  One resident stopped us and thanked us for scaring away the grackles.  She said she can now continue her evening walks without worrying about bird droppings hitting her.  I am glad to hear that.  Rains started again and  equipment got damp from loading up.  So, it was taken up to my room to dry out overnight.  I am watching to see how the grackle roosting patterns change while this rain front moves through the next few days.  Hawks will be flown to keep the predatory presence active.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Thursday, December 26, 2013:

Rainy all day.  Between showers, we went to the beach and set up the weathering area for the hawks with fresh water and cleaned/rain water rinsed perches.  But, rain returned and the Harris' hawks which are a desert species that get wet very easily were kept in their boxes.  We did internet supply orders (batteries, cough syrup not found in stores) and kept an eye on the weather all day.  At sunset,  we went out with the falcons on the fist to the residences to make sure that rooting grackles do not return.  We stayed until  after sunset.  To make sure they do not come over to the residences to roost.  There was very little grackle activity today due to the rain.  My husband has departed for our home in North Florida

Thursday, December 26, 2013

December 25, 2013, Christmas Day.

It was windy all Christmas Eve and day My husband and I could hear the furniture and tables being blown around the porch in our room.  So, we weighted things down to keep them from blowing over the edge.  The high winds made it too unsafe for the hawks and falcons to be set out on the beach, even in their enclosures in the cabana.  So the decision was made to keep them safe in the truck and fly directly out of their hawk boxes in the evening.  We walked the key to determine the roosting areas of the grackles, and found droppings in the plants and trees where they have roosted earlier.  The vast majority of them are now across the harbor.  It was a pleasant day for us.  And were waiting for the evening flights to begin.  Beach staff told us that some grackles were coming in during meal times.   It is realized that even sitting on the beach on their perches serves as a deterrent for the grackles coming in to take food and bathe at the pool.  The grackles now recognize us, our clothing, and even our equipment and stay away.   We set out around 4:00 to start evening flight patrols.  Winds were still high but we brought our two most reliable hawks when it comes to staying close to the falconers.  We let one out at a time and kept her close.  For her safety, we did not want her to be blown across the harbor, or worse yet, in the water.  There were quite a few residents out with their families who saw us and were very interested in our work.  We explained the concept and they were thankful that we have greatly reduced the mess the grackles have made over the months.  Small flocks of grackles that we refer to as 'scouts' flew around the buildings, but flew back over the harbor when they saw that we were not moving.  We stayed after dark to make sure the grackles stayed away that evening.

 Today, (the 26th of December)  it is raining and we will have to wait for the rains to stop before we can set the hawks and falcons out.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Tuesday, December 24, 2013:

Today was a day where we were asked to concentrate flight areas on the residence area of the key nearest the harbor.  Grackles that evening were across the harbor, in the trees.   As it got darker, some started moving to the resident area to roost in the trees around the circle where people enter the residence.   We concentrated on hazing the grackles, by flying one of our most reliable hawks.  Despite the windy conditions.  After a while, the grackles got the message and moved away from that area and many moved across the harbor.  We had to be conservative, due to the strong winds likely blowing the hawk off course or even in the water.   But, we got it done. Now the winds have picked up and are very strong.  At my room, I could hear the furniture on the porch being blown around.  I closed and laid the tables on the patio and am securing the recliners too.  A very, very windy day.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

December 22,, 2013:

During the day, the hawks and falcons were set out to weather at the beach after my husband arrived.  We both saw the native peregrine sitting on the hurricane shutter of the adjacent residence by the hotel.  The peregrine is a male, and looks like it is in immature plumage.   The falcon sat there for at least 3 hours.  I have a 20 power monocular that I was happy to show the hotel guests and employees the peregrine that lives on the key.  I took some photos of the peregrine, while the hawks and falcons relaxed prior to their flight patrols in the evening.  My assistant arrived and we got things ready.   Grackles have now moved to the residences nearest the mainland on the key.  The hawks were directed to the area and were flown from tree to post.  The grackles were moved around and they were went to the trees along the sea wall. We had to be careful that the hawks did not fly across the harbor to the mainland, which would be a real time-consuming walk and recovery of the errant hawk(s).   The grackles did shift around and we met the manager of the residence.  She is very happy to have us here and took photos of the hawks in action.    We shall return!!!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

December 22, 2013:

A close call for one of our best birds.  I was flying both around 5:00.   There were very few grackles in the area, but I wanted to see if I spot the wild peregrine again.  I let the two hawks out of their boxes. and they both flew immediately into the palm trees.   The younger one flew to a light post, but I started hearing the other one struggle.   I realized that she was stuck in the palm tree.  She had chewed on her nylon jess that I had just put on that morning.  The shredded jess threads were like the loop part of a velcro strip and was caught up in the palm leaves.  I immediately called Security at the hotel, and informed them of the danger to the hawk.   What seemed like forever to me, but was likely not even 10 minutes later,  Engineering brought a 20 foot extension ladder.   I am a poor climber and one of the hotel guests immediately went up the ladder, shook the palm leaf she was on and she came free.   She flew to a tree, was checked out, (she was ok, just shaken up) and kept in for the evening.  The residents and guests were happy to see that she was ok.  I showed them the chewed jess and the reason why it got caught in the palm leaf.   My great thanks to hotel staff and the guest who helped get the hawk back safely.

I was also told that there were quite a few grackles across the key at the parking garage by the park.  So, I brought both birds on the bell cart with the extended perches.  When I started shining the flashlight at the trees, and sending the youngest hawk up..  The grackles moved.  I then followed them with the hawk on her t post, that she rides readily.   WIth the flashlight, the t post, I followed the movement of the grackles up and down the road and the dispersed and were much fewer in number.  I called the hawk down and had another good day.   
December 21, 2013:

This  day night was an interesting one.   The grackles were much fewer in number in the morning.  Workmen from the restaurant renovation told me that they saw a bird of prey (likely the resident peregrine)  catch a bird the prior evening around 6:00.   They saw the falcon take the bird to the top of the restaurant.  I wanted to see if I could find out which species of bird (grackle or pigeon) so I was taken to the roof of the restaurant.  But, the falcon had obviously taken its prey somewhere else, no feathers found.   I concluded that at same time the hawks were flushing the grackles from the trees, the peregrine took advantage of this hunting opportunity and was successful in catching a bird.    I had thought I saw a peregrine when the hawks were trailing them.  I am glad when a wild raptor comes in  this manner and I enjoy watching the flights.

Patrols were started around 4:00.  The hawks were stationed between the hotel and office building.  Flying back and forth and up the roadways to their T posts on the cart and hawk boxes.  I no longer use the cadge for two reasons.  One, the hawks are very comfortable flying in and out of their enclosures.    I much prefer the hawks feeling and being safe in their hawk boxes.  I spotted the peregrine, eight floors down on the building I have seen him on before.   He was waiting for the grackles to come in.  He flew twice around the hotel, seeking a meal, but was unsuccessful.  I will bring my strong 20 power spotting scope so I can enjoy watching him again the coming evening.  He is definitely a male.

I was notified of the wedding occurring that evening.   Patrols were ended, birds were boxed up and we waited for the wedding ceremony to end before we packed up gear for the evening at the beach.    Am I glad there were no hawks roosting out on the key that night.  Because of the fireworks display on the water after the ceremony.  It was a spectacular one, coordinated with music and very loud.  We will see what remaining grackles there are this coming evening.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

December 21, 2013.   Early morning hawk retrieval will be starting soon.   I hear the re-assuring bleep of the telemetry receiver that he is still there.   After a quick breakfast in my room, I will be searching for him.  I also hear very little grackle activity.   Last night was a good flight and abatement night.

Friday, December 20, 2013

The hawks were started around 5:00 when the grackles starting moving in.  They worked in tandem, following the groups of grackles and making them very nervous.  I would shine the flashlight in the trees and the grackles would leave in a whoosh of wings.  The two hawks pressured and followed the groups of grackles like a dogfight.   This is what falconers love to watch.  The grackles twisted and turned with the hawks following close behind.   Then, the grackles became much fewer in number.   Security told me that they flew to Key Biscayne.   I will listen in the morning.  BTW:  The oldest hawk came right in when she was done flying.  The male still chased until it became dark and decided to roost.  I will have another early pre-dawn day retrieving him.  
December 20, 2013:
Yesterday was a good abatement day. I weathered all of the raptors, cleaned enclosures,  The presence of the hawks all day on the grounds I feel is also a good 'territorial' establishment of the hawks being here all of the time.    Hawks started  evening flights at sundowns, around 4:00.  The grackles were very intimidated by the presence of the hawks.  They would move away from wherever the hawks were seen.  After sundown approaching darkness, the hawks would still chase the grackles in the trees, due to the lights allowing them to see.  The hawks are becoming more comfortable flying after darkness, due to the lack of owls and competing avian predators in the area.  The hawks also know that me as their falconer also protects them from harm.   The youngest and most trusting of hawks came right in to a flashlight attached to a T post.   Also with a pice of hawk food held in place with a ball bungie.  She stays very close to her falconer.  The second oldest bird  also saw this behavior and become more confident moving about in the dark.  She also came to the same T perch arrangement, then laddered down to a second on T post to be safely put to bed at dark.   This morning, I access the success of the patrols by listening to the calls of the grackles prior to departing to their daily foraging around the city.  Definitely, less noise this morning.  I will also walk the areas to see how many droppings are left behind.  An encouraging sign for the winter roost reduction.  

Thursday, December 19, 2013

12/18/2013:   Errant harris hawks were retrieved by 7:45 this morning.   They were a bit reluctant to come down, so I suspect they each had a meal last night.    Today is breezy, boarding on windy, and I was concerned that they would move mainland.  So glad they did not and they are safely back in their boxes.  One advantage of this is that they definitely reduced the number of roosting grackles at the office building, very little vocalizations and noise this morning.  The other two will be on duty later today.  

12.18/2013:   Strategy:  Have the hawks presence before the grackles roost.   I put up 3 Harris' hawks in the next area prior to roosting behavior.   The grackles would see the hawks and move to the other side of the building.  As it got darker, I called in 1 Harris hawk.  Then left two out to move and chase the grackles around.   I would also shine a flashlight and the grackles would know that it meant a hawk was nearby and the would shift around.   The hawks then start to roost instead of chase grackles so I I monitored the until I was satisfied they had settled in for the night.  Two hawks have spent the night tonight.  I am up extra early to start my day and retrieve them from 'camping' out.  My room is a great location to monitor the sounds of the grackles.  I know which calls mean which activities.  From morning greeting/noise.  To predator alert when the hawks move about.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

12/17/2013 Second night:  We have been able to move the roosting grackles away from the hotel and security areas, and will concentrate on moving them away from the office complex across the street.  When the hawks are put up and we use the flashlights to guide the hawks around, the grackles know of the danger and rush to the next area to be away from the hawks.   I flew 3 of the four hawks, due to the one having a kill yesterday. One thing nice I heard from an employee at the hotel, she did not have any droppings on her car at the end of the shift.  That is good news.   Now to keep the pressure on the roost to move them out.  Despite my head cold that has made me weary.  The staff at the hotel and key are happy to see me and I am glad to get the hawks in the air doing what they do best.  

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Grackles (the larger boat tailed species) are now back for their winter roost.  Started flying the 4 Harris hawks this afternoon, earlier than planned, just after 4:00.  The grackles did not know what to do about the situation, since the hawks were not deterred by their mobbing.  When a hawk showed foraging behavior  (aggressive, determined flying) the grackles shifted in masse; dodging the hawks who were making them nervously move about.  One was caught by the oldest hawk who is now 24.  She brought the grackle to the ground.  She was retrieved and was put away to enjoy her hard earned meal.  Two others were flown, then one decided to spend the night out camping.  I can tell where he is by the telemetry signal I am receiving.  I will get up pre-down to get him back down to start another day.
Score:  Baywings  -  1.
Grackles:  0.

Monday, December 16, 2013

December 16, 2013,   The grackles have returned, this is now a winter roost situation.  They arrived mid-fall and I am starting the abatement treatments this evening.   They are roosting in the same areas as last year.   I arrived yesterday, (400 mile trip from my house).  Today I will set up the weathering area and get everything ready this evening's first treatment.