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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

September 29, 2014

Cleaning day.  Got the hawks set out to clean their enclosures and the cabana area where they stay.   The hawks were misted all day long, it was a hot one.   Patrols were minimal as the beach was quiet, and no grackles were an issue at the pool area as well.  I like bringing a hawk into the pool area for the guest, but I have to balance the wishes of guests, some who find the hawks fascinating, and others who seem uncomfortable being near them.  I engaged guests who were interested in the hawks, answered their questions. The eyes  of hawks seem serious and fierce, but if you look at them closely, it is that to have binocular vision, the eye socket has evolved to 'turn front' from sideways as in non-predatory birds.  The brow bone is prominent, to shade their eyes from the sun.  The stripe beneath the falcons eyes (mylar stripe) is to absorb glare, just like athletes do with black markings under their eyes.   But both  raptors and prey birds can see forward quite well.    Then for evening patrols, I had to make room for an event on the beach that night, clearing out most of my gear so the cabana can be used for the banquet and event staff.   Patrols at night were started, yet few grackles (just a few starlings as well) were flying about.  Got a report of some at one of the condo buildings.  But none were seen at dusk.   Stayed out until I was sure that grackles were not coming back after dark.  Then walked around again after dinner to see if any were still around.   When walking around with the hawks, I got thanks from residents at the bus stop as to how the hawks have greatly diminished the messy droppings from the birds there.  

Monday, September 29, 2014

Peregrine Falcon is back

Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014.    Sunny, mid-80's.   Another sultry day.  I set the hawks out to weather on their perches.  I misted them to make sure they are kept cool and comfortable.  On these sultry days, the hawks stay in the shade in the trees when up and move very little.   I walked around the pool wit the red-tailed hawk.  He likes to ride on the glove and is very comfortable around people when doing so.  Few birds were around the pool and beach so the hawks sat and weathered most of the day. While weathering the hawks, one falcon looked in the sky late afternoon with great interest.  I knew then he had spotted the peregrine and  I could then see it fly around.  I landed on the east side of the adjacent condo building, apparently on a balcony.  I love watching the peregrine and love having it around.    Evening flights again started around the office building.  Patrols were done to see if the grackles and starlings have moved to another area of the island, but they were absent.  It was Sunday night after putting the hawks up for the night, a supply run was made to get batteries at Key Biscayne.  Thinking that the grackles had re-located there.  A walking/driving survey was done to spot any roosting there.  But no signs were found.  Monday morning, it was quiet around the am.  Except for the resident pigeons outside my room.  Which I enjoy watching and enjoy their company.  Monday is cleaning day and I get out early with the hawks to weather and clean their enclosures.   

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Fewer blackbirds

Saturday, September 27, 2014.    Hawks were set out today in the weathering area.   It was sunny, so a mister was constant on the hawks until the shade reached by mid-afternoon.   Guests were at the beach and pools.  So, hawks were flown to deter grackles at both areas.  The hawks simply sat in the trees and  flew from shady spot to shady spot in each tree, but that was enough for the grackles to leave guests alone.  The iguanas were in the beach area, the large ones as usual unafraid of the humans and hawks.  But the small ones hid deep in the bushes and stayed still.   The evening flights started at 6:00 after the pool had stopped serving guests.  Two hawks were set up at the parking garage at the office building.  My favorite and I think most effective area for deterrence.   A good presence for the hawks, and few dogs being walked in the area to disrupt activities.  I saw a few starlings wheel about and just a few grackles came in.  Droppings on the pavement and walkways were much reduced.  I still stayed out until darkness came in to make sure that the grackles did not appear after the hawks left.  Sunday morning, I noted very little grackle activity and thinking that the wild peregrine in the area that has returned is also helping itself to grackles for dinner.  

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Start with rain again

When I got up, I checked the area for grackles.   I noted that their were back at the guard house area and office building this morning.   I walked about to see exactly where they were.  They were mostly on the parking garage side of the office building, few behind the bus stop where we concentrated on them the prior night.  Got up and started moving the hawks out.  Rain delayed.  I went back in and ordered supplies.   I moved the rest of the hawks out.  Then straightened up the area and set them out for the day.   It was sunny.  Starting into the weekend, so guests were arriving.   The iguanas are bold and they watch for food to be delivered.   I heard some guests suddenly become noisy and laughing and knew that an iguana had taken their food/drinks.  It was drinking one of frozen drinks.  Luckily these guests were amused at the surprise.  I told staff and they took care of the guests.  I flew the hawks for a while on the beach for a while, but the heat and heavy air made them reluctant to move about much.  They sat in the palm with multiple branches (sabal?) above the area where I weather the hawks and just watched everything.  Guests were naturally curious and explained the concept to them.   The iguana babies and youngsters made themselves scarce when the hawks are up.  The adults, not so; they are bold and unafraid of humans.  Evening flights started at 6:00 with 4 hawks up around the pool.  Then t reduced to 2 hawks around the office building and bus stop.  They were good, hanging around flying back and forth.  Moving the grackles around to a smaller number behind the guard house.  Saturday morning when I woke up.  I saw fewer grackles and starlings.  Right at sundown, I spotted the PEREGRINE.  It had moved to one of the condos.   I did not see it land.  Then I spotted the falcon moving to roost on the mainland.  So the PEREGRINE is back.  Likely just came down from its summer territory this week.  A welcome site for me.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Rainy day agin

Got the hawks out early,   Then set them out to clean their enclosures and equipment.  I aways get soaked when I clean their enclosures.  So I changed into a dry shirt.   It was a muggy day, with rains threatening.  So I had hoped to clean their boxes before more rains set in.   I flew one of the hawks around the pool in the afternoon.  She was reluctant, the air was heavy, hard to fly in,  and  it was hot and she just wanted to sit on the statue and watch.   Few grackles were out that morning around the key as well.  Afternoon rains came in and I quickly put the weathering hawks back, getting soaked again in the process.   So I changed my shirt again to a dry one.  Then this afternoon, after the rain, I ordered supplies (small flashlights) to place in the hawk boxes to illuminate the interior for when the come in.   Evening patrols started later, around 6:30.  The grackles and starlings were again at the office building, not at the park nor the eatery.  Two hawks, the ones that stay close were kept on T posts and flown back and forth until after 8:00.    The grackles and starlings had moved on by then.  A walking survey was done few grackles were in the trees.    Evening was ended then.  

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Late night for the hawks.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014.   A quiet day.  Set the hawks up on the beach to make sure they had a good day of weathering due to the past two rainy days that kept them inside.   It was warm, but mostly cloudy.   Cleaned up some enclosures, organized.   Saw the iguanas everywhere, on the bushes, at the seawall.  Some guests were dealing with iguanas attempting to take their food.  Anything colorful, from drinks, such as smoothies to fruit and shrimp are eaten by the iguanas.  They are very bold, so I brought over one of the hawks to see if it would deter the iguanas, nope.  They just stared at me.  So I herded the iguana away from the guests.   I told the guests, that the iguanas use their tail and slap at anything they find annoying or threatening, and the bob their heads and display their 'beard' (flap under the chin) when the feel you are encroaching on them.  Baby iguanas are common right now.  For the evening flights, hawks were set up again at the concourse by the parking garage.  Four were put up, they flew around well.   I have two hawks on similar frequencies of transmitters,  Too close.  So one transmitter was canceling out the other.  I had a time locating one due to this issue,  I have a new, used receiver that was properly calibrated.   I took the battery out of the interfering transmitter and tracked the wayward hawk behind the office building.  By then, it was past sunset and she had gone to roost.  But with persistence and training her to the illuminated tall (16ft) T post she was back safe in her box for the night.   Finished up well past 9:00 that evening.  I am putting the dominant transmitter on her and the recessive transmitter on the hawk that does not wander off.  Lesson learned.  

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Rest of  Tuesday, September 23, 2014:   Waited for the rains to end.  Hawks were then moved to the beach and evening patrols were started around 5:30.   Hawks were set up at the walkway by the parking garage at the hotel with 2 carts of 4 hawks.    All 4 hawks were released into trees above the hotel to deter birds from flying and roosting on the hotel.  Across the road at the office building, I noted that the grackles would sit in the trees, yet the starlings sit on the rooftops.   I love to watch the boiling, swirling flights of the starlings with the coordinated flight patterns.  The hawks were flying back and forth on T posts and trees.  Birds were moving about and attempting to roost in the trees.   Then the carts with their vari kennels were moved across the street next to the office building.   Positioning of the boxes is crucial to getting the hawks down in a timely fashion.  They need a clear 'flight path' so they can fly in and out of the boxes confidently.  It was a busy evening with lots of people walking dogs and out for evening walks.  Affecting  the flight path of the birds at bus stop.  Two hawks like to roost at sundown, so they were put up; to prevent worrisome sleepless nights by the falconer.  The other two are very connected to their falconer and come down readily to a T post with a light on it, then laddered down to another t post to the vari kennel.  One hawk stayed out until 8:00, attempting to roost, but was safely retrieved using the lighted t post and laddering method with a treat in the box at the end of the day.   By the time the last hawk was put to bed.  I noted very little bird noises.  The next morning, also it seemed very quiet at the office building as well.  A good start.   

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

September 23, 2014:  Waiting for rain to stop.   Noted this morning on the patio outside my room that the drain was clogged from feathers.   I took a paper towel and removed the feathers so the drain would work this is more than normal feathers from the resident pigeons.  I suspect plucked feathers from a caught bird (looks like a dove).    I suspect the wild peregrine may be back and catching birds.  When I am flying my hawks I note also the pest birds moving about in evasive tactics, unrelated to my hawk's movements.  So I think the peregrine, (or a local Cooper's hawk) may be taking advantage of the abatement process to catch a meal.   It is a welcome assistance to my abatement work.  
September 22, 2014:   Set up early around 7:30am  and moved the hawks in their boxes to the beach before the heat of the day.  Readied myself and changed into work clothes so I looked fresh, not wilted from the  heat  and moving the hawks to the staging area at the cabana.  Set the hawks in and out several times due to the threat of rains, which for the most part missed the key.   It was Monday, and slow season, so during the day, pest birds were few.  I also noted many small  baby iguanas around the key, this years hatchings, which are a prey item for the Harris hawks.  I have to be careful as to not let the hawks catch one.   I walked the entire key to survey for droppings and bird activity during the day, and found the minor bird activity was around the bistro (food dropped) and the trees which have dropped small fruit on the ground that resembles crab apples.   Otherwise a quiet day, until the evening roosting started  around 6:30.   Hawks were in position by the office building and the birds (grackles and starlings) were moving nervously with the hawks in the area.   I kept two them up flying around until dusk fell and until they  showed roosting behavior, crated into their boxes.  A third one was up who sticks close by and rode on a T post the entire time.  That hawk was called back and forth on from T post to T post under lights after dark.  Just the sound of the wings and bells made the pest birds very nervous and they would vacate the trees for another area.  This is a good technique, for the birds are reacting to the  sounds of the hawk, not know if it is hunting or just moving about.   Finished up around 8:30 and packed up the hawks for another night.     

Monday, September 22, 2014

First day Flying

September 21, 2014.

A HOT day, humid, little cooling breeze.  This is set up day.   The cabana where the birds sit in their vari kennels was cleared and they got out around 2:00.   It was very hot to move them I had to take a cooling break during taking them out at the heat of midday  (drank LOTS of water) to prevent overheating.  I got them on their perches, spritzed them with water and then proceeded to get them ready for evening flights.  I walked around the pool area with one hawk (the red-tail) since guests were served food and fries are a favorite of the pest birds.  Saw lots, and lots of baby iguanas around as well.    Got the telemetry and field equipment together, then at 6:30 started a patrol in front of the office building as the grackles and starlings came in.   I flew both hawks (Harris') and my most experienced one started foraging flights which move the birds around.  She aways stays nearby, but has gotten into the trees where she could not be seen easily.  So the telemetry assured me she was still around. Of course there was lots of interest from the public, educating about this natural method.  One fellow told me he flew Harris' hawks in his native England. They are a favorite of falconers with their personality and social structure which works very well with humans.   It started to get dark so I searched for the older hawk, she was behind the guard house in a tree.   She was low in the tree plucking a bird she had caught.  So, the pattern is being set.  Got the flashlight out, found her.  Got her down on a T post (food on T post held in place with ball bungies, and a flashlight on the T post illuminating a the food.  Both held in place with ball bungies.   She then readily went into her vari kennel, for she knows she is safe.    The T posts I feel is an extremely important tool for abatement work and hawk recovery after dark.  She readily went into  her kennel for sleeping.   I don't have hawks out camping and sleepless nights.  Wrapped everything up with birds safely back in the truck around 9:00.  A good start and a good day.  

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Birds are back

Back in South Florida.  Did a walkabout and surveyed the birds that have been reported to be returning and migrating back south to Florida.   When I arrived after 3:00, I noted few birds on the island and hotel.  I then went over to security and they told me the birds start appearing in numbers around 7:00 pm.   I observed a cloud of starlings across the water; two flocks of several hundred, boiling around in motion like they are well known to do.  Then the grackles also started appearing and calling, both boat-tailed and the smaller common grackle.   The birds did start appearing great numbers like before, across from the storefronts, bus station and hotel.