Male Haggard Kestrel

December 29, 2015 - Leave a Response

So I finally caught a Kestrel, as per my falconry apprenticeship requirements.  At first, waiting for the bird to show up felt like  anticipating a bus you weren’t really sure stops here.  And looking for it’s approach with binoculars that caused a bit of queasy when sweeping the sky for two hours.

Then it was hard to believe that any wild creature would fall for this clumsy trap I constructed with an on-sale basket from Michael’s.

And I was just giving up the 3rd day when who should come flying towards me as if waiting to meet me the whole time?  It was Ambrose.  So named by boyfriend, I know not why.

And now, he sits on my glove while I type one-handed, and we are trying to bond.  But though he is cuter than a button, I’m not getting warm fuzzies from him.  Instead his intense unblinking stare looks more like incredulity.  “Really? I’m not saying a thing.  I demand to see my lawyer.  When do I get my phone call?”

No amount of reasoning seems to help; that he’ll be getting health care, safe housing, and good grub.  That this is temporary and he will be free to go in about 8 months.

No, this is a cynical bird.  And that’s why they tell falconers to get young impressionable birds.  Birds to whom you need not prove your worth because they are so excited to get free food.  Haggards are what you call adult raptors.  And this one is … haggard.

My last argument is that staying with me will be like a falcon spa.  He should relax and enjoy, because he’ll be so gorgeous when he hits the streets that the girl Kestrels will all want him in their nests.

But maybe he’s heard this before.  Maybe he’s already been a falconry bird and was released.  Is this some kind of Falconry Recidivism?



Las Hormigas : Consequences

November 13, 2015 - Leave a Response

The landscaping company that takes care of the park nearby was out spraying everything yesterday.  I worry about the poisons so casually flung about – particularly as my dog could get into it.  I asked them what they were spraying for, and could not understand their answer in Spanish.  I remembered the sounds of the vowels I heard, “or -ee -ah” and looked up the word “ant” in Spanish.  Hormiga.

We have lots of ants here.  Millions of ants.  Thousands of colonies.  Their numbers are so dense that when something good is in the garbage, they will build a highway worthy of the 405 to remove the food scraps and carry it home.

When it is about to rain, the ants move to higher ground, into the apartments.  For us, that had the positive result of holding us to a higher standard of cleanliness.   No dish lay in the sink.  Dog food could not be left out for long.  But apparently there were complaints.  The spraying began.

We recently watched the David Attenborough series about insects called “Life in the Undergrowth,” from which we learned that insects are as messed up as we are, and more similar to us than is really comfortable.  So my sympathies were for the ants when I saw the poison massacre yesterday.  It’s so easy to disregard others when they do not look like you.  The wholesale murder was on the scale of genocide.  The ants were doing a job, that’s all. They scavenge for the food scraps too tiny for other animals to bother with.  Making a living.

When you consider that the war on nature is carried out also on animals that we consider “good” for arbitrary aesthetic reasons; monarch butterfly populations dropping by a staggering 90%, honeybees getting wiped out by toxic chemicals pumped out by Bayer, I start thinking it might be a good thing if we experience the 6th extinction.  And soon.  We don’t deserve to live here if all we can do is crush and kill and poison.

I hope that when people finally wake up to the immediacy of the situation, it will not be too late for all living things on this thin-crusted, gaseous, shifty planet.

Solar Decathalon and Sustainability

November 3, 2015 - Leave a Response

I was very excited to go see the Solar Decathalon in Irvine last month.  I was shocked at how disappointed I was at the vision of houses of the future by college-aged students.  Here is the team from NJ that won:

I understand the complexity of assembling a team-built structure.  I know that creative projects made by committee tend to be bland and flavorless.  I know that some generic or generalized elements are required to be neutral enough for a broad public acceptance.   I didn’t expect every home to look like an IKEA commercial.

This seems to be true with the Tiny Houses I love so much to gawk at and dream about as well.  They are becoming standardized.  Jay made that first mini house and then everyone copied it with no real improvement to the idea.  They are for sale every day.  I’m glad more people are trying it, and that there are more available on the market to try.  At what point is personal preference and lifestyle going to trump (ugh, I can’t use that word anymore), going to matter more than economy.

And I have lost faith that sustainability is actually a valid concept.  All things are meant to die and change.  Ashes to ashes, eh what?  Including the thin crust pizza ball we are standing on.  Evolve or die.  Bleak but true.

Those college students disappointed me.  They are the future and the future looks stodgy and backwards.  Same old same old.  Their logic told me everything I needed to know.  The UCDavis house, for instance, was built for the purpose of, a vacation home for a well-to-do family of four, or a migrant farm worker field house for a group of ten.  Huh?

Curmudgeon over and out.

Writing and Illustrating Blog

October 4, 2015 - Leave a Response

On the recommendation of a friend I checked out a Writing and Illustrating blog by the Kathy Temean at the CATugueau Agency that features different artists and authors over the course of the week.  They put my work in today, Sunday October 4, 2015.

I picked the two (two and only two) pages that showed the central conflict of the story but it would have been more fun to include some of the other brighter pages.  The very last page can be seen here.  I used to have the whole thing on line but apparently the link is broken.

What I have learned here is that people are generally not savvy about the natural world.  What “lizard” lives in water?  Maybe it would have helped if I said the title was Nothing Bothers Newt.  And who hasn’t seen algae?  I take it for granted that other people are as interested in the natural world as I am.  Oops.  My bad.

Anyway it was nice that they looked at it and put it up for review.  I probably should have sent in the most recent picture book project, but I always had this idea that Newt has been overlooked.  He probably needs a face lift.


August 26, 2015 - Leave a Response

I don’t feel guilty about enjoying the apartment.  I visit Bonita and maintain her, but right now she, and that liveaboard life, are in stasis.  Austin has more room to prance and play chase the cookie.  He is safe and comfortable when I go off to work.  Our unit is oriented away from the direct sun and so we stay cool in the shade of the trees even on days like today when it is promising to exceed 90˚ F.

I have a beautiful kestrel house that has passed Fish & Wildlife inspection, but no kestrel.  It feels like readying the nursery for baby when you are not even remotely pregnant.  My work life has to stabilize before I can even consider taking on the awesome responsibility of an 86 gram meat eating bird.

In the meantime, developing good habits seems a worthy goal.  Meeting my In Zone heart rate every day for at least 20 minutes, taking good care of my little family group, keeping house, paying bills.  I have a digital monitor for the heart rate but all of the rest of it is a bit of a crap shoot.

Stress and Anxiety in Nature

July 16, 2015 - Leave a Response

A lone Mockingbird stays up all night in our neighborhood, rotating through a vast repertoire of learned song snippets that all sound vaguely like car alarms.  Who is that bird and why is he trilling away in the dead of night?

It turns out that he is not calling for a mate, nor does he have insomnia.  He is engaged in a desperate protective strategy for his young, to keep them safe from nocturnal predators.  Thinking about this makes me exhausted when I hear him squalling away in a nearby tree.  When does he sleep?  When does he breathe?

I liked it better when I thought he was just lusty and calling hey baby hey.

So many things about life are like that.  Ignorance is bliss when you can’t handle the cold facts of struggle on the planet.

When I became acquainted with some people in the oh-so-glamorous music industry and heard about how songs make it to the pop charts, I understood that every song we hear on the radio has a story behind it.  Many of the stories are of struggle and heartbreak.  We may be humming, but the people who birthed that song probably have scars to show for their creativity.

In fact, everything around us has a history.  Every effort, invention, manufactured part, “thing” –  has a human story.  The natural world has a parallel storyline that is rarely observed, mourned, or noted by humans.

Back in my bird-centric world, I have been watching a juvenile red tail reluctantly learn how to feed itself, coached by a parent.  It is harassed daily by gangs of crows and it complains piteously when not simply fed by the parent – who is intent on weaning the overgrown chick.  When I don’t see the juvy for a few days I worry that it has succumbed to hunger, disease, injury, or parasites.  Then I see it again and feel happy that it has survived, despite great odds against it.  75% of red tail juveniles die before they see one year.  More die during drought times.

I want to rescue that bird and give him stability and health, survival strategies and knowledge of his own strengths.

It is mysterious that such a basic foundation is so difficult to give and so easy to lose.

I listen to that Mockingbird singing his heart out in frantic worry all night.  I cannot think of a single thing I could do to help him.

Preview the Pest Bird Abatement Book

June 25, 2015 - Leave a Response

An invitation: To check out the first couple of pages and answer some questions I have for you, the reader. If you have a moment and would like to look, please go to

to register your input and help feed the buzz. Thank you.

Life is Dangerous

June 6, 2015 - One Response

My dog broke my nose last week.  We were playing a game of Who’s Got the Biscuit? and I reached under him to steal his cookie out of his mouth on the far side.  Naturally he pulled away from the thieving hand, but that meant that he swung his hard little puppy skull right into the bridge of my nose.  There was a horrible crunching noise.  He dropped the cookie and immediately became Nurse Nancy, licking the air in my general direction by way of apology.  I immediately iced the painful not-bone protuberance until I could not feel it anymore.  I even went to bed wearing an ice cube taped to my nose.  The swelling went down and the black stripe across my bridge was undoubtedly lessened by the frozen attentions.

Just prior to that fun day,  we went for a walk on a beach near Laguna.  The sand was covered with what looked like little crawdads.

Miles and miles of these guys washed ashore, stranded in the helpless bug position.

Turned out they were baby crabs, not lobsters or crawdads.  The warm water brought them in and thousands were tossed on the beach by the tide.  I wondered how it would be possible to call an alert – everybody in the area who cares about such things come down and scoop them up and take them way out beyond the waves and dump them back in the water. That would be brilliant.  But I have no idea how to call up a flash mob to rescue crab babies, and so I just felt sick and helpless as I tried not to step on any of them.

There should be an app for acting on spontaneous kindness.  Some kind of superhero app.  You’d sign up for text alerts.  This alert would be ” Need people, boats, pails, and wide flat shovels to transfer stranded crab babies into ocean from Crystal Cove Beach – Date – Time” and then there would be a symbol like the batman logo.  You could tap it and give your eta.   I wonder how many people would take time and energy to do something like that?  Random acts of generosity for those in need.  Hmmm.

Pest Bird Abatement book now Available!

March 29, 2015 - Leave a Response

Book Cover PBA

A How-To guide for managers of facilities and municipalities in need of Falconry-Based Pest Bird Abatement. Discusses the problems, expectations, and costs associated with raptor guards, as well as how the service works.

Hot off the press, so to speak.

Go here

to find out how to order your copy.

Bird Eat Bird World

March 18, 2015 - Leave a Response

The same day I acquired Hally the Hawk,
( my faux furry raptor, and yes, you can pet this birdie),
she went off on a tear and attacked the much maligned
Phil the Pheasant while he was lounging on the scanner.

Hally&PhilAs if it were not bad enough that Austin routinely turns him inside out.

But turnabout is fair play.
Nikki, the very nearly toy Harris’ Hawk
spied Hally peeking out of a bag in the Raptor Van
and made off with her.

IMG_3145Thus proving that Nikki does have a killer instinct after all.