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Diary Calendar

June 1 - 12

June 4th 

Spring eventually arrives in Northern New Brunswick.  Unfortunately a month later than the rest of the country and 3 weeks before summer officially begins.  Actually I shouldn't complain because this area is infamous for only having three seasons.  Normally we go straight from winter to summer.  This year the weather during the month of May was one of the best.  The month began with two 30 C days.  This week the apple trees began to display their short lived blossoms and the of course the black flies did their best to ruin the season.

The Sentinel:  Yesterday the birds were kept in because of rain.  This morning at 7:30 they were let out for their morning exercise.  About 50 went up to fly and explore the area.  The rest chose to sit on the roof to taunt the hawk and taunt it they did.  It was barely 8:30 when a hawk (Goshawk I assume) dove down towards the loft.  I never thought I would see this but behind the hawk by less than a meter and in hot pursuit were 2 squawking crows.  The best I could do to assist was yell.  The crows did their job and chased the hawk out of the area, that is, for the time being.  I could see the hawk in the distance and to the north of the loft circling just above the trees.  I knew it would be back so I quickly called the young ones in.  As usual some of the flock chose not to follow my instructions.  It was as if one of the crows sensed this defiance and flew back and perched on the top of a 100 foot pine next to the loft.  Here it stayed on guard - the sentinel.

By 10:00 o'clock the crow got bored and left and I lost my patience with the defiant young ones so I went in for a cup of coffee.  Just as I came out about 10:30 the hawk struck again catching the crows and me off guard.  This time unimpeded it chased its victim into the trees and I feared the worst.  The crows could be seen flying and squawking over where the hawk chased its prey.  Amen.

I don't know of anyone who likes crows.  I don't particularly like them either.  They are an ugly bird that can be quite annoying just by its nature.  Lately, I have found them useful and have altered my opinion of them.  Therefore, because they warn me when danger is near I reward them.  I built a stand in the open field and every morning before I let the Le Tour team out for their morning exercise I put a few table scraps out on their feeding stations.  And if they do a good job I give them a handful of wieners the cheapest money can buy.  Heck, they don't know the difference.


June 6th

Early this morning I went to the loft to do a manual inventory so it would provide me with an opportunity to handle the birds and assess their general condition.  I was pleasantly surprised how the vast majority of birds handled.  If anything some were too heavy and these are often the infrequent flyers.  Only 6 were under weight which suggested they were struggling with sickness.  To date only 5 birds have been lost due to sickness.  I don't want to sound misleading about the health issues.  There are still problems with loose droppings but things seem to be  under control and much better than at this time last year.  I am cautiously optimistic that health will not be the major challenge as in the past but I am aware that things could still get out of control quickly.   

It doesn't matter how hard you try to get it right there are things beyond your control.  Mother nature is determined to make managing the Le Tour a challenge.  Hawk problems have been the worst in years and have been responsible for most of the 21 birds lost around the loft.  See Inventory.  I have never seen so many hawks at this time of the year.  This morning around 8:30 and just after I completed the inventory and about to let the birds out a Goshawk zoomed by the loft.  It was in pursuit of a small bird, just an entree, and I feared it would be back for the main course.  I waited until 10:30 before I let the birds out.  I have no choice they have to go out and learn how to fly.  That is the birds' best defense.  Sitting in the loft or loafing on the roof is not. 

Around 11:00 the resident starling spooked the birds and most of them went up to fly.  A group of about 40 birds decided the safest place to be was ranging and off they went.  The rest flew around for about 15 minutes and when they landed they were immediately called in.  Trapping went very well.  The group of 40 started to return in small groups about an hour later.

You're never too old to learn.  I think I learned something new today.  My second round young ones were put out today for the first time.  Most of them had difficulty flying off the landing board to the roof.  Some of these spent the day outside trying to find the way back in.  By 8:00 this evening, hungry and dehydrated they were making small circles around the loft trying to find their way in.  Overfed young ones will not fly.  Lean young ones will go up much sooner.  I think I will increase the barley in their feed tomorrow. 

June 10th

On Monday just as the first 10 young ones were going out for their exercise the Goshawk attacked and picked one right off the landing board.  The hawk did it's damage so I knew it wouldn't be back.  The rest of the young ones were forced out and flagged.  About 150 went up and flew for about 15 minutes before small groups started to land.  Half of the birds stayed up for an hour and a group of 40 flew around for another 30 minutes.  Trapping went well.

The next day the birds were forced out and flagged again.  The vast majority went up to fly and their exercise period was similar to the previous day.  As usually a handful decided to stay out and test their luck with the hawk.  About 2 hours after the birds were let out I heard the crows squawking and looked up in the sky and saw them badgering the largest hawk that I have ever seen.  At least I thought it was a hawk.  As it soared over the yard I tried to measure its size relative to the crows.  Its wing span was a least 5 times greater than the crows.  Then I realized I was looking at an eagle not a hawk.  It's the first one that I have seen around my property and I found it unusual that it would show an interest in the birds.  After I thought about it for awhile I wondered if it was eyeing some other prey in the yard.

Today the birds had a close call.  They were let out after dinner and flagged again.  Most went up and flew close to 30 minutes before they started to land in small groups.  When most of them landed I began calling them in expecting those flying to drop and trap.  The group of over 40 stayed up and circled the loft behaving as if they wanted to land but hesitated.  At this time I was standing on the loft balcony whistling and shaking the can.  The group would approach the loft, hover over it and then fly away.  I sensed I knew why they were behaving this way.  As I stepped further out on the balcony and looked to the east the Goshawk was approaching the loft and when it spotted me it made a U-turn and left.  It was a lucky day for the Goshawk. 

The birds stayed up for another hour before they landed.  I changed my vantage point.  The exercise period ended without incident and it was a lucky day for all parties concerned.

June 11th

The birds went out to exercise to exercise at 8:00 am.  Their flying pattern was the same as yesterday.  During the birds' exercise period I sat on a lawn chair on the west side of the truck looking to the east for the hawk.  When most of the birds landed they were called in.  A group of 40 disappeared and came back after 9:30 in small groups but landed and trapped quicker today.  Six birds that refused to fly also refused to go in and sat on the roof.  Around 10:00 I got up from the chair and began walking to the loft and simultaneously the Goshawk appeared above the trees to the east, spotted me and made a U-turn and left.  At this time I thought all the birds were in but at 10:30 a group of 15 arrived and flew around for another 15 minutes before trapping.  The 6 infrequent flyers remained on the roof.

It was a win, win, win day today.  I didn't lose any birds, the Goshawk will hunt another day and I will sleep well tonight with a clear conscience.

June 12th

Today was another typical exercise day.  About 100 disappeared and 30 minutes later about half of these returned.  It was not until the 2 hour mark that the balance of the birds came home.  This time they were more relaxed and just made a few circles before landing and trapping.  As usual about 6 entries refused to trap.

Goto: June 13th  

Diary Calendar