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July Diary

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Week 1

Canada Day - For most of the Le Tour birds a regular 60 minute exercise period turned out to be a 150 minute exercise period .  The birds were let out at 6:45 and after a vigorous 60 minutes of flying in cool weather the team began circling above the loft in preparation of landing.  I went into the loft to call them in and just as I reached the second floor of the barn I heard the birds scatter.  I have heard this sound too often.

Fifteen minutes later the birds returned and flew over the loft and at the same time a goshawk flew just below them.  From my point it looked like it was going to fly through the group.  The Le Tour team kept their tight formation and disappeared over the trees totally ignoring the hawk .  The good thing about hawks return was that it was indication that it had missed its prey earlier. 

The hawk did an excellent job of getting my 3rd round youngsters up and flying. Only a few remained on the loft.  No 2 birds flew together.  They were strewn across one end of the sky to the other.  About 15 minutes later some of them returned, landed and hid under the trapping aviary.

As I stood guard on the balcony the hawk returned skimming over the trees and landed on the top of the tallest tree to the north east of the loft.  I tried to take a photograph but other trees obstructed my view.  Suddenly out of nowhere a squawking crow appeared and dove at the hawk chasing it away.

Most of the youngster kept flying  until shortly after 9:00 and then landed and trapped quickly as if nothing had happened.  At 9:45 I spotted 2 youngster returning out of the south.  Both of them were my yellow plastic banded 3rd round birds. 

The hawk did not get its prey this morning but probably did more damage indirectly.  Ironically the trees and thick brush around the loft took it's toll.  I could hear a few youngsters' wings flapping and striking branches to the north of the loft as they struggled to find their way out of the dense foliage.

At 11:00 I saw the goshawk crossing the road a couple hundred meters to the west as if it was circling around the back of the loft.  Two late breds were still sitting on the peak of the roof.  They were still sitting their 15 minutes later.  Eventually one trapped but the other one remained outside for the rest of the day.

Week 2

July 2 - The two youngsters that didn't trap yesterday were on the roof this morning.

About an hour into exercise period the goshawk flew through the birds right above the loft just as they were going to land.  I yelled and it seemed to be distracted because it made no attempt to pursue any of the over 100 pigeons that were flying.  Once again the late breds on the loft scattered in every direction.  However, today there were fewer left on the room and you could say they semi-kitted while flying.  At almost the 2nd hour mark of exercising the birds looked like they were ready to land so I called them in.  All it took was a couple of whistles and they landed as one large group returning from a race.  Within 30 seconds all trapped to the safety of the loft.

I suspect the goshawk that has been visiting the loft lately  is a juvenile.  By its behavior, it doesn't give me the impression that it is a very skillful hunter.  The first goshawk that struck early last month was darker and definitely a very skillful hunter.  This one is quite grey and seems totally confused when it sees a group of pigeons coming at him. 

A couple of days ago it was 30 C with high humidity.  Today at 12:00 a cold rain fell and it was only 11 C.  The long range prediction is for similar weather.  I plan to start training this week if the weather improves.

Below are photos of droppings on perches in one of the roasting sections.  They haven't been cleaned for several weeks and suggest that the birds are quite healthy.

                    

July 6th - Yesterday the birds received their second worming with Ivomec .  They were also given a 3 day treatment for canker with Metronidazole in preparation for the stresses associated with training.  To this point, they have survived with GSE, apple cider vinegar and Acid-Pack 4 Way  in the water on alternate days.

Yesterday, the birds were not exercised until the afternoon.  The morning was scheduled to register the ebands and work on updating the Inventory

On Thursday the vast majority of birds flew for 80 minutes without any encouragement.  All the late arrivals and most of my 3rd round youngsters flew for about 40 minutes.  Only a handful landed earlier.  The main group was allowed to land when ready and then with a couple of whistles they trapped immediately.

 

Week 3

July 9th -  The birds received there first training toss yesterday from 8 km due east.  They arrived in less than 20 minutes, circled a few times, landed and trapped immediately without being called in.  On Sunday the birds were tossed 10 km in a southerly direction from the loft.  On the way home and at the 15 minute mark I could see them circling above the loft.  Today when the birds reached home they preferred to continue flying around the loft for another 25 minutes so I let them.

Tomorrow all the late arrivals and my 3rd round will be in the baskets and tossed from the same point.  The late arrivals are flying with the main group and this morning  when they were let out on their own with my 3rd round they kitted and flew off.  They were still flying when the trainees arrived from their toss and kept on flying with them.  So I have decided that if they can fly around the loft comfortably for 60 minutes they can do it on the road.  I am confident that their big brothers and sisters will look after them.

July 10th - The birds were released at 7:45 from 10 km and the same spot as yesterday.  This morning's toss was a bit different .  First, it was mostly cloudy with a few blue patches in the sky and second my 3rd round and the later arrivals were in the baskets.  But the most unusual thing was the it took the birds 1:15 hours to get home compared to yesterday's 15 minutes .

There was a bit of confusion leaving the baskets.  It seemed that the group was a little bit slow in kitting.  It probably was because of the 40 new 1st time trainees.  But they did kit after a few low circles in the vicinity and rose quite high in the sky and drifted in the direction of home.

When I was approaching Rosehill I expected to see the birds circling above the loft but not this morning.  It seemed like the wait was an eternity until 9:00 when the whole group arrived.  About a dozen dropped and quickly trapped but the rest continued circling above the loft in close formation.  A few did their usual kamikaze diving tricks.  At times the formation was so close you could hear the sound of some flight tips hitting against each other.  During one circle around the loft the birds made a low pass as if to land and then the leading group reacted as if they were spooked and swooped lower in a bit of panic.  The end of the group followed but too low and some of the birds hit the top branches of a birch trees near the house.  I think it might have been the resident swallow that dove at them. 

They continued flying fairly calmly and at 9:30 dropped to the roof of the loft and began trapping immediately.  I sensed a bit of panic because of the quickness at which they trapped.  Maybe they were just hungry because once they were in the loft their minds were preoccupied with filling their stomachs.  I didn't spot any injured birds.

Weather permitting the birds' next toss will be tomorrow from 20 km.

July 11th - Today's training flight is cancelled due to fog.  The visibility is barely 100 m (7:30 am).

July 12th - It was an usual morning.  I got a late start because it was overcast at 6:00 and I wondered if the prediction would be right for an early morning clearing.  About 6:30 I thought I saw a few patches of blue sky so I decided to basket the birds.  By the time I finished there wasn't a cloud in the sky and a haze hung over the area.  It was humid, 20 C with a light breeze and quite hazy on the way to the release site. 

The birds were released from 20 km at  8:30.  They made a few low circles then flew high into the clear blue sky and disappeared in the direction of home.  At 9:05 three birds arrived and circled the loft for 5 minutes looking over their shoulders and wondering where the rest were.  I was staring straight ahead to the south wondering where the rest where.  After they landed they hesitated for about 5 minutes and then trapped.  I can't recall the last time I had a training toss with so few birds arriving from this short distance well in advance of the rest of the pack.  

A few minutes later 2 solo birds appeared high in the sky and a bit later 2 more appeared and joined them.   It was approaching half past the hour when the main group arrived from the south east.  After a few short circles they dropped and trapped immediately.  As I was feeding them a couple more trapped and I spotted another bird on the roof around mid day.

                   

The next training toss will be tomorrow from the same location.

July 14th - Yesterday, the prediction was for cloudy conditions and 70% chance of showers and a risk of thundershowers in the morning.  So the birds were kept home and loft flown. This morning they were released at the 20 km mark and returned as a group in 30 minutes.  As they were making short circles around the loft a couple of my whistles brought them down.  Except for 2, they trapped immediately.

Tomorrow's toss will be from 30 to 40 km.

July 15th - The birds were released from 40 km at 8:20.  When I drove in the yard at 9:05, seven birds were circling and about 5 minutes later the rest arrived.  As they were about to land a small Cessna-like plane flew over and scared them off for a few minutes.  After the main group landed a few stayed up doing their dippsy/doodle/kamikaze thing.  I overfed them yesterday so I expected a trapping problem but it didnít occur. 

I think I forgot to mention that the birds have been on 16 hours of light since July 1st.

Back to 40 km tomorrow.

Week 4

July 16th - The forecast was for a mix of sun and cloud with the 60% chance of showers and the risk of a thundershower.  The predicted high was 29 C with UV index of 8 or very high.

The birds were basketed the night before as they have been for the last couple of tosses.  This morning at 6:00 am it was overcast and some light rain fell during the next couple of hours.  After 8:00 there were signs of clearing.  Many of the clouds were a light yellowish color indicating that the sun was trying hard to penetrate them.  I waited until 9:00 when blue patches of sky appeared and then made the decision to take the birds for a training toss.  On the way to the 40 km release point it was mostly overcast, quite bright with the sun's outline visible for a good part of the way. 

The birds were released at 9:45 under a large patch of blue sky and no wind conditions.  They seemed to be confused upon release and temporarily kitted into 2 separate groups and after a few low short circles decided to become one group.  They slowly starting circling in the direction of home.  It was obvious that no one was taking the lead to break.  One time they almost returned to the release area before turning back in the right direction.  I watched them circle for 7 minutes before they disappeared to the north over the trees.  In the distance I could see smaller blue patches and sporadic high fog-like clouds passing through.   On the way home it was mostly an equal mix of sun a cloud.  The fog-like clouds persisted all the way home.  At the loft it was mostly sunny and getting very hot and humid.

The first 4 birds trapped at 10:43.  Three of them were birds that had some health issues and I would assess them as 80% fit.  The fourth was one of my third round birds which fit the same description.  I had bad feeling about this toss just from the manner the birds left the release area.  The next 20 minutes felt like an eternity.  Shortly after 11:00 while I was in the house feeling sorry for myself the main group arrived and the first bird trapped at 11:05.  This was an excellent learning experience for the birds because the release conditions will probably be very similar if not worse out of Halifax.  Halifax has the dubious distinction of being one of the foggiest cities in the Maritimes.

Anyway I am glad this one is over.  At this time I haven't decided whether to go back to the same release point or go on to the next one at 70 km.  The prediction for tomorrow looks slightly better.

July 17th - "TODAY SUCKED"  Last night I basketed 132 birds for a 40 km training toss this morning .  At 6:00 am it was mostly sunny and looked like a good day for toss.  As well, it was mostly sunny on the way to the release point except for the last 10 km where a heavy fog lingered.  I waited for about an hour and the fog remained so I called Margie to see how the weather was at the home.  She said it became very overcast and she could hear thunder in the background.  My decision was easy to make even if didn't like it.

The birds were released in front of the loft.  A half dozen landed on the loft the rest went up for some exercise.  Except for about 25 birds, the group flew strongly around the loft for close to 45 minutes.  It thunder showered off and on for most of the day.  The prediction is for similar weather tomorrow so I will try to give them a toss on Wednesday.

July 19th - Yesterday was a fine day for a toss but the weather prediction was for unsettled weather so the birds stayed home and were loft flown.  As soon as they were let out at least 100 birds disappeared immediately and only returned 30 minutes later.  The rest made short circles around the loft and had to be flagged to keep them up.  The flag kept them flying for 30 minutes. When the main group returned they flew briskly around the loft for another half of an hour before they landed and trapped quickly.

Today was a great day for a toss so the birds were released from 40 km in cool, calm and almost cloudless skies.  Before the release the birds were unusually calm.  Upon being released they flew low and in small circles above me for a good minute.  At one point they actually started drifting in the wrong direction toward the south.  Eventually they rose quite high and began slowly flying in the right direction but still making short circles as if they were confused in which direction home was.  Finally they disappeared high in the sky and in the right direction.

The birds arrived home 65 minutes later, made a few short circles, landed and without my interference trapped quickly .  Tomorrow' forecast is for similar weather so the team will be tossed from 70 km, a spot  just north of the Miramichi River.

July 20th - Around 8:00 yesterday evening I was in the Le Tour loft making preparations for this morning's toss.  I took a few minutes to study the birds.  They were very active; hardly a bird was on a perch resting.  Many were flipping around in their area of the loft while others were flying from one end to the other twisting their tails.  As the frolicking continued I could hear the sweet sound of the air whistling through their flights.  The birds sounded very light and buoyant.  I was very pleased with what I observed.   

It was a beautiful morning for a training toss; it was calm, cool and almost cloudless.  At 7:40 the birds were released at the 70 km mark.  At first there was some minor agitation in 3 of the baskets but within a couple minutes the birds became very quiet and waited patiently through the 15 minutes prior to the release.  That changed as soon as I opened the first basket.  There was a mad rush to get out.  The team made a few low circles and disappeared in the wrong direction above the tall trees behind me.  Today, I promised myself that I wouldn't worry about what the birds did.  Seventy-five minutes later the birds arrived in the yard and made a few short circles and trapped without my involvement.  They looked very relaxed and content to be home.

July 21st - This morning's training toss was cancelled due to unstable weather.  A tropical storm was passing through the Maritimes.  Instead, the birds were loft flown.  Except for a dozen birds, they disappeared for 30 minutes then flew around the loft for a good 10 minutes and disappeared again.  This behavior continued well into the 90 minute mark.  At this time I checked the loft and only 4 birds were inside and they were all ebanded.  There were some stock birds relaxing in the aviary but in the aviary loft on the east side, the spare hens and late breds where huddled in the perches.  This definitely suggested that an unwanted visitor was around.  Also I heard the crows squawking in the trees to the east of the loft. 

At almost the 2 hour mark the birds appeared and looked like they were preparing to land when out of nowhere a hawk appeared from behind the loft and awkwardly flew through them as if it wanted to join the kit.  They did not scatter but remained in a tight group and they seemed to confuse and overwhelm the hawk.  There were over a 100 young ones in the group.  They flew away again and in no big hurray. 

This hawk is definitely a juvenile and probably mentally challenged which is just the way I like them.  This morning he was more of a nuisance then a threat and the bird's behavior suggested that.  Eventually, just past the 3 hour mark the birds returned and a few whistles brought them down.  They began trapping immediately.  The team did not appear to be very stressed or alarmed but they were cautious as they looked over their shoulders trapping.  Eighty-one (81) out of 84 ebanded birds were in the loft by 10:20.  After over a 3 hour exercise period the team appeared to be more hungry than fatigued.

Week 5

July 23rd - Because of yesterday's incident with the hawk the birds were kept in on Saturday.  They probably should have been taken for a training toss because the weather was better than predicted.  This morning the team was loft flown in a light rain.  Considering the ceiling the birds flew quite high for about 15 minutes around the loft and then they disappeared for 30 minutes.  When they returned they flew around the loft for another 10 minutes and landed.  I left them outside for another 15 minutes bathing in the light warm rain. 

If the weather prediction is accurate, the next 70 km toss won't be until Tuesday.  If weather is cooperative the birds will go to the first race by Thursday from Kouchibouguac. Then I am off to Halifax for my son's wedding.

July 25th - It seems that the standard forecast for the last while has been for showers and the possibility of thundershowers in the morning.  Seldom have of the forecasts materialized and this mornings forecast was similar. 

In spite of the forecast the Le Tour team was released at 8:55 from 70 km in mostly overcast conditions with some blue patches of sky at the release vicinity.  The conditions on the way home were similar.  It was overcast, bright with 25% of the clouds a yellowish color which indicated that the sun was working hard to peak through.  However a different front was approaching from the west.  It began raining fairly hard at the loft at 10:45.  Finally at 10:55 most of the birds arrived in pouring rain.  The birds were soaked and hit the roof of the loft hard so I suspect they had been flying in the rain for a while.  I had 79 ebanded birds trap by 11:09 in pouring rain.  A handful of birds arrived later in the day.  It rained all day and there is was a severe thundershower warning issued for later in the day.

Even though the training toss was slow I was pleased with the results.  After the birds dried out they acted as if nothing unusual had happened.  Now I know the birds will fly in the rain.  It seems that we are going to have a wet summer and this experience will serve them well.

The first race is scheduled for tomorrow.

 

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