My brother has always loved raptors.  Many of you have seen his detailed watercolors of a peregrine falcon with its catch, and two red-tailed hawks.  He painted two for our mother, one for me, and he has all the originals now, but I made double-sized giclees of them for myself.  (You must click on the paintings to see the detail!)

Now he lives in upper Sonoma County and volunteers at the Bird Rescue Center in Santa Rosa:  http://www.birdrescuecenter.org/   He works with raptors that due to some injury cannot be released to the wild.  He feeds them, exercises them on a tether from his hand, and gives demonstrations at schools.

He said, I don’t ‘fly’ the birds in any way — merely get them on my gloved fist and ‘jess’ them — after which I walk around with them (on my hand). They sometimes fly off (called a bate) but are connected by their jesses so they merely flap and circle around and land back on my hand.  Anyway, they never really ‘land on my hand’ from any distance.

I had mentioned how sore my arms got from holding them out in the qigong standing by the stream meditation and he said try it with a raptor on your left hand!  At that point he was working with a large owl.  He said, The owl is a great-horned owl, and weighs about 3lbs (1460g); the heavier one weighs 1670g. I’m required to do at least three 3.5hr shifts at the Sonoma County Fair, which is our biggest fund raiser…probably with a great-horned but possibly with other birds.

I asked him if anyone had taken a photo of him with one of “his” raptors and he said, no but today I shot some pix of a peregrine falcon on my fist with my cell phone.  Yes, the peregrines are very attentive to their human handlers, unlike the other raptors.


The composter that I had for about 20 years died last spring and the company was no longer selling spare parts (which is how I kept it going for so long.)  My latest composter is one my daughter got from the city of Chandler.  (She has two.)  They cut the bottoms out of old trash cans, drill holes in the sides and give them away free to encourage recycling.

I know that you shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth but my old one had slatted sides so that you could remove the bottom slates and get out the finished compost.  Not so with this.  I would have to fork out the top half of the bin contents to get to the finished compost.  Where to put the unfinished stuff?  I had an inspiration to use some leftover chicken wire.  (Pictured, the chicken wire solution, the rest of the unscreened compost, and the now empty composer bin.)

This last week I have been alternatively trimming my hedge for green waste and raking up dead leaves for brown.  They are layered in the chicken wire.  I’ll now pitch it back into the composter to retain moisture.

Brown Materials- Brown is the carbon energy the compost microbes need to thrive. Without it, your pile of green kitchen scraps will become smelly and slimy. This is because your greens will decompose too quickly through the bacteria already in the materials, rapidly fermenting nitrogen into the rotten egg smell of ammonia.

Green Materials- Nitrogen is the protein the munching microbes need to thrive. Too little nitrogen, and your pile will decay into compost a lot more slowly, though it eventually will. The microbes will be fewer and weaker, so it could take a year or two in a mainly brown compost pile to turn into rich compost. A well-balanced compost will be hot, due to all those microscopic bodies busily multiplying and feasting for you!


My red worms have died; not sure why.  Only found one so far.  Last year I had clutches of them.   But I have thousands of pill bugs.

In the compost bin or pile, pill and sow bugs help. They can handle cellulose and lignin. Along with centipedes and ground beetles, their presence puts the stamp of approval on finished compost. At the end of the composting process, they will be right in the midst of all that crumbly, coffee-brown colored compost that has the smell of fresh earth.

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7 Responses to “Raptors”

  1. Jim Says:

    Several years ago, I happened to see a Cooper’s Hawk catch a quail in mid-flight. Before she could make off with her catch, a redtail hawk swooped down and took her prize.

    • notesfromthewest Says:

      Wow! I remember my brother being impressed, 40 years ago when I had just moved to Tucson, to see a golden eagle swoop down in front of my car and grab a road kill.

  2. Jim Says:

    I suspect that Dick Blair would thoroughly enjoy spending several months in the Peruvian Amazon. With a good camera and Al as his guide, he could return with photos of many species of raptors.

  3. Useful Link Says:

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    have something to contribute to the discussion. It’s triggered by the sincerness communicated in the article I browsed. And on this article Raptors | Notes from the West. I was actually moved enough to drop a commenta response 😉 I do have 2 questions for you if it’s allright.
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  5. Mark Gilsdorf Says:

    I love the watercolor paintings by your brother. Especially the Red-tail in flight. Is his work available for purchase?

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