Stephen Collector

Boulder Photographer

Stephen Collector, the Boulder photographer, visited this week to hunt quail and take pictures. The quail hunt, in East Red Canyon, was unsuccessful. I was glad to go out even with the .410. The photographs were more successful.

Best of me in a long time

Most realistic

Tiger Country – Polvadera Mountain

Dangerous Birds

A lot of people seem to forget that, though Deinonychus  and even New Zealand’s Moa and Maori- eating Haast’s eagle are gone, we still have some dangerous modern dinosaurs. This thought was prompted by an e-mail discussion among well- informed friends last week.

My money for real danger is on Stephanoaetus coronatus, which always seems to be sizing you up for a meal– they SCARE me. Craig Golden, who photographed one that was used for monkey control in Zimbabwe, told me that until she had killed, she just kept watching him, in a way he didn’t like at all. The artist D. M. Reid- Henry had one kill a German shepherd in a London park (he then emigrated, also to  to Zimbabwe). They are also as agile as big Goshawks– just below is  pic of scientist, falconer, and saluki man Alberto Palleroni with a “little” male. They have been credited with the death of the “Taung baby” australopithecine in SouthAfrica, and implicated in the death of children in Zambia.

But any of the  big jungle eagles, or the Golden, will do. Anyone who thinks birds are less scary than “lizards”  has no experience with big predators.

The discussion  began with this photo of a baby coronatus and her FEET, on Matt’s Facebook.

Matt said: “Hard to imagine there have been bigger eagles but then, there were bigger dinosaurs too!”

To which Arthur replied: “Have been?  Are!  I think the Harpy and Philippine and Steller’s sea eagle at least are bigger.”

And everybody jumped in. Annyushka, on vacation in Europe: “Female Harpies and Crowned eagles basically tie for weight, up to 22-23lbs. Steller’s are the largest for pure wingspan; a big female will get just over 8ft. Phillipines have extraordinarily-long tails, but are still smaller than the other 2 forest eagles.”

A big Harpy.

Matt again: ” When I was 15 I walked up to the Harpy cage at Summit Gardens in Panama, which was your basic chain link fence box and contained two adult birds on perches that ran lengthwise across the inclosure. One of the perches came about to my chest height, and as I walked up to the perch, the larger of the two birds walked with purpose toward me down the plank, her talons wrapping around the 2X4 like a twig.

“We each stopped a few inches apart, separated mostly by air and the fact that her feet were too big to fit through the aperture of wire between us.  She bent down to look me in the eye and flipped her head sideways in the gesture I know now to be a raptor’s playful engagement. But there was no question which of us was the greater creature, or all else equal and minus a thin metal screen, which of us would be at the others’ mercy.

“A few minutes later, the zoo keeper arrived with a live chicken under one arm and clucked to his charges to get their attention.  The female’s gaze never left me. But the male flapped down with a palpable whoosh and waited on the ground by the gate for his dinner.  The man tossed the chicken in, which took about a step before the Harpy’s foot took it wholly by the chest and gave it a squeeze, killing it all but for a few brief spasms.

“My feeling since then about the relative sizes of eagles is that once they reach the minimum size required to crush a 15 yer old’s head, a few extra pounds or inches are immaterial.  :)”

Me: “And the Lammergeier, though not an eagle, is impressive too, as are the Lappet-faced and Eurasian black vultures, all of which I have been privileged to see in the wild, the last two in the Tian Shan.The Lappet-faced vulture was dominating a wary crowd of Griffon vultures which stood in a circle around it as it fed on the waste of a crocodile, as intimidated as though it were a lion. Jonathan Kingdon has a skull of one I’ve always coveted. He says they kill antelope!”

Torgos by Reid;  Lammergeier by Dr Rock

Matt: “The local zoo here has a lappet faced vulture that, when we first moved here to La., they were interested in having me train for flight display.  I had never even seen one, but I thought, how big could the thing possibly be?  When they showed me the bird, the notion of training it (at least my training of it) went out the window.  Somehow even a large eagle seems comprehensible and manageable as a scaled-up hawk.  And plenty of people train them, obviously.

“But a vulture at that size–and these old world jobs are basically long necked eagles; and the LFV in particular clearly has working feet—are able to get you from more angles with more weapons.

“My friend Eric Edwards, who has trained white backed vultures for shows, respects them appropriately. They had a bit in one show I recall where the audience was asked to count down from 10: the time it took the WBV on Eric’s fist to turn a large turkey drum stick to bare bone.”

Arthur on the Haast’s:”Where the authors estimate that it was about 30% heavier than a harpy.  I would love to see this re-done with more data points and with the knowledge that the bird was in fact a hieraaetuus.  Still, as the authors point out, even if they are 10% off, the eagle was still gigantic and still bigger than a harpy.

“The picture they paint is of a goshawk-ish creature.  Relatively short wings, long tail, and muscles optimized for bursts of speed.

“Strange to think that there was, within recent human history, an ecosystem on a biggish chunk of land where the apex predator was flying.

“I wonder what that would have meant for the temperament of the birds.  Most eagles are kings of the air, but they can still get eaten on the land by all sorts of mammalian predators.  Prior to humans the only threat to an adult Haast’s eagle would have been another Haast’s eagle.

“I would also love to see a re-appraisal of the possible prey selection of the Haast’s eagle based on the knowledge that their was only one giant moa species; the multiplicity of sizes of remains being the result of sexual dimorphism!”

Two more thoughts, and images.The late Col;onel Jeff Cooper, justly famed for pistolcraft, once wrote me the following. note when I told him that the  Kazakhs hunt wolves with eagles: “PUPPIES, perhaps; hundred pounders, unlikely!” Trouble is, he wrote that after seeing THIS:

(To which Jonathan Hanson responded “He was a great man, but he should have perished in the Cretaceous Extinction Event.”)

And here are Darren Naish’s Killer Eagles:

Eagle Women

–Two of the better known eagle falconers are coming to visit Casa Q next month. Lauren McGough,, newly minted PHD anthropologist, is a long time protegee who first came here and on to Mongolia when she was sixteen. Novelist Rebecca O’Connor, who hails from California is also a longtime honorary Magdalenean. I’m trying to get her to publish a book somewhere other than Kindle (her wonderful memoir, Lift, is available in paperback if you can find it).

Curiously, both women are flying African eagles at the moment. Lauren has a huge female Crowned, which will take any quarry including small human beings. Rebecca’s is the exotic African hawk eagle, built like a big Sparrow hawk, long and slender. It is the same species as the European Bonelli’s though it looks different. They’re rumored to be hard to train, but are wonderful once they are. Rhodesian regiments in the Zimbabwe brush wars used to use them to hawk springhares at night from their half-tracks.

We’re going to have some fun. Coyotes and jackrabbits are nervous, and cowboys are excited.

A young Lauren with the late Aralbai

She became the Mother of Dragons…

Rebecca’s story is rather different. She is a biologist, and has worked for zoos and for Ducks Unlimited, usually in her native California, and for years seemed to specialize in flying native Peregrines at ducks. During this time she also wrote a parrot training manual, two novels and a memoir, Lift, which is included in my Sportsman’s Library, about the hundred best hunting and fishing books.

We should have some fun — it will be a combination literary meeting and hawking party!

Mark Henry Bodio 1952 – 2019

My difficult brother, Mark, died in the St. Croix, in the islands that he loved last week. He died alone of lung cancer, emphysema, and general organ failure, and I expect in excruciating pain after refusing any palliative treatment or a move off the island which would have given him more time. He systematically cut himself from all family and refused all calls from family at the end. Though he would occasionally accept gifts, he would not return the favor. He never met any of his many nephews and neices.

I have been brooding on Mark for the past week. There are two easy ways to misread him. One is to see him as a romantic Jimmy Buffett character as some of the younger nephews and nieces are inclined to do.Jimmy Buffett knows that his characters are not romantic — they are sad failures justifying their failures with sad excuses.

The other way to see him is bad which is even dumber in the long run. For Mark, things started hard and they just got harder. When he was born he couldn’t drink milk, either mother’s or cow’s. He had to drink a soy preparation known as Mulsoy which he loathed for four or five years. He used to compensate by eating spoonfuls of dirt in the back yard. The doctors said he was compensating for missing vitamins. He was also unable to eat eggs. I don’t think in all of his sixty-some years he ever swallowed one.

In grammar school, although he was bright, what was mostly noteworthy was his criminality. At Jean D’Arc Academy which he attended after me, he was caught after enabling two high school girls to steal their tuition and run away to Florida and was expelled. At Bishop Sheehan he blew the doors off the men’s room walls and was expelled again. After that his brief academic career was spent at Oliver Ames in Easton. He left school permanently at sixteen. He had discovered the joys of the pot smuggler’s life, which he was to identify with ever after. My first wife, Bronwen, said the first time she met him was when he was having a fistfight with me on the steps of the Barnstable County courthouse. As he was underage and I was not, I had agreed to stand up for him. But I was furious because he had called the judge “Asshole” because of his refusal to listen to Mark’s speech on the injustice of pot laws.

The rest was doubtless mostly inevitable and a cliche — expansion, a big federal bust, acquittal by an attorney named Albert (“Bert — don’t call me Al!”) Capone, decline, exile to the Islands, and a sort of long goodbye. All this is true bu doesn’t take into account one thing: in his twenties, Mark fell in love with a girl named D. K. She wasn’t bright but she loved Mark with all her heart. More incredibly, Mark loved her back just as fervently — I’m not sure she wasn’t the only person Mark loved that much, or loved at all.

And then she got cancer. And died for two horrible years. In the end she could hardly eat or be touched without breaking a bone. I think she screamed for most of her last month. And it broke Mark, helpless to do anything about it.

He was not all bitterness and anger, of course. He was a talented if unfocused musician and even attended art school for a while. He kept ,e in touch with the music of Tom Rush, which I still enjoy. Ironically, Rush almost bought Libby’s house in Jackson Hole many years later. He enjoyed science fiction and watching birds.

So when you see pictures of “Marccus”, smiling like a shady character out of a bad movie, and are berating him for never giving a damn about anything, remember a scared little kid who couldn’t make anything come out right, and hope that both of them are at peace.

Tom Kelly

1926 – 2019

We buried Tom Kelly today, 100 yards from the house he was born in and lived jn for 93 years, It is a good spot overlooking the well-watered canyon bottom, with a view of the peregrine nest which has been there since time before mind (Vadim Gorbatov painted it once.)

Frank Hibben, the famous anthropologist and hunter, wrote his about him in 1948: “Young Tom Kelly, the son, had just returned from the wars. He still looked a little military even in his battered sombrero hat and his cowboy boots. Tom had spent many months in the Philippines and there was a big set of caribao horns mounted on the wall to prove it.

We all sat around that evening with our feet on a bearskin rug to talk over the situation. It had been Rancher Kelly that had sent word to Cass that there were lions in these lava cliffs. Rancher Kell’s black hair was plastered to both sides of his head by the sweat of his sombrero. He reached up occasionally to smooth it back and always spoke in that same quiet manner, whether the subject was exciting or matter of fact.

“Sure been seeing lots of lion kills,” he would say. “Right up there on the mesa came across one this afternoon.” He pointed vaguely with his gnarled thumb in the dark where the edges of the overhanging cliffs only dimly showed their outlines in the night. “Been fellows here to catch them too, in years past but they never seemed to be smart enough to do it.”

The talk droned on, far into the night. The conversation turned from lions to the bear whose skin lay at our feet, He had been a stock killer and a hard beast to catch. There were stories too, of the mining camps in these same mountains and of gun fights in the streets of Magdalena in the early days. An evening with some of these old timers at a western ranch is as exciting as a hunt itself, but then there was the morning and we would be up before the stars were dimmed.

We were out of bed and had saddled our horses before there was a suggestion of light. Mrs. Kelly had prepared for us one of those memorable ranch breakfasts that belies he old adage that man eats to live. Those eggs and bacon and that aromatic coffee made from te pure spring water from the cliff were experiences in themselves.

The saddles were cold to the touch as we swung up in the stirrups. Even on a May morning it was still chilly in the Magdalenas. Rancher Kelly and his son Tom rode with us. Indeed I had never seen a rancher yet who couldn’t leave his cattle and his chores for a day or two to join in on a lion chase. “

From Hunting American Lions by Frank C. Hibben 1948

Tom Cade

Tom Cade was a friend of mine, but we had not seen him since we watched sage grouse dancing on their leks on a Nature Conservancy property in Idaho over ten years ago. From the New York Times:

Tom J. Cade, an ornithologist who was a leader of a remarkable effort that re-established the majestic peregrine falcon on the East Coast after the pesticide DDT had wiped it out there, died on Feb. 6 in Boise, Idaho. He was 91.

The Peregrine Fund, a conservation organization he helped found, announced his death.

Dr. Cade was director of the ornithology laboratory at Cornell University in the late 1960s when he and others began contemplating how to help the endangered peregrine falcon. The bird had disappeared from the East Coast and was struggling elsewhere in the United States because use of DDT had had the unintended effect of weakening the shells of its eggs.

Dr. Cade rallied falconers, conservationists, universities, businesses and more to join in trying to reintroduce the bird in areas where it had once thrived. But that required overcoming all sorts of obstacles, including how to breed birds in captivity and how to acclimate them to life in the wild.

The effort was so successful that in 1999 the federal government removed peregrines from the endangered species list.

“The message here,” the secretary of the interior, Bruce Babbitt, said at the time, “is that the Endangered Species Act works.”

The Peregrine Fund, started in 1970, has expanded on Dr. Cade’s original vision to provide support and protection for many kinds of raptors in the United States and beyond.Dr. Cade and a friend in 2008. “His reach extended around the globe,” said the president of the Peregrine Fund, which Dr. Cade helped found.CreditKate Davis, via the Peregrine Fund

“His reach extended around the globe,” Rick Watson, the fund’s president and chief executive, said in a news release, “to inspire raptor research and conservation on virtually every continent and on behalf of hundreds of species.”

Thomas Joseph Cade was born on Jan. 10, 1928, in San Angelo, Tex. His father, Ernest, was a lawyer, and his mother, Ethel (Bomar) Cade, was a homemaker.

Dr. Cade was also a falconer; he became interested in that sport when he read a National Geographic article about it in the 1930s. The interest became an infatuation when, at 15, he was hiking with a friend at the San Dimas Reservoir in Southern California and a peregrine zoomed by.

As Dr. Cade began to look at breeding peregrines in captivity, one problem he encountered was that their mating rituals involved acrobatic courtship flights. Another researcher, Heinz K. Meng, at the State University of New York at New Paltz, succeeded in breeding a pair in 1971, then lent the birds to Dr. Cade. Those birds and two other pairs produced 20 young falcons for Dr. Cade’s team in 1973.

Meanwhile Dr. Cade, with Frank Bond, Bob Berry and Jim Weaver, had started the Peregrine Fund, which has since worked on helping scores of species in 65 countries. He was the organization’s founding chairman. In the mid-1980s the fund relocated to the newly built World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, and Dr. Cade finished his career at Boise State University, retiring in 1993.

“No one who sees a peregrine falcon fly,” he said, “can ever forget the beauty and thrill of that flight.”

Resucido

Resurrected — not too strong a word. Tiger Country is a logical extension of Querencia because my querencia is the country the old man called Tiger Country. And as Querencia symbolized the first part of my time here, so Tiger Country symbolizes the second. I hope you enjoy.

The subject matter should be as eclectic as the first version’s, but I hope you don’t mind my beginning with a few obituaries.

More Burkina Faso- and what one man can do…

Tom wrote this to an even better- known hunter:

Dear +++

I guess I don’t see a downside to “saying something.” Fear of looking ineffectual? Isn’t that exactly what we are being by not at least trying?

Slowly, by barking from the end of my chain, I have caught the attention of the former US ambassador to Burkina Faso (I will copy you on our e-mails) and Congressional staffers on the Hill and the US embassy in Ouagadougou. Sound pathetic? Perhaps, but I see progress.

OK, tune up the harps, what did Theodore Roosevelt hope to accomplish by raising the issue of saving North American big-game through the Boone & Crockett Club in 1887, or your country’s own John Harkin in the early 20th century? For that matter, what good did “Walden” or the writings of John Muir or “A Sand County Almanac” or Ding Darling’s cartoons do for shaping modern conservation? On the other hand, think of the immeasurable havoc “Guns of Autumn” continues to wreak upon us.

I think that before people act, they need to have an idea about what they are acting for. And I believe that hunter’s like you can help foster that idea.

Speaking entirely for myself, I feel obligated to raise this matter, even if nothing concrete comes of it. I owe habitat and wildlife and native peoples and, yes, the spirit of the hunt; and it’s time to try to repay.

We are certainly quick enough to rail against anti-hunters and PETA and “emotion-based” wildlife management and about all the “chassis,” to turn to O’Casey, in the world we once hunted so freely and all the other usual suspects when we think, often rightly, that they threaten hunting, even if that only amounts to “Oh, I didn’t know. Too bad…what’s for dessert.”

If you want a specific to-do list, and I certainly should have one to offer, start by informing at least the following of this, to make sure they are aware, or should that be “woke,” when it comes to Burkina Faso?:

Safari Club International
Dallas Safari Club
Boone and Crockett Club
Wild Sheep Foundation
Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
Your Congressional delegation–or for you your Parliamentary one
Public figures (if you want to write the Prince of Wales, you must address the envelope by hand, include your initials in the lower left corner, and use “Dear Sir” for the salutation, to stand a ghost of a chance of its reaching his own desk and not halting at some equerry’s)
Fellow hunters, especially the rich ones, and in particular those looking for a”cause”
Newspapers
Broadcast News
Talk Shows
More

For myself, I have done that, and am even contemplating contacting, God forbid, the World Wildlife Fund, African Wildlife Foundation, Clinton Foundation. If I could get Sarah McLachlan to write a song about Burkina Faso, I’d ask her, too.

I can understand your thinking I’m chasing my tail, or that I’m purely delusional. I won’t argue with you about either score. Maybe when it comes to caring about the situation in Burkina Faso, you had to be there. I have been there, as have you, and calling it “beautiful” country is not enough for me. But I can only speak for myself about speaking for Burkina Faso.

If you want a completely grandiose, probably megalomaniacal, statement about what we may ultimately stand to lose when Burkina Faso burns is the entire system of hunting-based conservation in Africa that we have so fervently championed now for generations. And that for some reason, in this case, we seen disinclined to voice our support for, if by nothing else than decrying its destruction.

THE BATTLE CONTINUES…

He then got this from a former ambassador, and also got Doug Peacock, through me:

Tom,

Which narrative do you want me to send to the Embassy? This email or the concern expressed in a document you send to various places?

World Wildlife Fund, African Wildlife Foundation, Clinton Foundation, and multiple others are attempting to address many of these issues. Of course most need public support. They do in fact have programs to strengthen countries’ ability to deal with environment and wildlife, as well as programs to educate the populace and do such things as micro-finance that helps women, especially, to contribute to their family. It has long been proven that focusing on girls’ education will make a big difference in population, economy, good governance and health. And good governance includes environment and wildlife. We were making extremely good progress in Malawi on strengthening the country’s policies and processes related to the environment and wildlife management. Funding was cut last year however.

I urge you to continue looking at what you and others with the same passion can do to make a difference short term and long term.

Jeanine

Burkina Faso

TOM McIntyre writes:

I am trying to bring the ongoing critical wildlife situation in Burkina Faso to the attention of people (literally anyone) outside that country. As you may know, Burkina Faso, Benin, and Niger provide habitat for the final viable herds of savanna big game in West Central Africa, including the last few hundred endangered West Central African lions. Now terrorism threatens the system that has supported the conservation of these animals and habitat. If allowed to go on unchecked, the herds, if not all the animals, in Burkina Faso, then Benin and Niger, will be gone in a disastrously short time. I would invite you to click on my timeline at Facebook (Thomas McIntyre) and read my several postings over the last few days on this unfolding tragedy. If there is a way of contacting you directly, I hope that I may. I wish you the best, and I am, very truly your, Tom McIntyre.

Background: For all of my nearly sixty-seven years, I have been fascinated by Africa, its environment, people, and wildlife. Over forty years ago I was able to make my first safari to Kenya, and have returned to the continent more than a dozen times. This has led to a career as a writer on outdoor topics and numerous books, including my latest, Augusts in Africa.

Last January, I was able to travel to and hunt in the nation of Burkina Faso; and it was extraordinary to see so much large wild fauna in West Central Africa–everything from elephants and lions through buffalo, Western roam, kob, hippo, crocodile, francolin, guinea fowl, all wild and free ranging. It was a small piece of Africa, but the concept of giving the wildlife value through safari camps to give the local people a stake in wildlife and wild-land conservation was clearly working. Then last week, in a series of e-mails from a contact of mine [Arjun Reddy], there was this (I will leave my friend’s words in their raw, unfiltered state so you can better judge the level of his outrage, frustration, and profound sorrow). Regrettably, in the current climate, I don’t think we can count on our government to take any action, at least not without its being prompted So it may be, indeed, up to us:

I am very sorry to inform you that the jihadists have burned down our camp in Burkina Faso last week as well as several other hunting camps. We had already cancelled the coming season! The eastern part of the country was always quiet but has suddenly become a hot bed of terrorist cells of al Qaeda SOBs.

Fortunately no one was in camp! The caretaker had gone for lunch…

They have burnt many camps now. Government is useless…if they [al Qaeda] set up camp in that area and make it a no-go area it will be the end of the wildlife. The elephants are already killed off, all the big ones, now they will finish the rest. Its very sad Tom. I want to set up a FB page to bring the world’s attention to this issue!!!

It’s a very sad situation as their plan is to create a base in that forest area and get rid of all the wildlife and government authorities. No doubt the game will all be gone if nothing is done about it soon…
Is there anything we can do to bring it to the attention of SCI [Safari Club International] and DSC [Dallas Safari Club–and I would add the conservation community in general: This is clearly a matter of wildlife, human rights, and terrorism] so they can lobby our government to put some pressure on the government of Burkina or raise attention to this situation!? Everything can be rebuilt but the game will be gone forever if this goes on for a few years! As it is they have wiped out the elephant bulls and now working on the cows and anything with even the smallest ivory!

Rather unwelcome words to share this time of year, even more so for me to hear–I knew this place, these people, these animals.

This letter represents a portion of what I am trying to do to raise awareness of this potentially tragic, for all of the three mentioned above, situation.

If there is anything you can do to bring attention to what could be the end of some of the finest savanna wildlife left in West Central Africa, I can only hope, with respect, that you will.
Thanking you for taking the time to read this letter, I am