Banding Hawks with Bill Clark, Saturday, 11/22/03

story and photos by Dave Patton unless specified

 

I received an e–mail from Steve Cardiff at the LSU Museum of Natural Science regarding a possible visit by Bill Clark, co-author of several field guides and authority on hawks. He was coming to LSU to do research and wanted to spend a day or so banding area Red-tailed Hawks. Steve was asking if anyone would be interested in helping.

            Paul Conover and I said we would be interested and after a long process of schedule changes, we settled on a Saturday, November 22nd, rendezvous at the Lacassine Exit. Paul and I were the only ones helping, and Bill said it would be fine to invite a few more along for the fun. Jim Johnson (41K) was able to join us from LeCompte and was a good co-pilot for Bill because of his own hawk banding experiences. Joe Kleiman came over from Baton Rouge and road with Paul and I. Beckie Hariu, Olga Landry, and Bob Jumonville were in the third car, and Deb Clark joined in later in the day. Bill Clark’s particular interest was Krider’s and Harlan’s type Red-tailed Hawks. We chose this area because Paul had spotted a few pale red-tailed in the area a few weeks before. Driving around the area of the Welch land fill we found lots of hawks, and after an hour or so, Bill said we would try to catch one. A small cage (44K) with a mouse and sparrow were dropped on the side of the road within sight of the hawk, and the cars moved away. The top of the cage was covered in small monofilament loops that would snare on the talons if the hawk landed on the cage. After a short wait, the immature female Red-tailed came down on the cage and tangled in a snare. Bill quickly approached and grabbed the hawk.

            Bill had a firm hold of the legs to guard against the talons, and the hawk became calm, allowing Bill to conduct an in depth discussion on the plumage. Jim Johnson went to work with the banding process and after questions and photo’s, Bob Jumonville was given the honor of the release.

Red-tailed 1 (45K) Bill Clark and Red-tailed

Red-tailed 2 (47K) Red-tailed opened wing and tail

Red-tailed 3 (54K) Bob Jumonville and Red-tailed

Red-tailed 4 (26K) The same hawk seen 2 days later with band barely visible.

 

    The next hawk spotted after the banding turned out to be the hit of the weekend. We first thought we had a Krider’s until Bill exclaimed it was a very rare light morph Harlan’s.  The hawk was very skittish, and we never came close to catching it, but seeing such an unusual hawk and having an authority explain the field marks was a thrill for us all. Bill said it was only the 11th hawk of this type he had ever seen.

Light Morph Harlan's Red-tailed (11K) photo by James Beck 2 days later

 

    We continued touring the country side and tried for a few more red-tails with no success. Later in the afternoon Bill was successful in catching a young male Kestrel. Jim ran it through the banding process, and again Bill held an on sight workshop in the fine points of these beautiful little falcons.

Kestrel 1 (61K) Group watches as Jim Johnson prepares to band the Kestrel.

Kestrel 2 (43K) Bill Clark discusses the Kestrel with the group.

Kestrel 3 (31K) Kestrel

Kestrel 4 (50K) Kestrel, back and wing

 

There were many road side stops during the day as we encountered different forms of Red-tails and other hawks. It was a real treat to spend the day with a world authority on hawks, especially someone as nice as Bill Clark.