Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Remembering Bob Martin

I'm saddened to report the death of my old friend Bob Martin, who passed away last week at the age of 73. Bob first took up falconry in the late 1950s when he was in his early teens. He and his friend Mike Arnold, who lived in the same neighborhood in Burbank, California, were absolute fanatics about the sport, reading everything they could find about falconry and tirelessly searching the nearby hills for raptor nests. Their efforts took a quantum leap forward when they met Bob Klimes, president of the Southern California Falconers' Association, and Bob McCallum, who were both avid game hawkers and provided the two boys with help, advice, and stellar examples to follow. 

    A recent picture of Bob with one of his peregrines from a 2018 article by Brent Frazee.

I first met Bob when I was 14 years old, in the mid-1960s, at a meeting of the old Santa Ana Valley Falconers' Association, which met each week at Jack Hagan's house. I remember Bob had a fresh-trapped passage tiercel peregrine—one of the first tundra peregrines I'd ever seen—and I was absolutely awestruck. Fortunately, Bob wasn't stuck up about having such an impressive bird. Then, and throughout his falconry career, he was always generous, freely sharing his vast knowledge about training raptors. 

He was an excellent hood-maker, and some examples of his work can be seen at the Archives of Falconry. His craftsmanship showed in everything he created, from hoods, blocks, and falconry bags to the log house he built nearly singlehandedly in Montana. He was also a talented musician, playing and singing with his wife JoAnne in their bluegrass band. 

Bob was always a staunch game-hawker, flying first-rate falcons in spectacular style. Last season, he went on the road with his two intermewed peregrines, Salt and Pepper, flying them at sage grouse, prairie chickens, and other challenging quarry. He had planned to do the same this fall. Sadly, it was not to be. He will be greatly missed.

                                     Bob Martin with his peregrine in the 1960s. Photo by Mike Arnold

               Bob Martin (at right) and Bog Mechsner in La Verne, California, in the 1960s. Photo by Dan Fenske

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

My latest book is about to launch . . .

I wrote Born to Fish with my friend, Greg Myerson, a world-class angler who turned his life around through fishing. From his earliest days, Greg used fishing as an escape from the violent world of his mobster father, but then it became an overwhelming obessions in its own right, destroying his relationships and work life. Finally, in August 2011, he caught an 82-pound striped bass, shattering a world record that had stood for 29 years. Yet at the very instant he achieved this crowning glory, he instantly had a staggering epiphany and regretted killing the fish. An unlikely conservation hero, he is now at the forefront of the effort to save the large striped bass, which are the most prolific breeders and vital to the dwindling Atlantic coast striped bass population, now devastated by overfishing and pollution.

The book has some great cover blurbs by Helen Macdonald, Walter Anderson, Bobby Kennedy, Jr., Ted Williams, Tony Huston, and Stephen Bodio.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Falconry talk tomorrow in Salem, New York

I hope all of my friends in the Saratoga Springs, NY, area will join me tomorrow for falconry talk, food, and beer tasting. All proceeds go to the local food bank. Here's a link with directions.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Rest in Peace, Roger Upton

                                                                                                                                           Tim Gallagher

I was saddened to hear about the death of legendary British falconer Roger Upon, who passed away on October 29th at the age of 80 after battling Parkinson's disease for several years. Roger was a tall, impressive man. In his youth, he had served in the Queen's Household Cavalry, and he always cut a dashing figure in the field, often clad in a tweed cap and sport coat, sometimes with a red handkerchief stuffed in his pocket as an accent. He was an accomplished author, who became the chief chronicler and historian of British falconry. His Books include: Birds in the Hand: Celebrated Falconers of the Past; O For a Falconer's Voice: Memories of the Old Hawking Club; Hood, Leash, and Lure: Falconry in the Twentieth Century. He also wrote an excellent book about hawking in the Middle East, titled Arab Falconry. He will be greatly missed by his friends and family as well as the entire world falconry community. Rest in Peace, my friend. 

                                                                                                                                Tim Gallagher

                                                                                                                                           Tim Gallagher

                                                                                                                                           Tim Gallagher

                                                                                                                                           Tim Gallagher

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

In Search of the Cuban Ivory-billed Woodpecker

I'll be speaking this coming Saturday, March 4, at the Adams County Amish Birding Symposium in West Union, Ohio. Here's a link with more information and directions.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Rest in Peace, Merlyn Felton

I was deeply saddened to hear about the death of my old friend, Merlyn Felton, who passed away on November 11, 2016. (Most of his friends, including me, first heard about his death this week.) Merlyn and I worked together in the late 1970s at the Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group, where we cared for the Peregrine Falcons in the captive-breeding project and did field work. But Merlyn did much more than that. At a time when the Peregrine Falcons at Morro Bay were one of the last known breeding pairs of the species in California, Merlyn spent countless hours, night and day, for months each spring camping at Morro Rock, guarding the nestlings from anyone who might harm, harrass, or take them. In the years he did this, the birds always fledged successfully, adding to the peregrine population at a time when the species was critically endangered. Now there are many nesting peregrines in California, and Merlyn played a vital role in bringing them back.

Merlyn wrote an interesting 1994 memoir about his experiences on Morro Rock, titled Falcons of the Rock, writing under the pseudonym, Donovan Lavender. If you can find a copy at a used book dealer, I highly recommend it. 

Merlyn Felton, Tim Gallagher, Danny Verrier, and Bill Murphy in the 1970s. Photo: Brian Walton

Merlyn was an avid falconer, and we had some great times flying our peregrines in the Salinas Valley and other places in Central California. He was one of the most dedicated people I've ever met. He will be greatly missed.