Cooper’s Hawk Training

DSC01064Last week I was lucky enough to get the chance to man a young female Cooper’s hawk for the first time.

This little lady was just a fluffy black and white baby in a screened-in tent when I first came to the centre to do my apprenticeship back in August. I was intrigued by them then, they looked so curious, picking at bits of meat, bobbing up and down in their water basin and hiding out in their little dog kennel.

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Young Harris hawk on the left, two young Coopers on the right

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Now this bird is a lightning-fast, reptilian killing machine. She’s basically a cobra with feathers. Ironically she sounds more like a squeaky dog toy…

DSC01050For at least twenty minutes after I took her out of her aviary she was very tense, holding out her wings as you see in the above photo, screeching, bating and panting. Sticking a camera in her face didn’t exactly help, but it’s good to get her used to things like this while she’s on the glove. I kept my movements slow and gentle to minimize her stress.

Eventually she calmed down and I was able to jump her to a nice piece of raw quail she could¬† focus her attention on. She plucked her quail extensively, showering my lap with tiny feathers. Eating quickly and efficiently on the glove, that’s good.

She’s very light, and she has very good coordination. She’s not sloppy with her feet like some birds can be. Looking into her cool blue eyes, it’s hard to imagine that as an adult they will turn to blood red.

I’m really lucky to be able to follow these fractious and intense little accipiters along their training as they mature. I wouldn’t want to be a small woodland creature staring up at this face:

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Meet Caraway!

DSC_0090Caraway is the first bunny born at Abernathy’s to reach 5 lbs at ten weeks old. Her mother was Esther, my Creme d’Argent, and her sire was Timmy, my Standard Rex buck who is now retired.

She had an identical sister who also reached 5 lbs at ten weeks and was sold to another breeder. Caraway was a bit heavier than her sibling and actually weighed something like 5.1 lbs on the day BEFORE she turned ten weeks old so she was the one who got to stay. Both sisters have gorgeous personalities.

She’s the first hybrid bunny that I’ve kept, and that was based on her grow out rate. Most bunnies born here take at least 12 to 14 weeks to reach 5 lbs, and that’s not ideal for meat production. She’s nine pounds now but she may get a bit bigger yet.

DSC_0088Caraway is a gorgeous agouti color with a few white hairs sprinkled in for good measure, and is a nice big girl who is very sweet and calm, like all my Creme hybrids.

She is now just about 6 months old and was bred for the first time today to Scorch, my Californian buck. In one month we shall see if she passes down her good genetics to her descendants. If she kindles on time, the kits will share my birthday.

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Golden Marten?

DSC_0076Speaking of Silver Martens (in my previous post), how about this bunny? I have about four Rex/Californian hybrids that came out looking like this. It’s actually a very lovely coloration and reminds me of a Silver Marten with gold ticking instead of white. These bunnies have a white underbelly as well that seems to resemble the pattern of a black otter Rex, which is what their mother was. They also sort of remind me of Tans.

DSC_0079These bunnies have a darker and more lustrous black coat than their white-ticked siblings. Since these are the bunnies who lost their mom and got juggled around, I don’t know if their dam is Tuna or Bluefin. It’s possible that one group came from one mom and the other group from the other.

DSC_0080Maybe the Golden Marten is the new breed of rabbit that I’ve created? Otter Marten? If only I had more cages and could really embark on such an experiment…

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Rex + Californian = Silver Marten?

DSC_0072The hybrid babies are ten weeks old now and their color patterns have turned out to be quite interesting. I have about five or six bunnies that look like this. Doesn’t it look a whole lot like a Silver Marten rabbit to you?

DSC_0068The bunny pictured above is a cross between a black otter Standard Rex dam and a pure Californian sire. She has the white eyeliner, belly, tail, nose-shading, neck triangle, inner ears, chin and white ticking, just like a Silver Marten.

If I saw this rabbit at a show, I would think it was a Silver Marten with below average ticking, as it’s supposed to come up over the entire hindquarters. It’s hard to see in the photo but her black fur is also a little bit grayish and not as dark and lustrous as Silver Marten fur should be.

For comparison, here’s a young Silver Marten kit from a couple of years ago before I stopped breeding them:

DSC_0046He’s quite young here, but you can see the basic coloration he has. Some SMs are born with lots of ticking and some with less. I have had kits who only had it go up a few inches, much like the hybrid doe in the first shot.

DSC_0071Back view of her white ticking. It doesn’t go up very far, but it’s there.

It’s interesting to me to think about the origins of rabbit breeds and how they were initially developed. We seem to accept that no new breeds are being created, although I know there are people working on new colors within existing parameters. It’s mostly about ‘perfecting’ the breed you already have.

I wonder what would happen if I took one of these hybrids to a rabbit show and entered it as a Silver Marten. Could I breed my own version of the Silver Marten using totally disparate breeds? It’s an interesting thing to think about.

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End of October Garden

DSC_0100Just wanted to share a few photos I took in the garden today.

Unbelievably, I actually have purple cauliflower! I wasn’t expecting these guys to survive the slugs but somehow they powered through and have formed a few small heads. The variety is called “graffiti”. I planted orange cauliflower at the same time, “cheddar”, but somehow they decided to do this:

DSC_0102Oh well. The ducks and chickens sure enjoy them!

DSC_0004These are arugula seedlings that were planted last week in a few big containers recently vacated by tomatoes and cukes. They seem to enjoy the cooler weather and if I can keep them growing for another month or so I’ll be super happy because I love using it in salads and sandwiches.

DSC_0001My neighbors have a giant English laurel hedge that borders on my property. Since I’ve read that it roots well as cuttings, I decided to take a few so I can plant a hedge next year that will eventually grow to hide a chain link fence and a view of the train tracks.

DSC_0002And here is the first little flower to appear on the yacon plant. I wasn’t sure we’d get any flowers this year as it was in a container, but it seems determined to bloom before it’s killed off by frost. I love the symmetrical leaves on this Peruvian tuber.

DSC_0003And last of course is adorable Tiny Chicken, who is my faithful gardening companion. She is always full of advice on any topic and makes sure to dispatch any worms I might dislodge.

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Opal’s First Litter at Four Days Old

DSC_0013Opal’s litter of six are now four days old and I think I see some broken blacks in there as well as castor… They are a very active bunch of bunnies, and will squeak and pop in the nest like popcorn when I go to check them. It’s hard to get a good picture without anyone getting blurred.

Here are some closeups of them…

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