Hawk On A Deer Carcass

One of the things that I'm bummed about my current schedule is that I do not have the time to get to Carpenter Nature Center like I used to.  But, Jen Vieth who is the Development Director, keeps me on the email list to let me know what's going on and yesterday, she sent a very cool email. Al Maloney, the Interpretive Naturalist for Carpenter set up a deer carcass with a game camera (kind of like the Wingscapes Cam).  The general goal with the deer carcass in the winter is to get some cool animal prints in the snow to show kids for their Tracks and Trails class.  Jen said that so far mostly fox tracks and oooodles of crow photos at the carcass.  But the game cam caught this cool visitor:

It's a rough-legged hawk!

It's funny, I've never seen many hawks on deer carcasses.  Loads of eagles, crows, ravens, jays, chickadees and downy woodpeckers, but not many hawks.  The only other time I have ever found a hawk on a deer carcass was years ago (before the blog even) up at Sax Zim Bog--and it was a rough-legged hawk.

Hazards Of Hand Feeding Raptors Part 2

I hope readers who celebrate Thanksgiving had a wonderful day full of favorite foods, gratitude and a minimum of family drama. Non Birding Bill and I thought of all the things we're grateful for and one thing that I am always grateful for is the opportunity to work with birds of prey. There's something captivating about the intimacy of a bird ravenously feeding from your gloved hand.

I found some more video footage I took of hand feeding raptors that again demonstrates some of the perils of hand feeding birds, although not nearly as gross as the red-tailed hawk incident. When you feed peregrines on the fist--especially something like quail, you just know that you're going to end up messy at the end. In the wild, peregrines will fly to a perch and pluck off feathers of their prey to gain access to the meat (many raptors do pluck out the larger feathers of prey). In this video, it's interesting to note how large the quail is in relation to the falcon...and how little is left at the end.

Incidentally, peregrines are one of the reasons I'm no longer a vegetarian. They make eating meat look so, so good.

Did you love the little "quail mustache" that the bird has while chowing down? And here is what your pants (and sometimes your hair) looks like when you are finished feeding a peregrine:


You get covered in plucked feathers and unwanted bits of meat.

Flickers & Bluebirds At Carpenter Nature Center

Fall at Carpenter Nature Center. Friday was an unbelievably beautiful day at Carpenter Nature Center.  I ended spending way more time out there than anticipated.  It ended up being a perfect day and now as I look outside my window to see TWO inches of snow with more on the way, I'm glad I took advantage of the fall color and sunlight even if it never made it to 40 degrees.  And yes, I did just type two inches of snow.  That's a bit insane even for Minneapolis standards.  I'm prepared for snow when Halloween hits.  But not on October 12.  Sigh, if you take into account that five inches in April is a normal occurrence, that means that we have six months of winter ahead.

Mental note: Plan a trip to Panama and possibly Peru this winter--who is in with me on this?

We haven't even gotten our full fall color in the Twin Cities yet.  You can see in the above photo that we are right on the cusp.  I think all this snow will make all the leaves say, "Screw it!" and just drop off the trees.

brown creeper

Banding was awesome--I got to band a brown creeper--who make sad little chirps in hand.  It was a hatch year bird, hope it finds a way to survive the winter and is recovered by another bander some day. We also got in our first junco of the season.  We normally get those in little Potter traps.  It was weird taking one out of the mist nest (we only use mist nets in warmer weather at Carpenter).

downy fall

My buddy Larry processed a downy woodpecker that I originally banded in May.  That was exciting.  When I banded it him in May, I aged him as a second year bird but according to Pyle and his fall plumage he was resembling an after second year bird.

downy bite

Part of it was his eyes.  In the sun, they looked very red.  Although this photo shows them to be more brown than red.  It's always nice to find an older bird and to have it surviving well.

carpenter birds

As Larry and I walked around checking the nets, we watched a fascinating interaction among the birds.  Migrants like the above northern flicker and yellow-rumped warbler were all over.  We heard some blue jays and crows crabbing at each other.  The crows were half heartedly mobbing something, but the blue jays sound a bit more on alert...a bit more like they do at the hawk blind when a sharp-shinned hawk is perched nearby.  Then Larry and I heard a flicker give a distress call.  We walked over to investigate and sure enough, a shin was actively hunting among the trees.  He perched in the open momentarily and is was a juvenile male shin (barely the same weight as a flicker).  He was in hot pursuit of flickers, but all of them were on to him and could out fly him.  Shins, especially larger females can nail a flicker, but they need element of surprise.

The male shin would chase a flicker, it would give the distress call while the shin chased.  As soon as the shin would perch, another flicker would fly right in front of it--almost taunting it.  The blue jays would scream and yell like townies at a bar encouraging a fight.  What was really interesting was a pileated woodpecker flew into the scene and perched near the shin, keeping a close eye.  I've seen this before.  I've seen pileateds creep towards a shin and even a male Cooper's hawk that is on the same branch and in both instances chase it away (it's a big woodpecker and I think it's size and bold approach freaks out smaller hawks).  The pileated flew off and the shin gave chase--I don't know what it thought it would do if it actually had a pileated in its teeny talons.  The pileated easily out flew the shin and perched in a tree. A second pileated hidden nearby gave a soft call, almost as if asking, "You still there?"  The chased pileated called back and then took flight, circling the tree that the shin was perched in.

The poor male shin finally gave up and took to a thermal and circled high and out of view.  My advice small male sharp-shin?  Stick to sparrows and warblers.

Yellow-rump vs Bluebird

A lot of birds were crabby--perhaps they knew better than I did that snow was on the way?  Above a yellow-rumped warbler was trying to drive an eastern bluebird out of a tree.  The bluebird crabbed back at it.  The yellow-rump still mobbed the bluebird and eventually the bluebird lunged and chased it off.

carpenter bluebird

I spent the better part of the afternoon with the bluebirds.  They have a great palette to begin with, but I wanted to try and get a picture of that beautiful bird with the fall colors behind it.  This bird was most uncooperative.  Okay, so perching withe the blue sky behind it does make a statement.

bluebird tongue

But it kept coughing up berries.  I'm not sure what's going on with that.  I've seen berry eating birds like robin, waxwings and thrashers do that when they are in the midst of chowing down on a bunch of berries.


The bluebird were raiding the larder of fruit on the dogwood.  It's funny, a fellow birder on Facebook had announced on this status the day before that a great front had moved in so watch the dogwood bushes for birds.  I love hanging out around dogwood in the fall.  Tons of birds eat the berries and all kinds of sparrows will pop out from beneath them.  While chasing bluebirds I saw chipping sparrows, Lincoln's sparrows, fox sparrows, field sparrows, and one robust Harris sparrow mixed in among them.

Eastern Bluebird

The flocks of bluebirds would drop down and hover over the dogwood and then disappear in the foliage looking for berries.

Bluebird in fall colors

It was a perfect day for digiscoping.

Banding Wilson's Warbler & Chipping Sparrow Tumor

WARNING!  THERE ARE SOME KIND OF GROSS BIRD TUMOR PHOTOS IN THIS POST. Don't worry, I'll end on a nice cleansing post. Fall colors at Carpenter

The colors at Carpenter Nature Center are outstanding right now.  This amazing palette will last over the next month or so, so if you need a day to just look at some beautiful late summer flowers, this is the place to be.

Wilson's warbler

Many of the birds in the nets for Friday's banding were pretty too, like this Wilson's warbler.  I wonder if this bird is on his way to Guatemala? It was the most common warbler I remember seeing there last February.  Between the ones I see around MN, Las Vegas, and Guatemala, I think this is the most common warbler I have seen all 2009, I think I have seen more of these than I have yellow-rumped warblers.

Wilson's warbler

Here's an above view of that Wilson's warbler, a hatch year male.  His cap is growing in well and his outer tail feathers are pointed.  McGill Bird Observatory has a good website with photos showing how they age and sex birds in the hand (certainly is easier to read than Pyle).

Hey!  For some crazy shots of a "washed out Wilson's warbler" found during banding, check out Bill Schmoker's blogWil.

Some days when we band birds, it is fairly easy to get them out of the nets, other days it seems as though every bird gets tangled up in some weird way, how will I ever get them out.  This was one of those days.  However, get them out we did.  We did see two birds that appeared to be having some health issues.

One bird was a field sparrow.  I did not get photos of it, but as I took it out of the net, I could see that its head was missing several feathers, almost like a bald cardinal.  Not only that, the exposed skin looked dry and had what looked like sore patches.  The bird also had a bit of bleeding around the neck.  As soon as it was out, it was let go.  This was not a situation where the bird could have been taken to a rehab center and there was no point in furthering any stress.  Whatever this poor field sparrow had going, banding was not going to help.  I had to make sure to wash thoroughly with anti-bacterial soap, so as not to risk spreading whatever the bird had.

We also had a chipping sparrow fly in to the nets with a tumor.

Chipping sparrow with tumor

Apart from the tumor, this bird appeared healthy.  The lump looked like it might be a blister, but the tumor was rock solid.

chipping sparrow tumor

If you look at it from the front, it appears as though it starts right at the gape.  It's hard when these come in.  As a human, you would like to do something to help, to make a bird's life easier.  However, would wildlife rehab really help a bird like this?  Would it be better to let it live out what life it has in the wild than to have spend a few days terrified in a clinic where it most likely will be put down?  Birds with illnesses and injuries are eaten by predators, it's a valuable source of food for migrating hawks, wouldn't it be better to let that be the ultimate end, where it continues to the cycle of life, rather than die quietly indoors?  And we certainly were seeing hawks passover--especially sharp-shinned hawks.

It's never an easy call, but something that banders are faced with from time to time.

carpenter color pallette

I end with a photo of goldenrod surrounded by some of the other flowers and leaves.  If you are looking for a place to visit with some great color, Carpenter is it at least for the next month.

Friday At Carpenter Nature Center

White-throated Sparrow Not that I could deny before, but migration is totally on.  We got in our first fall white-throated sparrow in the banding nets at Carpenter Nature Center on Friday.  I think this is the earliest we've ever had one.  I'm very curious about this fall's migration.  Will our cold summer cause changes?  It's been too cool for backyard gardeners to get their tomatoes to ripen...what effects has there been on seeds and insects birds use to fatten up for the journey south?

Green Frog

Signs of summer are still around, check out this apparently well fed green frog that was lurking in Carpenter's new pond.  It was hiding in the grasses waiting for some unsuspecting insects to land nearby.  I love these frogs, they make a sound kind of like a banjo string being plucked.  Here's a link to a great video of green frogs calling.  At first I worried that this was a young bullfrog ( a non native frog that could cause problems in the pond) and so Jen and I looked up how to tell green frog from bullfrog.  Green frogs have a dorsolateral fold from their eye to their hips.  This frog had that fold, so that made it a green frog--whew.  You can read more about the differences over at the Hilton Pond site

Carpenter Prairie

Incidentally this is the best time of year to visit Carpenter Nature Center, the scenery is outstanding with the blooming goldenrod and asters.  It gets even better as the leaves begin to change color.  They have some great programs this fall from The Raptor Release to even a watercolor class in October (I might sign up for that). Note that swallowtail butterfly in the above photo?  Take a closer look at it below:


Some will look at this butterfly and think "Aw, poor thing!"  I look at it and think, "Man, that is one badass butterfly!"  How long has it survived to have such a ragged look.  That chunk missing out of its wing looks like the telltale patter of a bird beak.  Has it evaded numerous attempts to be eaten by flycatchers and swallows? Perhaps this is the oldest swallowtail of the summer.  It even bullied the honeybees and bumblebees trying to nectar along with it.

Waxwings and Bird Handling

I have been making so many changes this summer. Some have been evident with the blog and will be more evident in the coming weeks. Some have been in my day to day routine. For example, I've been learning how to band birds at Carpenter Nature Center and usually spend my Fridays (when I'm in town) there. cedar waxwing

Check out this cedar waxwing that came in to the nets today at Carpenter. It's an adult (not tell tale streaking on the breast that would make it a juvenile).

waxwing back

What a gorgeous bird this is and beautiful study of powerful highlights--love that yellow tail tip.  Oh, and get this, I was reading Cornell's All About Birds website (which makes a handy online field guide) and it says that waxwings with orange instead of yellow tail tips began appearing in the northeastern U.S. and southeastern Canada in the 1960s. The orange color is the result of a red pigment picked up from the berries of an introduced species of honeysuckle--crazy.  Non-native plants can cause a slight color change in our native birds.


Check out the little wax tips on the secondary wing feathers of this birds. What a treat to see them up close!  These are the reason this bird is called a waxwing.  To the best of my knowledge, researchers have not figured out the purpose or function of them, but much like the yellow tail tip, if a waxwing eats enough of the above mentioned honeysuckle berries while it is growing a tail feather, the tip of the feather will be orange too.


However, recently I haven't been doing as much with the banding end of things are Carpenter. That's because I started volunteering my time with their education birds. I have volunteered at the University of Minnesota's Raptor Center since 1997, mostly working with their educational birds. However, with the economy, Carpenter has had to lose some of their staffing and asked for volunteers with bird handling skills to help them out.  The Raptor Center is very well known, has over 400 volunteers and is a great place for a person to learn how to handle birds.  Since Carpenter is in need and (much like Liam Neeson) I have a certain set of skills that can be of use, I took a leave of absence from TRC to help out Carpenter.


They have three education birds at Carpenter: a great horned owl, a red-tailed hawk, and a peregrine falcon who is still being trained in. Today, I got to help with that a little bit. He's getting used to being perched on a gloved hand (thanks to some great trainers volunteering their time), but he's still uncertain about people coming into his mew (falconry term for his cage) and gets frightened easily.  He has an injured wing and cannot fly, so all of his perches have to be low enough for him to reach by a good leap.

I stepped into his mew with some fresh quail and he started running around all over. You train birds with positive reinforcement, so I crouched in a corner, did not make eye contact, watched in my peripheral vision and waited for him to settle.  Unfortunately, that was on the ground on the other side of his mew. I waited until his posture relaxed a bit, and slowly set a piece of quail on one of his perches. He slowly made his way over to the perch. I made sure it was a dark red and juicy piece. He couldn't resist. He hopped up and began eating.  I slowly moved my gloved hand with another piece of quail to the perch.  He paused and stared at it, then continued to munch what he had. When he finished, he hopped up to my gloved hand.


I secured his jesses (the leather straps on his feet that are usually tied to leash) and stood up.  I fed him the rest of the quail and he at ravenously. I had another quail for him in the kitchen, so when he finished, I put him back to the perch, stepped out of his mew and went to get it.  This time when I returned, I approached slowly, he remained on his perch and stepped up beautifully.  He's gradually learning that stepping up to the glove is a safe thing and he might even get some tasty food out of it.  It was honor to be part of his training process and it felt good to know that I have the skills to help out with it (and a relief that I didn't undo any of the training he has received thus far).

So, in this tough economic time when so many organizations are hurting for funds (as are some of us) don't forget that your time can always be just as valuable.

Speaking of hurting for funds, did you hear about the nasty deal going down with Sportsman's Warehouse?  According to a report at a Wall Street Journal blog, they have filed for Chapter 11. They have been selling the Duck Stamp which can be used as a waterfowl hunting license but more importantly, 98% of the $15 paid to get a stamp goes to habitat acquisition--it's a great purchase for hunters and non-hunters.

Sportsman's Warehouse is now refusing to turn over $629,415 it raised through the sale of federal duck hunting licenses and want to use it to pay back their creditors. As a result, the Department of the Interior is objecting to the company’s plan of reorganization, urging a judge to reject the plan until it makes it clear that the money will end up where it belongs with the Migratory Bird Fund and not the company or its creditors.

I'm sorry that a business is in trouble and trying to stay afloat, but using money from a fundraiser to bail your sorry butt out is wrong, wrong, wrong.  Certainly will make me be a bit more choosy when I'm purchasing my outdoor gear.

Prepping For The Bio Blitz 2009

Friday was a fun and active day--between the weather, the birds and friends it was just a day where you look around and think, "Isn't great to be alive?"  It's been wonderful to come home to spring birds and many of the Minnesota migrants have returned--even the common nighthawk, I heard one outside of the apartment my first night home. 1-downy

We did some banding at Carpenter Nature Center and though we didn't get huge amounts of birds, we got a good variety--especially woodpeckers.  Above is a downy woodpecker male, we got in two of those, plus a hairy and a red-bellied woodpecker.   I completely missed the red-bellied because...


... fellow bander Larry showed me shots of a scarlet tanager that was singing along the oak savanna trail at Carpenter.  Since it was slow, I took off after it.  The tanager was singing on territory and moving around like crazy.  It was a challenge getting him in decent light (the best I could do was the above photo) and then I just gave up to watch him...that red is practically impossible to recreate and sometimes it just fun to watch a bird with your eyes, not with your camera's viewfinder.

After banding, I met up with a group who are helping to plan the Minnesota BioBlitz.  It's going to happen in the National Park that I work in: The Mississippi National River and Recreation Area--specifically in Crosby Park.


Here is one of the many indigo bunting males staking claim on some territory along one of the trails--they should still be around for the BioBlitz June 12 - 13, 2009.  We're going to catalog all the wildife we can find from bugs to plants to birds to mammals to reptiles to fungus and everything in between.  We'll have walks, rides on a river boat, bird banding, and a whole host of stuff.


While walking the trails, a fellow ranger said, "I haven't seen a pileated woodpecker in a long time. I'd like to see one again." Within 2 minutes of her saying that, a male showed up.  He stuck his head in a hole right off the trail...I'm about 90% certain he was feeding something inside the hole.  He then flew off to another tree and did some territorial drumming.  Here's a video:


It never ceases to amaze me how effortless woodpeckers look when they make that loud drumming sound. Incredible creatures.

Crosby is going to be a great spot for the BioBlitz--it's in the metro area, so it's easy to get to. Since it's right on the Mississippi River, there's going to be some great wildlife to see.  If you are in the area, you should check it out, it's free and open to the public.

Hey, if you enjoyed the waxwing post from earlier, check out Minnesota Birdnerd's photos of banding waxwings are Carver Park, it's very sweet. And speaking of banding, I surprised the Friday banding crew at Carpenter Nature Center by showing up for banding the day before I leave for Kazakhstan.  Yes, I should have been packing, but it's spring migration and when I missed this date last year (because of the World Series of Birding), I missed cool stuff like indigo buntings...and I wasn't disappointed today.

I also needed to go because if I think about where I'm going too much, I kind of freak out.  I've read about Kazakhstan and have always wanted to go, so when this opportunity came my way to go with Swarovski to see the work they are doing with BirdLife International for the sociable lapwing (a fancy killdeer), I could not say no.  But odd things hit me (and I'm sure part of it is the great bio I'm reading at the moment called Life List) like, this is the furthest distance I have ever been from Non Birding Bill since I met him in 1994.  I've been out of the country, but not this far out of the country.  It's odd to think that I'll be on the other side of the planet from him.  So, going through my routine keeps me from freaking out with excitement and nervousness.


And I wasn't disappointed with banding today.  We actually got in a male indigo bunting!  This male is still has some brown and has not quite molted into his breeding plumage, but boy is he still a cool looking bird. It's interesting that up here, when these birds first return in the spring, you can see them at bird feeders eating white millet, Nyjer, and sunflower hearts.  However, once the insects are out in full force, they don't visit feeding stations as often. It's always a treat to see one of these birds.


We had so many goldfinches int he nets, that I lost count of how many we banded.  At one point, there was just a big group of them on the table to be processed.  It seems like the males have turned bright yellow overnight.  When I first approached the net to take out the above male goldfinch, I heard a familiar chipping noise.  I looked down to find...


...a common yellowthroat.  I took the yellowthroat, while my more experienced friend Jen took the higher goldfinch.  It was fun to see warbler up close again.


I fun surprise in the net was this Harris sparrow.  Just a few weeks ago I was in Oklahoma watching flock of Harris sparrows (still molting into their breeding plumage), I wondered if this guy came up through Minnesota? After handling warblers and goldfinches, this bird felt really robust in my hand.  And I suddenly realized how big this bird is when Jim Fitzpatrick was at the table banding a rose-breasted grosbeak and it took the same band size as this Harris sparrow!


And speaking of banding grostbeaks, what bander's day is complete without the skin splitting cardinal?  This female was originally banded last year and she's out for revenge.  She nailed me several times, even after I finished reading her band number.  I took her outside, opend my fingers to let her fly away and she gave me one last hard chomp before taking off.  One of the other banders got a great laugh out of it.  Always happy to provide comic relief.

As I was out and about, I noticed that catbirds were back at Carpenter in full force, many were practcing their territory songs.  They were mimicing, but not quite as well as they could have.  I wondered if these were males getting their songs ready to impress the females.  Here's one, and you will also hear the "meow" sound that the birds are famous for:


The same catbird flew to another perch and you could clearly see it was banded.


The bird was singing in an area near the orchard where we have nets set up. They seem to be the most productive in the late summer and early fall--especially when young catbirds are learning to fly.  I wondered if this was a male that hatched last year and is practicing his song to attempt breeding?  Tough to say without actually reading the band.

Okay, I seriously need to get down to packing.

Vicarious Beekeeping

This week was a tad frustrating.  We had received a note from our honey bee supplier that bees would ship sometime the week of April 27.  I kept all of my plans soft expect to dash off an hive our packages of new bees.  The calls never came and when fellow Bee Team member Lorraine called our supplier, we were informed that the bees were coming next week.  AAAAARGH! ME WANT TO PLAY WITH BEES NOW!


But birds are always there for me when bees are not.  Friday's bird banding added in some spring migrant excitement.  While I've been reading about friends in the southern US seeing warblers, I've been practically salivating.  Well, we got in a female yellow-rumped warbler in the nets on Friday at Carpenter Nature Center, the spring migration flood gates are about to open!

As we were banding, Al, who is in charge of volunteers enthusiastically complimented my hair.  I just got colored, so initially I figured the compliment was natural, but the tone had a sense of urgency.  Sure enough, he asked if I would be willing to help out with Carpenter's beehives.

I was simultaneously incredibly honored and nervous.


It's a tough economy right now and like many places that rely on grants and donations, Carpenter has had to cut back on staff and ask volunteers to help where we can.  Staff at Carpenter take care of the education animals, maintain the property, give programs, organize events, the list goes on and on. Al is the one who normally takes care of the bees.  Way before I ever had bees or even took a beekeeping class, he let me follow him out to the Carpenter hives, just to get a feel for it.  He's been beekeeping since he was a kid and knows much more than I do.  The fact that he asked if I would check on his hives was a huge honor.

It's one thing for me to make a mistake with our own hives, but to make a mistake or do things differently from the way Al would run his hives made me nervous.  But I wanted to help because Carpenter has an apple orchard and they need their bees.  I suited up and started the smoker and headed out.


Oh! It was so awesome to be back at a hive and actively work it.  It was still fairly cool, and the girls were calm.  Carpenter had a different bee suit than I'm used too and I had some concerns that there might be a breach. We use what I call the space man suit, the hood is attached to the suit and when it's all zipped up, it's hard for an angry worker to get through.  Carpenter has the suit, but the hood is a pith helmet with a net over it.  I could see potential breaches all around my neck as I worked.  But the bees were calm, I took my time and forged ahead.


I looked all through the hive for the queen or even signs of her.  I found some capped brood and a bit of larvae, but no queen and no fresh eggs.  Al told me to do a reversal to make sure his queen was in the top box.  Bees work from the top down.  So, if your queen is in the bottom box of your hive set up, then you just move the box she's in to the top.  The youngest larvae was on the bottom, so I hoped she was there and put the bottom box on top hoped I didn't crush anyone.


I also made her a container of bee nectar and a pollen patty to feed the girls.  They still had some of their winter stores left (above is a worker feeding inside a cell.  I think I spent about an hour with this hive.  Just checking the frames, going super slow to make sure I didn't crush anyone and also savoring time with the bees.  I haven't actively worked a hive since October--six months ago.  They were so calm, so furry.  The girls got a little irritated with the reversal, but nothing too bad.  It was fun to go with the groove of the hive, the contented buzzing was very soothing.


The other hive was much easier to work with and totally friendly. I found fresh eggs and larvae right at the top box in the hive.  I decided not to dig much deeper--the eggs meant the queen was right at the top, why disturb her work and risk crushing her?


This hive looked to have mostly Italian looking bees--with a beautiful gold color, but I periodically found a black bee (a carniolan).  Wonder what kind of drones the queen mated with in this hive?


I love to watch bees feed on sugar that I've made.  It does seem for just a moment, that they are little furry pets, coming up to gently lap the nectar that you have so carefully preparedfor them.

I told Al about not finding the queen in the first hive and reversing it.  He said that he had actually reversed that one a week ago--doh!  Ah well, best laid plans.  Who knows where the queen in that hive is?

He thanked me and said that he'd appreciate any help I could volunteer this summer.  I'm happy to help, Carpenter is my favorite nature center in the Twin Cities and if any of my skills can be of use, I'm happy to offer.

Plus, it will be a chance to learn from a very experience beekeeper.  Al managed to get two hives to survive the winter, I still need to master that.

Well, I hope our bees arrive before I go to Kazakhstan this weekend.  I'd hate to miss the hiving.