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  1. The California Foundation for Birds of Prey held an Open House yesterday, where several non-releasable birds were on display. Among them was Cleopatra, a young female Golden Eagle who was found near death by a Sacramento-area rancher. Cleopatra had contracted West Nile virus (thus the name) and though she is now fully capable of flight, she would not survive in the wild because the virus led to neurological damage which prevents her from seeing clearly at close distances. The first several months of captivity were terrifying for Cleopatra. She paniced at any nearby movement and it was only due to the patience and persistence of her handler (a licenced falconer) that she learned to trust her captors. Unusual for a raptor, Cleopatra has bonded with her handler and even appears to enjoy his company. One of the foundation's goals for Cleopatra is to train the her to accept other handlers because she is expected to live 50 years or so, and will out-live her handler. The beaks of captive raptors don't get as much abrasion as in the wild so they must be trimmed occasionally, much like toenails are. Cleopatra's beak was trimmed to the correct length the day before the open house but there were not enough people handy to keep her still so that the beak could be shaped properly - thus the blunt, chopped off appearance. Technical stuff: R8/DMR, 280mm f/4 APO, shoulder stock & monopod. Leica-related notes: the open house was well-attended and at least two visitors recognized the camera. Two also noted the shoulder stock/monopod rig and its highly desirable combination of stability and mobility. All comments welcome.
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