Thursday, June 12, 2008

How many ways are there to say rain? After Saturday's torrent at Castle Rock, we retired to Joan's beautiful place in Fountain City. She and her husband Jeff fixed a delicious dinner and we all headed for bed. Had we not been in southwestern Wisconsin to band falcons the rain, punctuated by thunderstorms at 10:00, 1:00, 2:00, and 4:00, would have been peaceful. As it was, I kept remembering the greasy rock at Maasens and wondering whether or not we'd be able to band anywhere on Sunday. It didn't look very promising in the morning. Every station reporting in - and there were several, including Decorah, that were not - mentioned rain, thunderstorms, flash floods. We decided to head upriver and look at Maiden Rock, just in case. After all, we could always scrub. Away the caravan went.

The sky had lightened considerably by Maiden Rock, so we decided to go for it. John Dingley, owner of the Merlin's Rest bar in Uptown Minneapolis, had a bus full of birders stopping by to see the show. The West Wisconsin Land Trust, which owns Maiden, narrated the event while we headed up.

Dave Kester and I dropped to get the babies. They were under a slight overhang in a long horizontal crack by a really large, roughly rectangular block. We wedged ourselves in and Dave caught the single baby, which he handed to me. I got it in the cage and Bob, who was the top man, pulled it up. Now I've been top man (well, top girl). I think it's harder to top, since you spend all your time backing off the cliff: not a comfortable position by any means. I'd much rather spend 30 or 40 minutes by the eyrie than 10 or 15 poised right at the edge of the cliff. Bob banded the single baby (named Winona by John's group) and dropped her back down to us. We put her back and ascended up. On to West Bluff.

West was a steep, slippery mess. We went down to the usual drop spot, only to discover that the falcons had moved upstream. We found the new spot and Dave dropped down.

The falcons were nesting in a hole under an overhang roughly 12 feet deep. Think of a plumb bob. On rope, that's how we operate - you can't hang off true without a lot of effort. Dave, who was hanging straight off the overhang, decided to swing into the hole and see if he could wedge himself in to get the babies. He swung once. He swung twice. He swung multiple times and then looked up to see that the rock was sawing his rope in two. This was bad.

With his grigri on his rope and his ascender on Bob's rope, he managed to get up off the cliff. I hope to never be in that kind of a jam again - check out Dave's rope. Seriously, that's a bad one.

We got the equipment pulled and headed for a wonderful finish at Dan and Sheila's house. Day's total: 1 banded baby, 3 unbanded babies, 1 fried rope, and at least 3 people biting their nails. At least Monday would be a day of rest. We needed it! For more pics, check out our forum.

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