Common Buzzard

My haul from the UK Vulture Culture meet! I honestly did not realise how many new things I came home with! 

Gannet & Juv Lesser black backed gull from @specios , a Coyote skull from @vultureculturecoyote , Coral & a smol Crab from @mydeadthingsdiary , Male Common Buzzard Skull, Tawny Owl foot, Herring Gull skull & Kestrel foot (gifts for my friend @pitfallfox) , Great Black backed Gull Skull & his feet, Adult & Baby Hedgehog all from the lovely @prettydeadstuff

Thank you all again!! I had a fantastic time, one of the best meets I have been to.


The birds didn’t want to cooperate with me today. The Tree sparrows stayed in the trees, the Common buzzard flew way too high up in the sky and the Yellowhammer just gave me a suspicious look before it hastened away to somewhere else, far away from photographers (and buzzards).

Let's talk about the code talkers real quick

The last of the World War II Navajo Code Talkers passed away today, and I’m a little disappointed that I haven’t seen more about them on Tumblr, especially among the linguistics crowd, so I'ma remedy that a bit, y'all.

The Navajo Code Talkers are best known for their operations in the Pacific Theater, where they developed a code based on the Navajo language that the Japanese were never able to crack.  Fewer than thirty men basically became the US military’s own version of the Enigma machine, and it’s likely that without them, key battles in the Pacific would have gone very differently, and the US would never have taken Iwo Jima, for instance.

The Navajo Code Talkers are the best known, but not the only ones.  In fact, the first code talkers were Choctaw and actually began operations during World War I, after a commanding officer overheard two Choctaw soldiers conversing in their native language and decided to train them to use it as code.

During World War II, the Marine Corps recruited men from a number of Native American tribes, including CherokeeChoctawNavajoLakota, MeskwakiComanche, Seminole, and also from among (not Native American) Basque speakers.  Navajo in particular was recommended to be useful due to its typological features (tones, complex inflectional system) and its unintelligibility even to speakers of related languages (Navajo is related to Apache languages and distantly to Athabaskan languages of Northern Canada, having been isolated from them for many centuries).  At the time, only about 30 non-Navajos spoke Navajo, and the language had no writing system.

How did the code work?  On the surface, it’s a simple cipher.  Words are spelled out in a manner similar to the military alphabet: A becomes “ant,” B becomes “bear,” C becomes “cat,” etc.  But these words are then translated into Navajo, so A becomes “wóláchííʼ,” B becomes “shash,” C becomes “mósí” and so on.  If your name is Tom, in Navajo code, that becomes “turkey-owl-mouse,” or “tązhii-néʼéshjaaʼ-naʼastsʼǫǫsí.”  If anyone intercepted the transmission, it would appear to just be meaningless sounds, or, even if you knew Navajo, a meaningless sequence of words.

The complete cipher can be found here.

To make things more difficult, they included shorthand for common jargon.  "Buzzard" (jeeshóóʼ) was a bomber and “Iron Fish” (béésh łóóʼ) was a submarine.  "Potato" was a hand grenade, and “turtle” was a tank.  Running shoes were “gofasters” and pens were “ink sticks” (all in Navajo, of course).  Other code talk languages used similar systems.  For Comanche code talkers, Adolf Hitler was “crazy white man”!

Even though the Japanese captured a Navajo soldier, they still couldn’t crack the code because the solder wasn’t a code talker, and the code talkers kept the cipher completely internal to their group.  It’s thought the Japanese might have been able to if they had exploited his knowledge of the language more effectively, given the simplicity of the cipher, but by the end of the war, they had never cracked the spoken code.

Navajo speakers did eventually settle on a standard orthography after the war.  The code talkers from all language groups received no recognition until the program was declassified in 1968.  

Work story #...5?

Last summer there was a terrible storm. Trees were downed, streets were  flooded in places, and one woman came in saying that she had found something unusual. 

The woman claimed that the storm had blown a young buzzard into her yard and even though it looked healthy, it wasn’t able to fly so she was taking care of it. She insisted it was a buzzard because she “had seen them before, and it has yellow feet”.

For reference a common buzzard looks like this: 

My coworkers and I repeatedly told her that she needed to take it to a licensed wildlife rehabber, and that if it was a buzzard she is not legally allowed to rehab it herself. She was adamant  about keeping this bird and would politely take the information and phone numbers we gave her, but probably never called anyone. 

She began coming in almost daily for bags of parrot seed mix, and multiple containers of superworms. We told her that this would not be a sufficient diet for the animal, and repeatedly asked for her information to give to local rescue organizations. She argued that she knew what she was doing, and that this was all the bird wanted to eat.

A few days later she came back for more of the usual food, and one of my coworkers had the brilliant idea of asking her for a picture of the bird.

She enthusiastically agreed, and immediately provided us with a picture of her “Rescue”

It was a goddamn chicken.

But honestly the part that amazed me was that this woman was actively OWNING chickens. She had just apparently never seen a brown one before. The chicken was introduced to her flock, and last I heard she is doing marvelously. 

* Pictures taken from a-z animals, and 

@tsubame17 the annoying thing is I don’t really know the answer to any of those! But, Pottermore told me my Patronus is a buzzard and, although I think the Pottermore Patronus test is really bad, it just happens that I really liked that suggestion. I’ve always felt a bit of a connection to birds of prey, and buzzards are common where i live, so they remind me of home. so I think that’s my best guess at my Patronus :-)

By the way, I realized that I’d never updated on this inking. I finished this a while ago, I just forgot to post the final product. Here it is. It’s sold by now, but that’s of no matter. 

Pernis Apivorus, commonly known as the european honey buzzard or pern, is a bird of prey of 135-150cm wingspan. The common pern is a bird native to my home, a reason why I chose it as a subject. I’m particularly fond of this bird as it was the first bird that caught my eye in the Zernez National Park. It still remains one of the most impressive birds I’ve seen to date. 


As a lot of you know, I’ve had a pretty rough couple of months after losing my hunting partner Nala. Esther, my barn owl, managed to pull me through, as I started working with her every day, handling, training. She started coming into a reptile shop where I volunteer, and was more than comfortable on top of the empty vivariums for sale in the corner. Considering she was barely 7 months old she was a doll, fantastic with children and adults, and was at peace being able to sleep throughout the day while in the shop in her own designated corner we had converted for her. Nearly three weeks she had been going in to work daily with me in the shop, and every day people were amazed by her grace and peacefulness; she was a true teacher to both children and adults.

It is with a heavy heart to say, I lost Esther a couple of weeks ago. There were no signs of illness, she’s health checked daily. I noticed when feeding one evening that she was lethargic and nonresponsive like a rag doll. It was 10:30pm. I rushed around, trying to get fluids into her and ringing other falconers and trying to get an emergency call specialist vets, but before they had a chance to drive the 20 minute journey she died in my mothers arms. Nala wasn’t with me at the time I lost her, she was staying with another falconer. In a way it was relieving, that I hadn’t seen her before I lost her, as it means that I didn’t feel to blame. Esther was with me. It is one thing to care for an animal, especially your partner, but losing an animal in your care is heartbreaking. Even more so considering birds hide their illness. There were no signs until suddenly, and she was gone within half an hour. Last summer I lost half of my snake collection; a viral disease developed after six months quarantine for every new snake introduced. Things like this make you consider: what if I had done this? Or maybe this? Maybe things would be different. Sometimes you can do everything right, but bad things always happen, and they have to happen to someone. To lose my snakes, one of my passions was one thing. To lose Nala, my partner, was another. Esther was a symbol of hope for me after I lost Nala. I could still have birds, still follow my passion and maybe feel a little bit less lost in the world when I was training her.

A month after I lost Nala I flew out to Geneva airport. My boyfriend had been working in northern Italy for five months. I had been reading H is for Hawk on the way, a reminder of Nala somewhat. As we landed, there was a common buzzard on a wooden post next to the runway. The back wheels touched the runway, and the buzzard took off, flying parallel to the window I was beside. It flew with us until the end of the runway, until the plane stopped. Of all the flights everyday, the fact if my plane had been delayed, or I had been seated on the opposite side of the plane I wouldn’t have been there. The fact that the random seat generated was at the window perfectly square next to the post as the wheels touched down. I’m not really superstitious, nor particularly religious, beliefs in the afterlife, have never really been my thing. In my heart, it was Nala. It gave me hope.

Two nights after I lost Esther, I was heading back to uni. A road me and my mother call ‘barney road’, after the little male barn owl we saw once. I make the trip several times a week, and in four years I’ve seen only this one male barn own once. We were both sat silent in the car, not wanting to consider our loss. A female barn owl veered across the top of our car diagonally into our headlights, and followed along side the car for a few moments, before heading into the fields nearby. A beautiful female. I had been sat crying for Esther to wake up when she was in my arms. I couldn’t lose her too, I kept apologising for what I feel in my heart is my fault even though I don’t know why she died. I felt it was an acceptance of my apology maybe, or just sending someone to check in.

People can laugh for what I thought about both incidents. Saying I’m looking too far into things. Maybe I am. But that’s the magic of birds of prey. To see wild birds is mesmerising. To hold the raw power and beauty of a bird on your arm is more so than any other feeling in the world. Not just a bird. Your partner. You look into your birds eyes, and see a reflection of yourself. The bird is never yours. You can pay for a bird, but you never own her. She is her, she is the power of the skies, with brute strength or unthinkable speeds and agility. You cannot buy her, but you can be her partner, if she allows, if she accepts you. Primal power, instinct, fear and fury. But hope, grace, and an unmatchable bond. That is true falconry.

For the new year, I promised myself that I would do at least one main picture per month and this is the picture I wanted to finish before January ended.
The actual picture I sketched out last year, but I didn’t have the time to line and colour it until this month. I’m really pleased with how it turned out overall!

(The bird Ruri has is a red-flanked bluetail and Shun has a common buzzard.)