Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Fran Hamerstrom and Broadwing Hawks 40 years apart

When I was Fran Hamerstrom's gabboon in the early 1990's, one morning Fran announced to me that "today is the best day of the year to trap a broadwinged hawk". She did not need to repeat herself, and I had mice and was ready to go trapping on a moment's notice. We jumped in her van and I drove the rural areas of her county on mostly dirt roads. As we went from road to road, Fran's memory kicked in and she would point out locations where she could recall trapping broadwing and other hawks over the decades. It was quite an interesting history lesson of Hamerstrom road trapping. But we saw no broadwings. Finally we saw one and dropped the bal-chatri trap. Fran told me to be patient. She said that broadwings are not "footy" hawks around bal-chatris, and even if one stepped on the trap it would take a while for it to get caught, so be patient. The broadwing did come down to the trap, but a truck came along and scared it and it flew back to the tree perch. But finally the hawk came back down and we watched (at least I did) with excruciating agony as the bird hem hawed around the trap until finally it was caught. Relief! I asked Fran to hold the hawk for a photo and she decided on an unconventional pose. I guess she wanted to highlight the dark subterminal wing bands of the species. Finally we let the bird go and returned to the Hamerstrom home and went about other things. It was one of many memorable days in the field with my mentor, the late Fran Hamerstrom of Plainfield, Wisconsin.
Years later Fran's daughter, Elva Hamerstrom Paulsen, sent me a photo taken of Fran with a broadwing hawk in the 1950's. Fran was in her prime and looking good and this is one of the best photos of Fran I ever saw.
Stan Moore

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