Thursday, May 16, 2024

Stolpersteine in Stuttgart

Ein Stein. Ein Name. Ein Mensch.

A few days ago I read in our local paper that the artist Gunter Demnig himself would be in Stuttgart today to lay eleven Stolpersteine in several different locations. At one of those locations, Uhlandstraße 14A, he would be laying six Stolpersteine, two of which were sponsored by students at the Stuttgart High School, an American school on Patch Barracks.

Since hearing about Demnig’s art initiative quite a few years ago, I have looked for the Stolpersteine and told guests and student groups about them. Biographical information is available online about most of the people commemorated by the Stolpersteine, as is fitting to Demnig’s goal that the victims of the Nazi regime not be forgotten. “One stone. One name. One person.”

I arrived early, as I am wont to do, and just as the organizer (Frau Bouché from the Initiative Stolpersteine Stuttgart) started to ask if I was part of the group expected, the American students arrived. I snapped some photos from the background and let their chaperone know who I was, that I was there privately and wouldn’t post photos of the students anywhere. However I gave her my card and said if she emails me, I can send her any photos I take.

Frau Bouché spoke to the students a bit and told them Demnig would probably dash off quickly after laying the stones because he had more to do after these. I told the chaperone I am not shy about asking for certain photos in situations like this, and if I saw an opportunity I would ask Demnig to pose for a photo with the students.

I knew Demnig as soon as he arrived, as he is quite recognizable. He briefly greeted a few people and got to work. 

Gunter Demnig

The Stolpersteine Demnig laid at this spot were for Isak and Johanna Falk, their nearly-adult children Fritz and Carry, and Meier Rosenstein and his daughter Frieda Süß-Schülein.

After he finished he packed up his tools and buckets and I sidled up to him and asked if he’d pose with the American students because they were the sponsors of the two Stolpersteine for the Falk children. He graciously agreed and I got several nice photos. I can’t post them because of obvious reasons and because I told the chaperone I would not.

After Demnig drove off, the ceremony began in which Frau Bouché told us in English about the six individuals and their story. One of the students spoke very good German, welcoming those gathered and introducing her group, and another student read a poem she’d written for the occasion. 

The last thing Frau Bouché told us was that in 1943 her parents and older sister had moved into this very apartment where the Falk family had lived before being forced to leave this home in 1939 to take up positions in a Jewish nursing home near Heilbronn. She said her mother knew a Jewish family had lived there and it saddened her, but they did not ask what had happened to them. It clearly meant something special to Frau Bouché that she has been able to honor the Falk family in this way.

For more information about Gunther Demnig's Stolperstein initiative, click on the links above or here. To learn the stories of the people named on Stolpersteine in your area or ones you come across on your travels, google the person's name along with the word "Stolperstein." It may also help to add the name of the town in which the Stolperstein is found.

Stolpersteine continue to be laid in communities across 21 countries in Europe. It costs €132 to sponsor a stone, which is usually placed in front of the individual's last known residence. 

The 100,000th Stolperstein was laid in 2023.

Monday, April 22, 2024

Kaya is TWO!!

 Happy Hatchday, Kaya! Alles Gute zum Schlüpftag!

our current favorite photo of Kaya
Today for Kaya is like any other cold, crappy April day. She doesn’t know it’s her hatchday, but we do!

What present would I like to give her? A knitted sweater vest to keep her warm in her mews during this cold snap! If I’m cold, she’s cold. Isn’t that how it works?

AI image created by

What she’s actually getting is a nice big quail (Wachtel) for her hatchday lunch.

We’ve had a fun and exciting second year with her even though I posted precious little about it. We ended her season of 63 hawking days with 52 crows (Krähen), 3 magpies (Elstern), 2 pigeons (Tauben), 1 duck (Stockente) and, quite impressively, two Egyptian geese (Nilgänse)!

Our successes together are no doubt notable for a young bird, but if I average her hawking days with 5 flights each, that’s about 315 flights and a total of 60 kills. I only mention that to illustrate that her quarry still has the better odds.

in a tree in our training ground between flights

She should be molting now, but several things have stood in the way of a good start. Right before the long Easter weekend, I noticed some wounds on the bottoms of several of her toes, which we had looked at by a veterinarian who specializes in birds and reptiles in Karlsruhe. The first available appointment was 12 days later, and as of then we started 3 different medications. Medications are not good for the molt, so we didn’t expect anything during the 6 days she was on them. The wounds are nearly healed and she's off the meds, but now it’s too cold! This cold spell is supposed to last another week, so here’s hoping for a good Mauser re-start next weekend!

Kaya brightens our every day and she is so much fun during the non-hunting season!

This is her cute & curious pose.
She seems to appreciate her evening playtime, when M goes out to toss pine cones for her to catch. When it’s dry enough, she gets the zoomies as she dashes about her mews throwing and chasing the pine cones. Occasionally she’ll do this alone, but she much prefers a playmate or at least at audience.

holding her emotional support pine cone
while staring sceptically at her new carpet

One of her mew perches had lost all its bark, so M replaced it with a nice new branch ten days ago, which she has found greatly upsetting. It’s a lovely perch with a slight bend in it, so if she ever tries it out she’ll see she can sit even higher than before while she watches the neighbors come and go. Since she likes change about as much as we do, she still won't go near it. 

biiiiiiiggggg stretch!
She's such a sweet bird and we love spending time with her whether we're at an exhibition (Jagdmesse), out for a walk, hawking, or just sitting on the patio. She's got a charming personality, which she shows off when she's feeling safe and comfortable. She also tries to be really scary and hawky when something isn't fittin'. We continue to feel incredibly privileged that this wild animal* has accepted us and trusts us - even at her first visit to the veterinarian - and doesn't hold a grudge against us when we try new things like hooding her in preparation for the vet visit or failing to hide her medicine inside her delicious food. That was the first time we ever saw her pick up a piece of food, think twice, and spit it right back out!

*She came from a breeder and has never been in the wild, but a raptor is never tame or domesticated. She will always remain a wild animal, and we, her falconers, must never forget that.

The Verband Deutscher Falkner stand
at the Forst Live Messe (trade show) in Offenburg

We're looking forward to another year with our girl and all the adventures it brings!

Until next time...


Sunday, November 26, 2023

Hawk Diaries: Speaking of Horses!

 This morning we were planning to go crow-hawking with Kaya, but when we weighed her, we discovered that she was "too fat to hunt." She was 1060 grams, and while we'd have taken her out at 1045g, 1025 is better and 1060 is just too high. Plan B was to wait a few hours and go out around noon.


We'd planned a few weeks ago to meet a falconer friend and her Saker falcon Smilla at her friend's stable where we would try horseback riding with the birds, but M and I were struck down with Covid and had to cancel. This morning quite spontaneously the friend (IH) sent a message and asked if we wanted to meet and ride in the season's first snow. 

We are the least spontaneous people you don't know and I really can't stand winter, snow, or being cold*, but after a quick consultation with M, I started scrounging for my riding pants, boots and helmet! Smilla and her human couldn't come, but we will all surely meet next time!

* Blame it on Wisconsin! 44 years of that, and I've had enough!

Seriously, does it get any better than this?

We arrived, met IH and her beautiful Icelandic horse, Kvikur, and got Kaya out of her travel box.

Kaya: "Whoooaaaaaa, WTH?"
Kvikur: "'Sup?"

Kvikur was totally cool, like nothing can rattle him. And he's already met Smilla the falcon, so this was not his first rodeo, as they say. Kaya, on the other hand... As reported earlier, she has been in the presence of horses, but not frequently. And never on top. However, we really do believe she trusts us and has learned that she's safe when she's on my or M's glove.

At first we walked a bit so Kaya could get used to Kvikur and his human, then I handed Kaya to M and hopped on. M handed Kaya back, and she tried to settle in. 

"Mom?!? You sure about this?"

IH took the reins and led Kvikur so I could focus on Kaya until we knew how she'd handle this. M tromped along and snapped pictures the whole time, and although you'd think we would have thought to take ONE photo of the three of us with Kvikur, we did not. Next time!

IH has longer legs than I do!
I could just barely reach the stirrups, but no matter.

It was cold but ok, and then it wasn't. 😂 SchneeregenSchnee, wind... And still, I was happy as could be, riding with Kaya! It was a lovely ride and I can picture all kinds of horse & hawk adventures for the future!

Look at the pup!
This is how he spent the whole walk! 😍

I don't need to write much more - the photos say it all. What an amazing and fabulous experience this was! We are so grateful to Smilla's human, IH, and Kvikur for this day. 

I've loved horses all my life, and now falconry IS my life. What could be better than combining the two on a snowy day?


Saturday, September 23, 2023

Crow Hawking Diaries: Curious Horses

 OMG, what I would give to have photos or video of today’s hawking experience! 

M and I took a guest and Kaya crow hawking not far from Horb and it was tough going at first. We saw hundreds of Rotmilane and common buzzards, but not so many crows. Those we did see flew out of range too quickly. But twice we passed a horse farm with an occupied pasture where there were a bunch of crows. Each time we drove past, those who were out of the pasture flew into it knowing they were safe there. I won’t launch Kaya into a pasture full of horses, especially with an electric fence. I finally asked M to drive to the farm, and I found the owners outside. I explained what we were doing, they were enthusiastic, told me to go ahead and the horses won’t be bothered, and showed me where to unplug the electricity to the fence. We got back in the car, drove about 150 meters, and I tossed her into the pasture at the unsuspecting crows. 

What can I say? I love horses!

The one she picked out had taken off, and she flew after it in hot pursuit. Once the crow is airborne it’s unlikely she’ll get it, so I got ready to call her back. But she wasn’t going to let that crow go, and she grabbed it out of the air! She pulled it to the ground, I ducked through the fence and raced the 50 meters to her to do my job. I’d asked M to come as quickly as he could, and thank goodness. The horses found the goings-on quite interesting and meandered over to have a look. Kaya was ok with that up to a point, but they kept coming closer. By then M was there and I told him to stand between the horses and me so I could finish things with Kaya. That was probably also when I said, “OMG, you have to get a photo of this!” He stood protectively between us facing the horses, but more and more of them came up and formed a sort-of U-shape around us. Kaya was secured and still had a death grip on the deceased crow but wanted to get the hell away from the horses. Among the steeds there was some commotion and I hoped M wouldn’t get kicked. 

I collected Kaya with her crow and headed back to the fence. M followed.

So did the horses.

And several cows, one that looked rather butch.

Kaya got her reward for a job extremely well done while we and our guest recapped the events on the safe side of the fence. Then we went back to the farm to talk with the owners and tell them we’d been successful! They were happy to hear it. The woman said she sometimes gets dived-bombed by crows when she’s riding, and the man said the farmers around grumble about the crows picking in the fields and destroying young crops.

The Wasserbüffelhof

We stopped at the water buffalo farm vending machine for an ice cream treat and had quite the audience of others shopping there. Then the owner of the buffalo farm also came by and chatted with us – he also said he’s thrilled to hear we’re after crows in the area.

A family-friendly photo of Kaya manteling
a kill from a few days ago)

Kaya got a leg and a wing from her crow in her mews when we returned and is so stuffed she can’t see her feet. But she’s screaming about her adventure to the neighborhood, or perhaps she’s just screaming at our neighbor who is minding his own business and trying to get some yard work done.

Our season officially opened with Kaya's first success on September 3rd, and since then she's grabbed 7 crows and her first-ever Elster (magpie)!

Until next time...


Sunday, August 27, 2023

Hawk Training Diaries 1

What an adventure!

I have no photos from today, so I'll just include a few recent ones of Kaya.

Lüften (airing out) in the garden on a breezy day

This morning we set out at 8:45 with Kaya to meet our mentor, "Br," for yet another go at getting Kaya into hunting mode. In this, her second season, she’s flying free really well from glove to glove, but she has not attacked the crows we’ve set her at, nor the dummy crow yesterday. So today we were going to try again after she had some thinking time.
Graureiher (grey heron) on our neighbor's roof a few years ago.

On the country road between our village and the next, suddenly a Graureiher (grey heron) took off from tall grass right on the edge of the road (neither of us had seen him standing there), right across the road and directly into our car. With Kaya in the car and nothing with which to capture or secure the heron, we drove on an agonizing 4 minutes to meet Br. M waited with Kaya while Br and I drove back to the heron, who was now sitting in the middle of one lane of the road. Luckily it was Sunday morning, not much traffic, and no one else had run into him. We herded him off the road and into the grass, Br got the large net out of her car, and after some tromping through long, wet grass, caught the angry bird. She covered him with a towel and her jacket, making sure he could still get air, laid him in the back of her car, and on the way back to our meeting point she called a friend of hers who runs a NABU Vogelauffangstation (bird rescue center and sanctuary), taking in injured birds to treat and either re-wild or keep at the center, or - if needs be - put to sleep. She left a message, and since the heron was as comfortable as he could be under the circumstances and in a quiet, dark place, we decided to see about getting the training done with Kaya while waiting for her friend to call back.

Kaya once again flew toward the crow dummy but then just wanted to land on it ladylike rather than fiercely grabbing it as she must do to hunt, so mean Tante Br swung it out of her reach. Never mind this, then, we tried a different tactic. Twice Kaya flew from my glove toward the crow dummy, which Br snatched away when Kaya didn’t attack it. Each time she had to fly back to me to start over. Kaya finally got frustrated enough that she ATTACKED the crow dummy! She got a thawed chick for her efforts, and we did it again. Having realized attacking the crow dummy means getting a sizeable chunk of food, she went straight for it a second time. Then she was allowed to eat until she was full.

Back to Herr Reiher, the heron. As we were walking back to the car, Br’s friend called and said someone will be there at the center even though it’s officially closed on Sundays, and we can take the heron there.

M took Kaya back and gave her another reward in her mews, and we probably won’t hear from her again until Tuesday. She’s stuffed.

Br and I drove to Mössingen with Herr Reiher (40 km/35 min), the young woman on weekend duty met us, Br unwrapped and held Herr Reiher while the woman from NABU checked the bird over, and they put him in a cage lined with a blanket where he could rest until a vet could see him. I filled out a form with my contact info and where the bird had been, and Br and I left to take care of her animals (mice, quails, and a hawk). I hope he’ll make it.

Kaya (l) and Hekate (r) sitting on their perches
at a restaurant in Reutlingen Br and I brought them to last week

We flew Br's Harris hawk, Hekate, 15 times or so between us, and each time Hekate landed on my glove and got her measly tidbit, she looked at me with lowered head and threatening posture as if she wanted a piece of me. I’ve lost my fear of her in such situations, but once when she landed in a way that I couldn’t quickly secure her jesses, she grabbed the fleshy part of my upper arm and squeezed. She means business! Happily, when she has her talons stuck in my arm, she can’t also attack my ungloved right hand, so I was able to get hold of her jesses to secure her. Br told me to “scream” at her (Hekate) using the same bird-tone she was using with me. That’s what Harris hawk parents do to keep their kids in line. So I did, and I wish I had a photo of Hekate’s face at that moment: “What the…?!?” I did it again and she let go of my arm.

This is about establishing the pecking order, which Hekate and I have to work out every year from scratch. She's on a diet but still pretty heavy, and that makes her grumpy. She wants me to think she is above me in her little hierarchy, but that doesn't work for hunting together. So I have to show her I'm not afraid of her and also that she can't get away with attacking my fleshy bits.

M then picked me up and at home I was able to enjoy a scrambled omlette made with the fresh quail eggs Br and I had gathered from her girls.

By the way, I now have a large net on order to keep in our hunting car. Should be here by Tuesday.

Until next time...