Inventing the “Raptor Roosts”

Conceptual Model for a "Raptor Roost"

Near the place I had carved “ Hydroglyph 1 & 2” lived some friends, a zoologist and an environmental sociologist. After they had seen the first glyph and pictures of the next ones to follow I asked them whether they would have any ideas for other structures to assist wildlife in the area (around Laramie, Wyoming). Nancy suggested that lots of hawks hunted the ground squirrels and prairie dogs on their ranch, but it is a treeless area, so perhaps I could make some perches so the hawks could have a higher place to watch for prey?  They wouldn’t have to be very high…..

In my usual over-achiever style, the first roosts were 14 and 16 feet high. Jim had a few recycled power poles on the ranch and donated those. I gathered dead branches from a riparian area, found some old rusty metal pieces left from an abandoned home-site, and some very bent old lumber pieces made from what another friend called “piss-pine”—wood so full of sap that it shed sap and warped into interesting shapes as it dried.

In my research on raptors, I couldn’t find anyone who knew anything about raptor color perception. I decided that I should put up two roosts, one painted intense colors from the local landscape and the other left natural, to find out whether the birds preferred one or the other. On public land (not open to the public) along the road into the ranch I found a low draw (like a dry streambed on the prairie that drained rain flow) and decided to place one roost on each side of it. The occasional water in the draw grows more plants to feed the small mammals, so raptors would like to hang out there. I initiated the permission process to locate the artworks there.

I built some small models of the roost ideas, figuring it would be a good idea to make mistakes on a small scale before the roost was big, heavy and up in the air before I discovered them. I spent several months work on how to build them, settling on placing one end of the power pole about waist high up on a recycled wood spool or pile of logs, the other end on the ground, so I could roll the pole around to work on all sides of the  top part while having the bottom fairly stable. At one point I had to rent an automotive jack to raise it hight enough to work on the back side.  I assembled ideas with branches and bunjie cords, took polaroids, and adjusted the arrangement, making up the sculpture and the process at the same time.


Raptor Roost Model--working out ideas

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