DONORS:
Colleen Hutson, Amy Yates, Mike and Karen Yates, Jim Ince, Donna Leonard, William Satterfield, Steve Chitty, An anonymous friend,
John Harrell, Bruce and Evelyn Haak, S. Kent Carnie, Bill Barbour, David Jamieson, Geoffrey Nye, Bob Collins, North American
Falconers Association
B
orn in Washington, DC, Brian and younger cousin
Steve Gatti roamed the woods together seeking a
direction for that compulsion. It came when Steve
discovered falconry through a book and infected Brian; the
boys never looked back. A screech owl grabbed by hand
was traded for two captive kestrels at the Washington Zoo.
By 1944 they had learned of Assateague Island and at 17
and 15 years of age boarded a bus that would take them to
Ocean City, Maryland. Hitching a ride across the inlet with a
Coast Guard launch, they walked for miles down the beach
and managed to trap two passage tundra peregrines using
pigeons and a headset. It was the beginning of a lifelong love
of and skill at peregrine trapping for
Brian.
After a hitch in the Army post-
WWII, Brian hit the beach each fall
for 1-2 weeks. He honed his skills
and developed new and effective
techniques. His drive and analytical
nature, along with the initial noose
jackets (conceived with Halter
Cunningham and built by Brian)
made him arguably the most successful
beach trapper of the falconry era at
Assateague. He and Cunningham were
featured in a classic Life Magazine
article on November 17, 1952. Staying
in derelict buildings on the island, he
kept few birds for falconry and banded
hundreds of others. In 1958 the number of trapping parties
at Assateague prompted a move to the False Cape beach of
Virginia/North Carolina, where his obsession continued
through 1970.
In the late 1940s and early 1950s Brian visited some of the
last Eastern Anatum peregrine eyries in Maryland, Virginia,
West Virginia and Pennsylvania, taking a 50-ounce female
from one. Brian learned to make the finest classic Dutch
hoods and some nicely tooled Indian ones, selling them
and other falconry equipment to his peers. He traveled to
Ungava Bay seeking gyrfalcons, and to Duluth and the Gaspé
Peninsula for goshawks. He flew peregrines at game in the
Virginia and Maryland countryside and at meets elsewhere.
Success was limited due to career demands and the very
nature of the countryside. Much more success ensued with
goshawks, which became his true game-hawking calling.
Brian hunted cottontails relentlessly, and was a founding
member of the Potomac Falconers Association. An early
NAFA member, he made lifelong friends at meets, all of
whom embraced the warmth, wit and intelligence of this
extraordinary man. In 1970 his principles prompted him
to walk away from the active practice of falconry rather
than submit to conducting it under federal government
oversight. Brian was a police officer,
game warden, materials tester, museum
conservator, gunsmith, cabinetmaker
and provocateur.
Joanne met Brian as a nursing
student on Maryland’s Eastern
Shore. In Joanne, Brian had met his
match…an equal perfectly willing to
join him on any adventure but also
unwilling to take any guff. Brian and
Joanne trapped peregrines together
at Assateague in 1957 and 1958, and
at False Cape in 1958 and later years.
When Brian and Doug Mollison looked
in vain for remnant Eastern Anatum
peregrines in 1959-60, Joanne roped
into the High Rock eyrie. She free
climbed into Jump Mountain, emerging with a grin and
an old primary in her teeth. Helping initially to man and
train Brians falcons, she later flew birds of her own. These
included a kestrel, an Eleonoras, a red-tail and a goshawk.
The couple attended early NAFA meets; Joanne caught
rabbits with her gos at the Wilmington meet in 1967 and
soon thereafter left active falconry. She was a nursing home
administrator, poet, artist, singer and musician who will
always be remembered for her wit and kindness. She and
Brian loved one another and children Sean and Colleen
fiercely until her untimely passing in 2001.
Remembering Brian and Joanne McDonald
In Joanne, Brian
had met his
match…an equal
perfectly willing
to join him on any
adventure but also
unwilling to take
any guff.
by Mike Yates
An early NAFA member, he made lifelong friends at meets, all of whom
embraced the warmth, wit and intelligence of this extraordinary man.