Jon-Jon Stravers

"The measure of mental health is the disposition to find good everywhere."
Ralph Waldo Emerson
"The measure of physical health is the ability to find food everywhere."
Tom Brown
"The measure of spiritual health is the disposition to find a raptor anywhere."
Jon-Jon Stravers

Jon Anthony Stravers or Jon Stravers Jr., was often referred to as Jon-Jon. The roots of the Big Blue Sky musical effort were initially started with the song-writing of Jon Sr. However, it was only after young Jon-Jon at the age of 14 showed a distinct and powerful talent for music and guitar that the father-son duo music began to blossom.

By the time Jon-Jon was 16 he had jammed with the legendary Iowa blues artist Patrick Hazell, and he had appeared with several prominent Des Moines guitarists. Jon-Jon also worked with Dick Redman and the Pella High Jazz band and helped them two win the Iowa State Jazz Band Championships in his junior and senior year.

There were rumors of a music scholarship at the time of his high school graduation, but Jon-Jon was adamant that we wanted to explore the world and not sit in a classroom.

Consequently, after he graduated from high school Jon-Jon traveled to Brazil for six months. He spent much of his time in Sao Paulo, but we only know a few stories of the Brazil trip. Most of the stories we do know have their roots in music or in raptor chasing (this surprises no one).

Jon Stravers, Jon Stravers Jr, and Jonah Chiricahua Stravers - Manzano Mountains, New Mexico, September 2006
Jon Stravers, Jon Stravers Jr, and Jonah Chiricahua Stravers
Manzano Mountains, New Mexico, September 2006

After he returned from Brazil Jon-Jon struggled with some unsuitable employment for a few months in Iowa, and then ended up at the Goshutes Raptor Migration Project run by HawkWatch International (HWI) in the autumn of 1993. He continued an association with HWI each spring and each autumn for the next five years, working at Sandia Mountains in New Mexico in the spring, and the Manzano Mountains in the autumn with some additional work in the Goshutes in Nevada.

The raptor migration worked spawned many different friendships and working associations. From 1993 to 2003 Jon-Jon worked on a variety of projects involving birds, mostly in the western United States. Some of the projects are listed below. Many of us know parts of his story but we are still piecing together the essential details of his activities from 1993 until his death in 2007. Interestingly, as with Jon Sr., Jon Jr.’s musical development ran parallel to his work on raptor research.

The following is a list of some of Jon-Jon’s activities.

1975 - Spring Jon-Jon visited his first Red-tailed Hawk nest with his father. Although he was only 17 months old at the time, Jon-Jon was able to discern the nest, the circling adult, and the associated behavior.

1977 – Summer Age 4 - First canoe trip down river with his father and his Uncle Jay. Jon-Jon had a somewhat shocking encounter with a Black-crown night Heron.

1983 – Spring Age 10 - Trip to Boulder, Colorado and the Rocky Mountains. After we hiked to the mountain ridge Jon-Jon took off and was gone for a couple hours on his own.

1987 Age 14 – Began playing guitar. Although he did not take regular lessons during this first year, Hawkdaddy did manage to arrange several lesson sessions with a variety of the best guitarists that he could find in central Iowa.

1989 – Autumn Age 15 - Took classical guitar lessons at William Penn College in Oskaloosa.

1989 – November Just prior to his 16th birthday – Jon-Jon and Hawkdaddy did a set with Iowa blues legend Patrick Hazell (the place went crazy).

1990 - Summer Spent part of the summer with Hawkdaddy in New Mexico. Jon-Jon worked as a paid field assistant on a Spotted Owl survey in the Pecos region of the Sangri De Cristo Mountains in eastern New Mexico. This was the summer between his sophomore and junior year of high school – he was 16 years old at the time and did not even have his drivers license yet. He did however develop a fondness for working on raptor projects in wild places.

1990 - Autumn Began playing with Pella High Jazz band.

1991 - Spring Pella High Jazz band wins sate championship. Jon-Jon wins outstanding soloist.

1991-1992 Jon Sr. and Jon Jr. performed original material and cover tunes first as the Half Moon Band and then as Equinox.

1992 – Spring Pella High Jazz band wins sate championship. Jon-Jon wins outstanding soloist.

1992 – Autumn Jon-Jon left for a six month trip to Brazil.

1993 – Autumn First trip to the Hawk migration site in the Goshute Mountains in northeast Nevada.

1994 – Spring and Summer Worked as a field assistant in the Snake River Bird of Prey Natural Area in Southern Idaho, tracking Golden Eagles and Prairie Falcons.

1994 – Autumn Worked at the Hawkwatch International site in Manzano Mountains in Central New Mexico. (Note: this was two months at 9000 feet in a wilderness area).

1995 – Spring Hawkwatch spring migration site, Sandias Mountains in New Mexico.

1995 - Summer Illinois – songbird work

1995 – Autumn Hawkwatch site in the Goshute Mountains in Nevada.

1995 – December Visited his sister Lisa in Costa Rica with Gifford and Sherril and Lindsey. Jon-Jon stayed after Giff and Sherril left and hiked to Chiripo peak, the highest peak in Costa Rica where you can see both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.

1996 – Spring Sandia Hawkwatch site, New Mexico.

1996 – Autumn Manzanos, New Mexico Hawkwatch site.

Winter 1996/1997 With Aaron “Skippy” Barna in Arizona.

1997 – January Family reunion in Arizona – Lisa back from Costa Rica – up to Sedona - Hawkdaddy and Jon-Jon into Brim’s Mesa.

1997 – Spring Sandias Hawkwatch site – also met Steve de la Pena in Albuquerque for the first time.

1997 – Summer Goshawk surveys in the Siskiyou National Forest with Aaron “Skippy” Barna – then Jon went to Colorado and Skippy took off for Veracruz.

1997 – Autumn Manzanos – projector manager – crew included Jeff Ogburn, Jon Larrabee, Jim Lawrance, Hawkdaddy, Jannette Kelly, Nancy Peate, and Sean O’Connor. Murray Adams and Dave Rowan make an extended visit. Jon Stevens made a visit in late October during a snow storm.

1998 – Spring Sandias Hawkwatch site – project manager.

1998 – Spring/Summer Assisted Hawkdaddy on the Feruginous Hawk and Golden Eagle nesting surveys in New Mexico. Jon Larrabee and Aaron Barna worked on this as well.

1998 – Spring/Summer Skippy and Jon-Jon conducted a Peregrine Falcon survey in the Grand Canyon.

1998 – Summer Steve de la Pena purchased a four track recorder and Jon-Jon experiments with recording. Bueno Psychedias.

1998 – Autumn Manzanos Hawkwatch Site, project manager.

1999 – Summer Willow Flycatcher work in Arizona.

Jon-Jon and Jonah
Jon-Jon and Jonah

1999 – Autumn ?

1999/2000 – Winter Visit to northeast Iowa.

2000 – Summer Willow Flycatcher work in Arizona.

2000 – Summer 4th of July – Stravers reunion in Michigan – Lisa, Steven Vu, Jon and Hawkdaddy at Cousin Mary’s – Jon-Jon stands on his head in a floating canoe – cousin Rick records Man in the Moon on video.

2000 – Autumn McGregor – hawk banding along the Mississippi River. Jon-Jon also provided educational and music assistance on the Audubon Ark voyages on the Mississippi River.

2000 – September to December Worked on house reconstruction with Pam and Dave Kester – also road trapping with Dave and caught a dark phase Rough-legged Hawk.

2001 - January De-Na-Zin – Steve’s 40th birthday and Moonbow reunion in sacred tribal lands in northeastern New Mexico, then to Costa Rica, with Denise, Lisa, Wayne and Hawkdad.

2001 – early Spring Big Blue Sky recording of “River’s Rising” in La Crosse.

2001 – Summer Worked on bird surveys on the Green River in Utah in the Moab area – Pam and Dave Kester do a river trip with Jon. Jon-Jon explores many of the ancient Anasazi petrogilffs in the region.

2003 – February Arizona – trip into the Chiricahuas with Hawkdaddy and partner Kristen Talbot.

2003 – December Son Jonah Chiricahua Stravers born.

2004 – May Visits Iowa with Jonah and Kristen, Lisa and Wayne – Audubon Ark/Lilly Belle trip on the Mississippi River from La Crosse to Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin.

2005 – August Bliss, Idaho, on the Snake River – Moonbow reunion at Jon Larrabee’s.

2004 – November Visits Hawkdaddy in Iowa. Records cuts for “Mystic Migrations” at Bright Ideas in La Crosse. Some of these cuts were also used in Jon-Jon’s recording “De-Na-Zin.”

Jon-Jon and Jonah
Jon-Jon and Jonah

2006 – Late Summer trip to New Mexico with Jonah, Aaron, Patricia and Cree. Moonbow hawking reunion at Steve de la Pena’s and a visit to the Manzano Hawkwatch site. Prairie Bob, Murray Adams, Dave Rowan, Erin Frazier and Hawkdaddy.

2006 – Autumn Visits Hawkdaddy. Concert at the Elkader Opera House which was recorded and then released as a Big Blue Sky CD.

2007 – Summer Records a variety of tracks with George Murray at Cosmic Groove studios in Boise, Idaho. These were Jon-Jon’s last recordings and they eventually became part of “Searching for the Cosmic Groove” CD.

2007 – September 2 Jon-Jon and Jonah were killed in an automobile accident on their way back to Iowa.