Today dawned clear blue skies, still rather cold, and breezy, but I was determined to go hawking, regardless. Stepping CC onto the scale, she weighed 1245 grams. This is just about the perfect weight for her. We dawdled around the house this morning, but got ourselves together and got headed out to go hawking in the afternoon.
After arriving and getting CC out and beeped up (telemetry on) I decided to hood her in order to walk to our starting point. She has not been hood trained, so hated it, and it would turn out to be an unfortunate decision on my part, as somehow the hood seems to have fallen out of my jacket, somewhere. After the hunt we re-traced our steps but did not find it. I guess it could be worse . . . Justin tells me he lost a $300+ transmitter. YIKES!
Anyway . . . back to our story.
We flew at one of my best hunting spots, which can be counted on for many bunny flushes. Upon striking the hood and attempting to toss CC up into a nearby tree, she caught the wind and flew way down the track. Well, where she landed is an area I've wanted to check out, but never have as I've usually caught game in the usual spot, going the other direction. So we followed her. Very quickly, Rich kicked up a bunny, and she chased it, but it got away. Keep moving down, following. There were many brushy piles, and a lot of bunny sign. I kicked up a bunny and she went for it but missed, crashing the ground. I called her up from the ground to give her a little reward for her efforts. Back up into a trees, and try again. Third time was the charm! I kicked the bunny out, she was right overhead, and scooped it up easy as you please.
Rich caught all the action on his GoPro, but as of this writing he is having some technical problems with the software, which seems to have automatically updated and changed something, but wants him to purchase an update of some kind to work. Once he gets it all figured out, I'll post a video, which shows all the action.
CONGRATULATIONS CC (Cha-Ching)!
You presented me with a challenge when you first came to live with me, getting sick and needing some gentle care and rehab time to recover from your respiratory issues. You took all the handling in stride, and thus far, have been a fairly sweet hawk to handle. Now you are entered as a falconry bird. I'll give you the weekend off, as I have to work, but we'll get out there as soon as we can and try to put some more bunnies under you. Soon, we'll try for squirrels as well.
I'm quite a bit more happy than yesterday when I wrote the previous post. To celebrate, I took Rich and myself out for a really good hamburger.
A very large and cold bubble of air and snow descended upon us last week. It's not the 'Polar Vortex' which became so very famous from last winter, but the end results are just as bad. A very large storm system pushed into Alaska, and unique air currents sent the jet stream into a huge loop, pulling arctic air into the lower 48, and with it a sudden and abrupt introduction to winter. It is only November, and should be prime hawking time, but instead I'm hunkering down inside because I just don't care for 30 mph winds, which coupled with teens in the temperature, make for very miserable hawking. It feels like January.
Yesterday wasn't quite so bad, but of course, that was the day I had scheduled an appointment, and had errands I had to run, so no hawking. Today it's back to the high winds. It is supposed to 'warm up' as the weekend comes on, just in time for me to go back to work. Also, next week is Thanksgiving, and I'm going to be working just about all of those days, including the holiday. *Grumble*
I hate being cooped up inside. I hate not being out trying to get CC entered. I hate being cold. Tomorrow will be single digits cold, but the wind should die down. Rich and I will be making an effort to go out hawking.
Being stuck inside, I'll spend some of that time posting some of the successes I didn't post previously. I recently found a new spot to hunt not far from my house, and Sassy caught bunny #5 for herself there.
While looking through pictures we've taken this season, I also realized we didn't post the dove she caught earlier. To be fair, it was not a straight up catch. I think this dove was injured. I flushed it, but it didn't fly fast like it should have. Sassy made short work of catching it. She also ate it pretty quick too. Survival of the fittest works for wild hawks as well as falconry birds. The weak get picked off, rather easily.
I've been trying a few other new spots. So far this year, there does seem to be a pretty healthy population of rodents. Sassy has caught her fair share of them, and CC has as well, but I really need to kick up bunnies under CC. She needs to learn that I am her advantage in the field, for bigger meals.
I had a "Carolyn's Posse Falconry Day" last Sunday, 11/16, and it was cold and snowy. Justin joined me, and along with Rich, and Janelle and her son Harvey and friend Greg, and Foxfeather and her husband Roman, we tromped around out in the cold. Only mice were caught. I even whacked one myself with my stick. On his way home Justin informs me he made a quick stop and did catch a squirrel. We didn't take a group picture, because frankly I think everyone was beyond cold. We got to see his gos, but she wasn't cooperating for the hunt. His red tail, Chomps, got to fly for awhile, and did some pretty stoops on bunnies, flying over his dog, Lucy, who is a real asset in the woods. I wish Monty was as useful.
The very cold weather, and our first snow, brings to an end Rich's outside 'honey-do' tasks for the year, mostly. He did a lot of building of things for me this past summer (tilling a garden, new wood planks on the deck, pigeon loft refit, pasture fence, goat outbuilding maintenance). This includes making CC's home for the winter. She has a jump box inside a fenced weathering yard. There are heavy duty black tarps to provide wind break, as well as privacy. She has learned that it is warmer inside her box, so sleeps inside there, and hunkers down when it is cold and windy, as it has been. Next summer perhaps I'll get the third mew I'd like to have built.
One of the few bright spots with all this cold, Rich and I have been enjoying our 'new to us' hot tub. This was another of the summer projects. I purchased it from an employee at the hospital this last summer. It's an older tub, but has been cared for well. The employee's husband is an engineer, and maintained it well. Also, being used, we got it for a fraction of the cost of new. We arranged to get it moved (Rich had to refit a cart for it), then it sat in storage most of the summer as we worked on the porch, and he built a platform for the tub, then just in time, before we plunged into the deep freeze, Greg (my current apprentice) wired us up, and we got it operating. It is terribly nice on these cold nights to go and soak and visit together in the dark, prior to bedtime. When I was going to school and was a housemate for Liz in La Crosse, she had a hot tub, and I told myself I wanted to get one some day. Some day has arrived!
Ahhhhh . . . tis nice to be a Snow Monkey! Rich took this quick pic before joining me. Click the link to read a posting I made those many years ago when I lived with Liz, on another terribly cold day.
After starting this post this morning, I stepped away from the computer and made myself useful. I have decided what I'm going to do with Flint, for now. It is already way too cold outside for this little guy, so I switched the two Harris Hawks, exchanging mews. Sassy's mew has automatic lights that have a timer I can set. Now that mew belongs to Flint. Along with the switch, I put new carpeting down, which I had purchased previously. You see, for my two HHs, they have carpeting on the floor instead of gravel, inside a job shack trailer, which has indoor heat. They are quite toasty in this terrible cold. Once a year or so, when it is warm, I can remove the carpeting and power wash it. Well, Flint now has the larger mew with lighting, and I'm going to try to stimulate his molt. Then, hopefully if all goes well, he can be done and ready to hunt in the Spring when the other two hawks have to be put up due to the end of hunting season. I'd like to have a HH that hunts birds. This was my plan for Wasp which never happened due to his untimely death. I got them both switched around today. So, let the molt begin for Flint. I also cleaned rat tanks, and generally tidied up the Hawk Shack.
And one last thing to close out this post. Last Saturday Rich and I saw the Prairie Home Companion show here in Rochester. We've been meaning to catch one of Garrison Keillor's shows. When they announced a show in Rochester, I bought tickets. Well, during the show they had a guest choir from Rochester, the Choral Arts Ensemble. One of the songs they sang is one I know, from my days in Region Choir, years and years and years ago. Well, that song has been stuck in my head all week, and seems appropriate with the winter winds outside. I'll include a very nice rendition of it I found on YouTube.
Between nursing a sick hawk, and running up to and back from the Raptor Center four times in an eight-day period (a two-hour drive each way), and trying to help my adopted apprentice Sue trap a passage red-tail, and flying Sassy several times, and attempting to understand what the heck is going on inside the head of Flint, my new Harris Hawk, and pathetically trying to maintain my home (Rich has not had very many great meals lately, and the house is messy) and working, and sometimes sleeping . . . . this past month has just flown by.
Sassy has caught two more bunnies, for a total of four so far this season. That's not very great, but at least she is adding to the meat in the freezer. The other two birds are just eating it, and not contributing. Hopefully soon the Red Tail will begin to pull her weight. Flint is just a mystery to me at this time, and I'll write about him later. He probably needs more time than I have been able to give lately. I have heard Falconry being playfully compared to having a brat (and for any of you who are outside of the Upper Midwest, a brat is a largish sausage served on a bun, like a hot-dog). One bird, like one brat, is Great! Two is too much! Three will kill you. I currently have three birds to fly, not exactly intentionally. I had hoped to train Flint and Sassy to fly together, but Sassy has decided that Flint is a worthy opponent to bully, and Flint doesn't back off from her so just antagonizes her. Flying them together has resulted in a crab-fest. Frankly, I think Flint needs more work, and I need more opportunity to try and understand how his brain is working, because it is different, and set into unusual patterns.
Justin joined us for a hunt, after flying his goshawk and his red tail, who are both doing great.
I need to catch up with Greg and see what he's been up to.
And we still need to find a hawk for Sue. She's about to give up. I'm hoping for a stroke of luck.
On Saturday morning, October 4th, I went out trapping with my apprentice Greg. The previous couple days had been high winds out of the North West, so in the wise opinion of my own former sponsor, Dave, good days to try and find hawks as they tend to move in front of these kinds of storms. Hopefully a few passage birds had been blown our way from further up north. This was our hope, but not the reality we were occupying. Greg and I drove around for several hours but still did not spot any passage birds. Calling it a day in the afternoon I returned to my home from Greg's home.
As I turned off one of the back roads near my electric co-op, there on a power pole was the object of our quest for the day. She was also very well positioned to lay down a trap. I pulled over and got my rats back into the bal chatri. I then drove into an empty parking lot, placing my car between the hawk on the pole and a grassy spot, where I planned to set the trap. Just as I was about to toss the BC I looked around, for the bird was now no longer where she had been. A quick search found she had moved but not far away. I repositioned my car again between a grassy place and the bird, then tossed the trap out into the grass and left the area quickly. I drove down the road then made a big loop to a place I could see the hawk if she made a move for the trap. I had hardly arrived and didn't even get my binoculars out when I saw her launch herself and fly in the direction of my trap. I slowly made my way back to where the trap lay, giving her time to check out my rats, and carefully coming around the corner saw she was caught. A few minutes later I had her jessed up in the field, and in my giant hood for the ride home.
She is a fairly good sized, average but nicely colored passage red tailed hawk. Trap weight was 1370 grams / 48.33 ounces. That's just a tiny hair over 3 lbs! She's a Big Girl . . .
. . . with BIG HOOKS, as we like to say!
Because I have been hearing an awful lot of stories and speculations and high incidents of what is believed to be Asper (Aspergillosis ~ a usually fatal fungal infection of the lungs and air sacks) I was open to trying a therapy that is all the buzz out in the falconry community right now. A Google search may find you the information, and more specifically if you search on some of the falconry networks you can read up about using fresh pine in the giant hood and mew, replaced often, to prevent or treat Asper. It is attributed to a fairly famous falconer, but I will not mention his name here as I don't really want his theories linked to this page. Each individual needs to make their own decisions. It sounds good, it has the ring of truth, but I would go on to find that it is not well regarded by those in the veterinary medical community, specifically those who treat hawks. However, I did give it a good initial try. On Monday morning I contacted the Raptor Center and arranged to have an appointment so I may have my hawk started on Western Medicine to prevent Asper, just in case. We were seen on Tuesday, and the new bird was checked over and found to be in good condition. She did have a tiny expiratory wheeze, but the doc didn't think this was important. I received a goodly supply of Itraconazole and took her home to continue her training. She had accepted food from me the second day off the trap, so everything looked to be going well. This was before the journey down the proverbial rabbit hole began.
On Wednesday she began to show signs of respiratory distress. Even the slightest exertion, a single bate, brought on gasping. She continued to accept food from me twice a day, but the breathing had me worried. I lost my second falconry hawk back in 2004 to Asper. This appeared the same. I contacted my doc at the Raptor Center on Thursday morning, and they kindly allowed me to get in to see them that afternoon.
My husband appropriately coined what follows as the "House" part of this situation. As of this writing the events continue to unfold, and I have not yet received resolution of the situation. I would like to document here where we have been, and where we are currently going. To those who are familiar I'll state the obvious, and for those who may not know, I'll explain. We have a medical drama show that has been on TV for many years now. The theme is always the same . . . a patient presents with a mysterious illness, and the protagonist of the series, Dr. Gregory House, an incredibly brilliant diagnostician but classic misanthrope, eventually figures out what is going on, usually based on some vague clue. Currently, my bird has the doctors at the Raptor Center stumped as to what is going on with her, and they are intrigued by the challenge. Like the show, I hope they eventually figure it out, and my bird gets better and can return to my home for continued training as a falconry bird.
On Thursday, during her second visit to the Raptor Center in a week, but this time showing signs of sickness, she was anesthetized, X-Rays taken, blood work drawn, and physically examined. A culture was also swabbed from her trachea and started to test for Asper, which would take a few days incubation. Her white cell count was normal, so she was not fighting an infection. Her other levels all seemed to be somewhat normal. She did show a higher than normal Eosinophil level, which is an immunity cell sometimes associated in humans with an allergic reaction or the body's way to address inflammation, but I was cautioned not necessarily so with raptors. Her blood did appear to be darker than normal, which could be a sign of low oxygenation . . . a condition which is called hypoxia. Her doc decided to try her on a conservative therapy for the weekend, and I was to report back on Sunday evening. I was to continue the Itraconazole twice a day, but also had added Diphenhydramine and Meloxicam, to treat the inflammation. I was strongly encourage to stop using the pine needle therapy as in their opinion it has not been proven to do anything, and could possibly be contributing to her breathing difficulties. They also wanted me to try and get her to take casting material (fur in her food) so she could cast some small bones that were in her stomach. We returned home to begin her treatment. That evening she began refusing food, making treating her difficult. I had to start force feeding her.
Throughout the weekend the breathing became worse, but when quiescent, quiet and at rest, she appeared normal. She was paying attention to her surroundings, and on Sunday morning was very annoyed at her forced feeding, acting very hawk peevish. I hoped this was a good sign. However on Sunday afternoon I discovered that she had thrown her food up, which is never a good sign. On Sunday evening I carefully tried to temp her with small cut up tidbits of a freshly killed rat. She took most of the meal, only having to be force fed her meds at the very end. Overnight I hoped she would keep the meal down. She did. On Monday morning I was back in touch with the Raptor Center for guidance. They wanted me to come back for a new evaluation.
On Monday she would be evaluated by none other than the co-founder of the Raptor Center, Dr. Patrick Redig. She was being seen by one of the best avian doctors in North America, if not the world.
And I'll continue here soon . . . it is late, and has been a long day!
~Some Extensive Time Later~
I have wanted to return here, and to blog further about all that has transpired this last month, but frankly I have just been too busy, busy, busy.
The new bird has survived her ordeal. She would go on to be seen, and thoroughly examined by Dr. Redig, with x-rays (again), and blood work (again), and this time a two day stay at the Raptor Center, to include an endoscopy of her trachea and lungs. She was given support fluids, and placed on a regimen of Voriconazole which treats for Asper, even though she never was clearly diagnosed with Asper, or anything else for that matter. With time and support, her own body eventually stepped up and she has made the recovery from her respiratory distress.
Through this all, she has remained calm, and progressed through the standard training of a falconry bird. I have held her back only to finish up her medication regimen, but she has been held back long enough. My work schedule, as well as a time change back to standard time, has resulted in a delay to move on to the next step. I must be brave and daring and do so these next couple days. She has been allowed ample time to recover . . . it is time now for some tough physical therapy, and frankly a return to flight.
Because of all of this ordeal, and the expense she has incurred under my care, she has earned a name. She will be knowns as:
Falconry! Or more appropriately for me, Hawking! It is a passion, and a way of life. I happily pursue this sport, with the loving assistance of my husband. Come along with me for our adventures with the birds. Primarily we actively pursue it in the colder months . . . the rest of the time I try to make this blog as interesting as possible. Come let me share my stories, and feel free to contact me. I always enjoy talking about my obsession with this sport.