Monday, December 10, 2018

Happy Holidays

We interrupt this whole hawking season and training to bring you . . .


Oh, and Winter.  Ya, Winter!

Richard was able to get a "front row seat" to the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train as it came through Winona, right by Rich's workplace.

Rich took these pictures today of our neighborhood trees covered in hoar frost.

And one of my own.

A few days later, even more hoar frost.  Rich took a few more nice pictures.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Training Camp

Chimera is almost ready!  I am starting to take her to other locations and flying on the longer creance.  She also has very good response to the lure.

It is fascinating that you can go between just taking food on the glove and flying a distance to the glove in just a couple weeks.  What these birds are capable of is always amazing to me.

*Side Note*  Check out that cute hat I'm wearing above.  I knitted that!!  I'm proud of that too.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Slow Motion Sumi

Both birds are making good progress in their training.  Chimera is flying to me on the creance outside, and appears to be well wed to the lure.  I want to work with her just a little more, taking her to other locations and getting the full creance length out before I risk free flight.  I do not want a repeat of what happened last year.

Sumi is flying to the glove short distances inside.  I am now working with her inside my garage, but these videos were while still in my living room.  I asked Rich to take a slow motion video to show off the strength with which she leaps to get airborne.  I follow with a normal speed so you can see just how quickly all the action takes place.  Strong leg muscles push them up so the strong muscles in the wings can take over.

Both birds are now free lofted in their respective mews.  I like to get to this point as quickly as possible to minimize any possible feather damage from bating against the perch.  Also, I think a free lofted hawk is a much more comfortable bird.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Surprise Hawk

After all the miles I covered this trapping season to find a new partner, it was quite the surprise to then have another just pretty much fall into my lap.  Oh, and what a bird!!

I have my trapping gear still in the car.  Whereas I had found my hawk, I know of some others that have not, and I still had an open leg band. Also, you just never know what might be beyond the next corner.  On the morning of Sunday November 11, after I got off from work, I saw not one, but two passage hawks in Rochester as I was leaving town headed home to sleep.  Because of that, I decided that on Monday morning, when I did not have to rush home to sleep because I would have to work that night, I would look around Rochester a little more seriously. Also, I needed to go to the Fleet Farm for some dog food.

Well, that morning I did not spot the two passage birds in town, but as I drove down Hwy 63 headed to Fleet Farm I spotted a very, very dark hawk on one of the poles along the road.  I looped back to a side road to attempt a closer look, but the pole the bird was on was just out of clear range of my binoculars.  It was also in an impossible-to-trap location.  I shrugged it off and proceeded to the store to get my business taken care of.

While at the store, and also after taking an assessment of my gear, I had discovered I did not have a gauntlet with me.  I purchased an inexpensive set of welders gloves, which is what I used when I was a brand new "baby" falconer, as they are cheap, and a leather gauntlet is not.  Thus armed, I loaded up my BC with some rats and went looking for that hawk.

At first, I returned to the location I had just left, prior to shopping.  I spotted the bird, but even farther out on a more distant pole.  Looking across Hwy 63 there were many access points that might give me a closer vantage.  I moved my car.  As I came to the new location I then noticed a very hawk-shaped form flying with crows in pursuit, harassing it.  I followed as it flew, in and out of several parking lots.  I watched as it moved towards my side of 63, around, back behind the Tractor Supply store to a much better, and definitely trappable location.  Driving nearby, I glassed the bird.  Oh Yes, a very beautiful dark phase red tail.  After another move of my car to the other side of the pole it was on, I confirmed it was a passage bird, as I could see the dark tail bands.  Oh Excitement!!

I have very much enjoyed over the years our normal Eastern red tails.  After a little research, I can state that it is known as Buteo jamaicensis borealis.  They are hardy and fearless hunters, willing to crash brush after their prey.  The Eastern red tail is bigger than the Western, making them very desirable as squirrel hawks.  Red tails are so ubiquitous in North America that they have been sub-categorized to range and feather coloring differences.  It can be very exciting when an other-than-normal expected bird shows up in your area.  I look for them, and sometimes have chased them, but up until this day have never trapped anything other than normal borealis.  I found an appropriate out-of-the way spot and dropped my trap, backed up and waited and watched.

It did not take long for this bird to notice my rats and to move in for a closer inspection.  It flew over, hovered briefly, then took to a nearby tree to study the situation.  And study it did.  I watched from my vantage, down the road, excited, hopeful, but also pretty much expecting the same luck I have had all trapping season.  Also, this was after my 12-hour work shift.  I was quite a bit tired and ready to go home for some sleep.  For this bird, however, I would wait.

After about 15 minutes, with this hawk having now turned away from my trap, and started preening, I figured I was not going to be successful.  I drove towards it, turning off onto a small side street, and down a ways until I could easily turn around and return.  As I approached the trap there was some kind of utility van that had pulled out from somewhere.  They were slowed at the side of the road, looking . . . . and behold . . . that little dark bird must have made a go at my trap as soon as I had pulled out of sight.  I raced in, jumped out of my car and grabbed.  GOTCHA!!  The people in the utility van pulled away, I guess after figuring out I was the one responsible for this hawk's trapped disposition.  They didn't stick around to ask questions as many people do if they notice your trapping activity . . . . which I try very hard to not attract attention to myself.  I brought "him" to my car, freed from trap, hooded and cast, then onto the scale.  At 1054 grams this would normally be a male Eastern red tail.  However, as I have already described, this bird was not "from around here".  It very well could be a female Western bird.

Stunned, excited, fascinated at the turn of events, I rushed home to show my sleeping husband.  I also had to dig through my old equipment, for I had not expected to trap a second bird this year, and did not have any freshly made anklets or jesses.  Fortunately, I save old, usable equipment, which will be usable for a short time, until I can cut fresh.  Comfortably outfitted, "she" chilled her toes in my spare mew, hooded, and I got some sleep.  That evening, we started the manning process.

At first I thought the bird was male but now I am referring to it as "she".  I now say "she" as I just get a female vibe from her, and also some of my friends, one who has had some experience with Western birds, looked at her and agrees her feet look larger, thus female, and her beak is also wider, which is a female trait.  Male red tails have a somewhat more sharply angled, narrow beak.  She took to the fist pretty quickly during her first manning session, but would go on to refuse food until about day three.  Even now, days later, she is still a bit spooky of sudden movement and sounds.  Several days later I took her with me to Foxfeather's home when we were invited to dinner, and she got some manning time with other people.  By this time she had started to take small jumps for food.

After consulting with an online group the consensus is that this bird in my hand is either a dark phase Western red tail (Buteo jamaicensis calurus), or even more desirable, a Harlan's (Buteo jamaicensis harlani).  I will know with the first molt.  If the tail comes in solid red, with possibly still those cross bars, it is Western.  However, if it is a mixture of stripes, spots, streaks and weird coloring, it is a Harlan's.  Time will tell.  Those same friends we shared dinner with, several of them artists, suggested a name which I agree fits.  She shall be called Sumi, which is a dark Japanese ink.

Either way, my hands are now full with two birds to train.  At least the weather is getting colder so my ability to get the Harris Hawks out is limited.  My days are taken up with hawk-related activities.  This give me JOY!

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Two Recent Hunts

Here is the video of the hunt in the posting below, and an additional one Rich edited onto this video.  We are probably getting close to the end of the days I can safely fly the Harris Hawks.  It is frequently not getting above the 20s, and snow fell last night which may stick around for awhile.  It's a good thing I have a cold weather hawk in the works . . . . and a surprise new one.  More on that soon.

In the video I mention that you have to be careful when going in on game with Wyvern.  Sometimes, she may let it go if she feels pressured, and then will pout and not come to me, or even for her rabbit.  She doesn't like sitting on the fist either.  I work around her preferences.  After all, she is not a selectively bred Harris Hawk, but a wild trap.  She gets the job done where it counts, hunting, and if I don't bruise her ego too much, comes at the end of the day.