I have been running full spectrum lighting in Sassy's mew for about a month. Today I found her first molted feather. This looks like a #10 primary, on the right. That would be a normal first feather to fall. I would like her to move through the molt and be ready to go when the season opens this next fall. She has been her normal, cranky off-season self. I've also been helping her build up a nest . . . with me doing most of the work. I wonder if she'll lay an egg. I'll only check when I have food to distract her.
(BTW . . . this picture taken after I got home from a 12-hour shift, and a fairly busy one at that. I look tired!)
(Three days later, I found the matching #10 primary, on the left.)
OK . . . it is well past time to post something to get the Blizzard off the top of my page.
Today is the Vernal Equinox. It is Equal Day / Equal Night. Going forward, the days will get longer, and warmer. That said, there will still probably be many cold, sometimes very cold, days ahead. It got into the 40s today, which felt wonderful on my sunny porch. It is to do the same tomorrow, but I'll be at work. Over the weekend it will get cold again, into the 20s. We still have a lot of snow piled up, and the frost is not out of the ground yet. Next weekend it will get into the 50s. It has been a long winter, and Spring is much anticipated, however there is still many weeks before we can count on it staying nice outside. I did see one of the first true signs (for me) of the impending Spring . . . my first red-winged blackbird this morning, making his territory call at the top of one of my trees. Welcome!
Sassy has a timer on in her mews, and full spectrum lights. She's getting 12 hours of electric lighting, with those going off to allow normal sunset, which adds about another two hours. I am pushing to try and stimulate her molt to start early. I would really like her to be done, and well into getting into shape so we can tackle next year's season as soon as small game opens.
On nice days, like today, I put her out to weather. My weathering yard is still deep in snow, and in the shadows. This is my tall perch, which I feel comfortable putting a bird out onto while I'm around to monitor. I don't feel comfortable putting Wasp out on the tall perch, and as already indicated, my weathering yard is not usable yet . . . so he just got a window opened for the day. His mew has a nice view, and is very sunny as it faces South. He does not have increased lighting, other than what is coming in from outside, because I plan to play with him some more once it warms up. He'll need to be worked with, trained again, as he has gotten wild over the winter with minimal handling, while we were all shivering trying to keep warm. I'd like to see if we can chase some birds, sparrows and starlings. He needs more work, as hunting with him shut down way too quickly this past winter.
In celebration of the Equinox, I started some seeds I picked up yesterday at the Seed Savers Exchange. We are fortunate that we live so very close to this wonderful organization. I found a really nice video to share for anyone that may be interested. All of their seed is Heritage, or Open Pollinated. This means that seed collected from the plant will breed true to the next generation. We picked up a couple varieties of tomato and peppers, and I also had some seed saved from last year from a cherry tomato that volunteered in my brothers-in-law's garden. They probably planted it a year or two ago, but some of the fallen fruit from the previous year germinates, and up comes a new plant. The tomatoes are very tasty, and I preserved some seed from last year. We'll see if they germinate for me.
I had been wondering where I could start some seed in my house, as it is rather cool, and then the other night I had an epiphany while waking from sleep . . . why not use the hawk shack . . . it's being kept rather warm for the birds, and I go in there every day to feed the birds and the rats and mice. It will be easy to not forget to check on / water my seedlings. So I cleared off a shelf, and my seeds are being incubated with a warm base. Once the seedlings sprout, I'll give them light as well. By the time I no longer need to provide warmth for the hawks, I should be able to start hardening off some small plants out into the garden. So if all goes well, I'll have tomatoes and peppers this year. Oh, and Okra! But that has to be planted directly into warm soil, so will be awhile till that can be planted.
I also, finally, planted some tulips into some planters outside. They may not bloom, as I waited way too long to deal with them, but at least I finally did something with them.
So, Happy Spring to Everyone! Hopefully it won't be a wet or too cold for too long Spring. I hope for successful breeding of Red Tailed Hawks. I would like to trap one this fall. So get busy breeding, you parent hawks! I'll be waiting!
As I write this, I should be at work! We can't get out of our street to get onto the main road that runs by our house. The morning news said we got 6.5 inches of snow overnight here in St. Charles. The wind moved it all into the roadways, drifted up to make them impassable.
Here is Rich, standing in the middle of Sinclair Rd. This view is facing South. That's a 3.5 ft drift, which goes on for quite a distance. Anyone living further down our road is going NOWHERE anytime soon.
Here is Sinclair facing North. This is where we got stuck this morning at 4:30 as we tried to make it into work. Rich's Dodge Diesel 2500 4X drive truck couldn't break through. He ended up having to get his snow thrower out of the garage to free up the tires so he could back up into the driveway, and then garage.
The front of my house, my porch. This was all clear yesterday.
Hopefully a plow will come by soon on Sinclair so we can get out . . . and go to work!
A little later in the morning we even had a snowmobiler get stuck in the snow in front of our house. It's deep!
Below is a video we recorded while we waited to be able to get out to go to work. This was proof of how bad the blizzard was for us.
And this is what it took to clear the path . . . so we could go to work.
On Wednesday, February 19 Rich and I got out for what is most likely the end of my falconry season, with Sassy anyways. It got up into the high 30s. We went to my favorite bunny location, which is usually just crawling with them. However, with the terribly deep snow we've been experiencing, what bunnies are there are dug in deep. There is sign of them all around, but it is impossible to kick them out. There was a location of a brush pile, mostly covered in snow, but which I knew about. We stomped that pile and popped out the only bunny we saw all day. It was kinda a pathetic slip. The bunny ran out and tried to make it's way up the deep snow embankment next to the brush pile. It was so slowed down by the snow that Sassy snapped it up pretty easily as it tried to escape between a couple buildings.
We continued to walk the entire location, opting for snow shoes fairly quickly, as the snow was drifted up to our thighs, and sometimes waist. The picture above is not a true reflection of how deep the snow was, but it seemed like it sometimes. This above is piled up with a plow. Small Game Season for Minnesota closes at the end of February, which is next week. It is forecast to be single digits and subzero again next week. I have lost so many days of flying potential this winter because of the terrible cold. With that said, Sassy still managed to bring 10 head of game to the bag. Not great at all by any measure, but again, she is able to hunt after her injury, and bring game to the bag. Except for the extended cold, that number would have been higher.
I must say, I do so love this bird. She is so calm, when she's not too fat. We flew her yesterday in Spring Grove after squirrels. She did contact one, and got the only bite I've ever seen her get since I have had her. The wound bled clean, and after a cleanup with iodine and topical antibiotic, looks to be healing fine. The squirrel got away. She let me fuss over her foot and didn't mind my ministrations at all.
I plan to conduct an experiment with her. Because I can no long fly her to hunt, I'm going to place some full spectrum lighting on a timer in her mew. It's going to suddenly become summer for her, with 15+ hours of daylight. I'd like to stimulate her molt to get going early. I want her to be done and in shape so we can get out hunting as soon as the season opens in September next year.
Wasp may get flown a bit more, as things melt. I want to work more with him, focusing on birds. As spring progresses, we will have lots of nesting starlings, and there are always European House Sparrows. I want to build up his confidence on catching more prey items than just mice, which he's pretty good at. However, it has to warm up more than what is going on outside. I popped my head outside the door and took a little clip of the snow coming down. There was a clap of thunder snow a little while ago. The wind will get blowing tonight, and push around the 5 to 8 inches of snow we are forecast for. Spring is still several months away, but for me, the falconry hunting season is mostly over.
This is Sue. I met her through Karla at the Houston Nature Center a couple years ago. I introduced her to Dave. Sue is an avid birder, but she has also found falconry to be very interesting to her. Dave agreed to train her. Here she is with her first hawk, a bit of a late trapped bird, who of course did not face the camera when I took this picture, or otherwise blinked. She has named him Pazil. This picture was taken at the Wisconsin Falconers Meet held on the weekend of February 8 ~ an exhausting slog through deep snow to try to find bunnies that were tucked in deep. Rich and I attended but didn't bring or fly any birds. It would have been too cold anyway. At the time of the meet Pazil had not yet been entered, but I did receive a call today where Sue shared that finally a bunny was flushed under him and he caught it. This makes her truly a falconer, one who has caught wild game with a trained raptor. Congratulations Sue!
Previous to the meet, Rich and I had met up with Sue one afternoon to beat brush for her. Rich caught this very pretty call down. Some of the best experiences in falconry are to see the 'air artistry' of our birds up close and personal.
I'll have to get a good picture of Pazil so I can share it here.
It has been terribly cold here in the Upper Midwest. This winter has been really hard to hawk the Harris Hawks. I am really missing that I don't have a Redtail. This has me making plans to make sure next year I have a new mew for a RT, and that I make an extra effort to trap a large female. I'd like to show Greg how to do bow netting. Hopefully, if we put forth the effort to secure a location near the river, we'll actually have a migration this next fall. The birds were just absent in our area this last trapping season.
The thermometer creeped above 20 degrees last Wednesday, January 29. We took Sassy to chase squirrels in Spring Grove. We had to use snowshoes, as the recent snow and then blizzard winds had piled it up deep in many areas. Her increased weight from lounging around the mew meant she didn't try too very hard. You can get away with this kind of sloppy weight control with a HH, as they tend to not fly off, as a RT would. However, the downside is that they don't try too hard. She had a close call with a squirrel that lost it's footing when the branch it jumped for broke off, but at the base of the tree was a lot of "water sprouts", extra branches growing from the base of the tree, which Sassy became tangled in, and through which the squirrel escaped. We walked around for about an hour letting her stretch her wings before I decided I was tired from tromping through the snow with my snowshoes. Sassy is fly-able in the 20s, but she is quick to quit and return to the warmth of the vehicle.
Hunting season for rabbits and squirrels closes in a month. I'm seriously thinking about manipulating the bird's light in their mew. I'd like to increase Sassy's light to stimulate the molt to start early, and I'd like to restrict Wasp's light, to extend his hunting season into spring. He has only hunted mice and voles, and I'd like to get him on birds, so I'm not too worried about flying him after the close of rabbit and squirrel season, as he has shown no interest in them at this point. I would like to see if I can delay his molt into the fall, and molt him over next winter. If I can't fly him because of the cold, I might as well do something useful with that time.
It is Monday now, February 3rd. It may get into the 20s today, and the sun is shining. We will try to get out again today, if I can decide where to go. I'd like to chase rabbits, but with the deep snow, they are going to be hard to find.
On Saturday, January 11th there was a Mini-Meet in Rochester of the Minnesota Falconers. It was proposed and organized primarily by Lena Stans, one member of a falconry family in Rochester. I found out about the meet, found out who was organizing it, arranged to meet her, and offered to help out. For my part, I got some land permission, and then also took a big group to go out with us. The hawks flown in our group were Chomps, flown by Justin, Desper, flown by Greg, and my own Sassy. I also brought Wasp along, but it never got warm enough to let him out. It was a very fun day, and every hawk brought game to the bag.
I'd like to thank Kirk Payne for some of these pictures. He is an instructor and naturalist who works with Quarry Hill Nature Center. He is also a falconer who is sponsoring several members of Lena's family. There were several people along with very nice cameras. Kirk was kind enough to share some of his pics and gave permission to post to my blog.
Over the last couple years, since Richard comes along just about all the time, and I rely on him to take pictures and GoPro clips, I forget to make sure I document our adventures. I failed to get a group shot of all the people that came along. It was quite a gathering. Special thanks to Janelle, for helping me get private land permission. Also, thanks to Janelle's friend Joe, and his neighbor Mr. Zimmermann, for letting us tromp on their land.
Justin started the morning off. Chomps took us through the woods with several squirrel flights, but the tree rats all managed to find escape holes. We then looped around the wood lot, eventually kicking up a rabbit which was caught.
The group gathered around, especially this young man who had never seen falconry. He seemed particularly interested in watching the action.
The picture below demonstrates something that happened several times during our meet. I highly recommend having multiple young persons along when hawking. They so easily can be coaxed to get up on top of brush piles and stomp them, and to run around things to flush critters back your way, and generally expend an awful lot more energy than we boring (and sometimes stiff and sore) adults want to.
After Chomps got her bunny Greg got Desper out to try her luck. She didn't catch anything at this first location that we were at, but she did give several opportunities for the Paparazzi to take her picture.
After chasing a few more bunnies around, and giving them a chance to practice running to their escape holes, we assembled for some pictures before moving to the next location. Greg posed with Desper.
I posed with Sassy.
I then also posed with Wasp, who was not flown as he really needs mid 30s. I could feel him shivering through my gauntlet.
We relocated to a different, undisclosed location. I consider the spot we were at to be pretty much my second best location for bunnies in the Rochester area. We must have flushed at least 12 or so while there. This spot is right in town, near some industrial and retail areas. We also found what appeared to be some stolen and stashed merchandise (some power drills). While distracted and looking at them, a bunny was flushed, and Sassy caught it when no one was looking. I fed her up and decided she was done for the day. She seemed happy with that decision.
Greg got Desper out and tried again. This time she did catch one of those multiple bunnies we flushed. Always, his son Brady helps out. His daughter Belle is also usually not far away.
After returning to the cars she's posing with the family hawk.
The group with us seemed to have a very fun afternoon. All hawks were successful, and returned to their giant hoods unharmed.
Everyone Take A Bow!
Much of the group disbanded after this field. A few of us went to try a new location, which shows promise, but is still rather thick and could be difficult. By that time I was wet and tired, and wanted to get home to get cleaned up (and warm and dry) to go to dinner. Justin chased the sun for one last field, where he did catch another bunny.
We met back with other members of the Club for Bar-B-Que, to hear how the other teams did, and then share the company of those also afflicted with our obsession. It was a really fun day!
I'll get back out here very soon. I have lots of updates to post, and attended the Minnesota Falconers Mini-Meet this last weekend. However, I also have a lot of personal stuff on my "plate" right now that are taking priority. So . . . enjoy this very nice pic of Wasp. We had a golden, nice day yesterday and got both birds out to fly and hunt. We just brought a bunch of voles to the bag . . . er . . . crop . . . as none made it home between the two birds. This is a nice pic of Wasp that Rich took while we were poking around the back farm field. Such a lovely little guy!!
Note to Self . . . when flying the two birds together, and when one of them catches a small rodent, don't let them join each other in the 'feast'. We did experience some crabbing over the small packets of food, with Wasp being an absolute brat, plucking some of Sassy's feathers, and Sassy getting tired of this treatment, and grabbing him around the throat. Kinda funny afterwards, now that I know he's OK, but not so much at the time.
Flying my birds this winter has been difficult. It was all in the news and chat everywhere the impact of the "Polar Vortex". What it has meant for me is that my flying days are severely limited. Sassy can fly in the mid to high 20s, but Wasp just shuts down. In the lower 20s neither one wants to fly. Those rare days in the 30s, that I'm not working, have to be taken advantage of. These pictures are from just such a rare day.
Justin joined me, and brought along Eric Rain, a young man who may eventually become a falconer. Eric is a Veteran who spent some of his military years in my old home town, El Paso. He also was fortunate enough to meet one of the few falconers who lives there.
We started by flying my two beasts at one of my very favorite spots. We had lots of flushes, and eventually Sassy got serious and caught a bunny. Of special note here . . . Sassy let Wasp join her on the kill with no aggression. That was my goal! Now if I could just get more warm days, I'd like for Wasp to get more experience.
Here is our little hunting group for the day. Rich is behind the camera.
A quick pose after the hunt. We then packed it all up and went to get some lunch.
After lunch we flew Justin's bird. She's a great bird, and has a great falconer to fly her.
On this particular day she caught a bunny and a squirrel. This was also #77 head count for the year.
Today was the first day in about a 10-day stretch when it was neither a work day (6 of the last 10 have been), nor was it single digit or sub-zero temperatures outside. Granted, it only got up to about 19, but that has been the warmest opportunity I've had for quite awhile to attempt to get my birds out. Greg was also available, and despite some coughing in their household, two of his kids came along as well.
After we met up, we first checked a spot in Rochester that I had seen, but had not explored on the ground. Desper was our overhead game inspector. The Minnesota Falconers are having a mini-meet in January in Rochester, hosted by a family of new falconers, the mom and wife I met last week. I've offered to help locate hunting spots for those who join us. There are several locations I can suggest, but have not explored them all. Today was a chance to check out a couple of them. The first site only rendered up two flushes, of which probably was the same bunny. Though it looked like good squirrel habitat, perhaps it was just too cold today for the tree rats to be out. Overall, I've judged that site to be rather poor, and not worthy of recommendation.
After some lunch, we explored another location, which I may, or may not share. I shouldn't be greedy or over protective of my hunting spots, but this one turned out to be rather good. We flew Sassy and Wasp first, and proceeded to kick up quite a few bunnies. Sassy got in several good chases, and Wasp even tried to pick one up, rather poorly, as he was just not having a good day. It was just too cold for him, and quickly became too cold for Sassy as well. Finally, when she let two bunnies run right under her, and made no effort to chase, I decided I'd lure them in and put them away, and let Desper have another chance. Desper did get several slips herself, in fact she treated us to at least three classic wing-overs . . . flying over the grassy marsh we were working, then making a quick 90 degree turn and stoop into the grass. She missed all her bunnies, but it was pretty to see. Our lack of success today was credited, I think, to Desper being a bit overweight, and my two birds being Harris Hawks in Minnesota, when it is just too cold for them to tolerate.
We were successful in catching some 'game' . . . sort of. Belle whacked a rodent, which I now think was a short-tailed shrew. She's holding it up in her right hand above. Brady is posing with Desper. Shortly later, I flushed several and managed to stomp on one myself. Once the picture above was taken, I let Sassy and Wasp each have one of the recently deceased rodents . . . and they each did not say Thank You, and swallowed them whole. *Urp*
It was a good day, even if no game was brought to the bag. Next Tuesday it's supposed to get as 'warm' as 30, so maybe I can try flying my cast again. After that, it is to return to sub-zero temps for several days. Maybe next year I should consider reverse molting Wasp, artificially stimulating the molt over the winter, and fly him in the summer/early fall. It just seems too cold for him. Oh, and next year I should get a passage red tail . . . if they will bless us with their presence and migrate through. I think they boycotted Minnesota this year. They were very hard to find.
Thanks Greg, Belle and Brady . . . for a fun day! Let's do it again, soon!
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.