Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Free Bird

Today was release day for Kali.  I was invited by some friends up North to join them for a hawk walk (Wyvern was along, pictures to come for that) and to then release Kali.  Before I cast her hood, I removed all her gear.

The final step is to remove her Federal band.  Once that was done, I removed her hood.  I have been increasing her weight in preparation for release, so immediately she flew away and up into the trees.  It was a nice Spring day, high 30s, sunny and mild breezes.

I wanted to send her on her way cropped up with good, rich food.  I prepared one of the pigeons that was accidentally killed during last October's trapping.  It took awhile for her to be convinced to come down for her last free meal with me.

She did eventually come down.  One last good meal accomplished, and a hop up to my fist for the final bites, she was then sent on her way.

Fly Free Kali!  Live a Good Life . . . Thanks for the fun this last winter.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Eagle Falconry

Rich and I use a GoPro with our hawking, although this last season I didn't have a whole lot of days out in the field with Rich along to record much.  However, this mini documentary about eagle falconry is a very good demonstration of the technology.

A lot of this appears familiar, as last month I went to go see The Eagle Huntress.  It may have been staged, but was still a very picturesque window into a unique form of falconry practiced by the nomadic Kazakh people.

End of the Season

Monday, February 13, 2017

When the Falconry Demo Turns into a Great Day Hawking

Over the weekend I took the opportunity to fulfill a promise I had made to a young man who had contacted me last year wanting to see and experience falconry.  His girlfriend, Ellie, is the daughter of one of my fellow classmates from Respiratory school.  I combined this opportunity with catching up with a friend of mine who has access to some pretty good hunting.  This friend also brought along a couple of his nephews.  It was a bright, not too cold, although fairly windy day.  I had lots of brush beaters, and for their part, they all got to see some pretty good hawking.

Below is Deniska, who is holding Kali.

Another title for this post would be: "How I used a GoPro incorrectly, and instead of taking high image videos, instead took a gazillion useless .JPG photos, mostly of the ground the GoPro wearer was looking at so he wouldn't fall."

Seriously, Rich usually is my GoPro operator, but he was at work on this weekend day.  He gave me a quick lesson on how to use it, but I was surprised when we downloaded the data that it had gone into photo taking mode.  We were literally perusing through hundreds of photos.  Most did not catch any of the several exciting slips on this hunting outing.  I did isolate one of our slips.  Wyvern tagged this bunny in some thick brush.  Just as I arrived to help her, bunny got traction and kicked her off, to escape.  Here is a .GIF that I made of the action.  Later, we would flush bunny again, and I could see it was injured, with blood on its neck, but it was a very, very lucky bunny and escaped us again.

Our team for the day worked the brush hard, and at the end, when we had pretty much given up, we came across one last really thick brush pile on a slight hillside.  Oh, it looked SOOOOO good.  I had the kids go jump on it, and sure enough, a bunny popped out, and this time Wyvern caught it.  She then proceeded to play "Don't Catch Me", as I slid down the hill after her, and she kept hop-scotching away with her prize.  At the bottom of the hill I made one last dive for her, and grabbed her bunny, which is just as well, as she then let it go, and proceeded to pout for awhile and would not come to me to get her food reward.  I made my way back to the car, and there she joined me and allowed me to leash her in while she dined on the most choice parts of the bunny.

We moved to another location that Brandon had permission to hunt, but I decided it did not look as promising, nor did we have enough time as Brandon had some family obligations.  We parted after some pictures, and then went to an old abandoned farm owned by Ellie's family.

This location did look pretty good, as old abandoned farms tend to.  Kali was flown, and again, there was a really pretty stoop on a bunny which I so wish the GoPro had caught (it didn't).  We would work around the yard and off to a corner where I was about to call it a day.  Deniska had flushed a bunny in that corner but we did not see where it had gotten off to.  As I came up out of the ditch we were in, looking for Kali, who I expected to still be in the trees, I heard a strange squeak (not a typical bunny cry), and following that and the bells I then heard, we found Kali on her prize.

It was a good day for all.  My guests got to see some good flying and catching, and both birds scored a hot meal, plus more food for the freezer.

Friday, February 10, 2017

I Had Just Planned to Take a Walk

We seem to have come out of a rather cold stretch of winter.  The forecast is for much warmer days, which will melt away a lot of our snow.  It is only February, so the potential for more snow is always possible, but I am hopeful when this white crap melts.

I have found this winter to be a little more challenging than years past.  I have been diagnosed with arthritis in my left knee, and I share the same pain in several other joints, so probably arthritis there too.  Getting out into the cold has been difficult, and the coldest days I just have not been able to motivate myself to go out.  The birds have suffered some from this.

Friday turned into a really nice afternoon.  After sleeping a few hours, because I had worked the previous night, I packed up the birds and went in search of hawking opportunities.  For Wyvern, I chose a location which can produce a bunny or two, in years past, but for which I did not have a whole lot of expectations.  My goal was mostly to take a nice walk with her and let her fly, and maybe find a mouse or two.  Well, much to my surprise, this location produce slip after slip.  Wyvern has not caught a whole lot of bunnies in her career, but today she made it look pretty easy.  She has certainly learned that it is worth her effort to chase them, because sometimes if she tries hard, she catches them.

I then changed locations and flew Kali.  Her outing did turn into just exercise, with a few unsuccessful slips.  Flying both birds got me out and moving, and loosening up some stiff joints.  On the way home I stopped and picked up a couple of tasty sub sandwiches from a favorite small-town family-owned business.  It was a nice bonus to a good afternoon out with the birds.