Friday, December 22, 2017

NAFA 2017

As I finally return here to write the text to this post, it is already the New Year.  December was a busy month, and I wasn't even out hawking much.  The cold has descended here in Minnesota and my warm weather hawks cannot be safely flown.  For these below 20 degrees days (below 0 lately) I need a cold-weather hawk.

In October I trapped a new red tail for a hunting partner.  I was really enjoying working with her (I had named her Phoebe) and she was so calm and went through the training process very quickly.  However, I had misjudged her readiness for free flight, and I pushed her a little harder than I should have.  On her first free flight, after sitting in a tree watching me walk through the brush towards her and not getting anything to move, she picked herself up and caught the wind and flew off over the nearby building, and headed to the horizon.  Up to this point I had never lost a bird to a fly off, but there is a first time for everything.

I did have telemetry on her, and I am rather proud of myself that I did track her down, 10 miles away, in a thick area of forest on private land.  As nightfall came, I managed to get into touch with the landowner where she was at, and got permission to come back in the morning and try to retrieve her.  They said yes.  That next morning I walked right up to and under the tree she was in.  She wanted nothing to do with me and flew off to the next valley.  The area she was at had several deer carcasses laid out for the eagles.  I suspect she had cropped up the night before.  She took a brand new set of bells with her, my old transmitter, as well as some vet bills that I hadn't even received yet on the day she flew off.  She also took my hopes for a good hawking season with her.

I had planned to take her with me to the NAFA (North American Falconers Association) meet in Kearney, Nebraska the week of Thanksgiving.  Instead, I quickly made arrangements to trap down in Kansas while I was there.


One of my best hawking friends, Sharon Hartshorn, was also attending the meet.  In fact, she was attending and staying in her newly purchased, deluxe travel trailer which is now her full-time home.  She is a relief veterinarian, filling in for other vets who want to go on vacation.  She works throughout New Mexico and Texas, and goes as far as Alaska in the summer.  Having recently sold her home, she has taken up a nomadic life, but that does not mean she is not comfortable.  She offered to share her trailer with me for the week we were in Nebraska.  It was a very comfortable stay, and good times with a friend I have not seen in awhile.


I did not bring any of my own Harris Hawks, so here I'm shown holding one of her two birds.  I would also like to give credit to Beth Fortner, one of Sharon's hawking friends, who brought along her camera on one of the hawking trips we went out on.  She took the picture above of Sharon, and this one of me below.  She kindly allowed me to use them in my blog post.


The day I arrived, Sharon took me to a place she had found right in town where jack rabbits could be flushed.  I have not had many opportunities to try for jacks as they are not common where I live.  They are also very challenging quarry.  I got to see her two birds make the attempt, but when out with me I did not see a catch.  They had scored one the day before . . . a 3.5 lb bunny.  Them hares are BIG!

The main target for my days spent there was to find a replacement hunting companion.  By late October most passage birds have made their way out of Minnesota, and found their way down to places like Kansas.  There were juvie birds everywhere, and some really nice looking, different colored ones.  Sharon and I went out on one day together, but were not successful.  The next day out on my own I did find a new girl to take home with me.  I had arranged to have her seen at the veterinarian school at Kansas State in Manhattan, Kansas to get the all-important health certificate which would allow me to take her home.


Once I had her travel documents I returned to the meet location.


She attended one of the meetings with me to start her manning process.  The alcohol was for me!


Poor Bird!  Who knows where she came from . . . maybe even further up north.  She was headed south for a warmer winter, and here this Minnesota falconer snagged her because she thought rat would be a good breakfast, and took her back to that frozen state.


This is why I have been busy in December, working on training this new bird.  We had a slow start, and she has been pretty skittish to man, but finally she calmed down and we have made progress.  As of the start of this New Year I have been flying her around my home on short, free flights.  She still is not reliably wed to the lure for longer flights.  We are working on that.

Now, back to the meet.


While there, I did get the opportunity to see eagle falconry.  Golden Eagles are best flown on quarry like jack rabbits, and they are found in the open prairies.  This genuine cowboy kindly let us hunt his land.


There are not many eagle falconers in the US, but among them is the very famous Lauren McGough. She spent a Fulbright Scholarship in Mongolia learning eagle falconry, and now has made a name for herself back home.  Hawking with eagles entails a lot of walking across prairie to kick up their prey.  If you are lucky you can bring along a line of volunteers to make the job easier.  When one is flushed, the eagle takes off from the fist of the falconer after the quarry.  In Lauren's case, after the flight, whether her bird caught anything or not (we did not see any catches) she goes to her bird to pick him up.  It is a lot of walking for a fit person.  A not so fit person (me) got pretty tired.  It was neat to see, but not the kind of falconry for me.


Love her bumper sticker!


It was a very fun week, and I very much enjoyed meeting up and spending some time with my friend Sharon.  I was happy to have a new bird to take home with me, and try to get some hawking in myself this season.


Thursday, December 21, 2017

Yule - Memories from 2005

In Winter of 2005 my life began to change, eventually for the good, but it was the beginning of a very hard year, a threshold into something new, something frightening, something very unknown.

My husband of 20 years moved out, eventually going on in 2006 to divorce me.  In December we were still talking, and I hoped to work things out, and that he would come home.  I felt very alone in our house, that now felt very empty.  Part of my working to keep it all together, I made this music / picture video.  I insisted that I would have Christmas, and would decorate my home for myself, and visit friends and take pictures of their efforts as well.  It has continued to exist on a single DVD that was created by the software that allowed me to assemble it, as well as fragments on my very old and almost non-working laptop.  It was a fragile piece of memory, always guaranteed to illicit complex emotions in me.  I felt my creation was beautiful, but for me, it is also very sad.

New friends have helped me to save this copy into a YouTube file, and now I post it here.  Hopefully there will not be any issues with the fact that I don't have permission to use the music.  The file is marked private, but I can link it here.

The video is a celebration of Yule, the old Pagan word for the longest night of the year.  It is a celebration of the sun, and the hope that it will return again to warm the land and bring back life.  With the Christianization of the Western World the origins of the festival were wrapped into ideas and concepts that would be acceptable to the church.  However, at the root of it is the recognition of the tilt of the globe, and the reality of the decreasing hours of light that mark winter.  At Yule, this progression stops, and the sun is reborn, and makes its slow progress back.  What better reason can you find to have a party, to drink, to eat tasty foods, and to bring an evergreen tree into your midst and decorate it?

The video has a revolving sun theme, as well as winter scenes, both indoor and out.  The creation is older, and my digital camera at the time of poor quality.  Images are not sharp, but it is a snapshot of time.  Enjoy!

Thursday, November 16, 2017


Today Rich and I took both Harris Hawks out and flew them as a cast for the first time this year.  Shortly out of the box, Flint decided to assert his dominance over Wyvern, which she seemed to accept.  She would go on and frequently take low branches, or even walk around on the ground.

I picked a spot that has quite a few bunnies and knew there would be several slips for them to chase, which there was.  As we moved down the path, finally I popped out a bunny and Flint dropped down from his high perch to snag his second catch of the year, of all time with me.  Wyvern quickly joined him, which is GREAT, because that way bunnies won't be able to kick off little Flint.  He is rather a small guy, flying at 635 grams.  After the catch, it was just a mad flappy ball of Harris Hawk wings over the bunny until Rich made it to our happy huddle and took a picture.  I then moved the party out onto the path.

What followed was some feeding of Wyvern, but not too much, then hooding, then calling Flint back in, as he went up a tree to pout for awhile.  He then got to eat all the best warm parts of the bunny before he was traded off, hooded, and we made our way back to the car.

Things are looking great for the HH team!




Monday, November 6, 2017

Beauty over Brawn, and a Breakthrough


Hawk trapping has been a little "slim pickings" this season.  The girl I decided to keep is a lot smaller than I usually would work with, but she has just charmed me for some reason I can't really put my finger on.  My apprentice, Foxfeather, wanted to get a big, burly girl herself this year.  She's been going with a Game of Thrones theme, and was seeking out a Brienne.  We just didn't find her this year.  Instead, we trapped this little boy.


At a distance, viewing him in the tree overlooking the trap I had just put down, I was intrigued and wanted to see him in hand.  His coloring is just so stunning!  In hand, I'm still fascinated with his looks.  Fox has decided to name him Loras, after the Knight of Flowers.  He's such a pretty boy, but hopefully still a skilled hunter.  He had blood all over his beak when trapped, so that may be a good sign.

As to my own "little boy", Flint is the first of my birds totally ready to be flown.  On Saturday I got Fox's help, and we cast him and put a Track Pack on him.  He also got a beak trim.  He was none too happy about his man handling (woman handling), and when I brought him home and put him into the mew with my other hawk, Wyvern, who he has been rooming with lately, he decided to attack her.  OK, very bad mood!  He was housed elsewhere that night.

On Sunday, I went for the first true hunt.  I didn't have real high hopes, as Flint has never caught anything of significance while out hawking.  He's been a somewhat useless bird, willing to come when called and come to the lure, and follow along out hunting, but not willing to engage in the hunt. We weren't in the field 5 minutes and I flushed a bunny which he went for.  Actually, I flushed the bunny but never saw it.  I saw him stoop from the tree after something, and was mantling as I got close to him.  I though maybe he had a mouse.  Bunny never cried.  He had it by the butt, and I was afraid as I approached it would break free.  I carefully made into him then quickly reached in and grabbed bunny.  Good thing, because he then let go.  I dispatched bunny, then encouraged him to return and had him grab the head.  I then let him eat as much as he liked, to reward him for his effort.


This is bunny #1 for the 2017/2018 hawking season, and Flint's first bunny ever.


Monday, October 30, 2017

Phoebe


Will return soon and write about this.