Saturday, December 26, 2009

Happy Holidays

Beginning last year, I made my own holiday cards to give to friends and family. I used my camera to find some appropriate view of the winter wilderness. Last year it was a frozen tangle of Bittersweet. This year, Texas mistletoe. The trees here are parasitised by this plant which gained holiday status through old tradition and custom. I decided to post the images here as well, to share with my online friends.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Frustration

I'll keep this post short and sweet . . . but I think it needs to be written. So far, everything has progressed very well with the training of my new bird. The one step that remains is getting him "entered" . . . that is . . . catching something. After all, what I am practicing is Falconry, which is defined as a sport that catches wild quarry with a trained raptor. Cimarron is doing everything he is supposed to. We get out to hunt about three to four times a week. He follows well, if not very close, and always returns when I call him. However, the limitation I am facing is the apparent lack of rabbits in the Abilene area. I have found many places that look perfect, and should have bunnies, but are bunny poor. It's very frustrating! A couple weekends ago I was in Ft Worth and got the wonderful opportunity to go out hawking with a group of falconers in that area. I got to see a group hunt with Harris Hawks. Soon, it was my turn, and I did get one very good slip which my bird saw late, but still followed. Very quickly the local red tailed hawk also followed, and I had to run across the field to get to him and prevent the red tail from getting too close. Love those red tail hawks . . . but they could kill my little Harris Hawk boy. Also, unfortunately, the hunt day was cut short, as I brought my father out into the field with me, and helped him up a short incline to wait on the side. While we were in the field he headed back to the car, and fell and sustained a lot of bruises and scrapes. We spent the evening in the Emergency Room. Fortunately, he is fine, though sore for several days. I feel bad about his getting hurt! I have accepted the invitation of several land owners in the area, yet still have had only a handful of slips. I'm beginning to wonder if I need to explore other possible prey species. Starlings are an option, but I've never hunted them. Abilene does have an abundance of Grackles, but they are native species, which makes them pretty much off limits. However I was told by the falconers in Ft Worth that if they form large pest flocks, can be hunted under an exception in the law for "abatement". That may be an option once I understand the legal issues. There is a place not far from here where they flock at night and poop all over everything. It may be an option. I don't feel comfortable to try and car hawk. I've heard of it, and seen it on video, but never participated myself . . . and really need someone else to drive to do this. Not knowing pretty much anyone in Abilene, this option is not open to me. I did make a T-perch, and he took right to it, so his ability to learn new things quickly is very good. Hopefully, we'll find some options, and soon. It's very FRUSTRATING!!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving in Ft Worth

After getting off work on Friday morning, I headed over to Ft Worth for the holiday with my sister and her family, and my dad. The meal was great, and I didn't have to prepare any of it, even though I was a bit late arriving, and got teased a bit about it. On Saturday morning I decided I'd find someplace to fly Cimarron. My dad came with me, and I headed over to an industrial park I had seen while hunting to trap a hawk. As we drove into the area, I noticed a car parked on the side of the road, and in the field, another falconer. I honked, I stopped and yelled, and eventually blew my whistle, and finally caught his attention. He signaled for me to hold back, and then released his prairie falcon. Over the hill was a pond with ducks, which shortly were in the air. The falcon stooped, but didn't make contact. As I waited for him to return, another falconer drove up. What followed was a meet and greet, and showing of birds. The new fella flies a gyr/peregrine hybrid. I didn't write down any names, and my memory is poor in such areas, so I don't remember who the two gentlemen were. They gave me some directions to a bunny field, after revealing the spot I was at was bunny-poor. I left to find the place they indicated, but didn't find that either! I drove around and eventually did find a small brushy area behind a remote industrial park. Cimarron flew well, followed pretty good, and I did flush two bunnies that he made a go for, contacting with neither . . . . but confirming he will try for them if I can produce them. At the end of the hunt I pulled the lure, and again he tried to snatch and fly off . . . . which was successful because I lost my balance enough that the rope came from out from underneath my boot. I then spent about 5 minutes pulling him out of a tree. Not good! I need to create a leash for the lure to attach to myself. It was a nice weekend, and I finally got a picture of the two of us. He's such a pretty bird! When I got home I also had an e-mail from a falconer in Ft Worth who flies multiple Harris Hawks, so hopefully soon I'll get to learn more about the husbandry of this hunting hawk.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Show Me The Bunnies!

Today was a pretty good hawking day . . . . with one exception. I am still finding NO game in Texas, or at least in Abilene. I worked last night, but it was a good night, and I had all my tasks and my charting done and was able to leave at just a little after 6:30. So I got home in very good time and decided to take Cimarron out for a hunt. There is a field down the Winter's Freeway that looked very promising, and a Sunday early morning seemed to me a good time to go explore it. Cimarron did everything right. He followed me. He came to the fist when I called. He even went after "something" at least twice, but I think it was either a mouse, or possibly a small bird. There were many in the field. The field I picked, to my eye, should have been just loaded with bunnies. However, I only saw one, and it far away from me, and I don't think my bird saw it at all. At the end of the hunt, knowing his little trick, I stood on the lure, and prevented my little tiercel Harris Hawk from grabbing and flying off with his prize. He tried!! However, after a couple minutes when he realized he was not going to be able to carry, he settled down and ate the chick on the lure. In the meantime, I had slipped his jess back on, and secured him with a leash to prevent him from getting away. So, it was a nice walk on a Sunday morning. Disappointing hunting wise, but a good walk with my new bird, who is doing very well, despite my lame attempts at flushing game for him. I will have to continue to search for fields and farms where I can fly. Surely, Texas has bunnies . . . . . somewhere!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Flying Free . . . . and Lessons Learned

Yesterday, at 560/555 grams, I flew Cimarron free, and he did very good. We walked around the perimeter of the park where I've been doing training exercises. I almost walked into a thicker grassy area behind the back of the ballpark, but seeing some more of the huge spiders I've observed prevented me from doing so. It was a very windy day, and he kited around me and the area, coming back quickly to me if I called him to the fist. At the end of the walk he came to the lure and was easily picked up and put back into his giant hood. Today started out very well. He was a bit heavier than the weight yesterday, and I know better, but I'm about to go into my long work weekend, and this was the last day for several days for me to get out in the morning for a good training/hunting flight. I tried a new field that I found yesterday, which turned out to be very disappointing. I have yet to find any bunnies in Texas, other than smushed ones on the road. It had lots of grassy areas. It had lots of cactus. It had a small mostly dried up pond with lots of cattails. It had a large field full of tumbleweeds, which should have been full of bunnies . . . . but I have not flushed a single one. Cimarron followed very well, and came to me whenever I'd do a tidbit call. All went well until it was time to leave. I made my way back to my truck, and pulled the lure. He flew in, landed very nearby, then jumped in and snatched the lure, and flew off with it. PANIC! I've never had a hawk do this before. It's called 'carrying' . . . . and it can be a very bad habit, especially if he catches game in the future that is light enough for him to fly off with. He flew a short distance, and as I moved to close that distance, he picked up the lure and flew off a lot further, and over a fence, into an eclosure that had cows. OK, time to very quickly cross the fence and get him out of there. I found a place in the fenceline just high enough at the bottom to allow me to scoot underneath. I then moved towards where I'd last seen my bird. This is where the bells come in handy. His bells allerted me to his exact location. By the time I got near him, he had finished his chick off the lure, so was no longer interested in taking off with it. I also had a good sized piece of meat on my glove, to which he responded. WHEW!! I had flown him without jesses, so quickly slipped those on while he was busy with the large tidbit that he was unable to eat quickly, or fly off with. Lessons Learned today: * Fly him at the weight you've discovered his best response, and not any higher at this point. With time, as he becomes more reliable, that weight can go up. But not yet. * Use the line on the lure and restrict his ability to grab it and fly off with it. I really need to find some fields that have game in them. I've checked out a few spots near and in town, but found nothing promising yet. It now is time to start exploring the properties several persons have offered up when they found out I was a falconer. It's important that I produce game under this little hawk, and soon, so he knows what my value in the field is. On that note, I also took a very long drive yesterday to acquire three bob white quail. At the right time, during a training hunt, I'll release them, one at a time, and see if he'll make a go at them. Hopefully he will. But I'd also like to flush some bunnies under him . . . .soon!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Who Are You??

I observed this evening an interesting behavior which I have noticed in at least one of my previous hawks. After a shower, I wrap my hair up in a towel. Sometimes when not in a hurry I'll wear the towel for awhile, before combing out my hair. I was doing that this evening, when I decided to put the hawk to bed in his giant hood, here inside the house. He's been on his inside perch for a couple hours. As I approached him to untie his leash, his entire attitude was one of fear and a lack of recognition. I'm beginning to be able to approach him, to touch him, without this reaction. The only difference this evening was the towel on my head. It's interesting to see this reaction. This just re-enforces the fact that hawks rely almost entirely on their vision. They recognize specific details of my face, and changes to that face. I wonder if male falconers have noticed any kind of difference if they trained a bird sporting a beard, and then cut it off.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Indoor Perch

How do you help a "social" hawk bond to you quicker?? You bring him indoors and hang out together a lot. But you can't always hold him on the fist. So, make him a safe perch inside. With a little cement, a piece of PVC pipe and a cheap bucket from the hardware store, some scrap carpet from the carpet store, and the top of my high perch which I already had, quickly I have a nice, safe place for Cimarron to perch indoors. He's still spooky sometimes, but getting better!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

My own little "I Can Has Cheezburger" LOL

And now for a little humor!! Ya gotta wonder, living socially as they do . . . what the heck my new little hawk's parents are thinking about their son who has disappeared. Young birds are allowed, almost expected to stick around and help take care of their siblings for the next year. Hey, you seen Jr anywhere? moar funny pictures

Monday, November 2, 2009

Meet the New Bird!

On the Halloween Holiday weekend I took myself for a visit to the beach, to camp, and to trap around the Corpus area. I've been watching the trees and high points around Abilene and the surrounding area, but all I have been seeing are adult (we call them haggard) red-tails. I know these birds bred this year but must have chased all their offspring out of the area already. I reasoned, any passage birds may be flying south and perhaps hit some of the cities going that direction, next to the ocean, and started to hang out there. I was right about that assertion, even though it did not result in my trapping a red-tail. Along the road to Malaquite beach are many White Tailed Hawks. They look very stunning in their smart grey feather outfits, and bright white tails, but they are not a trappable species. I read an article a few years ago in American Falconry speculating whether or not they would make a good species for falconry. Sorry that the picture is not real clear. I don't have one of those fancy Digiscopes, and the birds would not let me get too close for a picture. On the day I went out trapping, I just drove into Corpus Christi from my campsite (can't trap in the Federal park). I exited off the Interstate and just started to drive back roads. Almost immediately, to my surprise, I saw and identified Harris Hawks, sitting over a fairly busy suburban street. My heart leapt into my throat!! I circled around for another look. OK . . . . to explain the excitement for those who do not know anything about hawks or falconry birds. Only some hawks are good for falconry. Many just prefer to hunt mice, or insects, and never lend themselves to any kind of sporting possibilities. However, some birds are particularly very well suited as gamehawks. These include our workhorses of the hawk world, the red-tails, and then the more exotic and neurotic accipiters, the goshawks, coopers hawks and sharp shins. That last group are some very excellent birds, but require very precise handling and training to come to their full potential. They can also be very frustrating when not handled correctly. There are many birds throughout the world that falconers are experimenting with, but which are not available to us here in the US. This discussion will not even touch on the myriad falcons, as they are a whole other class of bird that I have no experience in, and whose training and handling is different. Then . . . . we have the Harris Hawk. Also known as the Bay Winged Hawk, it is the only hawk in the world that lives in a social unit. Unlike most hawks, the breeding adults do not chase their offspring out of the territory once they leave the nest. The offspring are allowed to stay in the territory, and hone their hunting skills by helping out the next year to raise the next batch of babies. All the birds in a family group cooperatively help in the hunt. Once the prey is caught there is a pecking order, but there is no squabbling over the food. The junior birds acquiece to the adults, then get their food when the adults are finished. It's a fairly unique set-up in the hawk world. So, some 40 years ago, give or take, someone in the falconry world decided to try out this species of hawk. They range throughout Mexico and down into South America, coming into the US only in parts of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. They turned out to be a most excellent falconry bird . . . . bonding to their falconer in a way that many of our other hawks do not. Because they live and hunt in a family unit, they can be flown with other Harris Hawks, as long as they have been introduced to each other before and have sorted out their status with each other. They can be flown at a wide range of quarry, as large as jack rabbits for a good sized female, down to quail and starlings with a quick little male. They are a very versitile gamebird much prized by many falconers. The "normal" route for most people to acquire one is to purchase from a licensed breeder. However, a few rare birds can be trapped from the wild. OK . . . . back to my story! Upon seeing the adults, and knowing about their communal living arrangement, I circled back and started looking for their offspring. Sure enough, saw one sitting on a light pole over a fairly busy suburban road. A few more turn backs and I saw a place to place my trap and back off and wait. I did not have to wait long. Once the bird saw my trap he made his approach double-time, and was snared very quickly. I hurried back to the trap site, and soon had in hand a juvenile Harris Hawk! I cast him (which is to secure the feet and bind him in such a way that he could not escape) and placed him on the scale. I got a weight of about 580 grams. I then made a phone call . . . . to my falconry friend Sharon. She has flown a Harris Hawk, and she knows many people who have them. I could think of no other person first to call, as she is also my friend. She confirmed that what I had in hand was a tiercel (a male) Harris Hawk. I jessed him up, and placed him in the box, not quite sure yet what to do. I then continued on my trapping mission, looking for red-tails and mulling over the situation. Why the uncertainty . . . . you may ask! Well, I first had to confirm if he was a bird I could keep. I had been out trapping for red-tails, which I know are a species I can trap. Some states only allow the capture of Harris Hawks based upon a lottery. I needed an answer to this question, and I needed it soon. If it turns out I needed further documents other than the ones I already had (Texas Falconry Permit, Federal Permit, Hunting License) I would release him by his family area and go on looking for that red-tail. I searched my mind and wondered who to call. I stopped and tapped into WiFi and left a message with a contact I had made with the Texas Falconers Club. Surely someone there would know, but I did not have any phone numbers. I then thought of my friend, Bill Oakes, back in Wisconsin. Bill has been a falconer for more years than probably he wants to count. He has flown Harris Hawks. And I felt surely he knew someone I could call. Sure enough . . . . he did! Thanks Bill! He got me in touch with a falconer here in Texas who flies three Harris Hawks, who confirmed that in Texas a resident does not require any further documents in order to trap and keep a Harris Hawk. So . . . . . I could keep the little guy!! How Exciting!! I continued on my trapping exploits that day, just because it is such an enjoyable activity, and just in case I trapped the monster Red-Tail of South Texas, but none of the other birds I set the trap out for came to the trap. At least I did see other juveniles now, but no takers for my rat bait. It was like my whole trapping experience this year was aimed at this little bird already in the box. I accepted that fate with a smile. As soon as I got home I started making calls to get the things I did not have. My friend Sharon put me in touch with someone who makes hoods, who sent me a loaner, and will make me a hood of my own. It arrived on Wednesday, the loaner. It fits good, though my bird does not like it. He'll have to get used to wearing it. My friend Dave, the Bell Man of Wisconsin, mailed to me an appropriate sized set of bells, as all that I have are way too big for this little guy. Hopefully, those will be in the mail this Thursday. By Monday the bird would sit my fist, and started to learn to recover from a bate. That recovery was a slow lesson. By Tuesday he accepted food from me presented with a little stick, then from the glove. On Wednesday evening, I had him jumping to the fist. I have not started any kind of weight control up to this point, as I have not been able to reliably weigh him. Now I have a hood, so I can get him to stand quiet on the scale for very accurate measurement. The weight control begins today! I have decided to call him Cimarron. It was the name of one of the cross streets nearby where I trapped him. I looked it up, and along with many of the other meanings associated with the name, one of them was "wild", or "those who live on the mountain". It is a very appropriate name!! I think he is just beautiful . . . . and I'm terribly excited to have him join my life!!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

North Padre Island

I had the long weekend off for this Holiday weekend (Halloween). I decided I would spend it on the beach. I'm also trapping this weekend. More later on my trapping adventures. I grew up going to South Padre Island, were we had relatives, but in my adult years my visits have been to North Padre Island, near Corpus Christi. Those previous visits were with a previous husband, so I wanted to make a memory all my own. I also decided to camp on the beach. It was a fabulous weekend!! Camping in the fall/winter in Texas is a very good thing to do . . . as long as you watch the weather. The daytime temperatures were from the 70s to 80s. The nights, down to the 50s, so no problem, except everything gets very dewey, both inside and out. I slept two nights in the campground, which was just behind the first set of dunes. I could hear the surf all night long. The moon was waxing full, so there was a lot of light. The campground was virtually vacant. A few hardy souls kept to themselves, mostly retirees in campers. I did meet and chat with a man and an exchange student from China who was visiting with him who camped next to me. The ladies decided to sleep in a hotel . . . a shame really, because the beach was glorious! We shared a little breakfast and a walk down the beach looking for sand dollars for the student. The beach currently is experiencing something called "red tide". It is an overgrowth of a micro-organism that causes a lack of oxygen in the water, so kills fish and other wildlife. It is a naturally occurring phenomena, so not man-made. There was a lot of dead fish on the beach at a very high tide mark. But what I found fascinating was an overly large number of sand dollars, live ones, on the beach. I've never seen live sand dollars. I'm not sure if they are exiting the water to survive. Possibly. Many are washed up, and turned over on their backs, so probably die. Quite a few are washed up, and you can watch and see they sift their way back into the moist sand. And if you walk enough of the beach, you'll find some of their skeletons. You can collect the dead ones, and so I took home a goodly amount of "sand change". They are very fragile, but very distinct souvenirs from the beach. The rest of my time there was spent chasing and trapping hawks. It was a really good weekend!
Here is a little clip of the view of the beach just over the sand dune that I camped. video

Sunday, October 11, 2009

It's a Sickness!

The passion for falconry can be like a sickness. It is a cliche, but it many times is true. I have been long from it, and I'm looking forward to wallowing in my obsession. All the necessary details are coming together. I have received in the mail my Texas license. Must say, things are done very differently here in Texas. My license is only good for one year. $120 and all they can give me is one year!! In Wisconsin it is renewed for a term of three years. Also, my falconry license does not also include my small game license, such as it does in Wisconsin. I asked my friend Sharon about New Mexico, and she told me squirrels and rabbits there are considered vermin, so you don't need a license to hunt them. I'll be forking over another $25 so I can pursue the appropriate game with my hawk. It is one of the two final details (OK, three) that I still need to do, but is just a matter of writing a check at my local Fish and Game office. I'll do that this next week, because I need the small game to trap. Not sure why the falconry license isn't good enough to trap . . . . but the letter that came with it specifically said I had to have the small game to trap. Oh, and I have to give a 'courtesy call' to the local offices to let them know I'll be trapping, and where. *SIGH* I'm not much impressed with the Texas bureaucracy!! The other details . . . . print off the Federal permits that I was able to get the office up in Minnesota to forward a copy of in an e-mail. I also need to buy my bait animal, a rat. I'll probably do that on Tuesday. Food for my soon to be searched hawk is on order and should arrive next week. Normally I am able to beg a few bunnies from my falconry friends if I found myself completely out of hawk food . . . . but I am far from them all, and all the stores I had were donated to a rehab organization. You have to have appropriate food on hand, and in the case of a raptor, appropriate is whole-body food. I have a bunch of rats that will arrive, already frozen, and a whole bunch of chicks. The place I'm ordering from had a sale. Feeding your hawk day-old chicks makes them have nice orange legs and ceres. I hope I have ordered enough to see us through until she is flying free and catching her own food. This morning I watched a video I had rented, as it was a short night for me, only 4 hours instead of the usual 12, so I was home by 11:30 instead of working all night. I worked on my hawk trap, my bal chatri, removing old and bent nooses, and tying on new ones into the blank spaces. That done, and the video done too, I was not quite ready for sleep. So, like the obsessed person I am, still in my sweats and nightshirt, I put a light sweater on, and decided to go drive around hawk watching. It was a nice, long and quiet drive around up north of Abilene in the mist. I saw about 9 hawks, maybe more, but they were all haggards. "Haggard" is the word we use to mean an older bird, beyond first year. We only trap first year birds . . . and there were none to be seen this morning. I also saw several kestrels, but I'm not trapping one of those. Because of the warmer climate down here, they probably bred much earlier than our birds up north, so their offspring would be quite independent of the adults . . . and by now have probably been encouraged to move on out of the adult's hunting territories. The migrants don't appear to be here as of yet . . . . but should be here soon. I've been keeping an eye out on the progress up at Duluth, Minnesota at one of the major flyways. The numbers of red tailed hawks going through that pinch point is starting to go up now, so the southward push is beginning now. Those Northern migrants should begin their Southward movement. I've been looking and discovered that there are four major flyways for migration. Abilene appears to be between two of them. The Dallas / Ft. Worth metroplex appears to be on the edge of one of them, and I know there are a whole lot more hawks in that area because I have seen them while driving around there. So, I have already decided that I will be traveling towards that direction, probably on back roads, and trap as I go. Rich will be here next week, so that sounds like a most appropriate activity for he and I while he is here. He fully supports and encourages my hawking activities. It's one of the qualities about him that I like so very much! It's a sickness . . . falconry! I hope to soon be completely overcome with the symptoms, as I search for and capture and begin training a new hunting companion.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

A Final Goodbye

It's almost appropriate here at the very beginning of this new blog that one of the foundation stones in my life is removed. This is a bleed-over from much that occurred in my previous life, which I'm leaving behind in the previous blog . . . . but the passing of my mother cannot go un-commented on . . . and not memorialized. On Saturday morning, October 3, 2009, at about 12:15 AM, my mother passed away. In recent years her health has been declining. She has suffered from rheumatoid arthritis for far too long, and it has brought her a great deal of pain. This is an auto-immune disease, and that combined with some of the treatment modalities, has resulted in a compromised immune system and damaged lungs. Mom gets infections easy and often. Every winter for the last few years she has gotten the "crud", and I thought this was just the first bout of it this season. We were all wrong. We were to re-locate my parents this past weekend to an elderly apartment complex, and we did go forward with moving my father. It saddens me that my mother never made it out of El Paso. She would have enjoyed the new location in Fort Worth. We were moving them to be closer to us kids . . . which is one of the primary reasons I came to this area, back to Texas, to be closer and of help to my parents. Well, my mother is beyond any help I can render now. My mother was a good woman. Maybe not terribly outgoing, but those who did know her loved her well. There was a fairly good turnout of people to the memorial service, and the funeral. She is buried at the Fort Bliss Military Cemetery in El Paso. It is a well-maintained, and very efficiently run place. Just three hours after the graveside service and she was in the ground with very little sign that it had just occurred. We each of us deal and cope with our losses differently. I have been coping with loss for a couple years . . . trying to come to terms with things that are passed for me, and letting them go. My face is directly pointed to the light of the possibilities of the future. I have loved those that are no longer a part of my life . . . . but for many reasons they are no longer there. I have to keep on living, and making new ties, and growing. My mother has been a firm and steady rock in my life, and I will miss her terribly. It saddens me that she won't get to meet Rich. He is coming to visit me in about a week and a half. I need his visit . . . . and might cry on him a bit. My family's religious beliefs were on full display this past week. It gives comfort, I know, but is a way of looking at the world that is changed for me. I still believe in the permanence of the soul, so feel my mother's spirit still exists. However the way of that existence truly is beyond our knowing . . . until we make the journey ourselves. I trust that all that she was is not lost, and that somewhere her soul rests, either for a season of healing and reflecting, or perhaps soon to return for more learning. If I could speak to her I would tell her that I love her . . . . as strong a love as I can express for anyone. She is the womb that brought me into this world, and I have continued to be tied to her through an umbilicus of love. Several times as I struggled with my changes and loneliness and challenges of the last few years, she was the steady and loving voice on the other end of the phone, giving me encouragement. It is not that I have come to a point in my life when I don't need that . . . . but only that her time here has come to an end, and she must go. I am happy to know that I did arrive, we all arrived, in time to be there for her. If her soul was hovering, watching, then she saw that all the living people who were the closest to her made it to her bed prior to her passing. We had gathered, then departed for some much-needed sleep. Within about 40 minutes of our leaving, her heart's patterns became erratic, and stopped. We had chosen to not revive her . . . as there really was no point to attempt it. Her body was failing . . . we let her go in peace. My sister Jennefer had chosen to stay the night with her, so was present at the moment the silver threads of her life were severed. We returned and waited for a physician to come and officially declare her death. I requested, and was allowed to extubate the ventilator equipment . . . freeing her body from the machines that still filled her lungs with oxygen, though her circulation had stopped. Even so, her body was stiffening and cooling. This is the most intimate I have been with one who has died . . . and it did not horrify me, as I had great respect for the body of the one I have loved since infancy. We stayed until she was fully disconnected from all the support equipment, and walked behind the gurney as she was wheeled out of the ICU. The next few days were filled with the responsibilities of arranging for her final resting place, and finishing the arrangements for my father's transition to a new location. All was done, and now I have returned home to attempt to get back into a normal routine again. I don't quite feel I'm putting into words the emotions I am feeling . . . . and maybe that is because I'm still not completely in touch with them. I will miss my mamma! I will miss her terribly! However my path continues on, hopefully for many more years to come. Letting go is a part of life! It is something I have had to do a great deal of in the last few years, and maybe because of that, I am becoming a bit numb to it all. But that numbness does not lessen the bond I felt for my mother. It will express itself, I'm sure, in the days and weeks and months to come. Goodbye Mamma! Safe Journey!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Slow Progress

One of the first things I've had to do upon arriving in Texas is to transfer my license from Wisconsin. Falconry in America is a joint license process. The Federal Government sets regulations, which have recently been updated, and then each state decides if they will allow falconry, and then draft their own laws which must either meet or exceed the Federal regulations. My Federal license is current, and good for two more years. I've submitted my application, and money, to acquire the Texas license. Upon receipt of my request, the state coordinator with the Fish & Game must coordinate with a local warden for an inspection of facilities. That happened this last Tuesday. Now I wait the final bureaucratic steps to issue my license. In the meantime, I have started to drive around the area, familiarize myself with the terrain, and look for and analyze the hawk population. So far I've mostly just seen adults. We call them haggards. I was surprised yesterday to spot a Great Horned Owl. He was unmistakable, sitting atop the telephone pole, with his big tufts. I also was surprised today to find a dead Barn Owl, tangled in a tall fence. I checked its carcass for any leg bands. Found none. So there are two species I wasn't expecting. I'm keeping a watch on the migration at Hawk Ridge up in Minnesota. As the push from Canada in the migration flock increases, our hawks down here will most likely increase as well. Rich has coordinated with my upcoming work schedule to come visit me for a few days on October 19 - 23. If I have my license by then (hope so) and I've not trapped a hawk by then, we are going hawk trapping together. Always fun to do with someone, and easier if someone else drives the car. I'll be looking for a juvenile hawk. The picture above is one of a juvenile. We only take first-year hawks, as they are the easiest to train, but also they do not represent the breeding population, the adult population. There is about a 70% death rate of first year birds, so we as falconers make no impact upon that population. In fact, the birds we take are given a greater advantage, as we give them a safety net to learn and perfect their hunting. After all, if we don't have success in the field, we still take our bird home and feed her. Many falconers trap hawks for only one season, and release them in the spring. They go along their way, and return to the wild with no ill effects for the training we put upon them. It is progress I've made . . . getting ready for the new season. Slow progress, but progress nonetheless.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Longhorns

Welcome to the "Big Country" of Texas ~ home of Texas Longhorns! Click on the pictures for a close-up view. These are really quite pretty cattle!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Out of the Ashes

New Beginnings! Sometimes in a life these opportunities come to us, willingly or otherwise. I have been living just such a new beginning for about a month. For good, or for ill, this is where my path finds me at this time in my life. I expect that most of the visitors to this blog will have followed a link from my previous creation, Ladyhawker. If you just happened to stumble upon this new creation, come visit the past. There I documented the first years of my practice of falconry. I told tales of my hunts, the birds that I was fortunate to share them with, the people I met through falconry, my perspectives, my opinions. It was a labor of love, and creativity. There I also shared pictures of journeys to other places, and the views I captured with my camera. I plan to continue that activity in this blog. But also in that past blog, I allowed to creep much of the emotions of my journey through divorce, and the struggles I encountered to decide, and to create a new life. I felt it was important, NOW, with much of that old life gone into the ashes . . . . that I create a new place to share my love and my passion for an activity, a sport, that has given me such joy these last many years. So, thus begins a very new chapter in my life! I took a year off from falconry in 2008 because I knew I simply would not have the time to devote to keeping and hunting a bird. It was a hard decision, but I think a responsible one as a falconer. Now, that time draws to an end. Soon . . . . . . I hope to have a bird on my fist again. So . . . . where to begin? I guess, I could document WHERE I am at. In May of 2009 I graduated from a community college in Wisconsin, with an Associates of Applied Science in Respiratory Therapy. For reasons of family, and a need to acquire experience, I searched for a first job in the Dallas / Ft. Worth and surrounding areas. I was interviewed and hired by a hospital in Abilene, Texas. Through a lot of work, money, and the unthankable assistance of my very best friend, and yes, I'll admit here now, my fiance, Rich, I was able to move enough of my stuff to be comfortable, and more importantly, my falconry facilities, to the "Big Country" of Texas. I have been long away from this state, and really, it feels somewhat alien to me now. I have been in my new job for over a month now. It is a learning experience, and an adjustment. I work the third shift, which is taking some adapting by me, but I'm starting to feel just a little comfortable. This is an area that will require a lot of growth, and the acquisition of experience. It will take an incredible amount of my energy and focus over the next year, for that is the window that I am granting, at this time. My heart carries me back to the North. For so long I wanted to escape Wisconsin, and I have, but there is a new life waiting for me in Minnesota. In time, I will return there. So . . . . I wait! As I have had to do so very much of these last several years. My facilities are prepared. I have been cutting leather, and organizing all my equipment. I await the officer at the Texas Fish & Wildlife to process my falconry permit. Once in hand, I will set out to find myself a new hunting companion, to trap her, and to train her, and together to learn where the bunnies and squirrels are to be had here in the Big Country. As before, I will document with pictures and with text, but may leave out certain details, as this open forum is accessible to all through the Internet, and it is not my wish to cause any harm to falconry, it's practice, or its practitioners. Come now and share my love of all things raptorial . . . . . and of the most unique experience of living through and in the world through their eyes. ~Ladyhawker~