Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Hawk - 5; Hawker - 1

Today was a first day off after my long work weekend. It's also been fairly cold and wet, for Texas. After running several errands, I came home and got everything together to take my bird out hunting. I explored finding an access point to a field down the street. I did find a really good access point. For the next half hour to 45 minutes I walked from cactus clump to cactus clump, searching for rat nests. Most looked pretty old, but a few looked somewhat active. Cimarron flew back and forth, following my progress. Finally I stopped at a pretty good clump of cactus and began working it hard. When I do this he has started to come right down to get into the action, which sometimes may be counter productive to seeing a rat move, but which it is my understanding is normal behavior for these cooperative hawks. From his behavior, and very soon my own eyes, I discovered we did have a pretty good sized rat moving around the clump. Apparently, it didn't have a bolt hole, because it just moved around the cactus clump, and then over to another one right next to it, moving, moving . . . but never disappearing. Sometimes I saw the rat move back and forth between clumps, when my bird didn't. I began giving the falconer whoop, to alert and notify my bird that I'm seeing prey. I don't think he quite understands yet this signal . . . but with time and multiple hunts together he'll come to understand. Frequently I would see the rat move, but my bird didn't. He just really wasn't on point today! He was hunting, no question about it . . . . but sometimes he was just too focused close up, and not observing the entire area to take best advantage of the rat's movements. After chasing this rat around for quite a few minutes, and thinking from time to time that he may have found some back door out . . . I saw him make a break for it and run away to a smaller clump of cactus not far away. I moved to give chase . . . I had to call Cimarron to follow me. He hadn't seen the rat run and was still focusing close on the previous clump. I tapped the cactus, looking for the rat. I saw movement, and was surprised to observe the rat through the cactus, in a corner, stopped, possibly tired from being chased. So I poked my whacking stick through to where it was . . . and pinned the rat down! This just doesn't happen much. I tried to reach down with my right, gloved hand but the rat bit the glove and could bite through to my hand so I pulled back. All this time my hawk was on the ground but with a big hunk of cactus blocking his view of what was going on. He didn't even know I had the rat pinned. Silly bird! I reached over, picked him up, brought him over the clump blocking his view . . . and then he finally saw the rat and reached down and grabbed it. I then extracted rat and bird. If I was going to eat this rat, if I was a hunting hawk on the team . . . I think I shouldn't share with Cimarron . . . . cuz he didn't catch this one. I DID! Of course, what we are doing is for food and exercise for my bird, and we got both. I let him eat the good inner parts, secured him, then traded him off on something a little smaller in my pocket, and put the rest of the rat away. Later weighing the remains, it was 260 grams. With the parts missing, in Cimarron's crop, it was probably about a 300 gram male rat. Number 6! Oh, and I did have to spend quite a few minutes pulling all the cactus spines from his feet . . . and a few more outta me. The field was large and very filled with cactus, so more opportunities to find more rats. Rich is visiting next week. Perhaps this will be a good field to show him my little Harris Hawk at work. He shares with me that he has indicated to friends that Cimarron will be his "step hawk" . . . as my fast little boy is my baby. I hope to show him how clever his little step-hawk can be. But sometimes, it takes the efforts of the falconer to get the ultimate success. It's what the sport is all about! Cooperative hunting!

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