Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Meet the New Bird!

Finally . . . The new Falconry Season is underway! ((Insert applause here)) From here on out, there will be hawk-related posts. On Monday, September 27, just north of Rochester, MN . . . I trapped my new hunting partner. Passage birds have been pretty hard to find up to this point. The fall migration really has not gotten underway for the larger hawks. I've set my trap down several times prior to this, with at least three birds coming to the trap, but not getting truly snagged, so escaping when I closed in to secure them. I've started to make trapping forays, and recently have focused my efforts towards Rochester. For some reason, passage birds (those first-year hawks) seem to be drawn to cities while they migrate. I don't know if this is because the country-side is "owned" territory, defended by the adult residents. Perhaps it might also be because our modern cities offer landscaped lots of broken habitat filled with mice and bunnies. Either way, cities along a migratory corridor are a good place to find passage birds. I've been on many hawk trapping adventures down around Madison when I lived in Wisconsin. This bird was sitting on a power pole on a fairly deserted road just north of Rochester. We drove by and identified it's status. Only the first year birds are trapped. We turned around and passed by the area again . . . dropping my large trap with a rat for bait. Driving down the road, turning and waiting, we saw no action on this trap. I really don't think the bird saw the bait . . . the grass was rather long. In fact, as we waited, it moved down to another pole, further away from my trap. We then drove by again, this time dropping my old trap on the other side of the road, with a mouse bait. Upon turning around down the road, this bird responded, and was snagged. I waited and gave it a very good amount of time to make sure it was good and caught . . . having been disappointed on the three previous attempts. No escaping this time!
This bird was mine!
Upon hooding and securing it's feet, and "casting" it with a stocking, I placed it on a scale. This hawk weighed 34 oz (980 grams). This places it somewhere between a good sized male, or a small female. My preference for red tailed hawks has usually been for a big female . . . however I did have a really good winter last year with a small male Harris Hawk. The smaller males are usually quicker. With passage birds being a bit scarce yet . . . I decided to keep this birds. I'm somewhat anxious to get a bird and get it trained and get the hunting season underway. It is an obsession . . . ya know! This tiercel learned to take the fist again quickly. Usually a newly jessed up hawk, upon removal of the hood, will bate off the fist (fly off) and then just hang by the leash. Their first lesson is to return back onto the fist. My Harris Hawk last year took several days to learn this lesson, though after learning this his progress was rather fast. This bird barely blinked twice . . . . and mastered that lesson. He has very nice, clean feathers, with only about two insignificant feathers with any trace marks (weaknesses in the feather due to hunger or stress when they were growing). He is a standard Eastern Red Tail, not too dark, not too light. His talons are needle sharp!! He has good sized, dirty feet, so I hope he's been hunting more than just mice. He's not made any attempt yet to grab me . . . but I'm also not offering my hands. I've been sitting with him for a short time on Monday night and Tuesday night. I did have to work a full day on Tuesday (12-hour shifts with 1 hour commute before and after), so these manning sessions have been rather short. Today, Wednesday, I'm off now for many days in a row. I've had the bird out multiple times throughout the day . . . and the house has been full of guests. By the end of the evening he is sitting rather calmly, not lifting his wings much, relaxing his tail, not reacting too much to knocks and sounds, and waving hands. Above is the Norwegian Eucher manning technique. Many Norwegian descent Americans play a card game called Eucher. My husband's family plays this game. I've tried to learn, but I'm not very good at it. It did offer a good opportunity to expose my hawk to lots of noise and people and movement. By the end of the evening he was pretty calm. I've decided to name him "Bailey". He has some nice cream colored areas on his face, and his eyes are the warm creamy yellow juvenile eyes. He reminds me of the Irish Cream which is so very good in coffee. It sounds like a really nice name . . . and upon thinking about it and saying the name several times over the last couple days, I think it fits. So, "Bailey" it is! Now I just need to build another mews and go trapping to find a big dark red tail . . . . I can call it Kahlua!

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