I am a woman falconer, enjoying the Great Outdoors with a hawk on my fist.
Sunday, October 3, 2010
We are making slow progress with the training of Bailey. I got spoiled last year with Cimarron, my passage Harris Hawk. They are such wonderful birds . . . so trainable. Because of this I am in full support that apprentices should not be allowed to have them. Red Tails are so much more aloof . . . and have an incredible stubborn streak that you have to work around.
Bailey sits my fist calmly now, even with many people standing around and looking at him, and is taking tidbits off my fist. I've also been hooding him from Day 1, and he is accepting that with no fuss. Next we need to get him to make the most important step in the training process . . . leaping to the fist. I'm very certain, based on his behavior, this is not going to happen until I strip a bit more weight off of him. Even now I am thawing the heart of the pig that we slaughtered for our Pork Roast Picnic . . . I specifically asked to have it back. I'll cut some of it up tonight into little strips and soak it to make 'washed meat' . . . which is strips of meat that the blood has been soaked out of. The bird eats it, and gets a full feeling in the crop, but gets little nutrition from it, so loses weight. This can be some of the hardest part of training . . . getting the bird's attention. This can only be done by lowering their condition . . . . that is, lowering their weight. Once I have his attention, through food, I can instill the lessons of reward for preferred behavior (operant conditioning).
As you can see above, I am letting him spend time out in his weathering yard. He has accepted it very well, and learned to return to the bow perch fairly quickly. He is bating occasionally, but not continually. I'm going to let this behavior work towards my benefit, as he'll burn more calories that way during the daytime, and be ready to eat and be trained in the evening. I need to place a mat where he's mostly bating towards, to protect those needle-sharp talons. I'd like to preserve those!
I've not trained a Red Tail for 5 years! My last one was Nina, and I had her for three years/three seasons. I released her to the wild in the spring of 2008, then took a year off during the second year of my education . . . when I had NO time to fly a bird. It's easy to forget some of the emotional turmoil I feel while training a difficult bird. As an animal lover, you want to feed them . . . but in order to begin the training in earnest with a hawk such as the red tail, you must lower their condition first to be effective. All this time, you must also be patient, and calm, and soothing. You are convincing the bird that you are not going to harm them. Yesterday I spent quite a bit of time in his mews, with him tethered in there, just reading a book, and occasionally picking him up and placing him back onto his perch.
I'm somewhat sorry to say that I sometimes regret having let Cimarron go. He trained in two weeks, and was such a sweet bird. However, I did do what was best for him, as I did not have plans for an insulated mews here in Minnesota . . . and when I arrived here, very shortly we took a trip to Norway. Perhaps in my future I can build a much more sturdy and warm mews, and maybe make plans to go down to Texas and get an out-of-state permit, and try to trap another Harris Hawk. There are also plenty of people that breed them. Such a bird could be flown during the warmer days up here in the Upper Midwest.
For now . . . I have a fairly normal, stubborn blank slate sitting out in the weathering yard, at this time currently fussing with his jesses . . . a good activity for him to occupy his time out there. He's already bit off one of his bells. He's preening too . . . also a good activity. I can watch him through the window from the desk where my laptop is positioned.
It take time to get through this process, and patience. Time and Patience are hallmarks of this activity!
Falconry! Or more appropriately for me, Hawking! It is a passion, and a way of life. I happily pursue this sport, with the loving assistance of my husband. Come along with me for our adventures with the birds. Primarily we actively pursue it in the colder months . . . the rest of the time I try to make this blog as interesting as possible. Come let me share my stories, and feel free to contact me. I always enjoy talking about my obsession with this sport.