Sunday, November 28, 2010

Meeting Another Falconer

Today I spent a wonderful day in Rochester meeting another falconer who I've exchanged e-mails with for some time. We spent the day chasing bunnies and hawks, and generally talking each other's ears off. He is, by his own admission, in 'falconry purgatory', as he is birdless right now. He and his wife moved to Rochester this year into a house which, as he says, will be wonderful for kids (which is good as his wife is pregnant with their first child) but not so great for setting up a mews. So falconry is on hold for him right now as life is happening. Today I helped him get a falconry fix. We met up early in the morning and proceeded to check out a couple spots that he thought might be good for hawking. He's really not sure what to look for here in the upper Midwest as he has hawked in Idaho and Arizona. I made a point of introducing him to burdock . . . one of my 'favorite' plants. Eventually we went West to Byron, to the spot I've found which does have rabbits. We worked down and up the patch next to the rail road, flushing lots of bunnies, and Bailey did stoop on several, and on one did catch it, enough for the bunny to wail for quite awhile, but as I was making my way over to help him, he lost his grip and it got away . . . again. He really needs to learn to grab them things by the head! He was a bit high in his weight, and as the day wore on, and the tidbits added up, and it got warmer (and windier) my field control over him was straining . . . so we called it quits and called him down to the lure. We met up with his wife for lunch, and continued to talk hawk the whole time. She was very patient and didn't mind. After lunch, with him not needing to come home for any 'honey-do's' he went out with me again to 'hawk stalk'. We never did spot any juvenile hawks, only seeing one bird which at first we both thought was a juvie, and we even dropped a trap. However, once we got a chance to really take a good look at 'her' (appeared to be a pretty large bird) she was an adult, which we call a haggard. She was quite a light colored bird, having more of a rosy tail, not dark brick red, and her head was more grayish than redish. She was BEAUTIFUL!! Too bad she was an adult! The above sign makes no sense at all . . . . since the area behind it is a public park! We had a very good day, and I look forward to many more hunts searching for bunny spots in the area. Thanks Paul!!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving in Caledonia

Today I celebrated my first major holiday with my new family, as a member of the family. I've actually attended an Easter while I was still dating Rich. Above, we both came to the feast wearing our Norwegian sweaters, which are very warm. Appropriately, we posed next to his brother-in-law's stuffed turkey. The weather has changed, and we are experiencing the first true cold snap. A cold, icy rain fell last night coating everything, and making walking and driving treacherous. I don't think the temperature rose above the 20s today. Our chickens were moved inside the calf house, where they will spend the rest of the winter. My hawk got to spend last night in his box inside the house, but only because it was already icy when I got home yesterday, so didn't want to fuss with it. He's in his mews now, having gotten a pretty good feast of his own today, as I won't be able to fly him for a couple days. We went to Wisconsin yesterday, and I purchased my out-of-state small-game license, then visited one of my old favorite spots which always had bunnies. We had about 3 flushes, though it is possible the first and third were the same rabbit. He made a really spectacular stoop at the final rabbit, furring it, and garnering a squeak, but yet again he didn't have a good grip, and lost his prize. At this time we were also getting cold and wet, what with the freezing rain that had started, as mentioned above, so called it quits on that last lost slip. I'll continue to visit my old spots and check them out. I figure, they have not been hawked for about 2 years, unless someone else has been visiting some of them since I last left the area. I'm arranging for a falconry outting this weekend in Rochester. I hope for better weather. Cold is OK. Wind is NOT! Snow is OK. Ice is definitely NOT!! It was an enjoyable day. I am thankful myself for being a part, being welcomed into, a wonderful family, and having such a good companion in my life. Thanks Rich!! I Love You!!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Drive By Trapping

Here's my guy holding a recently trapped passage red-tailed hawk, which he is about to let go. A few days ago I was driving through the Yucatan Valley in Minnesota, and saw a fairly dark juvenile hawk. I didn't have any trap bait with me (live mice or rats) even though I did have the traps. I then went into my work weekend, so thought it unlikely the bird would still be in the area three days later, but I'd try it anyway. I had a meeting on Monday at work, so left an hour early to scan the valley in the daylight (I'm now currently driving to work and back in the dark). I drove through the valley, then doubled back on a parallel road, and re-drove half of the valley . . . and that is when I spotted this dark bird. So far this season, I am not having a great falconry experience. That is, I did trap a really nice bird, and he trained quickly, and I have really good field control over him . . . but I am just not finding enough game for him. He refuses to chase squirrels, which we do have, will go after rabbits, which I am not finding enough of, and usually takes mice. Whooopee! I have also been out trapping several times and caught nothing. I was surprised that within 10 minutes of spotting this bird, he was in hand. Taking him home and checking him over, he turned out to be a small (though well fed) male. Rich came with me back to where he was trapped and the bird was released. My license has room for another bird. If I happened to trap a really good sized (and preferably dark) female, I'd consider keeping her. It's ironic but on the same day I saw two other birds which were set up great for trapping. I think one turned out to be a Rough Leg Hawk, a species we don't use in falconry, so I didn't set a trap out. The other I did try for, and may have caught with time, but it was late in the day and darkness ended my further attempts. I'll keep searching for those bunny hot spots . . . . they seem to be a rare thing!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Soooo . . . what color nail polish would you like?? Blood Red!! OK then!
As we went through the training process, and the bating process, and my NOT having any outdoor carpet down while that was happening, my bird lost his needles at the ends of his talons. Reading up on it, you are supposed to soak the feet for the scales to slough off, and for the needles to return. On top of everything else, my bird also seems to have sustained a wound to the side of one of his toes . . . how he did that I don't know as he's not caught anything any more vicious than a rabbit. Besides antibiotics prescribed by an avian vet, treatment includes twice daily soaking in warm water. So, morning and night, he is placed into a lick tub (BIG plastic container) with about an inch of warm water, to which I'm adding epsom salt. He stands in this, hooded, for about 10 minutes. His feet are coming out nice and clean, and hopefully it is helping the wound to resolve, which is a closed scab, and which I have not noticed too much difference yet. Anyhow . . . . this is also helping to soften the scales on the talons. Today as I was fussing with his feet after a soak, and changing out anklets, I decided to take the emery board and scale off myself some of the loose stuff that you can see as a soft white layer on the talons. I was seen doing this, and captured in photograph. It does look funny! As far as the soaking process . . . I think the jury is still out. I've read to let the hawk soak overnight. I've also read to wrap a perch with a wet towel, and let them stand on that overnight. I may still consider this at some point. I've also read to massage in some bag balm onto the nails, which I may still consider getting. In combination with all this, I have changed out all the perching surfaces for him, adding a nice rough branch in his mews which he prefers to perch on. This should help with the stropping process. Either way, his toes are getting more pointy! I'm also very impressed that he is allowing me to fuss with his feet without any protest.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

United Nations Declare Ancient Hunting as Global Cultural Heritage

The North American Falconers' Association in coordination with the International Association for Falconry and Conservation of Birds of Prey (IAF) released the following statement today.


Nairobi, Kenya - Today the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage added Falconry, a traditional hunting method, to its List of the Intangible Cultural Heritages of Humanity.

For over 4000 years, falconry as a hunting method has retained an unbroken thread of tradition. For nearly 200 generations in an unbroken chain of intangible heritage, falconers worldwide have passed along their knowledge and skills bringing this art to us in the 21st century. Today's modern lifestyle and rapid urbanization have restricted opportunities to practice falconry. This has lead to a dangerous decline in many countries. UNESCO's World Cultural Heritage lists ensure signatory governments protect traditions such as: traditional skills, knowledge and rituals, handicrafts, song, dance, art and poetry or practices related to nature. "Traditional falconry is exceptional in that it fulfills all of these." said Frank Bond, President of the International Association for Falconry.

This is the largest ever nomination in the history of the UNESCO convention and was presented by eleven nations: Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Korea, Mongolia, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Syria and the United Arab Emirates. The Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage took the lead in coordinating this massive submission and UNESCO officials wrote during the inscription process that "...this is an outstanding example of cooperation between nations".

From its ancient beginnings in the Middle East falconry is now practiced on all continents and has given the entire world so much. Bond pointed out, "There are a thousand falconry words in common language. For example: even the universal term 'gentleman' is derived from falconry implying a man who could fly a female peregrine, the 'falcon gentle'; falconers gave the world the first scientific book on nature 'De arte venandi cum avibus' (1248 A.D.) and wars have even been avoided by diplomatic gifts of falcons."

The UNESCO submission stated "Falconry is one of the oldest relationships between man and bird, dating back more than 4000 years. Falconry is a traditional activity using trained birds of prey to take quarry in its natural state and habitat. It is a natural activity because the falcon and her prey have evolved together over millions of years; their interaction is an age-old drama. The falcon is adapted to hunt the prey, and the prey has evolved many ways to escape from the falcon. This leads to a fascinating insight into the way nature works and poses an intellectual challenge to the falconer in his understanding of behavior. His task is to bring the actors together on nature's stage. To do this the falconer must develop a strong relationship and synergy with his bird."

Falconry is considered a low-impact activity. Falconers understand that their hawks and quarry species must be preserved and they have been practicing 'sustainable use' for centuries. Professor Tom Cade of the Peregrine Fund pointed out: "Falconers have been instrumental in the worldwide recovery of the once endangered peregrine falcon and are involved in many conservation projects."

Falconers share universal principles. The methods of training and caring for birds, the equipment used and the bonding between man and the bird are found throughout the world. It is these common shared traditions and knowledge that make falconry universal and keep it alive, even though these traditions may differ from country to country. Larry Dickerson, President of the North American Falconers Association, sums up, "While falconry is a hunting sport, compared to modern methods it is not an efficient means of hunting. It is more of an art form kept alive in the United States by a small group of ardent and dedicated practitioners. This recognition by the United Nations is a milestone for falconry". The American father of game management, Aldo Leopold, referred to falconry as "the perfect hobby" and renowned American ornithologist Roger Tory Peterson pointed out the ancient relationship between man, falcons, and falconry in his famous quote "Man has emerged from the shadows of antiquity with a Peregrine on his wrist. Its dispassionate brown eyes, more than those of any other bird, have been witness to the struggle for civilization, from the squalid tents on the steppes of Asia thousands of years ago to the marble halls of European kings in the seventeenth century."

"The North American Falconers' Association joins falconers around the globe in celebration of this historical announcement and expresses appreciation to the falconers and organizations in so many countries that were instrumental in the successful recognition of falconry as an intangible cultural heritage." Dickerson said.

Monday, November 15, 2010


So I decided to hunt my bird today. I wanted to hunt him yesterday, but he was still so over flight weight on Sunday he was not safe to fly. I used a road killed baggie squirrel on him last Thursday, and he ate so much, and it must be very rich meat, it has taken days and days for him to burn off the meal. Even today he was 25 grams higher than I usually fly him, but it has been cold, and he was acting so very hungry and motivated I decided to risk it. Rich was available to come with me today. Because my bird was not at a spectacular weight, I decided to just stay near home. We tried the park in town, as it is loaded with squirrels, and there are spots where bunnies might be found that I had not kicked up yet. When we arrived, we flushed/saw about 4 squirrels. We walked around with the bird flying about, but just never got him and them lined up that he would see them and consider chasing. Much later in the day I dug out my wrist rocket to put in my gear . . . if I had it today I could probably have gotten a tree rat to move that was plastered to the branch, out of view from the hawk. It knew we were not the thing to avoid, but that bird! So we moved off to the brushy stuff. We did eventually flush a bunny, and chased it around a bit. The hawk moved up over the hill, and we followed, only to find him on top of a power pole where a squirrel had been bumped. He saw the squirrel, and did dive for it, but missed . . . so he will try for them. I'll have to continue to encourage this. I'm also reminded today that eventually I'd like to have a hawking dog. Some of that hillside could have been much easier covered by a small, mobile dog. So after the squirrel dive, and a little more flying around, I saw the bird make a bee-line towards an open area off to the left of the field. I followed as fast as I could . . . only to find him on a snake when I got there. He had already killed the snake, but did not seem to be at all interested in eating it. I've had this happen before . . . my last RT Nina killed a garter snake too . . . but would not eat it. What a waste! So my 'fierce' little tiercel red tail has killed one bunny, about 4 mice and one snake. We'll keep working at it to get a better outcome to the hunt. BTW . . . I brought the snake home and even the barn cats were not particularly thrilled with eating it, but eventually they did. I guess no one likes snakes, alive or dead! Below is a gratuitous pic of my cute little pomeranian dog that used to belong to my mother. She's killing a chew toy. If it wasn't for the fact that she is so fluffy, I'd consider trying her as a hawking dog . . . she seems game enough for it . . . but that coat would pick up burdock worse than I would . . . and I'd be spending a lot of time teasing it out of her.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


By accident I came across one of the videos produced by this French television series. I then spent a good chunk of an afternoon watching a bunch of the clips. It is quite cute, and worth sharing! Sorry . . . no hawks . . . just lots of cute and sometimes devious insects. I'll include one as an example:

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Fuzzy Shoes

There has not been much of excitement to report as far as my falconry activities. I've been getting Bailey out every couple days, when work doesn't interfere. On the last three trips out all we have to show at the end of the hunt . . . is a mouse in the crop. Last week Rich and I drove towards Rochester, and ended up in Byron. I found a really good stretch along a RR track that was loaded with bunnies. We had lots of flushes, and lots of stoops, and one bunny squeak, but no catches. The brush is still very thick, and my bird is inexperienced. The area around Rochester looks good for many potential hunting sites, it's just that it is a long drive away!! The last two times out we focused on places closer to home. Again, the same frustration as last year . . . finding appropriate places to hunt. By all accounts, Bailey is doing his job, following pretty good, and coming when I call . . . I just need to get better at flushing game for him. On a different note . . . . and somewhat funny as far as I'm concerned . . . I learned to never, never go out to the mews to get my bird wearing my fuzzy lambswool slippers. I stepped into his mews the other day to pick him up and bring him inside to be weighed and gotten ready to go hunting. He flew at my feet and started to attack what looked like a bunny to him. I got a few scratches on my ankle before I could grab him, and then kick off the slippers outside. It may have hurt, but I thought it was funny, giggling all the way back to the house, my ankle oozing blood. The only other items of interest . . . . Richard helped me to make a new perch inside the mews. This one is a fresh wood branch, harvested direct from a mature tree growing on a farm near here. We saw the branch, and came back to finish yanking it down. It took Rich about an hour of pulling on a rope looped over a low branch to finally break it free . . . some very tough wood . . . black walnut I think. I'm also testing out a technique to help re-sharpen talons. Bailey lost his very sharp needles in his new life, and going through the training. I'm trying to get them back. I had read soaking the feet in water helps to soften the scales that will then flake off, returning the talons to sharpness. I'll report later if it works. Above Bailey watches and is impatient with me as I re-tied my boot and snapped up my chaps. A new "firehose material" set of bibs came in the mail yesterday (Thanks Rich). I'll try those on for the next hunt.