Monday, February 7, 2011

2011 WFA Meet

The 2011 Wisconsin Falconers Meet was held in its usual location, Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, on the weekend of February 5 and 6.  For this particular meet I was responsible for inviting a whole "posse" of people.  Our first guests arrived on Friday night, driving the 1.5 hour trip from Rochester.  Foxfeather and her husband Roman were going to caravan with us to Sun Prairie, so were guests in our home.  Fox already has rather extensive experience with animal, and specifically bird husbandry.  She has assisted with rehabilitation and has taken training with the Raptor Center in the Twin Cities.  She is interested in exploring if falconry may be something she would like to get involved in.  She is already the caretaker to several high maintenance birds (special needs parrots, intelligent parrots, a pair of pied crows) so already has the drive to meet the challenge of a raptor.

We began our journey at 4 AM on Saturday.  On our way we stopped in La Crescent, MN to pick up Justin, who was also joining us for the meet.  I was hoping especially for Justin to be able to see red tailed hawks hunt and catch game, as he is the one person among the group invited for this weekend who is the closest to getting his license and first hawk.  He recently passed his written exam, and this summer will be getting his equipment together.  We will trap together this fall.  During the times we have gone out with Bailey, nothing has been caught.  I felt certain many of the Wisconsin falconers would give a good demo of how to catch game.

As implied earlier, a very large group went out into the field for the red tail hawking.  As a new twist to the normal schedule practiced in years past, we had our educational presentations in the morning, and went hawking afterwards.  Phil flew his bird first, and she got a bunny fairly quickly.  She did have an opportunity at a hen pheasant at the very beginning of the hunt, but that game bird managed to elude the hawk by sticking really close to a thick bramble bush.  Once Phil was done with the first bunny, another falconer flew their tiercel red tail.

The tiercel flew well, ignoring all those people in the field, taking nice high perches, and keeping near his falconer as the rest of us worked the field.  He had three unsuccessful, but close slips prior to the final slip where he caught his bunny.  The very deep snow in the field required snow shoes, and I was experiencing snowshoe difficulties which delayed me to get to the bird after his catch, but eventually I arrived in time to get a picture.  He was allowed to crop up on his kill as the others made their way out of the field.

Back at the cars several flight demos were presented, to include a Merlin.  A gyrfalcon hybrid was then flown to the lure.  The final flight was a peregrine on a chukar.  Rich got to see that action up close, as the game bird, when released, looped around and flew over the crowd and clipped Rich's hat.  Fortunately the falcon didn't clip his hat as well.  The birds were then put away and we all went to lunch.  After lunch a few more red tails were flown, and finally the group above broke away, and Phil flew his hawk for a squirrel, which she did catch.  We then all returned to the hotel for the evening dinner and program.

At the meet today were the following birds.  I was not the efficient reporter that I have been in the past.  I have pictures that mostly Rich took, and did not get permission to show people, so only have the birds.  Above is a male American kestrel.

During the morning programs a couple of goshawks were present in the room.  I know at least one of them went on that day to catch a duck.

Here is the Merlin whose flight I saw earlier.  The gyrfalcon hybrid is below.  Both of these birds are flown by the same extraordinary falconry woman . . . but again, I didn't get permission to mention her, so I won't.

Below is the falcon with the chukar it caught.

Our guest speaker was Joe Atkinson from Oregon.  He is a golden eagle falconer, who is one of the world's most prominent authorities on the management, training and handling of these majestic birds.  The link to his blog can be found to the left on my blog list.  Here is the link to the International Eagle Austringer's Association:    EAGLES    Joe was not able to bring one of his birds, but another eagle falconer who lives in Minnesota was able to come, and bring his tiercel eagle.  Yes, that huge bird above here is a male, meaning he is smaller than the female.  Even as a smaller male, the bird is massive, and I would not want to work with him.  As Joe says, when you are an eagle falconer:  "It is not a question of if, but WHEN you are hurt by your bird."  Again, the gentleman above holding the bird will remain unmentioned, as I did talk to him and ask him questions about Ferruginous Hawks, as he also flies one of them, but did not get permission to mention him here.  I was a really lax reporter this weekend!  

You can see above the size of the talons to the man's hand, and below the hallux (back toe).  Those talons can be driven by incredibly powerful feet that ratchet closed.  If an eagle grabs you, the eagle has to let go . . . because they can not be pried off.  I am definitely not interested in flying them . . . but I would like to see them flown.  It was a very enjoyable evening, which ended with us all in the basement of the bar watching eagle videos.  Nothing important was won by me at the raffle.  Too bad!!

The following morning we gathered again with Foxfeather and Roman, and Kaylynn (a possible future apprentice for Dave).  Her experience is with training obedience, agility and therapy dogs, specifically rottweilers.  We purchased books at the Half Price Bookstore, then enjoyed wonderful Indian food buffet, and finished up visiting the Mustard Museum, where Roman was successful in finding some mustard from his home country, the Czech Republic.  The Curator even played the Czech Republic national anthem for him.  After our mustard adventures we all went our separate ways.

Rich and I made our way then to visit his cousin Barb and her husband Dickie.  No one was particularly excited by the Super Bowl, but it was TIVOed, and fast forwarded through to see key commercials, and specific action on the field.  Rich and I are showing off our meet shirts below.

It was a good visit, a really great weekend.  Rich and I dragged ourselves home late on Monday night.

The hawking season will continue until the end of February, when the season for bunnies in Minnesota ends.  I will get out as often as I can . . . but it can sometimes be difficult as today we have subzero weather even with the sun out.  I am truly ready for winter to be over, and for all this snow to go away!!

1 comment:

  1. Gotta love falconry meets. I like seeing other birds and the way they fly. I also like to show off my own.

    Good stuff