Tuesday, October 25, 2011

First Successful Hunt

Today my new Harris Hawk proved that she's an efficient game hawk.
After my long work weekend I wanted to get out and let this girl stretch her wings.  She's been 'cooped' up the last few days, sometimes being tied out in the weathering yard, if it wasn't too cold, at 4:15 when we left for work, but yesterday not because it was too cold.  We took her to an old tree plantation I know about that has bunnies.  I thought she would have a good chance to chase and catch one there.
After being in the field about 20 minutes or so, and not having bumped a single bunny, we moved through some of the trees, which now have grown to full size.  The HH launched herself at a tree, and I looked up and yelled 'squirrel'!  She dove from her perch, but missed the first time.  The tree rat ran up the tree, and jumped to a neighboring tree.  This girl is smart, compared to Bailey from last year.  She knows to look up.  She moved and repositioned herself, and quickly scooped up the squirrel nice and handy.  Then, she was stuck up the tree, being preoccupied with keeping the squirrel secured.  It took a few minutes, but finally she parachuted down, getting caught up a time or two, enough for Richard to take a picture, on the many branches. 
I've learned that she is quite footy when on prey, but thankfully doesn't have quite the hand-shake that a RT would have.  On our way out of the field I stopped for a picture.  Just at that moment we kicked the only bunny seen in the field.  The bird above had come back up onto her toes, ready to chase.  Even with a full crop she was ready to hunt some more.

This girl came with the name "Oona".  I don't really care for that name.  Frequently I've been calling her "Sassy Pants".  It's not an elegant name, but it fits.  She's a sassy girl . . . . but she is a killer . . . and that is what a hawk should be!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Hawk Fishing

Today I manned my own bow netting station.  We were successful in snagging a few birds from the sky.  I'll return soon to write about our adventures.  For now, it is late . . . and I need to get to bed.  Going into my work weekend. 

Wish I could bow net all weekend instead of work.  But . . . glad I have a job!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A Most Miserable Day

I hate it that falconry is filled with these ups and downs.  I don't want to give up hope, but at least this is one more forum where this can be reported.

LOST - Female Red-Tailed Hawk, Krider's color morph, wearing leg band number RO107178.  She is wearing a transmitter which should have about a 14 mile radius, beeping on frequency 216.066.  Batteries are brand new, and should last about 10 days.  Last seen approximately 1 pm on Saturday, October 15, 2011.

We took her to the park here in my little town of Spring Grove.  She was doing great, coming when called, quickly.  We relayed her a couple times, then I had Justin take the creance off.  She continued to come to him, no problem.  I then had him move towards the woods at the edge of the park.  She took a tree, and almost immediately started hunting.  Within 5 minutes, she was chasing a squirrel.  We pursued that squirrel for around 10 minutes before it was lost in a brush pile.  Justin called her back, and we moved across the park to where there was an open grove of oak trees, which have lots of squirrels.  Almost immediately, she engaged another squirrel.  We helped by whooping and hollaring, and whacking the tree . . . . and she caught it.  I though GREAT!  But then as she should have kited down to the ground, instead she caught a wind, and surfed down the slope, into the valley where there is a creek.  We lost sight of her as she flew up the creek, among some thick tree cover.  We then began the searching.  We never saw where she came down to ground.  Surely she did, to eat her dinner.  But where she went after that . . . we don't know.  We spent the next several hours walking back and forth in the valley, and I got my telemetry out, but got no signal.  I've spent the rest of the day and into the night making greater and greater circles out of Spring Grove, hoping to catch a signal.  Nothing!!  :-(

We had a fairly stiff wind out of the North West today, which would have taken her South and East, towards Iowa, then Wisconsin, across the Mississippi River.  She is a beautiful bird!  She is a good gamehawk.  And she is my apprentice's first bird.  I feel really bad about her loss . . . but he did everything he was supposed to.

I realize this forum is not a great place to advertise, but I'm posting it here nonetheless.  I've also placed a notice on NAFA, and will ask the Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa Clubs if they could hopefully post a bird missing report.

If you spot, or hear any report of this bird, please e-mail at either ladyhawker65@yahoo.com or phoenixfirefalconry@yahoo.com.  Sorry . . . not posting my cell phone number here for any bots to find, then bug me to death with calls.  I'll check e-mail often.

Friday, October 14, 2011

One of those Most Memorable Days!

My day started early, a full day off, with intentions to 'hawk stalk' all day.  I planned to visit with Justin in the morning and see how Annabelle is progressing with her training.  I found her sunning herself in her weathering yard . . . such a beautiful girl!  She then displayed that she is doing great with her training, and ready to be flown free.  Justin is waiting for a transmitter to arrive in the mail.  I've invited him to bring her tomorrow to my home, to fly in a park down the street with one of my transmitters, which will offer a distracting new location, for us to test that she is just as willing to fly to him there as at home.  If so, tomorrow we will give her a short free flight, and maybe even a short hunt.  There are squirrels in that park that need chasing . . . which my hawk last year was simply not up to the job.  I'll report later how the big day goes.

On my way over to visit with Justin, I received a call from Dave, my former sponsor, inviting me to come sit in his blind for bow netting.  I am oh so very glad I accepted the invitation!  I have all the gear assembled, and will be doing some bow netting myself on this side of the river.  Today gave me a chance to witness the set-up in person, and to observe the process.  Oh . . . and what the process produced today!
When I arrived, Dave was giving a 'Falconry 101' lesson to the landowner, who so graciously has let Dave trap there.  He was up at the bow netting location, checking out the whole process, which was good as it helped me to locate Dave.  He had given me directions, which took me up a hill, down a back road, through a couple farm yards, onto what was a private drive.  After I arrived the landowner got back into his truck and returned to his farm.  Dave and I then got down to the serious business of 'hawk fishing'.
As we sat with the incredibly high winds blowing, several red tailed hawks were trapped, assessed, and ultimately released for being too small.  The bow netting station is at the top of a bluff, overlooking the Mississippi River, at an otherwise undisclosed location.  The view is fabulous!  We can see birds at a distance.  There were many bald eagles, vultures, crows and pigeons.  There is also the occasional odd raptor, a Coopers Hawk, a Merlin, the local peregrine hunting those pigeons.  As we sat, peering out the blind's windows, waiting for the next hawk, a pair of birds at a distance caught our attention.  It was a vulture being shadowed by a falcon.  The birds matched movement to movement, the falcon chasing and harassing the vulture.  They passed beyond us, out of our sight, with Dave pulling the lure pigeon vigorously.  We both collectively caught and held our breath when the falcon began to buzz our lure pigeon.
Dave has a couple of dho-gazza's out, for just such an opportunity, but the intense wind had blown them down.  However, we sat silent and hopeful.  The falcon returned time and again, buzzing the setup, and finally committed and came to ground and bound to the pigeon.  Dave froze.  I froze.  We waited for her to assess her safety, then bend and attend to what she hoped would be her next meal.  Slowly, Dave inched the pair into the bow net center, and . . . . WHOMP . . . . he had her!!

Dave had drawn one of only three permits to trap a peregrine in the state of Wisconsin.  Only two birds were going to be allowed to be taken from those three permitees, and unfortunately those two were already filled.  He has been promised that if he gets a permit next year, he will be first on the list.  It's too bad . . . for she was perfect!  A very large female peregrine falcon, weighing 1083 grams (38.2 oz).  She is HUGE, and larger by far than the two birds that were taken by other falconers . . . but unfortunately, she had to be released.  We took pictures, then sent her on her way.  After release, she climbed into the sky, roused on the wing, and went about her way, like we hadn't stopped her journey in the least.
Today I got to touch and hold a wild peregrine.  No leg bands on this big girl.  It was an incredible experience, and will go down in my memory as one very special day.  I'm very glad I got to share the experience with my very good friend, and former sponsor, Dave Noble.   Thank You Dave!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

First Hunt

At the encouragement of her previous owner, I have thrown caution to the wind, and taken Oona out to hunt almost immediately.  The pictures here were taken on Monday, flying around the farm.  Today, Tuesday, Rich and I took her to another location we have permission to fly in, for an official first hunt.  No pictures taken today, so gotta use the ones from yesterday.
I like this picture above.  I don't like the way I look in it . . . so I have edited myself!  Oona didn't seem to know how to deal with corn.  She wants to land on it, but it is not strong enough to hold her weight.  She did make one dive from a tree after what may have been a mouse.  There just are not many bunnies to be found on our farm . . . too many coyotes, not to mention my Mother-In-Law's dog . . . that likes to keep all other small mammals in line around the property.
Oona is not what I would consider to be "at weight" . . . however being a Harris Hawk, does not fly off, like a red-tail would.  She is slow to respond to a call to the fist.  She doesn't always take the best perches to advantage herself with the best view of the action.  Just like my little Harris Hawk I had down in Texas, sometimes she likes to get down in the action.  Only, in Texas the action was at the base of a cactus.  Here, it is amongst the pile of burdock and branches, and all the overgrown greenery which is still very much alive and tangling.  We did flush 2 rabbits for her, and she made a go at both of them, but missed them both.  The second escaped into the stand of corn across the street.  It is much harder to hunt while so many plants are still either alive, or standing.  The winter snow beats a lot of this stuff down.  It was also hot and sweaty work.
Oona is very responsive to the lure . . . but like several hawks before her, has a tendency to try and "snatch and fly".  She tried that today.  Fortunately, I had a firm grip on the lure line.  Again, a sign this bird is both (A) Not completely familiar with hunting with me, and (B) not at weight.  I think she may be improved, I hope, with bringing her weight down a little more.  She also got really keyed up after the hunt.  I don't think her aggression was sufficiently extinguished with just getting the lure.  She would benefit from being hood trained, but showed me today she doesn't like that much either.  She can be like velcro when she is unhappy.   Well . . . I have some work ahead to positively condition her to how I'd like her to behave.
She really is quite a lovely lady!  She does NOT have a very pretty voice.  Anyone who has had a Harris Hawk would know this.  She also reserves a specially hideous squawk for my little dog.  She made a pot shot at her yesterday, while tethered on her tall perch.  The little dog just ran by, never fearing anything from above.  Oona missed her mark, so the point was not fully appreciated by the little dog.  I'll have to monitor the two to prevent a confrontation.

I'm kinda inclined to want to rename this bird.  However, I'm not sure exactly what to change the name to.  I've been calling her 'Sassy Pants' mostly because she is, but that is no name to change to.  I've tossed around the notion of giving her a Hispanic woman's name, as her species comes from South Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and all of Mexico, down into South America.  I've thought of calling her 'Rosalita' . . . . but I'm not sure about that either.  Time will solidify my decision.

For now, I'm intrigued by this bird's soft mumbles and grumbles while in the hand.  Sometimes I'm a bit annoyed by the constant calling sometimes from her mews.  She will not be heard quite so well when she gets into her permanent mews.  She has some quirks I need to either get used to, or condition around.  She likes taking her jesses out of her anklets . . . and is quite good at doing it quick.  Usually falconers learn their birds when the train them.  We have some learning to do, but we'll keep flying, and work out the kinks together.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Welcome Oona!

Here is my new hawk, Oona.  She was captive bred in 2008, and already an accomplished game hawk.  I picked her up from her previous falconer yesterday at the Minnesota Falconers monthly meeting.  It was nice to meet some new people, and after the meeting we did a little hawking with some of the members who brought their birds.  Oona is finishing up her molt, but I'm told pretty much ready to go.  I'm giving her a day or two to get familiar with her, and she with me, and will probably take her hunting this week.  This morning I got her settled into my RT mews . . . she has her own, which I will be able to keep warm this winter, but it is still under constructed, and not quite finished.  She has had a bath, some breakfast, demonstrated to me that she definitely knows what a lure is, and at this time is catching some rays on my tall perch.  It is nice to have her here.

She came with the name.  I'll decide later if it will stay.  I'm guessing she was named after the willful fairy in the 1985 movie, Legend.

A hawk's heart beats "fierce and free" as well!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

It Just Isn't Fair!!

Introducing . . . . Annabelle!!

Here is Justin, my first apprentice, showing off possibly the prettiest hawk I've ever had the pleasure to see up close and hold.  It is simply not fair!!  I'm not sure who to complain to.  This is his first ever hawk, and he trapped what appears to be either a Krider's Red Tailed Hawk, or at least a very light phase bird.  When she molts this next year we will know if she is a true Krider's . . . if she keeps the stripes in her tail.

(Your bird is pretty, but maybe we should have considered your shirt when we took pictures, eh Justin?)
I've had 7 hawks, six of them red tailed hawks, and I've never had any bird even remotely close to these colors.  Up until now, I've never even seen a Krider's in the wild, nor in person up close.  He really is lucky to have trapped this bird, just about a mile and a half from his house.  It's just not fair!
Despite some mutes in her tail . . . . Look At That Tail!  The colors are really quite unique!

When she was trapped she had what turned out to be a lot of pine pitch on her feet.  They were absolutely covered, and gave the appearance of more a serious foot condition.  However, a good soaking, and scrubbing, and that all washed clean.  She does have two wounds to her feet, but both I, and my much more experienced friend, Dave, judged them to be clean, and healing well.  Perhaps she got them while hunting squirrels.

She's sitting the fist well, taking tidbits, and even jumped to the fist.  So far, she is very sweet, and shows all the signs of a very delightful first hawk for Justin.

I tease him . . . . and tell him I'm jealous . . . . but really, I'm quite happy for him for trapping this beautiful bird.  He is very enthusiastic about becoming a falconer, and Annabelle should make his first season very enjoyable!