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.

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