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!

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