Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Today Hit Girl proved she's got what it takes to be a falconry bird.  The last few times I've flown her she was higher in weight than what I've come to expect to be a good response weight from her.  This was proved by the fact she has been pretty lazy in the field the last couple times out.  Colder weather has slimmed her back down to the 1300 grams, give or take, that she should be flown at.  Today she was 1290, and flew aggressive. 

We worked the park up town which is loaded with squirrels.  I kept her hooded and climbed up a slope, hoping to kick out a bunny for her.  After unhooding she took a commanding perch over us, and seemed to know her business.  Rich and I were not in the patch we were working much more than a couple minutes when she came screaming in after a squirrel neither of us saw.  She scraped it off the tree, and it hit the ground running, but she was in hot pursuit and wrapped it up like she's been doing this her whole life . . . which maybe she was up until the time she was snagged in my bow net.  After suffocating the squirrel (there is no "stretching" like you do with a bunny, to break the neck, as squirrels are a heck of a lot tougher) I opened it up and allowed her to feed on her prize, again getting the best, warm parts (heart, lungs, liver).  She then sweetly traded onto her lure allowing me to put squirrel away so we could take some pictures later.

This makes a complete set now.  Justin's bird Goldie caught her first bunny yesterday.  He has promised a picture for the blog, and as soon as I have it I'll post it.  Hit Girl caught a squirrel today.  Two new hawks, now Game Hawks! 

Squirrels and Bunnies . . . . BEWARE!!!!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Gotta Love that Sassy!

Today, Monday November 28, Justin met up with Rich and I in Rochester.  I showed him one of my all-time best hunting spots in Byron.  We flew his bird, Goldie, first.  Both our red tailed hawks need to be entered.  Goldie did pretty good, a bit stubborn at times, and she furred several bunnies, but didn't bring one to the bag.  Justin had a very limited time to fly today, so after awhile she was brought down and had to go home.  Instead of further pushing my favorite spot,  preserving a few bunnies in there, we went and checked out a new and different place, as recommended by one of Rich's relatives.  That spot turned out to not be so good . . . looked good, but we didn't flush anything.  Also, Hit Girl is a bit heavier than I wanted her to be today, as I soaked her feet last night for several hours, to help sharpen up her talons which have gotten a bit dull, then let her stay inside the warm mews to dry off, so she didn't burn her calories as much as I would have liked.  It was also a bit warmish today, high 30s being "warmish" for Minnesota in late November.  I called her down to the lure, and we put her away, and went to hunt down some lunch.  After lunch we looked for a place to fly the Harris Hawk.
The bad news is that one of my hunt locations that I've flown birds at is gone.  It was a remote industrial park north of town which is abandoned, and which I flew my bird from last year in.  This year it is active, being cleaned up, all the trees cut down, and the junk cleared away.  So, that site was lost . . . . which is not too much of a loss, as it was marginal at best.  The good news is I found a new site!!  It is just perfect, a nice brushy, marshy spot in the middle of a neighborhood, and currently dry.  In fact, as we worked it, and kicked up several bunnies, we even kicked up a deer . . . that's how perfect it is!  Just as we were about to call it a day, Sassy snagged her third bunny.  I dispatched and traded her off onto her lure, then fed her what I had in my pocket for her.  After we got back to the car I dressed out the bunny, and then let her have the nice warm "good" innards (heart, lungs, liver).  She was put away into her box very fat and Sassy!  Gotta Love this Girl!!  She's been keeping fresh bunny on the menu for both birds.  Now it's time for Hit Girl to get her act together and start bringing home the bacon, or at least the bunny, as well.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

This would be very bad . . . .

Oh . . . I hope I never run into one of these while out hawking squirrels!

see more Gifs

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Hit Girl

 Meet the new hawk.  I'm calling her "Hit Girl", and she shows potential to be a downright vicious, hopefully squirrel-killing machine.
 In this instance, vicious is GOOD!!  I like a strong, pushy female red tailed hawk!  :-D
She was trapped using a bow net overlooking the Mississippi River.  Trap weight was 1400 grams (49.4 ounces . . . that's over THREE LBS!!)  She's responded to the training quickly.  Flight weight is around 1300 grams (45.8 ounces), give or take a little.  I need to zero in a little closer, possibly higher, as she may be flying right now a little too sharp . . . or she is just being the bitch that she is promising to be.  Read on for details.
She is a standard colored Eastern red tail, but it sure feels different having this big girl hit my fist, after the little wimpy guy I had last year.  It's amazing what one more pound of pure power can feel like hitting your arm.  Thus far, she is not as footy as Nina was, my last big female red tail, but this girl, unlike most red tailed hawks I have worked with, likes to use her beak.  She strikes and bites often, like she was a falcon or something.  I don't look forward to the day she does hand shake me . . . she has quite the grip through the glove.

(After the video be sure to click to see more . . . this blog post is doing weird things, going into an extended page, which I've never seen it do before.  More content to see!)

Sassy Strikes Again

On Tuesday, November 15 I met up with my girlfriend, Patti, for a little shopping, a little hawking, and lunch.  Rich came along . . . he doesn't mind tagging along with the girls.  We are planning another get together soon, and will run to the Mall of America for the holidays.  Rich will be our driver, 'cuz it's more fun that way, and also in case we wanna drink.

But anyways . . . . this was the first time Patti has seen me hawking.  I even let her hold briefly my bird, as she is such a sweetie.  We flew Sassy, and she performed stellar, catching her second bunny in quick order.  Patti didn't see the actual catch, well, none of us did, as it happened at the bottom of a fairly steep slope.  Rich got some pictures, but it recorded onto his internal memory on his camera, and we can't find the 'fire wire' to transfer.  A new one is on the way, mail order, so I'll have new pics when that arrives.  We also flew free very briefly the new girl.  She is doing well.  Her 'coming out' post is next.

**** UPDATE****

Firewire arrived . . . here are a couple more pictures from that day.

A nice bunny catch
Getting wing whapped

Farm Art

Sometime in the unknown past year or two Richard went to a farm auction, and found this really unique piece of metal.  He did auction battle with a junk man, and placed the winning bid on what he thinks was the bottom to an old furnace.  He saw potential in this large and heavy chunk of metal, and here is the end result.  He brought it home, and it sat idle for a long while.  Then he got busy and sanded and primed it, then delivered to a friend, a co-worker of his, who has made several artistic creations based on photography that both Rich and I have taken with my various birds. 
It combines two themes which are representative of our union.  For me, the kestrel is a significant animal which I much admire, and always enjoy spotting in the wild.  I had a kestrel as a falconry bird once, and plan to do so again, some day.  For Richard, tractors have always been favored objects of utility, and of function, and dare I even say, beauty?  The tractor painted above is a 1940 Farmall H, Rich's own personal tractor.  When I first came to the farm, after meeting his family, I met the tractor.  It lives in one of the many barns, and comes out once in awhile to make hay.

The artist is Karen Lewis, and she is available for commission work.  If you click her name you will be directed to her own web page.  Eventually I envision this lovely work sitting outside our front door, welcoming friends to our home.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Today Richard and I and the Harris Hawk made a trip to Rochester to meet up with some friends there, have some yummy Indian food for lunch, and fly the bird.  I've been calling her Sassy Pants, or just Sassy, and it seems to be sticking.  I like this girl!  She is so nice, for a hawk, but she's a tough girl and hunts too.  Today we worked a favorite spot along a RR track in Byron, and within 20 minutes, and about the third bunny flush, she caught this bunny.  She's had two other catches of squirrels lately, scraping them off their branch and bringing them to the ground, but they were big gray squirrels that kicked her off.  She's chased several others.  She has heart . . . and I'm having a good time with her.  When we arrived to Rochester we had to make a quick stop due to some of our cargo shifting, and when we stopped there were some city crows milling about.  I'm told this girl will hunt crows, so I had to pick up a guide to find out when they can be hunted.  We missed the fall season, but it will pick up again in the spring, so I just might have to do some car hawking with her.  Soon it will probably be too cold to hunt her . . . . so the new bird is being groomed and will be ready.

New Bird??

Yes . . . soon I'll have the Coming Out Party for my new Red Tailed Hawk.  Come visit again.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Meet Goldie

Meet "Goldie" (or maybe that is "Goldy").  This is Justin's new bird, and I guess could be called my "step-bird" or "god-child bird" or something silly like that.  She was trapped under my license, then immediately transferred as a gift to Justin, due to the loss of Annabelle.  She retains, or better shows off the golden breast feathers which some of the Eastern red tailed hawk juveniles show, but which I have not noticed that prominently in all the birds I have worked with.  Justin was going to adopt the practice of naming his birds alphabetically, starting with A on the first bird, then B for this one, but he got out-voted by his wife and kids, so his new bird is being called "Goldie".  I guess I need to check with his wife to find out how she is spelling it.
I went over today to visit, and see how she is doing, and also to help Justin install a backpack.  This is a relatively newer form of attaching a transmitter to a bird, one of the more difficult installations, but placing the transmitter on the best possible location.  The bird wears a close fitting harness which gets tucked under their feathers and lays comfortably across their breast.  The transmitter is attached to a smooth plate on their back.  It is out of the way of their feet, is not at any risk of breaking any major feathers (another attachment location is a deck feather on the tail, which can result in the tail feather being yanked out) and puts the transmitter on the highest location on the bird for best signal pickup when tracking.  I've watched the installation video by Marshall, and then saw two installed on my Harris Hawk and one of Dave's birds last week.  It went fairly smoothly, and his bird took the whole process well with minimal fuss.  She is ready, transmitter wise, now for her first flight . . . though she is not ready to fly free.  She is coming to the fist outside, but needs further weight reduction for better response.
You can see the transmitter in this photo above.  There is an antenna which comes out below.  She's not too happy about it right now, and 'jazzing' with it, but should settle down after worrying it a bit, and accept its presence.
Here is Justin working with his new bird.  I'm glad I was able to help get him back into his first season.  He is eager to get his bird trained and get out hunting.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Little Video of the New (warm) Mews

A New (warm) Hawk Mews

OK, I have been holding off blogging about this project so that I could present the entire story, with a lot of pictures, though the project is not considered complete.  There is still a lot to be done, but for now one of the first major goals has been achieved, with much thanks to my husband Richard, with a lot of help from his brother Brian.

Back in July Richard saw the following item up for auction on one of the many sites he follows.  He pointed it out to me, and at first I was skeptical, but with further thought about it, decided it was not such a bad idea.  We took the 3.5 hour trip to go see it, West of the Twin Cities.  It was an electrician contractor's job shack.  It has seen some wear and tear, but is basically sound, and a good shell to build up a "mobile" mews . . . that is, one that could be moved from the farm to our eventual home, once we purchase one.  I decided it was a worthy project, so Richard was on hand at the end of the online auction, and placed the winning bid for me.  With taxes and fees, it was $470.  Not really a bad price for a little trailer.
It has updated wiring inside (they were electricians after all) and there is a propane heating unit, which up to this point still has not been tested, and may never be.  It also came with two air conditioning units, one of which is totally shot, and was parted out.  The other runs, but not sure if it cools.  I'm not particularly concerned about it right now.  Richard and Brian and myself made the trip back to where it was located, and Rich hitched it to his truck, and drove it back to the farm.  It took twice as long to return as we couldn't go much faster than about 45 to 50 mph.  They parked it alongside one of the many work sheds on the farm.
Both dogs inspected it when it arrived.
I've taken pictures of what the entire inside looked like, but for now I'm only going to focus on the one room (which is now the South room) as it is the first room to be converted.  Originally I wanted to have a warm mews so I could get a kestrel, or maybe a merlin, but then the Harris Hawk became available and I added her to my license.  So she was the bird that the room was destined for.  Let me clarify as well . . . when I say I need a "warm" mews, I simply mean one that I can maintain above freezing.  Harris Hawks are adapted to live in the desert, and it does get cold at night in the desert, but they are not adapted to deal with anything much below the 20s Fahrenheit.  She will be comfortable in her new home.

This is the BEFORE picture, taken on site before we won the auction.  There were shelves installed holding the electrician's equipment.  After the auction all of this stuff was gone, but there were still shelves.  This is the only room in the trailer, with a sealing door, so we started there.  Also to clarify, I say "we" but really, I didn't do anything, other than dump money into my own personal money pit.  Rich and Brian did all the work.
Out those shelves go!  The parts were saved and reconstructed to make stand alone shelves which were moved into our storage shed, so my stuff in storage got re-organized as well.
As the shelves were removed, it was discovered that the floor and wall on the back side were highly damaged from a water leak.  The leak was isolated, and fixed, but that side of the building needed to be completely rebuilt.
The insulation was substandard as well, so with the refit, all new insulation was installed.
Here they are completely rebuilding the wall.
And the floor . . . though the floor was actually done first.
Then there are some missing pictures, because a lot of progress was made over a period of days that I was working, so I wasn't around to take pictures.  All four windows in the room were replaced with brand new ones, then the new insulation installed, and here below, the new panels over it all.  These are bathroom style panels, easily cleaned up from the hawk poop (slices) which surely will be coating the walls quickly.
Rich is finishing up the new wall panels.
He then custom built the window bars as required by the falconry regulations, but went one step further and made them attached to hinges, so in the summer months I may easily open the windows to let the fresh air in.
At some point during all this construction they also replaced one of the two doors (the more inferior of the two) on the 'Hawk Shack'.  This replacement door was also purchased from an auction.  The other door opens into the room that is being converted.  For now it is being closed off for the winter.  Next year when it gets warm, I'd like to have a full door with the bars made so I can open that in good weather. 
Rich used his welding skills to custom make perch fittings.  Here he is installing one of them.
I had him pose with his drill.  Actually . . . that's MY battery operated drill!!  Behind him is the closed off door.  The hawk gets to look at the Pink Panther all winter.
The final stage was to introduce the room to the hawk.  She has taken to it quickly, and bounces between the windows to see what is going on outside.

So that is the one room of the 'Hawk Shack'.  The rest of the shack has a lot of storage shelves, which I will be leaving to store all my junk.  The floor at the door needs work, and the other side of the trailer could also be converted to a second mews . . . but that is a project for another day.  For now . . . I am quite delighted with the gift I've been given from Rich.  Thank You Rich!!  And Brian!!