Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Happy Holidays!

It was a fairly quiet Christmas here.  I worked the overnight shift at the hospital.  It was fairly quiet there too . . . thankfully!  A little busy at the early part of the evening, but nothing too exciting happened . . . always a bonus.  Upon returning home I did catch a little nap, then Rich and I headed over to one of his sister's homes, who always hosts the Christmas get-together.  Good Food was had, snacks galore, and card playing ensued.  I was the peaceful one of the party who frequently snoozed off.  Coming home much later that day, Rich and I watched a Christmas Horror Flick . . . yes, you heard that right.  It's a movie out of Finland, complete with Finish dialog and English sub-titles.  Oh, and lots of "geriatric male nudity".  Actually was an OK movie.  Santa was the bad guy, with lots of very bad and naked elves . . . any surprise with it being a Christmas horror flick?

For the first time in quite a few years, I have my own Holiday Tree.  I dug out some of my decorations, and adorned a little norfolk pine I purchased a month ago or so.  Even though I know it is a family industry, for the most part, I don't want to kill a little tree to bring it into my home.  I am a fan of the Yule tradition of bringing something green, and living, into the home to cheer up the cold and dark winter months.  However, the last many years I have not been in a situation to afford the tradition, due to space or decoration availability, or motivation.  It was late in getting set up, so may stand in place for awhile, to cheer our cold winter days, until the days grow longer and warmer. My holiday cards are going to get out late this year as well, but here are the pictures that will be featured.  The first one I have posted here before, taken two winters ago when we had very heavy snow.
The second is just a gratuitous cute kitten picture.  This is Rum Tum . . . and while he did not wholly cooperate to get his picture taken, this was the best one of the bunch, with some frosted pines behind him, which stand in our little pasture behind the house.
All my Best Wishes to Friends, Family, Falconers and Guests who come to visit my blog.  May the Peace of the Season Fill Your Hearts with Serenity, and May the 2013 Year bring Health and Prosperity for All.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas Shopping

A successful day out shopping for those hard-to-buy for folks. Surprise! A fresh bunny!
Seriously . . . . I think my family would be horrified if I brought them a dead rabbit.

Rich and I went to my all-time favorite hunting spot, in Byron.  The field there is the most infested with rabbits of all the places I know.  Sassy was flown first, and to my point of view, was not trying too hard, being a bit overweight.  I had decided to put her up and get Hit Girl out, when she perched in a nearby tree, nearby to the cars, and refused to come to the lure.  That's bad!!  She kept looking down, so I sent Rich up and around where she was.  He then flushed the bunny she saw there, and handily caught.  So one bunny for Sassy.
Hit Girl was then flown and caught two bunnies fairly quickly.  Our falconry task accomplished, birds flown and bunnies in the bag, we picked up some lunch, took it home, got everyone tucked away, then went to the evening showing of The Hobbit.

A most excellent day . . . indeed!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Fox's Little Slice of Paradise

I've had a long standing invitation to come out to Foxfeather and Roman's "farm".  It is a work in progress.  They purchased an old run down farm a couple years ago, and have been slowly rehabilitating it.  As so many old farms are, there is abundant junk that clutters the land.  Slowly, they are working on cleaning out the junk.  They have begun a garden, and harvested a great deal of organic produce from it this last summer.  Last year they set up a couple of bee hives, and I was able to see some of the working girls come to the door and peer out . . . the hives are healthy and full of honey and brood.  There are many broken down buildings, and an old barn which is in still pretty good condition.  Eventually they want to build a home there, but for now it is a place to plant dreams and toil in a long term healing process.  There are unwanted bunnies there that slip into the fenced off garden and steal produce.  I was warmly welcomed to bring the hawks and catch as many as we could.
To enter their property you must cross the creek, which Fox tells me has trout.  At this time the water level is low, making crossing not too difficult a task.  Eventually there will be a bridge, but for now the creek keeps many of the occasional visitors away.  The land has been abandoned for a great amount of time, thus trespassers are having to learn that it is now owned, and their presence is not welcome any longer.  Around what used to be the old house (just a basement pit and a chimney now) as well as the old barn are quite thick brier patches, where the bunnies hide.  Within a few minutes of starting our walk Hit Girl came crashing in and caught bunny #1.  She made it look all too easy!  We dispatched bunny, rewarded her with just a small treat, and kept hunting.  Our path took us up the hill, and into a small field overlooking the creek.  Here there is another thick overgrown patch which was apparently inhabited by several rabbits.  Hit Girl flew and dove at several, but they seemed to elude her.  As we were coming down off the high field, a random whack into some bramble kicked up another bunny, which she quickly flew down, for #2 for the day.
She was fed up after her kill, pictures taken, and then we returned to our car to trade her off to let Sassy have her turn.
I offered the rabbits to Fox for her table, if she wanted, but there was signs of possible parasites in both livers.  She declined the offer, allowing us to make them a part of the increasingly full freezer for later eating for the hawks.
You can see the creek behind us in this picture.  It really is a nice place!  Eventually Fox wants to build a facility for corvids.  She has extensive experience with crows, and has two hooded crows of her own.  She has done rehab before, however does not want to direct her energies into this avenue.  She would like to work with the University of Minnesota to possibly have a rehab for release site, where students could come and help condition birds.  Fox makes her primary living as an artist.  You can see some of her work here!
I have one of her Tagua pendants with a bee on it . . . as a sponsor of their Bees and Trees project this last year.  Their Kickstarter project was very successful and they were able to purchase the bee hives and many fruiting trees for the land.  I enjoy participating, even in just a small way, with bringing this little patch of paradise back from destruction.
Sassy was enthusiastically ready to go when it was her turn.  As we returned across the creek we first focused on the old barn.  Upon approach we apparently flushed a rabbit which made a hasty retreat into the barn, with a hawk following closely.  She went into the barn and flew around a bit, but the bunny knew the place better and had found some escape route.  We pushed the brier around the old farmstead and then into the grassy places between it and the creek, however the word must have spread that there were hawks on the hunt that morning.  Looping back around to the bee hives she flew across the field and made a stoop into the grass.  A moment later a deer popped up and ran up the hillside.  Sassy is quite confident, but I don't know if she actually made contact with the deer or just flushed it.  She remained in her high perch as we continued walking across the filed, working the brush, and then quickly made a hasty dash back towards the house and garden area.  We heard a crash, but no bunny cry.  We paused, waiting, to see what would happen, and if she missed at whatever she had been aiming at, and would get herself back up.  A couple minutes passed.  OK, so we'll walk towards her.  What we found was the picture above.  The crash was her hitting the tin on the ground.  She had a hold of the bunny through the fence.  That wire at the bottom right corner is a live electric fence line.  Fox went to turn off the electricity, and we then retrieved Sassy and her bunny.  What a Great Catch!!
Sassy too was cropped up, and then plans made for lunch as we made our way back to the cars.  Fox told us about a Taiwanese restaurant in Rochester, which Rich and I have actually been to before.  They have good pho, which is a noodle soup.  It was a good morning cleaning out some varmints from Fox's little slice of paradise . . . slowly becoming a much more idealistic retreat. 
Returning home we were greeted, as always, by our two boys, who always insist they are starving.  When we moved into our new home I decided I wanted to adopt a couple kitties for the garage/pole barn.  The one on the left is Rum Tum (named after Rum Tum Tugger from the musical Cats).  He grew up on the farm of our Wednesday night 'movie night' hostess, Laurie.  She actually had quite a few kittens this year, many which got stomped by her horses.  Rum Tum was one of the few that survived.  He's a really cute and friendly tiger with white socks.  The Kittie on the right is Skittles.  He was a rescue from Illinois.  My friend Darla had a neighbor who moved away, deciding the mamma cat and her kitten that they had previously sheltered would be abandoned.  Darla took them in.  She told me about them, and I indicated I would take the kitten.  Skittles was just a bit skitish when he first arrived, but he settled in fine, and now both boys are buds.  Rum Tum is a rough and tumble tough boy, who has already caught several mice.  Skittles is a bit of a 'mamma's boy', having had his mamma all to himself for a long time.  Darla thinks mamma cat was pregnant again so she is keeping her.  She volunteers with a doberman rescue that also places cats.  Mamma and any more future kittens will go to the rescue once old enough.  Soon, very soon, I will get the two boys neutered.  They are great to have around the house, even though they think they can eat the two big birds that are occasionally tied out.  The big birds think the same thing as regards the cats.  I  hope we never find out who would win that fight.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Shirt Sale

What does the title of "shirt sale" have to do with falconry?  Well, not much, really!  Except we were in La Crosse on Wednesday morning for a shirt sale at the La Crosse Center.  Every year they have a big clearance on shirts that come from all kinds of places, and are sold at really good prices.  If you just want to pick up a bunch of shirts to use, not for dressy, but just utilitarian, the sale is your place.  We went to the sale with Rich's brother Brian, Sister Debbie, and niece, Laura.  After the sale and lunch, we took the Girls hunting back home, because they were both ready to be flown.  Sassy went first.  There were some heavy trucks that were moving around a compost pile where we were at, and the woods were filled with a sickly sweet rotting plant smell.  However there were still a couple of bunnies that had not been scared off, and we moved them around a little, scoring Sassy's #10 bunny in the end.  We had pushed the woods back to where Rich had flushed one into the brush at the end.  As I joined him I kicked it up one more time, and saw a really nice retreat by the bunny with Sassy following close, and scoring a catch.  Very Pretty!  This is the benefit of flying with a trained bird . . . you get to see the hunt up close.    
My bloody girl . . . all cropped up!
Hit Girl went second, and quickly scored a little appetizer mouse at the beginning of the hunt.  As we moved into the woods we did kick up a couple bunnies, but there was not much cover so they ran for the hills.  As we moved deeper into the woods a small black squirrel was flushed, and the chase was on.  It really was not much of a chase, and I have my doubts about the health of this squirrel.  When brought to the bag his fur looked kinda shabby, and he died pretty quickly without much of a fight, although he didn't feel too skinny.  When gutting him I noticed a large, unusual growth on his liver.  I removed the entire liver instead of letting the bird have it.  Not sure if this squirrel would have made it through winter on it's own or not.  As is, it did get picked off . . . by a trained hawk.  I don't often catch black squirrels.  It seems a little smaller than the normal grey squirrel, but I'm sure will taste the same to the hawk.  It was a good day hunting!

Thursday is my last day off from my vacation, then back to work.  It's been a nice break, but I'm ready to get back to our normal routine now.  The big 550 Million Lottery was drawn on Wednesday night, and neither Rich nor I had the winning numbers . . . so back to work on Friday for both of us!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Honoring of the Quarry and Meet Wrapup

In the early evening of the final day of the NAFA meet a special ceremony was arranged, and would be performed by Thomas Richter, who is a delegate from Germany for the International Association of Falconry.  It is a practice in Germany, after a hunt, to honor the quarry that has been hunted.  This is usually done as a moment of silent contemplation while a skilled hornsman plays a specific melody for each kind of game species that had been taken.  Earlier in the day the site was prepared with evergreen boughs, with torches marking the four corners.  Some falconers provided a representative game species to be placed in the center of the green field.  I brought one of the bunnies my hawks had caught.  A jackrabbit was also provided, as well as a duck and a pheasant.  We were cautioned to make sure to not step over and beyond the lineup of the quarry caught, or we would be in danger of having to buy the beer for everyone in attendance, for the entire night.  This being the evening of the closing banquet, all were careful where they placed their feet.
Representative Richter, above, explained the ceremony, and performed it.  The music was from a recording as a skilled hornsman was not in attendance.  Those who could were asked to bring their hawks.  I truly hoped that someone would record the ceremony (there were some people doing that) and that I could locate and link to it at a future time.  Richard participated with me.  These pictures are grainy as despite the white sky here, it was quite dark.
These two pictures here are of the same shot, but I find the Harris Hawk photo-bombing below to be humorous!
Rich and I posed by ourselves before packing everything up and getting to our room to clean up for the closing banquet.
The banquet was the usual banquet fare.  A good meal was had, and then guest speakers and recognition given to people who have done outstanding things over the past year for NAFA.  At the end of the evening was the final raffle.  There were many wonderful items to be had, but most were in the $5 raffle ticket category.  I bit the bullet and bought $60 worth of tickets, spreading them out among items that I'd like to have.  There were some very nice binoculars.  However, I was most delighted and surprised to have won the items below.
These books will probably warrant a blog post all of their own.  It is a collection of six of the books written by Fran Hamerstrom, as well as a biography of her life and of her husband Frederick.  They were influential, inspirational and conservation pioneers in Wisconsin in the 20th Century.  They both studied under Aldo Leopold.  Fran, among her many accomplishments, was a falconer.  I know I have already read a couple of her books.  Two of the books in this collection are signed by her.  The biography is signed by the author.  Holding the collection together is a set of bookends cast from the front paw of the first grizzly bear trapped in Yellowstone by John and Frank Craighead (well known in the falconry community).  This wonderful collection was donated jointly by John Dahlke of the Wyoming Wildlife Consultants LLC and Lance Craighead of the Craighead Institute.  Soon, very soon I shall write a personal thank you to each gentlemen for their kind donation to the NAFA meet raffle.  I feel very fortunate to have won this raffle prize, and shall treasure the collection.

NAFA Field Meet Day #4 (for us) Friday Nov. 23

Weight control had been difficult most of the week as the daily temperature rose into the 70s.  Warm birds don't burn their calories as much.  Also, I was housing them overnight in their boxes in the car.  Certainly it was cold, but not too very cold, as a fed up bird in a confined space also radiates heat into it's small enclosure, making warmth, and reducing calorie consumption.  I was determined on Friday that we would make a last, final strong push to increase our game take in Nebraska.  I researched online some possible places to try and hunt, and headed to bed with plans on getting an early start.  It was such an early start that Hit Girl was not even awake when I opened her box in the morning to check on her and weigh her.
With a little prodding she woke up, and immediately informed me she was hungry.  This girl is becoming increasingly more vocal . . . as Nina was, my very talkative hawk from a few years ago.  We met up at the weathering yard with a couple of local folks who approached me the day before.  Andy Mason and his father Steve had come out on Thursday to see the birds tied out in the weathering yard.  As I looked like a likely target walking by (had a bird on my fist) they inquired if they could ask me a few questions.  I never mind doing that . . . and after a brief chat, I invited them to go hunting with us on Friday.  Our first location was a Wildlife Management Area, which turned out to not have any game prospects to speak of.  After we pushed through a very thick, dried up pond of cattails without pushing out any bunnies (if they were there, they would have been in that spot) I decided to try someplace different.  Steve suggested a location closer to Kearney, so we relocated to check that out.    
The new location was not far from the place the lurchers were run, as well as where we saw the Gos fly.  As we moved into the spot, at first, it wasn't looking promising, but after awhile pushing the grass and whacking around a large downfall tree a bunny was flushed and made a quick exit towards a junk pile.  Andy and Rich and I followed and began to poke around and whack the junk pile . . . which popped the bunny out . . . and Hit Girl was overhead to take advantage of our efforts.  Andy was able to see a catch up close, which is what I had hoped.  He was the engaged party of our guests . . . . with perhaps those first flames of interest for falconry being lit.
Because she had already caught one bunny early in the week (and pretty much had a second one by effort, if not brought to the bag) I decided to crop Hit Girl up on this third rabbit and declare her day done.   She would spend the rest of the daylight hours weathering with a full crop.  I indicated to our local guests that we would take a 'coffee break' (I wanted to reward my early morning success with something hot from Caribou), and to meet back up around 11 at the weathering yard.  Rich and I then went to switch out birds, get that coffee, and some donuts from a local shop we had seen.  All sugared up, we returned to get Sassy's hawking party going.

Back at the meet hotel we met and invitations requested and granted for two other bunny whackers.  These two are experienced falconers who were not flying birds.  Donna Vorce is a Nebraska native, and her guest was an elder falconer, Bill MacBride from Pennsylvania.  Bringing along two experienced falconers can always be just a little intimidating.  They know what good falconry should look like.  When flying with such people you hope your bird performs well, and has been managed to catch game.  Management is what the game is all about!  These birds come to us with natural instincts to hunt and kill, but must be healthy, fit and at the correct weight to give a good effort.  Sassy is usually up to the task, but because of the warmth and her increased weight over the week had not given that good effort.  I had high hopes on this day to correct that, and for her to contribute to our game count for the week.

We caravaned back up north to the location we had hunted earlier in the week.  Connie Telford, to my immediate right, owns the land.  Her daughter, Jessica is on the end with her red cap.  Connie was able to go out with us earlier in the week and see Hit Girl fly, but on this day she was headed out to take care of her patients.  She is a home care nurse.  Jessica was able to stay with us, and we were welcomed to try and catch all the bunnies we could.  OK Sassy . . . No Excuses!  Let's get crackin!
She took my challenge seriously!  Before much more than a couple minutes had passed as we walked away from the back door (above) we kicked up a bunny.  Sassy was on it, giving a really nice flight down the hill and into the trees.  We all ran down to take care of business with Bunny #1, and with just a little treat, I put Sassy back up to keep going.  She needed more flight time.
Our second slip took a little longer to accomplish.  Our party of six moved around the property of thick grass, several brush piles, some collections of tumble weeds (both still attached and free-tumbling) as well as junk piles.  As we worked down the hill, among the trees, around, and then began the ascent, Bunny #2 was kicked up, and Sassy made short work of it as well.  Again, a small reward, and I decided we would try one more time.  I knew Sassy was good for the task . . . even though Bill teased me for being 'greedy'. 
Being greedy may have been a true assessment, but it did pay off.  As we returned up the hill and came close to the house again, a third rabbit was kicked up, and Sassy caught it in a fast flight.  I have never tripled, mostly because I don't like to push any of my hawking sites too hard, preferring to preserve the game there, as I return from year to year.  However, I was not going to be returning to this Nebraska farm, not for a long time at least, excepting that I could return in several years when the NAFA meet returns to Kearney.  Any heavy toll of bunnies today would not impact their numbers in years to come, rabbits being rabbits!  I ended Sassy's hunt, and cropped her up.
I think calling this cropped up is an exaggeration.  She was absolutely stuffed!  A very good reward for a very good effort.  She preserved my dignity, if not at least my luck, among these other experienced falconers.
Here was our hawking party for the day, excepting Rich who was taking the picture.  Donna is on the far left, with Bill to her left.  As we finished up the day, I made sure Andy had contact information from Donna to the Nebraska Falconry Club.  It was a very good way to finish up our hunting portion of the 2012 NAFA Meet in Kearney, Nebraska.

NAFA Field Meet Day #3 (for us) Thursday Nov. 22

Falconry wise, Thursday was a wash . . . . and frankly, I was pretty pissy about it.  Both of my girls were 'bowling balls' . . . . way too overweight, and there were 40 mph winds that it just was not a good day for them.  However, we were able to make up for it due to others at the meet who did have animals (dogs and birds) that could be hunted.  We had a window of opportunity in the morning before the noon Thanksgiving meal (ya, it was Thanksgiving).  I had tickets for Rich and I so at least we would have a feast since I pulled him away from home and his family who always have a big get-together for the holidays.  While my birds observed a 'religious hawk holiday' ~ weathering and NO SOUP FOR THEM, we went to be flushers, or at least observers for others.

We did manage to get invited to join a team of lurchers.  A lurcher, per Wikipedia, and also an older falconer that I asked, is usually a cross-breed between some kind of a sight hound, and another dog, possibly terrier, possibly herder, to produce a dog with excellent speed used to run down prey.  The two lurchers we got to watch, along with a little terrier named 'Sniff', worked the brush and did kick up a couple bunnies.  Near the end of the time we were with them they did catch two bunnies, but not in an all out run.  We missed that because we left early!  We discovered that we had a flat tire, so we broke away from the group for Rich to change over to my spare.  Fortunately for us (unfortunately for the employees) the local Wal-Mart was open, and we were able to get our tire repaired.  Also, we needed more batteries as everything we had was dead . . . so no pictures of the lurchers or Sniff.  Ah well! 
Later that afternoon I overheard a falconer was going out with his Goshawk.  I quickly asked and was given permission to join them.  It turned out to be a pretty large party come to see 'Hannah' catch a rabbit and make a good attempt at several others.  Her falconer is Paul Domski from New Mexico.  He makes hawk hoods.  I purchased one from him a few years ago for my passage Harris Hawk.  He also has a lurcher who helps out with the hunt, but I did not ask the dog's name.   
The Gos was really nice to see!  I don't often get to see flights with other kinds of birds other than Red Tails and Harris Hawks.  They are very quick off the fist, and can fly down just about anything. 
Here she is with her bunny catch.
The lurcher silhouetted by the setting sun.
I did catch up with Dave on this day, but only for awhile as he again headed out to Kansas to chase jack rabbits, of which he and his friend brought a fair number to the bag.  His Red Tail this year, trapped last year, is Hawquila.  She flies at 1480!!  That's HUGE!  Hit Girl flies around 1300 give or take, and she's considered a big girl.  Hawquila is a MONSTER!!  Dave says she wraps up jackrabbits just like they were cottontails.  She's practically a small eagle! 
A nice picture of her looking like a Golden Eagle!
We also saw Jeff Redig from the Minnesota Club.  He posed with 'Mikey', his Sharpshin.  That is, I think it is a Sharpie.  Maybe a Coops.  How about it Jeff?  If you see this, let me know. 
We went back to our hotel after it got dark, and chose to not go to the social.  I wanted an early start on Friday, the last day of the meet.  My girls had some ground to make up for . . . and I was determined to take home more than just one Nebraska bunny.

NAFA Field Meet Day #2 (for us) Wednesday Nov. 21

Our second full meet day in Kearney (on Wednesday) was spent mostly driving around looking for possible locations to hunt.  We followed a lead up North, looking for a field where there might be squirrels, but upon finding it no one at the house answered the door.  We did select a different farm yard which turned out to be a really good location!  I don't have pictures here, but do have some on our last day as we did return, so I'll tell more about the landowner's then.  Suffice to say, despite the warmth (low 70s) and the high wind, I consider Hit Girl to have caught her second rabbit, although it did not come to the bag.  We were flushing bunnies across this grassy valley, and the daughter who lives there asked if she could let one of her dogs do some flushing.  Hit Girl has never flown with a dog, but I thought it would be a good chance to try.  The young lady indicated she had really good control of her dog, Zeus, a pit bull . . . and she did.  However, when we flushed a bunny, and Hit Girl stooped and caught it, and bunny cried out, Zeus thought that was just too much fun, and he ran in on the hawk, who released her bunny and flew up to a pole and sulked for 10 minutes.  The bunny got away.  After she got her beak out of her snit, and the dog was put back in the house, we flew some more, but no further catches.  After securing names and phone numbers, I was invited to come back later in the week. 
Rich and I drove around a bit looking for someplace for Sassy to be flown.  We found a spot that I thought would probably be game-poor, but at least she could stretch her wings, and it was motly out of the view of the public.  When we returned to the meet weathering yard to collect her, we met the two gentlemen above who were in town purchasing a plane, a corporate jet, for their company.  Really!  They asked if they could see Sassy fly, and I said 'sure'!  As suspected, the place I chose did not have much in the way of game.  We did kick up a covey of quail, but they simply fly too fast to be caught by the Harris Hawk.  We did push a marsh, which kicked out one bunny, but Sassy did not catch it.  Mostly, again, they just got a good flying show.  In the middle above is Rob Binder from Vancouver, Canada.  On the right is Dave Grieve, from Powell River, Canada.  Thank you gentlemen for coming out and taking a walk with us.  Sorry you didn't get to see more of a show, but that is why it is called 'hunting'.
Rich and I returned to our room to clean up, and attended the conference that evening.  The guest speaker was a young lady, falconer, who spent a year in Mongolia learning eagle falconry.  She was a very interesting speaker, and afterwards Rich and I won a few items on the raffle table.  Nothing too exciting, but I have a new shirt, and he has another hat.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

NAFA Field Meet Day #1 (for us) Tuesday Nov. 20

After working the weekend, both Richard and I, we got up early on Monday November 19 to drive the 8 hours to get to Kearney, Nebraska, the location of the 2012 NAFA Field Meet.  This is only the second time I've been able to attend, and Richard's first.  The drive was uneventful, and we arrived in time to sit in on the first evening's program.  There was a raffle almost every night, but nothing really interested me that first night.  I saw and talked to a few people that I knew.  We were quite ready for our bed that night to get an early start.  Oh, and the manager of the hotel we were staying at (we had a room at a cheaper but still closely located hotel not a part of the conference center) had family with land that we were given permission to fly on our first day (Tuesday).  Our room was smallish, but comfortable, and the price could not be beat!  Free breakfast every morning!
The first stop on our first day was the weathering yard.  I set up both my perches with bath pans, and tied both birds out for awhile as we tidied up their giant hoods, went and registered, and generally got a feel for how things would flow during the week.  There were many Red Tails, and several Harris Hawks, to include a juvenile that cried almost as much as Sassy did, only in a higher pitched voice.  There were several Goshawks, and at least one Coopers that I saw.  The far side of the yard, by this picture above, was were all the falcons were tethered.  I am not very good at identifying the various breeds, and would recommend you link from my page to a blog called "Fly Over Country".  The falconer there, who I met on Friday, has taken far nicer pictures of many of the falcons, and has descriptions of what some of them are. 
There were three Golden Eagles, who were tied out in a separate area, with a blocked view from the rest of the yard, to prevent the birds from seeing each other.  The eagle may consider those other birds to be 'lunch' . . . and those other birds would be freaked out to be so near the eagles.  The falconers of the eagles did not spend much time at the meet, instead making forays down into Kansas where jack rabbits can be found.  For that matter, Dave Noble was also down in Kansas most of the time with his good buddy Danny chasing jack rabbits with their birds.
An unusual resident of the weathering yard, also separated from the main yard, was this Eurasian Eagle Owl, the largest owl in Europe, and maybe the world, coming very close to the size of the Great Horned Owl.  There was also a Snowy Owl, but I never saw that bird in the yard.
There were many beautiful falcons, to include this Gyrfalcon above. Below is one of the Merlins in attendance.
Once we took care of meet business for ourselves, and contacted the folks who were going to go with us on the first hunt, we headed out.  Our host was David Holl, a Kearney native, and manager of the hotel we were staying at.  He took us on a long drive to one of his uncle's farmsteads.  The house looks like it has not been lived in for awhile, and the farm was once used to grow poultry.  For now it is idle, and the haunt of bunnies.  We found several on the property, and a good show was given by Hit Girl.  Rich took a good GoPro video, and I will be loading that up here shortly.  Hit Girl scored her first bunny of the meet in a rather difficult catch.  We were joined in the hunt with Bill Oakes and his wife Marcie.  Bill was sort of a co-sponsor for me when I first started falconry.  He lived fairly near to where I was living when I was learning from Dave Noble, and we three hunted together often.  He was with us when I trapped my first bird.  In fact, the mews that I currently use for Hit Girl, though altered some a bit now, was build by him, and purchased from him.  It has moved with me from Central Wisconsin, to La Crosse, Wisconsin, to Abilene, Texas, back to Spring Grove, Minnesota, and now to St. Charles, MN.  I think this next year it is going to be retired, but it has served me well, and kept many of my hawks safe.
It was fun hunting with Bill . . . he has a pleasant sense of humor!  It's also nice when your bird performs well for guests, and for former mentors.
Here Hit Girl poses with me and David.  Don't you think he kinda looks like Adam Savage from Mythbusters? After we chased around all the bunnies at the first farm, David took us to another location which was not as successful.  We were looking for squirrels in the windbreak at the edge of the field, but found none.  Upon moving closer to the farm, I flushed a big cat, which Hit Girl chased back towards the house, veering off at the very end, as the farmer's wife came running out.  I'm glad we were with family members, and that the cat was not caught.  That could have been bad!  With few more flushes, I called her down and we ended her flight for the day.
Later we re-joined up with David to fly Sassy.  He took us to his home which is on the edge of town.  Sassy was not at the best weight, and we fought weight control all week for on Tuesday and Wednesday it got up into the 70s (really).  Sassy gave a good show for the uninformed, flying a lot and stooping, but she was not really focused or serious.  We must have flushed some 10 to 12 bunnies, and she didn't come close to any of them.  There was also a very large brush pile which they all eventually took refuge in.  As the day was ending I called her down and we were done with the first day.  The Tuesday evening program was just a business meeting, so we skipped that and returned to our room to get some rest for the next day.

Here is the video, which has been loaded out on YouTube. It is somewhat long, but not nearly as long as the full clip. Rich edited it for me. Thanks Rich!! You're a Sweetie!