Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Back in the Saddle Again

It feels good to be feeling well enough to resume some of your previous activities.  I still have a few complaints, minor, from my illness, but today finally felt well enough to get my birds out.  Both were way too heavy to really fly in earnest, but they have not been flown for almost two weeks now, and were over-fed while I was unconscious.  I've been slowly trying to get their weight down, but they have been very resistant in the reduction.  Winter also arrived in earnest while I was out.  The snow level is enough to make hawking a bit harder now.

Hit Girl was flown first, and I was ever so slightly uncomfortable about that, as she usually flies at about 1300, and today was 1365 grams.  However, she flew with us, and we had many squirrels in the park that she chased.  In fact, she even did catch one of them, but when she hit the ground from parachuting down from the top of the tree the squirrel broke free, and she didn't re-catch it.  She got to fly and chase for about an hour, active, and then I decided to bring her down as she obviously wasn't highly motivated to finish the job, but was mostly just harassing the squirrel population.

Richard worked on this project and was able to isolate the "action" clip.  This demonstrates the escapes the quarry makes, and their skills at evasion, using whatever is available to them . . . in this case, deep snow.  I think I may have cursed on this clip . . . sorry . . . cover your ears if you are easily offended! 

Sassy was brought out and flown.  I'm having to use the leg transmitter on both birds now, as I clipped her back pack off.  This happened just prior to my getting very sick.  On our last hunt both birds were cropped up, but the next day Sassy hadn't put over her crop.  I didn't know if this was from the back pack blocking her ability to move food into her stomach, or also if a possible injury from a couple days before that was impacting her.  She dove into a very thick cover for a bunny, which she missed, but bruised her cere very seriously, and may possibly had bruised something else in her chest.  Either way, not moving food out of the crop is not good, as it is not bathed in digestive juice, so proceeds to decompose, and grow bacteria.  After snipping the back pack off, within an hour, she threw up her meal.  I then fed her very small meals for the next two days, hoping she would be OK.  She did seem to get better . . . however as she improved, I got worse.  My medical records even state that my husband and I "raise and train hawks, and one of them had been sick" . . . just in case that was significant.  Ultimately, no one really knows why I was sick.  I was diagnosed with Encephalopathy acute due to viral illness.

We moved down the park and focused in the area where we could find bunnies.  Sassy followed like a trooper!  After awhile, Richard did kick one up, and she was right there, ready to catch.  It was a full-sized bunny, and a good catch for this girl who was very heavy!  She is normally flown at 1030 give or take.  Today she was 1085.  Both girls did well . . . and the exercise was good for me too.  Richard recorded another GoPro film, but not a whole lot of excitement on there.  Once I see it I'll decide if I want to post it.

This was bunny #9 for Sassy!

Saturday, January 14, 2012


I have just gotten home today . . . from the hospital!  I was there for 3 days.  Richard had me transported on Wednesday night by ambulance to Gundersen Lutheran in La Crosse, Wisconsin.  I had a cold, but it went into something worse.  The Infection Team diagnosed influenza, even though all the tests they took didn't indicate such.  I was in a fog most of this last week.  I missed a lot of "fun".  There was the ambulance ride.  Then the Emergency Room and Gundersen.  I was given a neb treatment . . . which is too bad that I wasn't awake to appreciate it.  Richard says I fought it.  They did a Spinal Tap on me . . . lot of fun missed!  I then apparently spent some time in the CCU.  My final move was to a normal room.  I woke up on Friday.  Richard was very glad to see me normal.  I was surprised to find myself in the hospital.  It has been a very unusual event!  I've never experienced anything like this.  Hopefully, I'll not experience it again.  This was my work weekend.  My co-workers kindly picked up my shifts.  I thank them for that . . . I'll get back to work on Thursday and Friday.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Double Doubles

Today was an all-time first for me. Today I accomplished a Double Double!
It was a wonderful day to get out hawking.  It's amazing the change a week can make.  Last week it was in the 20's with a brisk wind.  Today it was in the higher 40s, and very minimal wind.  Everyone was out and about . . . both humans and their dogs (and hawks) and squirrels and rabbits.  I was accompanied today by Christina, who has been interested in falconry for a long time, and waiting for her life to fall into a pattern that will allow her to pursue it.  New man on the field was Brent, who is my brother-in-law's Schwans delivery guy.  He found out a month or two ago that I was a falconer, and spent an hour or so talking me up about it.  I told him sometime I'd invite him for a hunt.  He definitely chose a good day to come.
Only a couple minutes into the same field we started our hunt on Monday at, and the first (and only) squirrel was spotted by Christina.  I whooped, and Hit Girl responded and came over.  She quickly engaged squirrel, and before we so much as had a chance to get into position to watch the show, she was diving, and then was on the ground with her prize.  I decided to trade her off, and put her back up and go again, as that was just too quick.  The trade off didn't go as smoothly as I would have liked, and she pouted a bit after that.  However, she then re-engaged when she saw us poking in the grass.  We moved a bunny out in front of us, which we didn't see, but she did.  She dove in and had her first bunny catch with me.  I let her crop up on this catch, then put her away and let Sassy have her turn.
Sassy quickly got to work, and followed us into the other part of the field we had not yet worked.  Under a large brush pile I kicked out the first rabbit for her.  She pursued, and chased it down, bringing it to the bag.  I traded her off this bunny, and we went walking again.  We hadn't gotten very far, when she had bunny #2, for her, for the day.  Like Hit Girl, I let her crop up on her dinner.  Both birds were put away, well fed, and I and my hawking team for the day posed for pictures, then went for lunch.

Hit Girl:  8 squirrels / 1 rabbit                                                   Sassy:  8 rabbits / 2 squirrels

                                   I am having one hell of a good time this year!!


The other day, on the farm, one of the cows gave birth . . . too early.  The baby was found by one of the farmers, not sure which one.  Baby had been licked clean, but mamma was nowhere nearby . . . nor has any cow been making any fuss since looking for her baby.  The baby is small, for a new calf . . . a preemie, but vigorous.  It has been isolated away into the barn, given a warm, dry bedding area, and is being hand fed.  Most of the other calves are not expected until about mid February to early March. 
It's a cute little baby . . . not sure if it's a heifer calf or a bull calf.  It moos sweetly when you come in,
and gets up and toddles around, wanting attention, and wanting food.
If you offer your fingers, "she" will suck on them!

Friday, January 6, 2012

My Girls

Just a couple of nice pictures of my two girls from recent hunts.  
Hit Girl (above) has brought 7 squirrels to the bag, and a very large (unmentioned) miscellaneous.
Sassy (below) rests for a moment on the top beam of an old collapsed barn, as she ponders the moon.
She has caught 2 squirrels, and 6 bunnies.
Both GREAT hunting hawks!!  

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Nice Long Video of a Red Tailed Hawk Hunting a Squirrel

This was our hunt on Wednesday, January 4, 2012 here in the Spring Grove park.  You can't really tell by the video but we are walking and moving through an incline.  Rich bought a mutual gift for Christmas, a GoPro HD Motorsport Hero camera.  It's mounted onto his hat, so sees whatever he looks at.  This was the second time we've used it.  It also was adapted from our last use, and is now set for better sound capture . . . to the point where you can hear him breath, and chew his gum, and spit.  Nice!  It's a wide angle capture, so no zoom features.  We worked this squirrel for quite awhile.  Usually they are lost, running into a hole.  However, there must not have been any holes for its escape.  Rich's brother, Brian, came along.  Our job is to keep the squirrel in the tree.  Yes, that's me making all the whooping noises.  The bird learns based on that noise that I see something.  Hit Girl does the rest of the work.  She made quite a few attempts before finally capturing her dinner.  Rich didn't record what happened after the catch.  Hit Girl says "yum yum"!

The video seems to be more High Definition over at YouTube.  Here is the link if you would like to look at it over there:    Hit Girl Squirrel Hunt

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Raptor Ambulance

Happy New Year!!

How did you spend your first day of 2012?

Richard and I spent ours driving to the Twin Cities, to the Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota campus in St. Paul.  In the back seat, inside a large dog kennel, was an injured juvenile male bald eagle.

I was visiting Karla over at the Houston Nature Center on Saturday evening, and she informed me an injured eagle was being brought in, which had been found by some hunters in the Brownsville area, far South-East corner of Minnesota.  Karla is the regional entry-point for injured animals.  When I heard about this, I asked her if she had anyone to transport the bird.  She said no.  I volunteered!  I have previously taken the class and now I'm one of the injured wildlife transport people, with special skill (because I'm a falconer) to do pick-ups of raptors.  However, I'm glad I didn't have to pick this one up.  Karla moved him from the kennel he came to her in, into the kennel she had that I took with me.  She had two large raptor gloves, though the bird did not give her much guff when she calmly got him out of the box for transfer.  He did snap his beak at her some, but no foot action.  He is well fleshed, so has not been starving.  He has a wound to his right wing, which looks fresh, so injury may have been recent.  He came to my house last night, and stayed in my warm mews, in the dark, covered with a blanket.  This morning, as soon as it got light, we were on the road for the 3-hour journey.

It was a bit of a stinky journey . . . as he had muted into his box.  What comes out of a bald eagle, digested fish and road kill, normally probably doesn't smell great.  This guy is stressed, so is even worse.  We were expected, as we had called ahead.  Upon arrival, he disappeared into the back rooms to be examined and to receive care.  No pictures of the poor creature . . . I didn't want to add to his stress with a flash, nor unnecessary disturbance.  Even the trip to the Cities was silent, no radio, to keep his stress level as low as possible.  Prior to leaving the Raptor Center I heard that they speculate he has a compound fracture to his wing.  Any further injury would have to be assessed after they have given him some quiet time to relax after his trip.  He probably received a hood as well, which I did not have.

The staff of the Raptor Center were then kind enough to show us around.  I've been there one previous time.  This was Richard's first visit.  Above is one of the care givers.  Sorry . . . didn't get her name.  She may even be one of the vets.  I don't remember the eagle's name either, but she is one of their education birds, weighing in at about 14 lbs.  This just shows how big these birds are.  This is a female eagle.  The woman is a petite lady, but that still is a huge bird.  Bald Eagles will accept manning and training like any raptor, but don't make particularly good falconry birds, due to their propensity to fish, or worse, eat carrion.  Golden Eagles are an entirely different matter.  They are just as big, bigger in fact, and are fierce and deadly to many things much larger than themselves.

A report was left with contact names for the Houston Nature Center, and for the people who rescued him from the wild.  After what could be a couple weeks, they will give us a status update.  Compound fractures are a very bad injury for a bird.  Frequently the decision is made to euthanize, as the wing will never heal proper to allow return of flight function.  There are only so many spots for rehab birds.  I'm sure they have a protocol to decide which ones to save.  When, if I learn his fate, I'll post here.

Because we were already there . . . we went for good Mexican brunch, and also brought home some fresh tamales (yum).  It's very windy outside, but the roads were fairly good.  It was a unique way to spend the first day of 2012.

Happy New Year!!

* * * Status Update * * *

I heard from Karla a couple days later that the eagle "didn't make it" . . . which means it was decided to euthanize.  The injury to the wing was just too great to fix.  Not all young birds (and this was a juvenile, first or second year eagle) make it to adulthood.  At least he didn't starve to death out in the cold.