Wednesday, February 22, 2012

One of my Favorite Spots

On Monday, February 20th I wanted to give a good opportunity to both birds to be successful.  I decided to make the trip to one of my all time favorite spots.  It is a fair drive from my home, about 1.5 hours, but usually worth it.  I just happened to stumble across it last year.  With my little hawk last year, and the terribly deep snow, I didn't take much if anything from there, but there definitely are bunnies there.  This year the snow has been minimal, and every time I've been there, the birds have been successful long before I walked the entire "field".  It's a brushy patch along a RR track, right along a strip of apartments.  It is "in town" enough that it is fairly safe from coyotes, but "rural" enough, that the bunnies breed freely.  On our trip there most recently we did walk the entire length of the patch, and must have had somewhere between 15 to 20 slips, give or take.  We were joined in the field by Rich's niece, Hillary, and her husband Phil.
The hawking trip was complicated by the fact that we had very high winds.  The birds were hard pressed to catch many of the bunny slips as the bunnies ran up wind, and the birds then just kited in the wind with no hope to catch them.  However, with the multiple slips, it was just a matter of time.  Sassy has been flown fairly high, and her response to the fist is really getting sloppy . . . but she keeps hunting!  Next season I'll need to be a little more strict with her, which will probably give even better response.  She wasn't keeping too very close to us, but did eventually manage to plop down on one of the bunnies we kicked up.  This after she caught first a meadow vole, which I had time to walk up to her and pull out of her beak.  She seemed unfazed by my theft, and later got to eat it.  I think Hill and Phil got to see the crash, but it wasn't very spectacular.

Next up was Hit Girl, who was quite a bit more motivated.  With her larger size she really did get pushed around by the wind, and as we moved down the field we were kicking up and practically stepping on rabbits all over the place.  To avoid getting blown around too much, Hit Girl was taking perches that were not very commanding, so did not have the momentum behind her when a slip was provided to her.  We walked down the field, and turned to come back up, briefly chased a couple squirrels, and avoided a train that zipped past.  We were almost to the point where we would exit and leave, when she disappeared down the way and dropped out of sight.  I walked back looking for her, listening for her bells, and eventually found her tucked under a brushy bush, clutching a bunny.  We didn't even see the catch, or the flush for that matter.  Oh well!  A catch is a catch.
After putting the birds away, we went to lunch, then went to see Hill and Phil's home, which looks to be a good place for squirrels.  I've left my laptop with Phil for him to do some computer magic on it . . . maybe next week it will be ready to pick up.  We may try for some of their squirrels at that time.

This brings our totals for the year to 12 bunnies/2 squirrels for Sassy;  3 bunnies/9 squirrels for Hit Girl.  There are still a few more days until the end of the season in Minnesota.  I wonder if we can get to 30 total between them both before then.  I have a permit to continue flying in Wisconsin for another month . . . but it is warming up, and the bird's feathers are looking like crap.  Probably will hang up the gauntlet pretty soon.

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