Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Let the Moult Begin

I've not posted here recently, 'cuz there wasn't much to post about.  The hawking season ended pretty much at the end of February.  I have a WI permit, and could have hunted there, but "Spring" came to the Upper Midwest, and it is only March.  We had an unusually warm winter, and it has warmed up into spring about a month (or two) early.  As of this writing, all the trees are budding out, the grass is green and growing, and the daffodils are up.  With the warm weather, the hawks have gotten very belligerent.  To continue to keep their attention I would have to drop their weight to compensate for the weather.  I decided this just wasn't an option I would pursue.  Sassy has been shedding little downy feathers since February.  Also, I've been VERY distracted preparing for and taking a couple of very important examinations.  As of this writing, one is done, and the other is scheduled for next week.
So I've decided the girls are put up now for the season . . . . let the moulting begin! 
I've raised their weights, both of them, and now they are well fed, to the point where Sassy is really sassy . . . and not inclined to come to me or tolerate me much.  This is normal!  The red tail is a bit more spooky of me, but seems to be continuing to tolerate the almost daily activity of my going in, jessing her up, and taking her out to weather in the sunshine.  Routine is a good thing for a trained hawk.  As long as the sun is out and it is pleasant, I'm exposing them to the sunshine.  The more light they get, the quicker their brains will trigger the cascade of hormones to get the moult going.
So we go into the season where there is not a whole lot to blog about . . . falconry wise.  It was a good season, and I had a good time.  I hope both girls moult cleanly . . . as any falconer would wish.  Hit Girl showed some signs of damage to her feathers which I'm guessing may have stemmed from her time in the nest.  If anyone noticed any of the pictures here, and thought poorly of me, she does have some tipped tail feathers, and is missing two primary wing feathers on her left wing.  The tipped tail feathers have all tipped at EXACTLY the same spot on the tail, leading me to think that when they grew in, which they do all at the same time for juvenile hawks, there was a short period where she may either have been exposed to something stressful, or a lack in food, causing a weak point in the feathers.  Being low on the tail, and late in the season, I didn't do anything about it.  The wings were something else altogether.  The two primaries shattered . . . and I do mean shattered, right up almost at the wing bone.  There was nothing to imp to if I had even wanted to attempt to do so.  Again, it happened late in the season, so I let it be as she seemed to still fly without any difficulty.  Many times first-year birds don't moult those last two to three primaries.  I hope she does!  Sassy lost a deck feather shortly after she came to live with me.  I never even found the missing feather.  The replacement grew in while I was keeping her at hunting weight, so it has trace marks on it.  I hope she will re-grow that one with all the others.  So due to all the feather issues . . . the girls are being kept at a very healthy food level, combined with lots of sunshine.  Hopefully a good recipe for quality feather replacement.
For now, Hit Girl is getting put out onto the "Tall Perch".  She seems to be most comfortable there.  In the weathering yard she just bates a lot.  The tall perch offers her a commanding perch, and also additional exercise when she flies back up to the top of this 8' tall pole.  It is also just outside my window where I do my computer work, so I can watch her.
Sassy is tied out on the bow perch, inside the protection of the kennel.  Over the winter I purchased another kennel, but it needs some work.  There is a roll of fencing wire inside the hawk shack, a summer project for Richard to re-fence the frame.  Then I will have two kennels that I can tie hawks safely out into, and leave them for the day, if I choose to do so.  The tall perch is only for when I am around and can monitor to make sure the bird tied to it is safe. 

To finish up this post, I'll include a couple of short clips of the girls.  Just because!  Here is Sassy being her sassy self.  It's a good thing the hawk shack isn't right next to the house!
Hit Girl enjoying the sunshine, with all the spring birds singing in the surrounding trees.

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