Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hit Girl in the Game

It was a hawking outing on Tuesday with Justin.  On this day just before Halloween I wanted to give his new bird a really good shot at an easy bunny, and also hopefully get Hit Girl going again.  His newest bird for this season, Angry Bird, is doing great.  He got her flying free in about two weeks.  She really isn't an 'angry bird' . . . Justin's kids named her after the game.  He feels 'doomed' that his kids seem to name all the birds.  Well, it's not exactly as if they come to their names.

Whereas Angry Bird has been flying free, she has not yet been 'entered', that is, she has not yet caught anything other than a mouse or two.  She does not yet understand the value of the falconer to her in the field.  I decided we would go to my all-time favorite place - the railroad in the neighborhood in Byron.  Last year it was bunny rich, and this year was no exception.  I don't know how many we flushed, but it was quite a few, and a really good place to get a new, or slow bird going.  
We flew Justin's bird first.  I wanted her to have first chance at bunnies that have not been harassed this year, at least by me.  She followed very nicely, and made several attempts, but after about 25 minutes or so it seemed that her efforts were not deadly serious.  She would crash the brush just behind the bunny, and she would often be looking the wrong way.  I think she might benefit from just a little less weight, which will sharpen her focus and make her try just a little harder.  We agreed to put her away and try my Hit Girl, and see if she would be any more on her game.

I'll insert a quick apology here . . . . I did not get a picture of Justin with his bird.  I was so focused on getting my girl out and geared up that I didn't get Angry Bird's pic with her falconer.  I'll try to correct that very soon.  She's a pretty girl . . . a little darker than the average Eastern Red Tail.  I know soon she will be in the game.  Justin is great with his birds, giving them lots of exercise and experience.  He's going to be a Great Falconer! 
Hit Girl was talking to me in her giant hood, which is the first time this year she has done that.  That usually is her way of saying she is motivated and wants to hunt.  It was nice seeing her flying again.  She has a very aerial style, almost like a much smaller male, but at 1330 grams on this day she most definitely is a female.  That weight is still higher than I flew her at last year, and her performance today says she also could come down a bit as well.  She too suffered from a bit of hawk ADD, looking the wrong way, and crashing down just behind her quarry.  In a stoop into a very thick brier patch, she furred one rabbit really bad, yet it got away.  Rich said he saw it run past him and it was very bloody.  We flushed for her for about 40 minutes or so, and I decided that we should also go ahead and put her up, as she was doing OK, but not trying really hard.  As we moved back up the track towards the cars we pushed one rabbit out and it ran into the open and over the tracks, and Hit Girl hit it . . . hard.  She scored her first kill for this season.  I let her crop up on warm bunny, to reward the effort, then we put everything away and went for some lunch for ourselves.

After lunch we relocated to another spot that Rich and I found last year.  It was successful for us then, I hoped for the best for this year.  This would be Sassy's spot.  We got her out and she flew perfectly, following and crashing, mostly at what I think were mice.  This field did not have too many rabbits, but we did manage to pop out a couple.  It did have one squirrel that she chased for quite awhile, but eventually it was able to make a break for it, and found refuge in a huge hallow tree.  The one thing this field had in particular . . . was a resident red tail . . . and it truly was the Angry Bird for the day.  It screamed it's challenge towards Sassy as it first came in, and continued to shadow us for quite awhile.  It was definitely not happy about this strange hawk in it's hunting territory, and it seemed rather unfazed about those strange humans hanging out on the ground near that strange hawk.  There were several encounters when it would land in the same tree as Sassy, but all three of us humans in the field would start yelling and waving our sticks, and whacking the tree branches.  The resident never came and actually crabbed with her.  It was the final encounter when it landed in the same tree and was not budging from us primate's yelling that I decided caution would be the best course of action, and I called Sassy to the lure, ending the hunt.  I don't want my nice girl to be hurt by a wild bird that is only doing as it should . . . . protecting it's food resources.  I will probably think twice about coming back to that field this year, or fly my large red tail there instead.  On second thought, that could elicit an even more vigorous defense from the resident, who might think a big young female might be trying to take a territory.

It was a good day out with Rich and Justin, and all birds got good exercise, and Hit Girl is back in the game now.

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