Sunday, November 11, 2012

Mini Meeting Meet

It was a really nice day on Saturday, November 10.  It started out a bit wet and gloomy, but the sun eventually broke through and warmed everything into the 60s.  The Minnesota Falconers were meeting in the home of a member who lives in New Prague.  That being just about 2 hours from my home, I decided I would attend today, being off from work.  I also invited Greg to come along so he could meet some other falconers, and hopefully get to see some other, different species of birds hunt.  We made an early start of it planning to do a little trapping along the way, but there were just not any passage birds to be found.  The only one we did spot was just a few miles from our destination, and we were getting close to meeting time, so we did not make too much an effort to trap it.  We did bait the trap, but on first attempt to drop it the bird bumped.  It did not fly very far, but I decided we really didn't have time to play with it.

Many of the people who gathered today were either soon-to-be apprentices or wanna-be apprentices.  The host of our meeting flies a falcon, and I am remiss here for not having gotten a picture of her.  Her name is Eowyn.  We were shown her equipment and mews/weathering yard.  She was flown later in the day, not with the group, but we were out with another falconer and her red tail so missed the action.  I was offered the opportunity to fly my girls first, so that is exactly what we did.

Our first stop was a thin brushy area right in town, squeezed between some industrial buildings and a farm field.  These kinds of places are just perfect as the crops are down, and what bunnies may be present will find refuge in the trees and grass.  Also, these places tend to attract the town folks to dump brush in them, which make nice bunny refuges.  The group fanned out and began beating brush and stomping piles.  Sassy followed along very nicely, as she does.  About halfway into the stretch of trees someone hollared out a "ho-ho", Sassy launched, and we had bunny #1 for the day.  I traded her off and let her crop up on what I had on the lure for her.  Being guests I did not want to be greedy and snatch up all the rabbits in this location.  I asked if we could relocate for Hit Girl and perhaps chase some squirrels.  The answer was yes, and after some pictures, we loaded up and caravaned to the next site.
The next location was also quite perfect.  It was an isolated patch of woods surrounded by open field, with some grassy prairie-type grass to one side.  The picture above is at the end of a road leading right up to the patch, which makes for perfect parking.  For the sake of the falconers who live in the area, I hope the "Future Thru Street" does not happen.  Hit Girl was deadly serious as I released her . . . so much so that she had her first kill within minutes.  As we entered the woods she focused in on a squirrel up a tree.  Everyone gathered around and started to whack the tree.  The squirrel made a break for it, Hit Girl pursued, squirrel bailed out of the tree, and had hawk all over it when it hit the ground.  Because it was all so fast, I was encouraged to send her back up and try some more.  There was another squirrel up the same tree.  After 'rebooting' her (hooding and waiting for a rouse) she was sent back up.  She did pursue that squirrel some, but then it was able to flee into a leaf nest, which she did not see it duck into, and she does not know about leaf nests.  I hope some day she may learn.  We then moved out and flushed some bunnies.  The continuation of the hunt then lasted about 15 to 20 minutes, with a bunny catch at the end.  With all their success I declared it an end of their hunting and cropped Hit Girl up and put them away, after a couple pictures.
One of the falconers who came had the above Coopers Hawk, as well as the Goshawk below.  I would have liked to have seen them hunt, but their falconer was unsure if they would, and indicated his birds tend to not like too large crowds.  I decided then to instead follow a different falconer who would fly her tiercel red tail.
The tiercel had an opportunity at several bunnies, but came up short.  He did catch a vole.  I failed to get his picture with his falconer as well.  As the evening was winding down the young lady below, Spencer, asked if she could hold Sassy.  Sassy is cool with such things, so we got a picture of the two of them together.  Spencer wants to grow up to become a law enforcement officer in New York City.  Might be tough to have a hawk in the big city, unless she trains it to fly down criminals!  Good Luck with your dreams Spencer!
As it was getting late, Greg and I needed to get on the road home.  We decided however we did have enough time to stop by the host falconer's home for some quick dinner and a drink.

A really nice day in New Prague!

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