Saturday, November 24, 2012

NAFA Field Meet Day #1 (for us) Tuesday Nov. 20

After working the weekend, both Richard and I, we got up early on Monday November 19 to drive the 8 hours to get to Kearney, Nebraska, the location of the 2012 NAFA Field Meet.  This is only the second time I've been able to attend, and Richard's first.  The drive was uneventful, and we arrived in time to sit in on the first evening's program.  There was a raffle almost every night, but nothing really interested me that first night.  I saw and talked to a few people that I knew.  We were quite ready for our bed that night to get an early start.  Oh, and the manager of the hotel we were staying at (we had a room at a cheaper but still closely located hotel not a part of the conference center) had family with land that we were given permission to fly on our first day (Tuesday).  Our room was smallish, but comfortable, and the price could not be beat!  Free breakfast every morning!
The first stop on our first day was the weathering yard.  I set up both my perches with bath pans, and tied both birds out for awhile as we tidied up their giant hoods, went and registered, and generally got a feel for how things would flow during the week.  There were many Red Tails, and several Harris Hawks, to include a juvenile that cried almost as much as Sassy did, only in a higher pitched voice.  There were several Goshawks, and at least one Coopers that I saw.  The far side of the yard, by this picture above, was were all the falcons were tethered.  I am not very good at identifying the various breeds, and would recommend you link from my page to a blog called "Fly Over Country".  The falconer there, who I met on Friday, has taken far nicer pictures of many of the falcons, and has descriptions of what some of them are. 
There were three Golden Eagles, who were tied out in a separate area, with a blocked view from the rest of the yard, to prevent the birds from seeing each other.  The eagle may consider those other birds to be 'lunch' . . . and those other birds would be freaked out to be so near the eagles.  The falconers of the eagles did not spend much time at the meet, instead making forays down into Kansas where jack rabbits can be found.  For that matter, Dave Noble was also down in Kansas most of the time with his good buddy Danny chasing jack rabbits with their birds.
An unusual resident of the weathering yard, also separated from the main yard, was this Eurasian Eagle Owl, the largest owl in Europe, and maybe the world, coming very close to the size of the Great Horned Owl.  There was also a Snowy Owl, but I never saw that bird in the yard.
There were many beautiful falcons, to include this Gyrfalcon above. Below is one of the Merlins in attendance.
Once we took care of meet business for ourselves, and contacted the folks who were going to go with us on the first hunt, we headed out.  Our host was David Holl, a Kearney native, and manager of the hotel we were staying at.  He took us on a long drive to one of his uncle's farmsteads.  The house looks like it has not been lived in for awhile, and the farm was once used to grow poultry.  For now it is idle, and the haunt of bunnies.  We found several on the property, and a good show was given by Hit Girl.  Rich took a good GoPro video, and I will be loading that up here shortly.  Hit Girl scored her first bunny of the meet in a rather difficult catch.  We were joined in the hunt with Bill Oakes and his wife Marcie.  Bill was sort of a co-sponsor for me when I first started falconry.  He lived fairly near to where I was living when I was learning from Dave Noble, and we three hunted together often.  He was with us when I trapped my first bird.  In fact, the mews that I currently use for Hit Girl, though altered some a bit now, was build by him, and purchased from him.  It has moved with me from Central Wisconsin, to La Crosse, Wisconsin, to Abilene, Texas, back to Spring Grove, Minnesota, and now to St. Charles, MN.  I think this next year it is going to be retired, but it has served me well, and kept many of my hawks safe.
It was fun hunting with Bill . . . he has a pleasant sense of humor!  It's also nice when your bird performs well for guests, and for former mentors.
Here Hit Girl poses with me and David.  Don't you think he kinda looks like Adam Savage from Mythbusters? After we chased around all the bunnies at the first farm, David took us to another location which was not as successful.  We were looking for squirrels in the windbreak at the edge of the field, but found none.  Upon moving closer to the farm, I flushed a big cat, which Hit Girl chased back towards the house, veering off at the very end, as the farmer's wife came running out.  I'm glad we were with family members, and that the cat was not caught.  That could have been bad!  With few more flushes, I called her down and we ended her flight for the day.
Later we re-joined up with David to fly Sassy.  He took us to his home which is on the edge of town.  Sassy was not at the best weight, and we fought weight control all week for on Tuesday and Wednesday it got up into the 70s (really).  Sassy gave a good show for the uninformed, flying a lot and stooping, but she was not really focused or serious.  We must have flushed some 10 to 12 bunnies, and she didn't come close to any of them.  There was also a very large brush pile which they all eventually took refuge in.  As the day was ending I called her down and we were done with the first day.  The Tuesday evening program was just a business meeting, so we skipped that and returned to our room to get some rest for the next day.

Here is the video, which has been loaded out on YouTube. It is somewhat long, but not nearly as long as the full clip. Rich edited it for me. Thanks Rich!! You're a Sweetie!

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