Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Break from Work

It continues to be very busy days at my workplace.  This last weekend, plus the Monday that I had to work, were just absolutely nuts.  I had a message again on my phone "inviting" me to come up to work, on my day off, if I wanted to help out.  I decided instead that I wanted to spend the day with Hit Girl and Sassy (and Rich - who is so wonderful to come along).  We went to Byron, for hopefully some easy catches for the girls.   I really do like this picture above of Hit Girl. 
Here I am sporting one of my new hats.  In my humble opinion, it is not very flattering, but it is made of a material that would be somewhat impervious to burdock burrs.  I wore it today in case I ran into some.  Pulling burdock from my hair is no fun . . . no fun at all.

Sassy was flown first, and whereas she had many flushes she just did not contact with any of the bunnies.  She did catch two fat field mice fairly early in our hunt, and I think that took the sharpness off her hunger, so she didn't try too hard for the bunnies.  Also, by this time in the winter, what rabbits remain are pretty clever . . . the survivors.  They were almost all very good at scraping off a pursuing hawk as they ducked under tight brush.
However at the end of the day, with Hit Girl, who also caught a mouse near the end of our hunt, finally a bunny was caught out in the open as it tried to escape over the rail road tracks.  She too had multiple flushes, and really should have caught a bunny sooner.  She was flown quite a bit fat, but Tuesday was going to be the only day I could fly them. 
As of this writing, both are cropped up nice and sleeping in their mews.  I need to manage them well for the next few days.  This upcoming Saturday will be the Wisconsin Falconers Meet in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin.  We are going!  I want them to be in good flying condition for the meet.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Perch Potato

As I said in the last post . . . it's been very cold up here in the Upper Midwest.  The last two nights it has been sub-zero temps, with winchills into the -20s and -30s.  On Monday night I decided to bring Sassy into the house, and let Hit Girl have her mews.  I'm very glad that I did!!  Last night the heater in the hawk shack stopped working.  It was about 9 degrees in there this morning . . . which would have been dangerously too cold for Sassy if she had been in there.  Instead, I tethered her to a portable bow perch in our downstairs room with an old carpet underneath.  She made a lot of noise until it got late, and dark, but with every step into the kitchen above, or flush of the toilet (water in the pipes below) she would start squawking again.

I'm leaving her inside again tonight.  We used the warranty on the heater and replaced it today, but I want to let it run for 24 hours to make sure its working good.  Also, on Wednesday it is supposed to warm up a little bit . . . a very little bit.  Sassy continues to be restless in the basement.  She doesn't have much to look at (her mews has windows).  So in an effort to give her some kind of stimulation . . . I turned the TV on for her.  I'm encouraging my bird to be a perch potato.

So what channel did I turn it to??

Animal Planet . . . of course!  There was a show on about snakes.  How fitting!

I called and chatted with Justin.  He said he had his bird inside in his downstairs area as well . . . watching TV with his kids.  I guess we were both thinking the same way.

Sassy Rooter

It's been very cold up here recently in Minnesota (and Wisconsin, and Iowa, and Illinois).  It has limited the days I can take Sassy out hunting, as she just can't tolerate the temperature if it drops much below the 20s.  Last week we had a temperate day, and I wanted to fly her.  Rich and I ended up taking her to the park in St. Charles.  There are squirrels there.  Also, I saw lots of bunny sign . . . but where the heck those bunnies were hiding, I never discovered.  There was little to no brush, and I never saw any holes.  Either way, we never flushed any bunnies.  After our unsuccessful walk in the woods I was just about ready to call it quits and get going home, when we came across a single squirrel in a tree by the car.  This tree was rather isolated from the trees around it, offering the squirrel very few options for escape.  We gave chase . . . and here is a short video.

It's not exactly the most glamorous squirrel catch, but it resulted in a warm lunch for Sassy.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Houston Nature Center

On Saturday, January 12th I returned to the Houston Nature Center with my two girls to give a flight demonstration with falconry birds.  I had given an educational talk about falconry at the end of the summer, but at that time could not fly them free.  I promised to set up a day when they were being flown, and invited those interested in being invited to sign a contact sheet.  Saturday was the day to give that demo.  The group above turned out on what was a very cold and windy day.  Thank you again to Sue for sharing these pictures.  We flew Sassy first there at the HNC.  We did kick out a couple bunnies for her from the marsh, but she was suffering from the very cold temperature, and did not perform very well.  I did not fly her very long.
We relocated to another place in Houston to fly Hit Girl.  She is much less effected by the cold, and was in a sharp mood.  A couple bunnies were kicked up for her, and in a nice stoop, and thanks to the quick hands of Hank who was along, a bunny was caught.  Normally she knows to catch them by the head, but this bunny was grabbed as it tried to duck into a brush pile.  Hank was fast to leap in and prevent her from losing the grip on the back side.  Thanks Hank!!

After another relocation Dave's Ace was flown, then Hank's Bug, and last Dave's Hawquila.  We had a cinematographer along who took digital film, and has promised a link to his work once he has it edited.  When that is available, I'll link here on this posting.

A couple days later, in Spring Grove, Hit Girl made very short work of her opportunity, and brought #30 head of game to the bag.  It was a squirrel.  That is, #30 total between her and Sassy.  Each actually is at about 15 each.  They have filled up the freezer with plenty of food for the summer, and we still have a bit more time before the season ends.

And I now have the link to the digital clips. Thank you to Bill Huseth for sharing his work.  There are three clips for our hunts that day.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Canaries and a Quickie

It's been quite a bit busy since the holidays.  I've spent a bit more time up at the hospital, or sleeping afterwards, as I've picked up a couple of overnight shifts.  Influenza is at epidemic proportions throughout the US.  Where I work has had a few cases to address, some fairly sick people, but to my knowledge no deaths, thankfully.  Amid all this busyness I did take a Sunday off, and so did Rich, to attend a bird fair up in the St. Paul area.  It has been a terribly long time since I have had any canaries in my life.  I did get a small collection of finches from my bird friend Darla not long ago, and it has been nice to have their pleasant chirps in the house, but it is not the same as having a singing canary.  We attended the fair on Sunday, January 6, and about $300 later I have six new canaries.
Three of them were of the original green color, common with canaries, and what the wild canary looks like.  It was actually quite hard to get the picture above, as the bird just kept moving and turning away from me while I was trying to get its picture.  Believe me, I mostly had pictures of canary butt.  Then a day later, with no effort, and standing at a distance, I got a picture of two of the birds relaxed.  The bird on the right is the same bird above.  I think it might be a hen, and seems to almost be a fife, which is a smaller canary, as canaries go.

The bird on the left, above, and below is a full non-intensive yellow.  Many people think of this as the epitome of a canary, but really . . . green is the standard.  The yellow bird sports a blue band which the breeder informs me was placed because it is a male.  I have yet to hear it sing to confirm.
The picture above shows how he is a bit more longish in the body.
I did purchase two red factor birds, of which I know one is male, because I heard it sing.  It is possible both are male.  I think these are color fed, rather than color bred.  I'll be curious to see if they retain their color through the moult.  I might have to experiment and color feed one, but not the other, and see what happens.  Color bred birds will maintain their color through the moult.  Color fed must be supplemented with a feather dye, or be fed foods high in red color, like peppers.
The last two birds were released into my larger cage.  They both appear like this one above, greens, with one of the birds having a white tail.  You can see them both in this pic below.  Their pictures are not the best as they are in the larger cage, and trying to get their picture with the door open just upsets all the birds and they just hop and fly about in a panic.  Canaries are not hawks!!  They are low on the food chain, and even if they have been removed from the wild for countless generations, they know they are small and helpless and tasty.

Eventually I'm to sell one of these birds to my co-worker, but they are in somewhat of a quarantine right now, as I make sure they are healthy, and figure out which are males, based on their singing.  A few have started to sing, but nothing like the birds I used to have.  Well, eventually I plan to breed them, so I may have to do a bit of selective breeding and make sure I have some singers.

After the fair we drove down the river, through Waubasha.  There is a quaint pub there that Rich and I have visited before.  I took him to lunch, as a thank you for taking the day off and coming with me, and driving.  He is fond of dark, what I call "chewy" beer, so I encouraged him to have one, and I drove the rest of the way home.  Lunch was Irish Stew on a nest of mashed potatoes, with brown bread to lap it all up.  Always good!  After our lunch we searched out a place to fly Sassy, who had come along for the ride, but despite sign that something lived in the woody area we were in, no rabbits or squirrels were convinced to come out and play.  Sassy had to settle with cold, pocket food.  She didn't seem to mind too much. 
A couple days later we got out with both of the birds, who have been cooped up a bit lately due to it being fairly cold.  I tried a small patch out of St. Charles next to the rail road which looked pretty good . . . lots of bunny sign.  Well, Sassy made very short work of the event.  We released her and began to work the brush.  I know I flushed at least one bunny for her.  She disappeared up the track a bit, and by the time I made it that way and found her, she was standing on a bunny.  We had been out about five minutes.  Having another hawk to fly, and limited time, I fed her up on her prize and then put her away.  We proceeded to do a lot of chasing around with Hit Girl, but didn't contact with any bunnies.  Where we were at, on the other side of the track from where we had been, the underbrush was quite a bit thicker, and the few bunnies flushed were safe as Hit Girl lost momentum trying to fly around the brush.  Also, behind the track was a huge brush pile in a farm yard, protected by an electric fence, housing some horses.  Couldn't go stomp it.  The rest of the rabbits that day were safe from us.