Monday, February 4, 2013

WFA Meet 2012

On Saturday February 2nd the Wisconsin Falconers met for their yearly meet in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin.  This is always a good time to meet up with many of my falconry friends, and see them fly their birds.  Richard and I were up at 3:00 AM (well, I was up at 3:00 AM) to get myself together so we could get to the meet hall to arrive about 8:00 AM.  As we were drawing close I called Dave (who is responsible for introducing just about all the falconers in his posse to falconry) only to find out he was sick and would not attend.  He did make it a little later . . . can't keep the Bell Man down long . . . but in the morning we were on our own.  I asked Hank if he knew how to find some of the popular spots there in the Madison area.  He said he did.  I know he and Dave have been flying their birds in the area of late.  Upon arrival to the first site, the Frisbee golf park, Hank flew Bug first.  There were many brush beaters, and quite quickly she had her first bunny for the day.
Emily's apprentice flew her hawk next, but Aerial (not sure if that is the correct spelling for the hawk - didn't get the name of the apprentice) was not quite motivated to hunt, and seemed to be enjoying the warm sunshine instead.  She was called down, and Emily's Xena was up next.  The large party of beaters continued to work the hillside, and after awhile . . . just about the time Dave showed up, Xena had her bunny for the day.
After a quick break for lunch at the 'wonderful' local McDonalds, Dave flew Hawquila.  I missed all the action as I was standing on the sidelines visiting with a former classmate who lives in the Madison area, and who I have not seen for almost 30 years.  As we were catching up with each other, Hawquila handily caught her bunny for the day.  Dave shares the story that when he made into her on her kill, another rabbit broke and ran off.  At first he thought his hawk had lost her rabbit, but when arriving to her found a bunny under her talons.  Apparently she had pinned two rabbits, but only had a foot on one.  That would have been a story to tell!  I have heard of a falconer whose Coopers Hawk caught two sparrows, one in each taloned foot, and was walking around with them like little sparrow slippers . . . . but never a hawk with two bunnies.  Well . . . if it is possible, it is something Dave will accomplish.  Rich was in the group of beaters, so he did get a picture.

After Hawquila' kill we relocated to the hillside by the UW Ag Resource Management building to fly another red tail. There was a fairly deep and fresh layer of snow over the brushy hillside.  Many rabbits were flushed, but she did not commit to any of them with purpose so they quickly escaped into the snow.  After climbing up and down the hillside for awhile the bird was called down.  It was then Ace's turn, Dave's peregrine.  He got his chance at a Hungarian partridge.  The group then went on to fly Bug again, but Rich and I bugged out.  I was both wet from my sweating, and I also had gotten a lot of that deep and fresh snow down my collar.  I was cold.  We checked into our room and I stood under a hot shower for awhile to warm up.

Everyone reconvene over at the Masonic Hall, where we always have our evening program.  Laura Yurtis hosted our spaghetti feed, which has become a new tradition, which everyone likes.  It saves us the time of running around after hunting to find dinner, then get back in time for the program. 

Our guest speaker was our own (well, that is Wisconsin's own) Neil Rettig, a wildlife cinematographer whose work is often featured by National Geographic.  He is also a falconer, with a lifelong passion for raptors.  He talked about his work and showed many clips.  He is also unique in that he keeps a Harpy Eagle.  I attended another talk that he did where I took the picture below with his Harpy, which is one of the largest eagles on the planet.  I was also fortunate on this evening to absolutely clean up on the raffle, to include this signed and numbered print below.  I tried for another just like it at the NAFA meet, but was unsuccessful.  I shall get it professionally framed and it will look really nice on my wall.  I really do like the look of many of those South American raptors, although I would not want a Harpy . . . . . WAAAAAAAY too scary!
Here is Neil with his Harpy.  I don't remember the bird's name.

One of the other items of loot that I cleaned up on was a copy of American Eagle, which Neil did most, if not all of the filming for.  I already have a copy, but now I have a signed copy.  I was sitting at the table where he was sitting when I won it, and asked if I could get it signed.  It is even more special now.
I'm attaching a video clip that I found of Neil and his Harpy.  Impressive Bird!  I just don't think I would want one that shows its affection by nipping your chest.
Below is another clip which Neil filmed.  I had seen this clip prior to our meet, as one of the hawks used is Phil Yurtis' bird.  This is a very good examble of what so many of us falconers like to try to capture with our cameras, and so often do not.  Squirrel hawking is very exciting . . . . so often the squirrel escapes.  It is not easy.
Neil shared his work, and expressed his passion for a cause and a hoped for future filming endeavor.  One of the most critically endangered raptor species in the world is the Philippines Eagle.  He hopes to be able to undertake a filming opportunity to try and shed light on the plight of this raptor, and to inspire action in the Phillipines to save it.  Like so many other noble creatures, it is losing its battle for existence by not only illegal killing, but more importantly, by deforestation.  As always, there are too many humans, and too many big money interests.  Wood and land speak far louder than wildlife.  I do not often get political on this blog . . . but falconry does touch on a nerve for me, like so many others.  The wild places are being lost, and profit from the land seems to be the end all and be all for too many people.  How often have we here in the US lost a hunting field, a waste place, so more cookie-cutter houses could be built, or stip malls, on streets named Birch and Oak and Country View.  The conservative factions of our own county think it is their God-given right to overpopulate the planet (by restricting birth control measures) and exploit the planet, which after all they are certain God gave them to do with as they will.  The issues are complex, and I don't really do much myself to aid them, using elecricity and driving a car.  I fear some day it will resolve itself, most likely in an environmental collapse.  I probably won't be around to see it, but it is a shame to watch it happening.  I can admire people who try to make a difference.

I'm attaching this clip below, but it comes with a big qualifying message.  I don't know who made it (not Neil) and there are many clips in here not relevent to the subject.  I think the shots of the "eagle" on the nest with chicks is our own Decorah eagles (Bald Eagles, not the Philippines Eagle).  Also, many of the pictures of dead birds are not even eagles.  Also, at the end, they use the call of the red tailed hawk.  How is it that every production that represents some raptor uses the call of the Red Tail?  However, the message and the information are good enough to include here.  It takes concern for an animal to save it.  This is why frequently falconers give educational talks.  To see the birds up close allows for a conversation of the role they play in our world, and how we need to keep wild places for them.  Detachment from the wild allows it to be destroyed, and few understand the cost who have never walked in a wild place.

We got to bed late after the guest speaker, and my cleaning up on the raffle loot, and then drinks at the bar.  On Sunday many folks went out to breakfast and then went hawking again.  Rich and I drove down to Rockford to meet up with my sister Jennefer and her husband Jim.  It was really nice to see them.  I also found a really cool coffee mug to join my coffee mug collection.  I have decorated my kitchen area in chickens.  Word is getting out . . . as my sister also gave me some more chickens to add to the collection.
I just love fun coffee cups!
The chickens are taking over!!

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