Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Getting to Know You

Rich made for me a "Getting to Know You" perch, so my two Harris Hawks can get acquainted.  So far, Wasp had an opportunity yesterday while I was letting them see each other, holding Sassy, to reach out and "sting" Sassy with a bit of a crab.  He has an attitude and certainly isn't impressed with this large female.

By way of caution, this perch is only used under supervision.  It is not safe to leave them tethered this way without my being nearby. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Back in the Game

Sassy caught her first head of game, a cottontail, for the 2013/2014 falconry season.  I am particularly pleased with her success, as it means she is fully recovered from her injury and surgery.  Her flight at times is a little labored, and she doesn't get height very good sometimes, but I think this is more a matter of just coming out of the molt and not being in the greatest condition.  Previous to her bunny catch we were chasing a few squirrels, but she's going to need to drop a little more weight to truly be motivated to hunt those tree rats.  She wasn't chasing them very hard.  Getting her out for frequent flights will strengthen her up and slim her down more in the best possible way . . . through normal exercise, and chasing game.
This bunny almost got away!  She smacked down and caught it, through the brush, and had it by one foot on its back side.  It took some work by me to get to her, but she held on tight to her prize.  For her efforts, and my pleasure at her being fully back to normal, I let her crop up on her first bunny.
Here I am showing off the lovely "new" coat Rich found for me on some auction site.  It is almost just a little too small, but has none of the blaze orange my other coat has.  It's a little less heavy than the other coat, so best for early winter and late winter hawking.  I'll be wearing the other one soon as the deer gun hunting season gets going.  But then I usually hunt near or in towns at that time, to prevent getting shot at.

On other positive fronts, Greg called me this evening and his bird has jumped to the fist.  Her training is moving along, and soon she will be out hunting as well.  The falconry season is underway!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Trapping Season

It's been a rather unusual trapping season this year.  I don't know about other areas of the Upper Midwest, or the rest of the US for that matter, but here in Southeastern Minnesota, passage birds have been few and far between.  I've gone out trapping several times with Greg, with no luck, and he's been out several times by himself (well, his kids usually come along), with the same fate.  We've put some serious mileage on our vehicles stalking non-existent hawks.  A small hand-ful of hawks have been caught, but all were small males, so released.  Checking in with my friend Dave, who has a trapping station over the Mississippi River on the Wisconsin side, the flow of passage Red Tails have been slow as well, especially compared to the numbers observed moving through last year.  Finally, this last weekend, west of Rochester on a back road an average sized red tail hawk, despite her full crop, came to the trap double-time.  She weighed in at 41 ounces, an average female.
I went over to Greg's house to show him how to put her Federal ID band onto her leg.  Now the fun starts . . . training.
 She has already settled down and sits calmly on the fist, and regains the fist after a bate.

Smile Greg!
But first . . . take the pencil outta your hat!
There ya go!  A couple of his kids join him in the picture.  They both helped in the search as they have good eyes to spot the birds.  Unlike us 'Old Fogies'.
He has decided to call her 'Desperation'.  I look forward to seeing their progress!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Quick Talk at Whitewater

I gave a quick talk today about falconry at Whitewater State Park for the daughter of our friend, Lori. Kelly's class has been camping the last couple days.  Rich caught this nice picture of Sassy, with her wings and tail spread out.  I rather like it, so I'll post it here.  Her weight is coming down, and soon we will be hunting again.  Bunnies and Squirrels . . . watch out!
Thank You Kelly, for inviting us!

New Quest

With my failure at trying to add a new hunting partner to my team by trapping down in New Mexico fresh on my mind, and my determination to have a new Harris Hawk this season, I looked into other options.  As I said on Facebook . . . what skill and luck did not bring me in New Mexico, Cold Hard Cash would . . . from Oregon.

I contacted Mike Syring of Mike's Falconry Supplies in Gresham, Oregon.  He informed me that he did have a five-month old male from his breeding project which was still available.  This particular male was still in the chamber with his parents, and had witnessed them go on for a second breeding, so had watched his parents brood and rear his siblings.  This is good, as I'm thinking that if he turns out to be a good companion for my Sassy, and a good hunter, I may consider letting them attempt to breed in a couple years. 

Please meet the new bird!

He caught a one-way direct flight to me on Tuesday, 10/8 from Portland to Minneapolis / St. Paul.  We picked him up from the cargo delivery about an hour after the plane had landed.  Once home, I just left him in his delivery kennel until the next morning, as we did get home rather late.  The next morning I retrieved him from his box to jess him up and take a first look and hold of him.  Immediately out of the box he latched onto my glove, and managed to get a stinger-hold onto my pinkie finger through the glove.  This would go on to help me name him.  Out of the box and with the male Harris Hawk hood I had from my previous bird in Abilene (which fit pretty good), onto the scale he went.  He weighed in at 650 grams.  A little guy . . . but feisty, and full of "piss and vinegar" as my mother used to say.  The braces are not tight on the image below.  When they are, the hood fits perfectly.  I like all of my birds, even the more 'friendly' Harris Hawks, to be hood trained.  It helps to have an 'off' switch' when you need it.

Over the next week I would not get to spend great swaths of time with him, due to having to go to work for several days, and then over the weekend getting out to attempt to trap a passage red-tail with Greg.  However, each evening we have watched some TV, and I've been working on his manning, as I wait for his weight to drop to get a response.  He seems to be settling down somewhat in his mews, although right now he is being tethered, and all perches but the bow perch in the middle of the chamber have been removed.  Once calmly responding to his training, I'll free-loft him.  The two birds are able to see (and hear) each other across their separate chambers.  On Sunday night we made real progress, and last night, at 590 grams, he jumped to the fist.  Things should move along very quickly now.  Many evenings I man him with Monty in the room, in his kennel, so they can see and get used to each other.  Then, on other nights, I'll put Monty away, and have Sassy tied out onto her indoor perch, so she and he can see each other.  It is during those times that the new little bird seems to relax the most . . . . I guess that large and comfortable-looking adult female Harris Hawk puts him at his ease.  Soon, I'm going to commission Rich to make some kind of double-perch so I can let them perch closer, but with a barrier between so they can't get a foot on each other.  Not yet.  All this time, I'm also working on getting Sassy's weight down.  We are about 50 grams out.  It is finally starting to look like fall, so the cool evenings should help.

Sassy (on the right in this picture above) is rather a large female Harris Hawk, as Harris Hawks go.  She normally flies at 990 to 1000 grams.  The new bird is about the same size as my passage bird trapped in Corpus Christi, if just a tiny bit bigger.  I am told that the new bird has ancestors from out of the White Wing line from the Coulsons . . . a very famous pair of Harris Hawk breeders and falconers of renown.  They wrote the definitive book on the species . . . really!  Hopefully, these two will go on to form a nice, tight cast.  I have felt somewhat bad at not having another Harris Hawk for Sassy, as they are a social species, and benefit from flying with another of their own kind.  Hopefully, now that is rectified.

Now, for a name.  I had not been particularly influenced one way or another for any kind of fancy name.  I did come up with something, based on his initial behavior for me, but it took a couple days to warm up to it.  Now, I think it is going to stick.  It's not creative, as in something that would go well with Sassy, but . . . it is what it is.  I have decided to call him Wasp, because he was a little stinger right off the bat.
I hope to fly him and Sassy at bunnies, which we have in abundance around here.  I probably could get him on Starlings as well, and maybe even pigeons.  There are plenty of farmers with these pests in their barnyards, to provide plenty of exercise, and excitement.

We'll see what the little stinger can accomplish!