Saturday, December 21, 2013

I've Got a Cast!

Flying my birds this winter has been difficult.  It was all in the news and chat everywhere the impact of the "Polar Vortex".  What it has meant for me is that my flying days are severely limited.  Sassy can fly in the mid to high 20s, but Wasp just shuts down.  In the lower 20s neither one wants to fly.  Those rare days in the 30s, that I'm not working, have to be taken advantage of.  These pictures are from just such a rare day.

Justin joined me, and brought along Eric Rain, a young man who may eventually become a falconer.  Eric is a Veteran who spent some of his military years in my old home town, El Paso.  He also was fortunate enough to meet one of the few falconers who lives there. 

We started by flying my two beasts at one of my very favorite spots.  We had lots of flushes, and eventually Sassy got serious and caught a bunny.  Of special note here . . . Sassy let Wasp join her on the kill with no aggression.  That was my goal!  Now if I could just get more warm days, I'd like for Wasp to get more experience.

Here is our little hunting group for the day.  Rich is behind the camera.
A quick pose after the hunt.  We then packed it all up and went to get some lunch.
After lunch we flew Justin's bird.  She's a great bird, and has a great falconer to fly her.
On this particular day she caught a bunny and a squirrel.  This was also #77 head count for the year.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

It's Cold Out There!

Today was the first day in about a 10-day stretch when it was neither a work day (6 of the last 10 have been), nor was it single digit or sub-zero temperatures outside.  Granted, it only got up to about 19, but that has been the warmest opportunity I've had for quite awhile to attempt to get my birds out.  Greg was also available, and despite some coughing in their household, two of his kids came along as well. 

After we met up, we first checked a spot in Rochester that I had seen, but had not explored on the ground.  Desper was our overhead game inspector.  The Minnesota Falconers are having a mini-meet in January in Rochester, hosted by a family of new falconers, the mom and wife I met last week.  I've offered to help locate hunting spots for those who join us.  There are several locations I can suggest, but have not explored them all.  Today was a chance to check out a couple of them.  The first site only rendered up two flushes, of which probably was the same bunny.  Though it looked like good squirrel habitat, perhaps it was just too cold today for the tree rats to be out.  Overall, I've judged that site to be rather poor, and not worthy of recommendation.

After some lunch, we explored another location, which I may, or may not share.  I shouldn't be greedy or over protective of my hunting spots, but this one turned out to be rather good.  We flew Sassy and Wasp first, and proceeded to kick up quite a few bunnies.  Sassy got in several good chases, and Wasp even tried to pick one up, rather poorly, as he was just not having a good day.  It was just too cold for him, and quickly became too cold for Sassy as well.  Finally, when she let two bunnies run right under her, and made no effort to chase, I decided I'd lure them in and put them away, and let Desper have another chance.  Desper did get several slips herself, in fact she treated us to at least three classic wing-overs . . . flying over the grassy marsh we were working, then making a quick 90 degree turn and stoop into the grass.  She missed all her bunnies, but it was pretty to see.  Our lack of success today was credited, I think, to Desper being a bit overweight, and my two birds being Harris Hawks in Minnesota, when it is just too cold for them to tolerate.

We were successful in catching some 'game' . . . sort of.  Belle whacked a rodent, which I now think was a short-tailed shrew.  She's holding it up in her right hand above.  Brady is posing with Desper.  Shortly later, I flushed several and managed to stomp on one myself.  Once the picture above was taken, I let Sassy and Wasp each have one of the recently deceased rodents . . . and they each did not say Thank You, and swallowed them whole.  *Urp*

It was a good day, even if no game was brought to the bag.  Next Tuesday it's supposed to get as 'warm' as 30, so maybe I can try flying my cast again.  After that, it is to return to sub-zero temps for several days.  Maybe next year I should consider reverse molting Wasp, artificially stimulating the molt over the winter, and fly him in the summer/early fall.  It just seems too cold for him.  Oh, and next year I should get a passage red tail . . . if they will bless us with their presence and migrate through.  I think they boycotted Minnesota this year.  They were very hard to find.

Thanks Greg, Belle and Brady . . . for a fun day!  Let's do it again, soon!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

A Compilation of Hunts

Rich wears a GoPro out in the field with me.  Honestly, he does so voluntarily . . . I don't make him do it!  But sometimes he catches the action simply because he is looking at it, and so is the camera.  He has pieced together several recent clips, editing out some of the long boring parts where people are just walking and whacking brush.

The first two clips are from our hunt with Janelle on the very, very cold day.  You can hear the wind.  He did see the quick bunny catch.  I had him cut it off as bunny was crying for quite awhile until I could get there.  Right after I was calling Sassy down.  It was terribly cold, so she was more than happy to come to me and go back in the box.

The next two clips are from our hunt on Thanksgiving Day.  The first clip Sassy caught the squirrel, but while 'parachuting' down, she tangled up on some branches, and it was just the right kind of leverage that the squirrel broke free and got away.  We kept going, and a short time later she caught a different squirrel, which this time did not get away.  Special note, the call of the red tailed hawk.  When out hawking it is not uncommon to encounter resident birds, who will come and defend their turf, especially if you are flying a smaller hawk.  This one was only heard, never seen.

The last clip was from our last hunt, where I finally flew Wasp with Sassy.  There were several bunny chases, but this was the best one.  Bunny just got too much of a head start on Sassy, and at the end it made a quick turn, a 'juke', and she missed it.  If Wasp had joined her, this bunny may have made it into the bag, but he stayed firmly perched on an overhead wire.  However, this was a first hunt, so they need practice to get comfortable chasing the same bunny.  Since that time, another arctic blast has descended upon our area, so I won't be able to fly them until it warms up a little . . . if it does at all.  Special note on this last clip . . . my great disdain for burdock.  This particular location has quite a thicket of them.  Even though it spreads the seeds, I try to knock them down while walking past them, or I end up with them stuck all over me.  I wear my special burdock-proof hat in places like this.  I hate getting burdock in my hair!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Gotta Getta Cast

Today I quashed my fears at releasing two hawks at once, not so much that I didn't trust Sassy, but was unsure on how Wasp would perform, and how they would fly together.  I think it rather turned out OK.  They have had quite awhile to get acquainted, although not right next to each other all the time, but share my 'hawk shack', in separate chambers at each side which allows them to see and hear each other. 

We flew at a location we've been to several times, isolated, with a rather concentrated population of bunnies.  It has a substantial thicket of burdock, thus the choice of my burdock-proof hat.  Weather has been wet, mostly, with some sleet, but held off while we were in the field.  It was just 'warm' enough that the little Harris Hawk should not be bothered by the temp (high 30s).  After activating all the transmitters . . . they each have to have two now according to the new laws, I released Sassy first, then followed with Wasp.  As we worked the little patch of woods the two birds moved along with us, and even sometimes perched in the same tree.  Wasp did a pretty good job of following.  Sassy is an old pro.  During our hunt, the only thing brought to the bag was a field vole, caught by Wasp.  When I went to intervene, I pulled away most of the vole, with him keeping the front part.  Sassy then spotted what was going on, and joined us.  It was at this point that I saw the only aggression.  Sassy scrawed at him to give up the food.  I then distracted her with the part in my hand, and resolved the issue without any further conflict. 

During our hunt today, a couple bunnies were kicked up, but none caught.  Sassy had a really nice chase on one, and it may have been caught if Wasp had joined her.  I'm not sure if he's unsure about bunnies, or afraid to chase the same food as that big female.  The solution may simply be to fly them together as much as I can . . . which I was going to do anyway.  Rich caught the action on his GoPro, so I may have a little video to follow in the next couple days.

Overall, I feel it went well for a first joint flight.  We'll have to work on the recall, as I gave a lure to Rich, and we both called a bird, but ended up each with the other bird, and then both on the same lure.  It was a little clumsy, but all birds were returned to their boxes safe. 

On a somewhat positive note, sortof, I briefly decided to bring Monty out on his leash, and see if he could be persuaded to try and kick out some bunnies in a brush pile.  This was the first opportunity Sassy had to really get a go at that dog that she has despised for some time.  She immediately flew in and got a few good licks in on the dog, who I think now just may respect her for it.  I'm not sure if I could eventually convince Sassy to let him join us in the field, but at least the first step is for him to fear her.  I think maybe he understands that now.  Will he remember . . . that is the question.

I wanted to get a second Harris Hawk so that I could fly a cast.  A second female would have been preferred, but a male is what was available to me, and ultimately, I wanted a second bird that could be a good companion to Sassy.  A little male may turn out to be an ultimate companion, who could eventually be her mate in a couple years.  Hunting together should help cement that bond.  I wanted a cast, and today I flew one.  The team needs work, but it is a start.