Sunday, December 7, 2014

It Was An Active Weekend!

On Saturday, December 6 I got together in the morning with Sue, to make one last effort to chase a wild hawk for her, and after failing that, fly CC for awhile. Most of the juvenile hawks have moved out of the area, following their instinct to fly South to a warmer climate for the winter. A smart move which I wish I could follow sometimes, especially after the very frigid month of November we experienced. The very few juvenile birds that remain, if found, have been out on their own for awhile now, taking care of themselves. They have become more wary of people and unusual situations (traps), and even if one could be convinced to come to a trap, tend to be more stubborn and hard to train. Sue would not have an opportunity to test this, as the lovely passage bird I saw and we both re-found in Rushford was not at all interested in our trap. After giving up we moved down the road to a promising brushy spot, where we did see lots of sign of rabbits, and did flush what was most likely the same rabbit about three times. CC put in a good effort but just didn't contact. As 1 pm approached Sue had to leave to meet some friends at her home. CC and I would seek out a different location before heading home.

I re-visited a spot in Peterson that had bunny sign last year. There was not as much activity this year in the main location along a bike trail. I did flush a bunny that made a quick break for it into the houses nearby, seeking safety in a garden. Fortunately, CC just followed up to a nearby tree, and not into the yard, for shortly after I saw the bunny disappear, I saw a person standing in the yard. I don't exactly want my hawk making a kill right in front of John Q Public, especially in their yard, when they are not expecting it. Notoriously, these kinds of people profess to love their local bunnies and don't want you killing their "pets". To those people I silently hope the bunnies girdle their expensive new bushes and trees and kill them. CC returned to me and we moved down the bike trail to a new area I had not kicked through before. Here we found lots of brushy piles, from which I did kick out another bunny. It retreated after CC made a half-hearted brush crash after it. Once regaining her high perch, I flanked where bunny had gone and managed to reflush, right into CC's waiting talons. This was bunny #2 for her. I cropped her up and then headed home. Rich was at work on this weekend day, so I just snapped a quick picture on my cell phone, above.
The next day, Sunday the 7th, CC was back down to weight and willing to try again. I was joined in the hunt by Christina "Shorty" Thompson. I've not seen Christina for awhile, and was happy she could get away for awhile and come join us for a hunt. We tried out a new spot I've had my eye on. It turned out to be good, although possibly limited, as it is bordered on one side by a fairly deep creek, and on the other by a tall fence, which I did not have the opportunity to explore if there was a way around or into it just in case a bird took game on the other side of it. I didn't have to explore these hazards as CC took down bunny #3 within 10 minutes into the field, and possibly even shorter than that. For we land-bound humans, there was a lot of raspberry canes and tangling vines to navigate, but it all looked like really good bunny-tat. CC doesn't quite seem to understand that she needs to grab her dinner by the head, for she practically skinned that pants off this rabbit. Fortunately, I was able to get to her and help subdue her prize or it very likely may have gotten away. After feeding her up, and being rather glad that she had been successful quickly, Christina and I headed into Rochester for some hot soup. Afterwards she returned to my home to enjoy my hot tub, and watch a movie. I should have gotten a picture of us both, but forgot to do so.
CC after her third bunny. She makes quite a bloody mess of herself.
Previously, or maybe after . . . I don't remember right now, and I'm not near my brain (Richard) to check the date, Rich and I went to visit Janelle in her new home. She assured me that there were bunnies to be had in her yard. This turned out to be true, although CC wasn't on her game this day so didn't catch any of them. Sassy was along, and put in a better effort. After awhile, and after moving off to a far corner of the property, we managed to flush a bunny that Sassy caught. This was #6 for her.
We were then invited inside to have something to drink and some cheese, and to tour Janelle's new digs. We will probably visit again this season. I'm sure we could catch another of those bunnies given the chance.
November was a very cold month, but I did manage to put some game into the freezer. December turned out to be a lot more comfortable, weather wise. It warmed up, relatively, into the 30s, and melted away all the snow. The Minnesota Falconers had a mini-meet in Rochester on December 13. I was working that day, but did get the morning off. I took Sassy to another new spot I have had my eye on, and it turned out to be quite good. I flushed and she chased several bunnies, finally catching #7 for her for the season, and #10 overall between the two birds. After cropping her up and getting back to my car, I quickly ran into Rochester to meet up with some of the club members to say 'hello', then had to get home and get cleaned up for work. Quite a lot of the month of December has been spent working extra. One of our longstanding co-workers resigned to take a job closer to his home (Thanks David! We are going to miss you!) Our department is now waiting for the new lady to start and get trained. Until that time, there are lots of extra shifts that have to be covered. OT is nice, but TIME during this season is what I really need to fly birds . . . and the upcoming Winter Solstice only makes the days very short.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

One Day Makes All the Difference!

Today dawned clear blue skies, still rather cold, and breezy, but I was determined to go hawking, regardless. Stepping CC onto the scale, she weighed 1245 grams. This is just about the perfect weight for her. We dawdled around the house this morning, but got ourselves together and got headed out to go hawking in the afternoon.
After arriving and getting CC out and beeped up (telemetry on) I decided to hood her in order to walk to our starting point. She has not been hood trained, so hated it, and it would turn out to be an unfortunate decision on my part, as somehow the hood seems to have fallen out of my jacket, somewhere. After the hunt we re-traced our steps but did not find it. I guess it could be worse . . . Justin tells me he lost a $300+ transmitter. YIKES!

Anyway . . . back to our story.
We flew at one of my best hunting spots, which can be counted on for many bunny flushes. Upon striking the hood and attempting to toss CC up into a nearby tree, she caught the wind and flew way down the track. Well, where she landed is an area I've wanted to check out, but never have as I've usually caught game in the usual spot, going the other direction. So we followed her. Very quickly, Rich kicked up a bunny, and she chased it, but it got away. Keep moving down, following. There were many brushy piles, and a lot of bunny sign. I kicked up a bunny and she went for it but missed, crashing the ground. I called her up from the ground to give her a little reward for her efforts. Back up into a trees, and try again. Third time was the charm! I kicked the bunny out, she was right overhead, and scooped it up easy as you please.
Rich caught all the action on his GoPro, but as of this writing he is having some technical problems with the software, which seems to have automatically updated and changed something, but wants him to purchase an update of some kind to work. Once he gets it all figured out, I'll post a video, which shows all the action.


You presented me with a challenge when you first came to live with me, getting sick and needing some gentle care and rehab time to recover from your respiratory issues. You took all the handling in stride, and thus far, have been a fairly sweet hawk to handle. Now you are entered as a falconry bird. I'll give you the weekend off, as I have to work, but we'll get out there as soon as we can and try to put some more bunnies under you. Soon, we'll try for squirrels as well.

I'm quite a bit more happy than yesterday when I wrote the previous post. To celebrate, I took Rich and myself out for a really good hamburger.

And now I have the video.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Deep Freeze

I'm a terrible grump to be around lately!

A very large and cold bubble of air and snow descended upon us last week. It's not the 'Polar Vortex' which became so very famous from last winter, but the end results are just as bad. A very large storm system pushed into Alaska, and unique air currents sent the jet stream into a huge loop, pulling arctic air into the lower 48, and with it a sudden and abrupt introduction to winter. It is only November, and should be prime hawking time, but instead I'm hunkering down inside because I just don't care for 30 mph winds, which coupled with teens in the temperature, make for very miserable hawking. It feels like January.

Yesterday wasn't quite so bad, but of course, that was the day I had scheduled an appointment, and had errands I had to run, so no hawking. Today it's back to the high winds. It is supposed to 'warm up' as the weekend comes on, just in time for me to go back to work. Also, next week is Thanksgiving, and I'm going to be working just about all of those days, including the holiday.  *Grumble*

I hate being cooped up inside. I hate not being out trying to get CC entered. I hate being cold. Tomorrow will be single digits cold, but the wind should die down. Rich and I will be making an effort to go out hawking.

Being stuck inside, I'll spend some of that time posting some of the successes I didn't post previously.  I recently found a new spot to hunt not far from my house, and Sassy caught bunny #5 for herself there.
While looking through pictures we've taken this season, I also realized we didn't post the dove she caught earlier. To be fair, it was not a straight up catch. I think this dove was injured. I flushed it, but it didn't fly fast like it should have.  Sassy made short work of catching it. She also ate it pretty quick too. Survival of the fittest works for wild hawks as well as falconry birds. The weak get picked off, rather easily.
I've been trying a few other new spots. So far this year, there does seem to be a pretty healthy population of rodents. Sassy has caught her fair share of them, and CC has as well, but I really need to kick up bunnies under CC. She needs to learn that I am her advantage in the field, for bigger meals.

I had a "Carolyn's Posse Falconry Day" last Sunday, 11/16, and it was cold and snowy. Justin joined me, and along with Rich, and Janelle and her son Harvey and friend Greg, and Foxfeather and her husband Roman, we tromped around out in the cold. Only mice were caught. I even whacked one myself with my stick. On his way home Justin informs me he made a quick stop and did catch a squirrel. We didn't take a group picture, because frankly I think everyone was beyond cold.  We got to see his gos, but she wasn't cooperating for the hunt. His red tail, Chomps, got to fly for awhile, and did some pretty stoops on bunnies, flying over his dog, Lucy, who is a real asset in the woods. I wish Monty was as useful.

The very cold weather, and our first snow, brings to an end Rich's outside 'honey-do' tasks for the year, mostly. He did a lot of building of things for me this past summer (tilling a garden, new wood planks on the deck, pigeon loft refit, pasture fence, goat outbuilding maintenance). This includes making CC's home for the winter. She has a jump box inside a fenced weathering yard. There are heavy duty black tarps to provide wind break, as well as privacy. She has learned that it is warmer inside her box, so sleeps inside there, and hunkers down when it is cold and windy, as it has been. Next summer perhaps I'll get the third mew I'd like to have built.

One of the few bright spots with all this cold, Rich and I have been enjoying our 'new to us' hot tub. This was another of the summer projects. I purchased it from an employee at the hospital this last summer. It's an older tub, but has been cared for well. The employee's husband is an engineer, and maintained it well. Also, being used, we got it for a fraction of the cost of new. We arranged to get it moved (Rich had to refit a cart for it), then it sat in storage most of the summer as we worked on the porch, and he built a platform for the tub, then just in time, before we plunged into the deep freeze, Greg (my current apprentice) wired us up, and we got it operating. It is terribly nice on these cold nights to go and soak and visit together in the dark, prior to bedtime. When I was going to school and was a housemate for Liz in La Crosse, she had a hot tub, and I told myself I wanted to get one some day. Some day has arrived!

Ahhhhh . . . tis nice to be a Snow Monkey! Rich took this quick pic before joining me. Click the link to read a posting I made those many years ago when I lived with Liz, on another terribly cold day.

After starting this post this morning, I stepped away from the computer and made myself useful. I have decided what I'm going to do with Flint, for now. It is already way too cold outside for this little guy, so I switched the two Harris Hawks, exchanging mews. Sassy's mew has automatic lights that have a timer I can set.  Now that mew belongs to Flint. Along with the switch, I put new carpeting down, which I had purchased previously. You see, for my two HHs, they have carpeting on the floor instead of gravel, inside a job shack trailer, which has indoor heat. They are quite toasty in this terrible cold. Once a year or so, when it is warm, I can remove the carpeting and power wash it. Well, Flint now has the larger mew with lighting, and I'm going to try to stimulate his molt. Then, hopefully if all goes well, he can be done and ready to hunt in the Spring when the other two hawks have to be put up due to the end of hunting season. I'd like to have a HH that hunts birds. This was my plan for Wasp which never happened due to his untimely death. I got them both switched around today. So, let the molt begin for Flint. I also cleaned rat tanks, and generally tidied up the Hawk Shack.

And one last thing to close out this post. Last Saturday Rich and I saw the Prairie Home Companion show here in Rochester. We've been meaning to catch one of Garrison Keillor's shows.  When they announced a show in Rochester, I bought tickets. Well, during the show they had a guest choir from Rochester, the Choral Arts Ensemble. One of the songs they sang is one I know, from my days in Region Choir, years and years and years ago. Well, that song has been stuck in my head all week, and seems appropriate with the winter winds outside.  I'll include a very nice rendition of it I found on YouTube.


Monday, November 3, 2014

In the Meantime

Between nursing a sick hawk, and running up to and back from the Raptor Center four times in an eight-day period (a two-hour drive each way), and trying to help my adopted apprentice Sue trap a passage red-tail, and flying Sassy several times, and attempting to understand what the heck is going on inside the head of Flint, my new Harris Hawk, and pathetically trying to maintain my home (Rich has not had very many great meals lately, and the house is messy) and working, and sometimes sleeping . . . . this past month has just flown by.  
Sassy has caught two more bunnies, for a total of four so far this season. That's not very great, but at least she is adding to the meat in the freezer.  The other two birds are just eating it, and not contributing.  Hopefully soon the Red Tail will begin to pull her weight.  Flint is just a mystery to me at this time, and I'll write about him later.  He probably needs more time than I have been able to give lately.  I have heard Falconry being playfully compared to having a brat (and for any of you who are outside of the Upper Midwest, a brat is a largish sausage served on a bun, like a hot-dog).  One bird, like one brat, is Great!  Two is too much!  Three will kill you.  I currently have three birds to fly, not exactly intentionally.  I had hoped to train Flint and Sassy to fly together, but Sassy has decided that Flint is a worthy opponent to bully, and Flint doesn't back off from her so just antagonizes her.  Flying them together has resulted in a crab-fest.  Frankly, I think Flint needs more work, and I need more opportunity to try and understand how his brain is working, because it is different, and set into unusual patterns.
Justin joined us for a hunt, after flying his goshawk and his red tail, who are both doing great.

I need to catch up with Greg and see what he's been up to.

And we still need to find a hawk for Sue.  She's about to give up.  I'm hoping for a stroke of luck.

Monday, October 13, 2014

A New Hawk . . . Maybe . . . and a Mystery

On Saturday morning, October 4th, I went out trapping with my apprentice Greg. The previous couple days had been high winds out of the North West, so in the wise opinion of my own former sponsor, Dave, good days to try and find hawks as they tend to move in front of these kinds of storms. Hopefully a few passage birds had been blown our way from further up north. This was our hope, but not the reality we were occupying. Greg and I drove around for several hours but still did not spot any passage birds. Calling it a day in the afternoon I returned to my home from Greg's home.

As I turned off one of the back roads near my electric co-op, there on a power pole was the object of our quest for the day. She was also very well positioned to lay down a trap. I pulled over and got my rats back into the bal chatri. I then drove into an empty parking lot, placing my car between the hawk on the pole and a grassy spot, where I planned to set the trap. Just as I was about to toss the BC I looked around, for the bird was now no longer where she had been. A quick search found she had moved but not far away. I repositioned my car again between a grassy place and the bird, then tossed the trap out into the grass and left the area quickly. I drove down the road then made a big loop to a place I could see the hawk if she made a move for the trap. I had hardly arrived and didn't even get my binoculars out when I saw her launch herself and fly in the direction of my trap. I slowly made my way back to where the trap lay, giving her time to check out my rats, and carefully coming around the corner saw she was caught. A few minutes later I had her jessed up in the field, and in my giant hood for the ride home.
She is a fairly good sized, average but nicely colored passage red tailed hawk. Trap weight was 1370 grams / 48.33 ounces.  That's just a tiny hair over 3 lbs!  She's a Big Girl . . .
. . . with BIG HOOKS, as we like to say!

Because I have been hearing an awful lot of stories and speculations and high incidents of what is believed to be Asper (Aspergillosis ~ a usually fatal fungal infection of the lungs and air sacks) I was open to trying a therapy that is all the buzz out in the falconry community right now. A Google search may find you the information, and more specifically if you search on some of the falconry networks you can read up about using fresh pine in the giant hood and mew, replaced often, to prevent or treat Asper. It is attributed to a fairly famous falconer, but I will not mention his name here as I don't really want his theories linked to this page. Each individual needs to make their own decisions. It sounds good, it has the ring of truth, but I would go on to find that it is not well regarded by those in the veterinary medical community, specifically those who treat hawks. However, I did give it a good initial try. On Monday morning I contacted the Raptor Center and arranged to have an appointment so I may have my hawk started on Western Medicine to prevent Asper, just in case. We were seen on Tuesday, and the new bird was checked over and found to be in good condition. She did have a tiny expiratory wheeze, but the doc didn't think this was important. I received a goodly supply of Itraconazole and took her home to continue her training. She had accepted food from me the second day off the trap, so everything looked to be going well. This was before the journey down the proverbial rabbit hole began.
On Wednesday she began to show signs of respiratory distress. Even the slightest exertion, a single bate, brought on gasping. She continued to accept food from me twice a day, but the breathing had me worried. I lost my second falconry hawk back in 2004 to Asper. This appeared the same. I contacted my doc at the Raptor Center on Thursday morning, and they kindly allowed me to get in to see them that afternoon.

My husband appropriately coined what follows as the "House" part of this situation. As of this writing the events continue to unfold, and I have not yet received resolution of the situation. I would like to document here where we have been, and where we are currently going. To those who are familiar I'll state the obvious, and for those who may not know, I'll explain. We have a medical drama show that has been on TV for many years now. The theme is always the same . . . a patient presents with a mysterious illness, and the protagonist of the series, Dr. Gregory House, an incredibly brilliant diagnostician but classic misanthrope, eventually figures out what is going on, usually based on some vague clue. Currently, my bird has the doctors at the Raptor Center stumped as to what is going on with her, and they are intrigued by the challenge. Like the show, I hope they eventually figure it out, and my bird gets better and can return to my home for continued training as a falconry bird.
On Thursday, during her second visit to the Raptor Center in a week, but this time showing signs of sickness, she was anesthetized, X-Rays taken, blood work drawn, and physically examined. A culture was also swabbed from her trachea and started to test for Asper, which would take a few days incubation. Her white cell count was normal, so she was not fighting an infection. Her other levels all seemed to be somewhat normal. She did show a higher than normal Eosinophil level, which is an immunity cell sometimes associated in humans with an allergic reaction or the body's way to address inflammation, but I was cautioned not necessarily so with raptors. Her blood did appear to be darker than normal, which could be a sign of low oxygenation . . . a condition which is called hypoxia. Her doc decided to try her on a conservative therapy for the weekend, and I was to report back on Sunday evening. I was to continue the Itraconazole twice a day, but also had added Diphenhydramine and Meloxicam, to treat the inflammation. I was strongly encourage to stop using the pine needle therapy as in their opinion it has not been proven to do anything, and could possibly be contributing to her breathing difficulties. They also wanted me to try and get her to take casting material (fur in her food) so she could cast some small bones that were in her stomach. We returned home to begin her treatment. That evening she began refusing food, making treating her difficult. I had to start force feeding her.

Throughout the weekend the breathing became worse, but when quiescent, quiet and at rest, she appeared normal. She was paying attention to her surroundings, and on Sunday morning was very annoyed at her forced feeding, acting very hawk peevish. I hoped this was a good sign. However on Sunday afternoon I discovered that she had thrown her food up, which is never a good sign. On Sunday evening I carefully tried to temp her with small cut up tidbits of a freshly killed rat. She took most of the meal, only having to be force fed her meds at the very end. Overnight I hoped she would keep the meal down. She did. On Monday morning I was back in touch with the Raptor Center for guidance. They wanted me to come back for a new evaluation.

On Monday she would be evaluated by none other than the co-founder of the Raptor Center, Dr. Patrick Redig. She was being seen by one of the best avian doctors in North America, if not the world.

And I'll continue here soon . . . it is late, and has been a long day!

~Some Extensive Time Later~

I have wanted to return here, and to blog further about all that has transpired this last month, but frankly I have just been too busy, busy, busy.

The new bird has survived her ordeal. She would go on to be seen, and thoroughly examined by Dr. Redig, with x-rays (again), and blood work (again), and this time a two day stay at the Raptor Center, to include an endoscopy of her trachea and lungs.  She was given support fluids, and placed on a regimen of Voriconazole which treats for Asper, even though she never was clearly diagnosed with Asper, or anything else for that matter. With time and support, her own body eventually stepped up and she has made the recovery from her respiratory distress.

Through this all, she has remained calm, and progressed through the standard training of a falconry bird. I have held her back only to finish up her medication regimen, but she has been held back long enough.  My work schedule, as well as a time change back to standard time, has resulted in a delay to move on to the next step. I must be brave and daring and do so these next couple days. She has been allowed ample time to recover . . . it is time now for some tough physical therapy, and frankly a return to flight.

Because of all of this ordeal, and the expense she has incurred under my care, she has earned a name. She will be knowns as:

I shall call her CC for short!

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Season Truly Starts

On Sunday October 5th Rich and I had a 'bonus' day together. Normally he works every weekend, but he took the 4th and 5th off. Sassy has been ready to go flying and hunting for real, not just walks with the hawk. Because it was a weekend I did not want to go to my all-time favorite hunting spot, as it's along an area where there are houses, and I prefer to fly there during the week, to decrease the possibility of attracting attention from the human residents.  Instead, we went to the place that has become my second most favorite.

The brush is still pretty thick, and Sassy showed off her skill by taking her first bunny for the season, catching directly through a thick blanket of green bramble and brush. Her first bunny was a youngster, and was caught within the first 5 minutes of our hunt, so trade her off, put the bunny in the bag, and keep going.
We worked around the area, crossing back and forth across a creek, then came out into a more open field. Sassy did catch a mouse, which was removed from her and saved for later. Then, as Rich and I were stomping a brush pile, from somewhere a bunny busted out and made it's way across the field, however didn't move fast enough to evade the death which came winging in from above. Bunny #2 was dispatched, and Sassy was allowed to enjoy her just rewards.
I do so love this bird, and I again am very grateful that she can still fly, and be what she is, a hunting hawk.

Rich took a video and spliced together the two catches. The first one occurred in deep brush so neither of us heard it, but only came onto the scene after the action. You can see the second catch pretty good.

Let's Go Sassy . . . . the 2014/2015 Season Truly Starts!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

We were just chasing the game

On the first day of October Rich and I and Sassy went up to the farm to visit and get some things done. So far we've not been hitting any of the good fields I like to fly in.  Sassy is at a hunting weight, but still on the higher end of the weight spectrum, so not as motivated as she could be. Flying will make her more fit.

This was a nice fall afternoon in Spring Grove. Autumn truly is my favorite season, but it lasts all too briefly, quickly rolling into winter. As we drove into the park we were going to hunt, I counted many multiple squirrels. Sassy would go on to chase a few of them, but not being at the sharpest hunting weight, she was just mostly playing with them. She did manage to scrape one off the tree it was climbing, but it hit the ground and ran right back up the tree, leaving Sassy in the dust. We moved away from the squirrel part of the park and into the bunny part. We did eventually kick up one bunny. For whatever reason, these last few years, we only seem to kick up one bunny in this location. Sassy made several attempts to catch it, but eventually it made its way up the hill and under a garden shed in a neighboring house yard. Eventually, Sassy did catch two mice, stuffing them into her crop as fast as she could. I called her to the lure and we made our way to the car, stopping to take a picture. Everyone got exercise, including the game, as nothing greater than a couple mice was caught.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Back to Falconry

I know I've been blogging about all the things in my life non-falconry, as the summer progresses, and feathers slowly are replaced. But it is now really time to get back to falconry.

How about we'll start off by making introductions.

This is Flint!
After I lost Wasp I had resigned myself to just flying Sassy this season, and maybe go ahead and trap a new red tailed hawk. Life sometimes gives you a surprise.

I am a member of a group on Facebook called Women Falconers. Another member posted a message a little while ago, looking to find a new home and falconer to transfer her second year captive raised Harris Hawk. She does not have a warm mew, and did not want to have him in her living room another winter. It was a perfect opportunity to use my spare warm mew. After all, what would a red tail need a warm mew for?  It would just contribute to a more difficult time trying to manage her weight.

This male Harris Hawk flies just a little heavier than Wasp. He comes with a few 'issues'. So far I've been working to win over his confidence. With food, that hasn't been too hard. However, he does not like to be hooded. Also, thus far, he thinks Rich is scary. I am also told that he will not hunt bunnies. Well, my work is cut out for me. But how could I say 'No'? He was free! I only had to go get him, arranging to transfer him in Madison, Wisconsin, and only had to pay the vet visit to get the health certificate needed to bring him into Minnesota.

He came with the name "Bam Bam". He was previously owned by another woman falconer of my acquaintance who was trained by Dave. I don't care for the name, and since hawks don't respond to a name, I could easily change it. Because I will be having to work to 'reshape' him, and also because the name Bam Bam made me think of the Flintstones, the name Flint stuck in my head. Thus, that will be his name.

Currently, I still need to zero in on his flight weight. He was doing OK for awhile, but then became erratic in the field on creance when Rich was present. I don't dare release him right now as I fear he would fly away. Eventually I'd like him to fly with Sassy. Perhaps with her leading by example, he'll learn what a male Harris Hawk is supposed to be doing. Hunting bunnies should be fairly high on that 'to do' job list.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Homing Pigeons

Earlier this Summer I decided to start a pigeon loft.  I'm not really sure why . . . at this time in my falconry life I don't plan on flying any falcons, and I would be absolutely insane to think I would take on an Accipiter . . . my work life just doesn't allow for that.  I've never kept pigeons, and it seemed like something fun to do, as an undertaking of its own.  I have an old hawk mew which I decommissioned as a hawk house when I released Hit Girl.  It has seen better days, and has some rot going on in a few places, enough that I don't want to risk a hawk in there.  After all, it has been moved four times!  Last year it was a rat house, where I kept my breeding rats that produce some of the food for the hawk freezer, and provide fresh food during the summer for the molt.  It was easy enough to move the rats into my hawk trailer mew and make the changes to the building to accommodate pigeons.
I was gifted two groups of four "squeakers" from two falconry friends that have already established lofts.  Squeakers are young pigeons that have never fledged from a loft.  Homing pigeons will orient on the location they fledge from and return to it from great distances, once they have flown around the area.  Richard converted my old hawk shack/rat shack, building out a 'pigeon porch', and making some proper perches inside.  The birds have been spending several weeks hanging out on the porch, looking around.  For the last two days I've caught them up, and shown them the 'trap', which is the door they can go back into their loft.  Each bird was individually shown the door and went back into the loft, so they see how it works.  This morning I opened up the door on the pigeon porch, so they could exit.  I stood at a distance and watched their progress.  One by one they came out, flew up on top of the pigeon porch, then on top of the coop, then on up onto the pole barn.  As of right now, seven of them are pecking around on top of the pole barn.
This last bird was the last to fledge. It took a different flight than the others, landing in the grass.  Eventually it flew back to the coop, and went back inside, so didn't seem quite ready to join the others.  I closed up the exit door, and will let this bird try again tomorrow.

Hopefully, the other seven will have a fun day out, avoid Coopers Hawks, and come back by the end of the day.

Side Note:  Later in the afternoon all 8 were inside their coop, having returned for food and water.  Their first day flying free went very well.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Name Change

The kitten has integrated into the household just fine.  She and Monty roughhouse all the time.  Richard re-named her.  "Purza" just wasn't working.  He has started to call her "Clawdette" . . . and it fits!  She's just a ball of fangs and claws.  Monty seems to put up with it.  He gives as good a mauling as he receives.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

And Then There Were Goats

Our home which we purchased almost two years ago at the start of September (can it really have been two years already) has a 2.5 acre pasture attached.  During the summer this pasture can get pretty overgrown with grass and burdock and thistle and buckthorn and such.  I briefly toyed with the idea of putting a couple cows out there (I'm told by my cattle-raising family that you can't get just one cow . . . she would be very unhappy by herself), but cattle are not exactly cheap to buy, and would have to be fed over the winter.  My next option was to get some goats.  They are much smaller, and would not require quite as much feed over the winter.  For a little while we trialed this option by borrowing our friend Laurie's buck (male goat), as well as her two mini-horses, which continue to visit.  The three started in on the grassy field and have done a pretty good job chomping it down, at least the small area we portioned off with electric wire.  The horses respect the hot wire, but the goat walked right through it, so he had to be chained up and moved daily.  He only visited for a week and was sent home when my own goats arrived.  After all, my three new goats are does (females) and I don't want the buck getting them pregnant just yet.
Last year we had a couple of volunteer horses that came to visit and munched down our pasture.  Long story short, a lady who came to my door needed a place to put her horses for a little while, so for the summer they visited.  In the fall, as they had chomped down most of the green (and left a lot of horse poo in the field), and the rest was rather dry, they moved to her mother's home, which has a barn.  When I was visiting her this summer, and told her about my wish for goats, she took me down the street to meet one of her neighbors, who has a lot of goats, and was willing to sell some to me.  He only had one doeling born this year (young female goat) so I selected her and her mother.  I then just picked one of the other goats from among the many he had.  They were delivered to my place in early August.  Looking at the picture above, the black and white goat made me think of the Oreo cookie, so that is now her name.  Keeping with a cookie theme, I named the white goat with pantaloons Macaroon, or Mamma Macaroon when I'm feeling playful, as she is the mother to the doeling, who I named Biscotti. 
Rich and I have agreed from the day we bought this place that we would need to re-do the fencing on the pasture.  It has just been a few strands of barbwire, which works fine to keep in cattle and horses that are not motivated to get outside the field.  The fence was nowhere near adequate to keep goats in.  Thus, the first major project of this summer was to get the field re-fenced.  However, the goats were being delivered before the fencing was ready, so I bought a temporary electric fence, which you can see above.  It was actually moved several times, with the picture above being the third move.  It sections off a portion of yard or pasture (with a little mowing to keep it from grounding much) 160 feet long, which is plenty big to hold a couple goats for a few days.
Mamma Macaroon and her kid are coming to the fence anticipating my giving them a sweet horse mix treat with a bit of corn and molasses.  This is a favorite treat which I should be able to use to train them a little to come to me in the evening if I need to relocate them, or do something with them.
Rich and his brother Brian (Thank You soooo much Brian for coming and helping) began the process of the fencing project.  First they installed a solar electric fence wire around a small portion of the pasture to keep the horses confined.  Then over the next two weeks they installed sturdy corner supports consisting of old railroad ties and steel poles and wire at each of 5 pasture corners (the sixth corner was just fine, and between two corners is an outbuilding where the animals can get out of the weather if they choose).  The last step was to stretch the four foot high mesh fencing and secure to more frequently placed poles.  They finished up yesterday, August 13.  It looks really, really nice, and should confine the goats quite nicely.  It only enclosed half the pasture for now.  Next year we can enclose the other.  Fencing is rather expensive, so needed to be budgeted out over two years.
The final step was taking down the electric mesh fence that held in the goats.  They are now mingling with the horses.  You may not see it below unless you look, but my little flock of 5 chickens moves all around our place, and were in the scene below.  It is a pastoral scene!  The chickens are on bug control, and eventually will be giving us some eggs.  The goats are on weed patrol, and eventually will entertain the buck again so they may have new kids next year.  I won't mind letting my little herd of goats grow a bit.  Females will be allowed to stay and grow up and eat the brushy pasture.  Males will eventually find their way to our dinner table.  I've never tried goat . . . I intend to do so.  Who knows, maybe I'll even try my hand at a little goat milking.  The breed we have are mixed fainting goats, but all goats give milk.  The trick is training one to let you gather it.  I'll probably try with a young doe, on her first kid.  Maybe for Biscotti when she grows up and has her first kid.
For now, they have a pasture to start working on . . . and that is exactly what they have been doing.

As a side note - Rich's sister Debbie also came to visit and she has been helping me (Thank You Debbie) to paint treated wood planks which are needed for the next project . . . . re-doing our porch.  I'm in a bit of a hurry to get that project going, as the planks that are going to be replaced will go to build up a resting platform for my hot-tub which I purchased over the last couple months.  It is sitting in the pole barn waiting to be positioned.  I want that in place before winter comes . . . . this winter we will be enjoying the cold in style!  After a hard day hawking in the cold and snow, we'll come home and soak in wonderful hot water.

As an additional addendum, here is a picture of the buck.  I think he'll be a fine match to my does when the time comes . . . except he has horns, and my does do not (horns can be a feature of both male and female goats who carry the gene for them).  If any kids come out with horns I'll have to decide then what to do.  Goats can be very pushy, especially this guy above, so horns are not something you want to have in addition to their butting you.

Thursday, July 24, 2014


That is the main diagnosis that apparently killed my bird, Wasp.

"Hydro" (excessive water) "pericardium" (lining of the heart cavity). This leads to a condition called tamponade. I learned that in ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support). The heart of all animals, including hawks and humans, sits inside a protective sack, called the pericardium. If a disease process causes an increase in fluid inside this protective membrane, the heart cannot beat, cannot refill with blood, and the organism dies. This is what I witnessed myself on the morning of Saturday, July 12. Between the time I noticed there was a problem, and his death, about a half hour transpired. It was quick.

Two days prior to the events of Saturday morning, July 12, he appeared normal, and ate a good sized meal. Because of my work schedule, I did not look in on him on Friday, July 11, opting to feed him the following morning with training. Rich tells me he was heard inside his mew on Friday, squawking as he does. I have been slowly bringing Wasp back down to response weight, with the goal to do some summer hunting with him. Because he is a small hawk, flying at 570 grams, give or take just a little, he did not fly well in the very frigid winter we had this last year. I have held back his molt. I wanted to give him more experience on birds, and then hoped to fly him on young rabbits once the season for them opened.

I felt last year that the response weight of 570 grams seemed rather sharp for him, but that was the weight he had to be at for motivation. I had response from him, and now have been working to build up some muscle and stamina. My efforts have been stymied by the incredible hatchout of black flies and midges we have had this summer. This seems to be significant, for reading the necropsy report, this is highly likely what caused the hydropericardium.

On Saturday morning, as I entered his mew, he was quiet, which is unusual for this bird. Both he and Sassy are rather talkative. That is, Sassy is talkative, and I think she taught Wasp to be so as well. He was on his night roost, hunched over and looking very subdued, lethargic, and unconcerned about his surroundings. He has been particularly spooky as I've been reducing his weight, refusing to stay on my fist, refusing to come to me unless I have food. I cannot know if he has been ill for awhile, or if this was a sudden, acute situation. I couldn't ask him how he has been feeling, and he didn't inform me that he had chest pain, or an inability to breathe . . . which is the sensation tamponade would produce.

Upon lifting him off his perch, his feet went limp, which to my experience is a very bad thing. I had no idea what the problem could be, and questioned whether or not it could be very low condition, as I have been reducing his weight. I brought him into the house, and carefully gave him two droppers of a high sugar solution, making sure to deposit into the crop, and avoid the trachea. I then called the Raptor Center. I received voice mail, and left a message. Someone would call me back shortly, as there is someone in the clinic on weekend mornings, per the voicemail message. He would die on me before they called back. He did manage to free his foot from the towel binding him and grab my hand for one last squeeze. It was a goodly handshake . . . a final handshake. He died shortly after that.

When someone from the Raptor Center called me back I asked them about preserving the body for necropsy. I wanted to know WHY he died, as he had shown no signs prior to this day. I was advised to refrigerate, and not freeze. I wrapped him up in a smaller towel, and placed him in the refrigerator. I would not be able to submit his body for necropsy until Monday, two days away. It was a little weird the next couple days opening the refrigerator, and see those talons sticking out of the towel on the bottom shelf.

We are very fortunate here in Minnesota to have one of the pre-emminent raptor hospitals in the University of Minnesota. I have taken Sassy to the Raptor Center for surgery, as well as she and Hit Girl a couple years ago for health certificates prior to travel to a NAFA meet. Across the street from the Raptor Center is the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. For a fee of $95 they would chop Wasp all up and take a very close look at him to try to determine what agent or infection or condition caused his too premature death. It has taken 10 days, but I now have his report.

The report begins with a rundown of each anatomical system. Most indicated nothing of note. Overall, his mucous membranes were pale, which could mean anemia. His Body Condition Score was 2 out of 5, with 1 = emaciation/ 5= obese. I knew he was thin, but 570 grams had been his flight weight last year. The cardiovascular system indicated severe hydrothorax. His liver was enlarged and redish. His spleen was enlarged and marble in appearance.

Histopathology, or microscopic analysis of tissue biopsies, found evidence of a microorganism suggestive of Leucocytozoon in the liver (more on that later). It was also found in the spleen. There was also evidence of a microorganism called Haemoproteus in the liver. System-wide, he was found to have Escherichia coli, non-haemolytic.

The Diagnosis indicates: Hydropericardium (this is the first and major cause of death); Spleen - Splenitis, lymphoplasmacytic, diffuse, moderate and diffuse reticuloendothelial hyperplasia with splenomegaly; Liver - Hepatitis, lymphocytic and histiocytic, multifocal, moderate, and widely disseminated intrahepatocellular and intraendothelial Apicomplexa microorganism suggestive of Leucocytozoon and bacterial emboli, with hepatomegaly.

The veterinary diagnostician indicates cause of death is unclear. It is his opinion that the presence of the Leucocytozoon should not have caused the bird's death. He noted that the bird was underweight.

So . . . where does that leave me? At least I can know that it was not anything obvious that I had done to him. Yes, he was underweight, but I was using the same techniques that I have used on all of my birds, and none have ever died of starvation. The presence of the microorganism Leucocytozoon and Haemoproteus interested me to look into it. The vector for these parasites are: 1. Black Flies, and 2. Blood-sucking mosquitos and midges, in that order. Go figure!

Both Wasp and Sassy are kept inside a screen mew. I have not been giving them any weathering time due to the current abundance of these biting insects. However, Wasp has been out of his protective mew while getting training, and there is always the possibility some follow inside when I come and go into their mew. How do you protect against something that is ubiquitous? And, was Wasp's underlying condition so compromised that he was unable to deal with these infections, leading to an inflamed liver and spleen, and then hydropericardium.

I am discouraged and dissapointed in his loss, but don't think anything obvious was wrong with his care. I am a bit disgusted after all my efforts last year, and money, to acquire a second Harris Hawk to be a companion to Sassy, that I am left now only with an inconclusive death report.

Sometimes, having responsibility for these magnificent animals can be very painful . . . when your best efforts only result in loss.

Saturday, July 12, 2014


We have a new kitten.  I didn't plan it . . . these things just sometimes happen, especially with kittens.

I have been inside-housecat-free for quite some time, and I've actually been OK with that.  Cat boxes are just not fun to deal with . . . unless you buy a fancy, expensive one that is self scooping.  However, a couple weeks ago Rich and I were visiting his good friend Laurie, who he works with, and who we usually get together with on Wednesday evenings for 'Movie Night'.  She cooks, and she's a really good cook, and Rich brings movies . . . which can range between really good stuff, and some obscure, not so good sometimes.  I think we are getting the better end of this arrangement.

Anyway, Laurie lives in the country, and has a farmette, and too many cats, with more being dumped all the time at her place.  Right now there is an assortment of kittens of all sizes on her porch.  This little monster just struck my fancy, as she is just so goshawful cute!  We agreed to take her once she was old enough.
Upon arriving to our home, at a late 11:30 pm, she was given a bath, for she was not alone, having brought several hundred blood-sucking friends.  Between a bath, a blow dry, a couple nights of manual hand picking and vacuum rigged micro suction O2 tube tips, and dusting with diatomaceous earth, and isolation, and medicated drops on her shoulders, I believe we finally separated her from her uninvited guests.  She was kept isolated upstairs in a kennel until I was certain the fleas were gone.  Also, I needed to slowly introduce her to Monty.

Over the last week she has settled in well, and she is spending more time downstairs mingling with Monty.  For his part, at first, Monty wanted to eat her, and he still has times when he just gets over-excited by her, and a bit too rough when playing.  However she has learned all the small hiding places to evade him, and she has the typical cat savvy, even as young as she is.  Sometimes she just turns and ignores him, and walks away.  The novelty of her presence is also wearing off for Monty, so he doesn't get quite so excited all the time.  I think they are going to make good friends.  When she starts to play rough with me, biting, I just scrape her off at Monty, and he licks her thoroughly.  At this point in her life, she's about as snuggly as curling up with a tumble weed . . . all teeth and claws.  But when she gets tired, then she is a cute, fluffy kitten.
Monty can be a bit possessive of his food sometimes, but he has been a good boy when it comes to this silly little creature which likes to try his dinner sometimes.  I only let her taste his food after he has eaten, and if he leaves some scraps, but not too much as I'm still trying to get her digestion settled on some good food.
Rich has frequently picked up some of the farm cats and placed them up on his shoulder for some attention.  For whatever reason, kitties seem to be comfy there.  Ours settled right in, sensing that many cats have reclined in that location.  Monty frequently leaps up in his lap as well.  Here he is draped with our pets.
She's an adorable beast, that I had some trouble deciding what to name.  I tossed around several possibilities, with none really presenting themselves as perfect.  I've settled on 'Purza', which is taken from a book I read many years ago.  It will do, I guess.  After all, just like the hawks, she probably won't come to her name, so I could really address her as just about anything . . . it won't matter.  BTW, I didn't stage the picture above.  She jumped in the pot herself.  I just saw it and ran for the camera.  Kittens are terribly cute . . . that's how they find a home.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Justin's Baby

Rich and I visited Justin and his family this evening to meet his new baby.  It's no secret to those who know Justin that he wants to fly a goshawk.  He finished up his apprenticeship in 2013, and made a respectable dent in the rabbit and squirrel population in and around Winona this last winter with his red tail Chomps.  However, he has been bitten with the goshawk bug, and it has been his dream to fly one.  He tried to trap one last year, but between attempting to get his General Falconry status confirmed, and the poor migration we had last year, that didn't happen.  Then this year, he tried to find goshawk nests to pull an eyass for imprinting, but that didn't happen either.  As always with this impressive and lucky young man that I have had the pleasure to know, fortune shined upon him.  A falconer in Wisconsin made the decision to pass along this young bird, and Dave helped with getting the health certificate and transportation.  His family have named her Olivia, and she is quite adorable.  She still has all her young nestling innocence, and none of the killer mindset that will manifest all too soon.  Justin has his work cut out for himself, but he also has the guidance and advice of several Wisconsin falconers of distinction who have successfully trained and flown exceptional goshawks.  He'll do fine!
We also got to meet Lucy, his new Jack Russell Terrier puppy.  She is quite a cutie, and full of piss and vinegar as my mom would have said.  He's working with her, and she has her beginning obedience ongoing.  Although, when she was allowed to chase out some of their turkeys from under the coop she was rather loath to let the one go she had caught.  She'll make a fine hawking dog.  I threatened to leave Monty with them, as he had come along with us, but they nixed that idea immediately.  They had planned to just raise the puppy this summer, as Justin didn't get the goshawk in the spring.  However, with this stroke of fortune, now they have two baby animals in their home to raise and train.  Enjoy!
I do believe this is the first time I have ever held a goshawk.