Actually, it is already here! It has been a nice, long autumn, but finally, the true cold of Winter has arrived. During the coldest night it got down to -16, with a wind chill somewhere in the -30 range. Flying exclusively Harris Hawks as I am this year limits my time in the field. My two females have an absolute low flying temperature somewhere in the mid 20s. If it is colder than that, they just find a perch and sit tight, as I discovered all too well, and almost to my dread this previous weekend. Still, before the cold and after the cold we got out and added a few head of game to the year's total.
After the cold Wyvern brought this squirrel to the bag. It was actually her second squirrel of the day. She scraped the first one off the tree, but lost her grip on it as she was flying to the ground. Sassy moved in for the rebound, but raked away and didn't assist. Wyvern would go on to catch another squirrel, which also broke away upon hitting the ground, but Wyvern stepped up her game with her own rebound. Sassy joined her, and they both held this tree rat down.
It was clearly Wyvern's catch, as the video below proves. The picture above shows Sassy's head, but that is Wyvern's foot gripping the squirrel first. For her efforts, Wyvern got her first really bad squirrel bite. It bled quite a bit, but with several days of terribly cold weather following this hunt day, there was time for her wound to heal up.
On the weekend of January 9 and 10, on one of the coldest mornings, this chubby little bird feeder vandal was stocking up on some breakfast. I thought I would demonstrate for my sister and her family, who were visiting, a very quick, front yard hunt. I got both of my girls out for a quick attempt on this squirrel. This is where their absolute intolerance for the cold shown through. They both refused to chase, and instead just took a perch. I was able to convince Sassy to come back to the glove to get put away, but Wyvern ignored my efforts to call her. Neither the lure, nor a huge piece of food attracted her. This is where the "Oh Sh*t" factor takes over. If I could not get her back inside, she was at great risk for frost bite to her feet and wing tips. Harris Hawks just can't handle negative temps, and the thermometer never cleared the big Zero mark that day. After a few minutes, and getting her to come down out of the tree and perch on the weathering yard, I was able to get close enough to catch up her jess. Back inside to the warm mew with her.
My hawks are lucky! They have a warm mew! On normal days, when it is just 20s outside, the lowest setting on the infrared heater keeps it in the 50s in the mew. It takes a backup heater when it is colder, but then I'm able to keep it in the 30s. It makes weight control a little tricky, but it keeps these desert birds safe.
The day before the arctic air mass settled down over us, Sassy caught the only bunny we pushed out of a newish brush pile in a lot we have permission to hunt right across from my home. It makes for a pretty quick hunt. It's strange that Wyvern is catching squirrels, but has yet to catch her first bunny. Sassy took this one, and Wyvern joined her, but released her hold and flew a little distance away when I came in to assist.
I am having a lot of fun with these two girls. I wish my work schedule would allow me more time to hunt them. I also hope maybe we've seen the worst of winter now, although that is likely not a reality. It really has been a mild winter so far, but this is Minnesota. There has to be some bad days to offset the good ones.
And just because Rich took their picture, here are my pups. The "puppy" is pretty big now, 60 lbs. The two get along pretty good.