Thursday, November 24, 2022

First Squirrel

 


Today is Thanksgiving, and I am oh so very thankful to have this wonderful bird as a falconry partner.

We planned for just a little extra time to fly her before we had to join the family for the big meal. I decided we would hit up Sprague Woods in Caledonia, as we have not been there yet this year. I almost faltered in this decision as we were on our way, and almost sidetracked to another very small place we often can pop a bunny or two out of. However, the falconry gods gave me a sign that I should forego the easy choice and continue with the more challenging Woods. The "sign" was a pair of bald eagles sitting in the trees right over the small brushy place. Sure, I know they would probably have bumped as soon as we stopped and got out of the car, but I'd like to believe something urged me to go for the harder challenge. 

As we drove up into the place where we park, two squirrels were on the road, and scampered off into the woods were we would start. Good Sign!  I set an alarm as I only allowed us a half hour window so we would not be late. When I released Seneca she was all business, and took to the high tree tops immediately. She followed well, then began to move out in front of us. We circled around this small woods, and about 20 minutes in she came diving into a nearby tree, and smacked her first squirrel. As she came down, she glided off deeper into the woods. However, it's not that big of a place, so she did not go far.

After passing through a barb wired fence, and getting my coat snagged, I came to her where she was trying to hide her squirrel under a downed tree. She had the whole situation under control, like she's been hunting squirrels her whole life. This is the first one she has taken with me. What she was doing before last year, I don't know, but I am so very happy to add this quarry to her check-off list.


It has been just about the perfect day. We made the lunch on time, and had a really nice afternoon with his family.


I am enjoying so very much hunting with this girl!!

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Out With A Photographer

Today we took a photographer out to capture a few pictures for a local publication profile that will be published next week. We got super lucky, and had a quick successful hunt. These pictures are from Rich's camera. I'll link the article once it is published.

It's truly great when you do a profile about falconry, and are actually successful demonstrating the sport.
 

Monday, November 14, 2022

Acrobatics

 


Today was just a workout, for all players in this game. The bird did more flying and diving than she normally does. I did my usual plodding around. Even the rabbits got some unplanned exercise. At the end of it all, lunch (for the hawk) was just some rat that I brought into the field with us. It was a well-earned meal, if not the preferred target. However, I did get to see, and hear, quite a few attempts in some very deep grass. Several of Seneca's attempts were beautiful examples of Red Tailed Hawk acrobatics. 

I was hunting alone today, not taking any pictures in the field, and the GoPro is currently attached to my bal chatri, just in case I see a passage hawk I want to try and trap while out and about in my car. Soon, very soon, I will take all the trapping gear out of my car. The rat smell, even when I keep them clean, can be a little overwhelming sometimes in the small confines of a car. I briefly thought about taking a picture of Sunday's hunting spot with my cell phone prior to leaving, but was ready to be done for the day, so didn't. Instead, I'm going with Google Maps. The picture above looks like maybe very late winter, after the snow but before the green. It is deceptive, because it looks so very easy to traverse, but that is far from the truth. It is a lot of very thick grasses, uneven ground, some raspberry vine, with the occasional tree. In a wet year, it can even have areas of standing water, but it has been dry of late, mostly, so no puddles to slog through.

Seneca was at a good weight. She has been flown a little leaner, but she seemed intent at her slightly higher weight. As soon as I released her, she took a tree, then relocated herself in the opposite direction I wanted to work the field, into an area I would have preferred she not go. There are many places I hunt that are just waste spaces between buildings and businesses. Some of these locations I only go to on a Sunday, when everything is closed. This is one of those places. Following her lead would take me a little closer to a private home, but the deep grass mostly masked my presence. 

I made my way in her direction, kicking up a couple bunnies I never saw but could hear. They made their way with haste to a large pile of branches and roots under the big tree she had flown to. No amount of whacking or stepping on these giant piles (we call them "bunny palaces") will pop a bunny out. I tried to lead her back to the other direction of the field. While doing so, I got to see for the first time by this bird what we call a "Wing Over". She left her tall tree perch and flew out over the lake of grass, then folded her wings and suddenly dropped vertically into the waves. Her timing must have been off, for no bunny was caught. When you witness an attempt at a slip, you stop and wait, listening either for a bunny wail that it has been caught, or for the bird to not come back up. Shortly she was back up. She did fly to the area of the field I wanted her at, but didn't stay there, missing a couple of kicked up rabbits right after she left. 

The next 15 minutes or so are always the kind of harrowing hawking events you will experience at some point with your bird. It can be quite distressing for new falconers, less so with someone that has been flying 20 years. I just realized that 2022 marks 20 years of falconry for me! With it only being me in the field, there was not more than one set of eyes watching where she went. With my head down watching where I was walking, I did not see her move from the tree I had last seen her fly to, to where she relocated. I thought for sure she might have taken a rabbit in the deep grass. I would have to find her quickly, before she had eaten her fill, then took to a tree. A full hawk is one that will not respond to a lure. I was led only by an occasional tink from her bells, which I could not get a direction from. 

It was a perfect hawking day. Temperature was about 30 degrees Fahrenheit. The sky was clear, with no wind. I moved across to where I had last seen her, would stop occasionally and listen. Falconry bells are specifically made to ring with only the slightest movement of the bird. If she was on the ground with prey, the movement of her feet would have made for multiple opportunities for the bells to target her, but if she was in thick grass, or worse, had dragged her catch underneath something, which hawks like to do, I would have a harder time finding her. I would move, then stand silent listening. The tension of the moment is some of the thrill, I think. Falconry often is problem solving. After circling back around the very ground I had covered just before, a single tink turned me to find her sitting way behind me in a tree line she had not been to yet. She had probably been there the whole time. Just watching.  

I was able to encourage her to finally move in the direction I had wanted all along, mostly by kicking up several bunnies. She would then follow me closer, which is what she should have been doing all along. She would crash the brush several times with a force that sounds almost painful, but every time "Bugs" slipped just out of her reach.  We had been in the field over an hour, and had moved through most of it, stirring the rabbit population. She had gotten far more flying in than she normally does. I had gotten far more plodding than I normally do. I was ready to call it.  She responded quickly to the lure, and we packed it in.

At the start of our season we had several successful flights in succession. In the last couple weeks I have had a few skunked days. I'll cut and paste another event that happened recently, but which I had only posted on FB. Adding game to the freezer is the goal, but actually, it is taking the time to go out with your bird, so she may exercise, and pursue the behaviors normal for her species. Falconry allows us to watch it all with a front row seat.

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Let’s all give a round of applause for Dave Noble bells!! My bird flew off from where I tried to hunt today. As soon as I released her, the football team showed up at the park. She checked out. Telemetry was no help. It was the bells that helped me to find her, on the other side of the park, far from all the people. She was about 40 grams higher than the food I gave her when she came to the lure. Must have caught a mouse, or something. Thank goodness nothing big, to crop up on, ‘cuz I found her in super thick brush. Fun Fun!! 

Friday, November 4, 2022


This was a pretty catch, right out in the open. Too bad we didn't have the GoPro along for the hunt. 


Friday, October 28, 2022

Vacation Ends

October is my usual month to take my two-week vacation. It coincides with the start of falconry season, and the red-tailed hawk migration is usually in full swing. This year was no exception. Only this year, I also had the pleasure to host my childhood friend, Kathy, at my home. I was a guest in her home back in May. 


As I write this, it is the morning of Friday, 10/28.  I return to work tonight. I have so enjoyed the freedom of the last two-and-a-half weeks with little to no structure to my days, but know the structure of having a job to go to actually provides a bit of stability and framework to my activities.  I'm not ready to retire, either financially, or emotionally. I'd probably spend way too much time on the computer and social media. On this last morning, as I write, it is still dark outside. I'll write a few lines, post some links for my memories, then get my morning going before I assume my routine in preparation for return to work.  I'd like to take my hawk out for a quick hunt, as I have had the pleasure to fly her every other day on my vacation. Work weekends do not allow for any time to do much else than work and sleep.

I flew her twice when Kathy visited, and of course we flushed nothing so she caught nothing. On a quick hunt after her visit, she added a bunny to the bag. Ah well, Kathy enjoyed just meeting her and seeing her fly.


I love these early to late fall days, prior to the snow arriving. We've also had some rather warm days here in October. That will surely change soon. 

So, for my memories, here is a posting from the Relive App I've been using quite a bit lately of the trip Kathy and I took up to Ely, Minnesota and the International Wolf Center.  I may come back later to post some pictures, or not. It just depends on if I can find the time.

 North Woods with Riverdale

While she visited, we also coordinated and had dinner with Shawn (an agreed upon meet up we said we would do between him, me and Richard), who now has a "lady friend". It was a nice dinner for all, and good to see he is coping well with the changes in his life.

I was able to show Kathy a little hawk trapping. In fact, I caught a very nice video of the whole thing, which I will post here on my mostly falconry blog, but will not toggle as a public video.  If you are here and find it, then you already know all about my falconry activities. I've wanted to catch a nice, crisp video of the action. The bird in this case certainly took its sweet time giving me content. Click and watch it full screen over at YouTube. It's worth it. Really!


And finally, I did make a Relive video of the trapping, so here it is.

Relive 'Hawk Trapping Third Try, & Fun With Kathy'

OK, that's all I have time for at this hour. I will get my butt up off this computer chair and go get some stuff done, and be prepared to take my bird flying this morning before settling down for my "reboot nap" and resumption of my work life routine. Life is also going to become all that much more complicated because if all goes well, this little Tasmanian Devil is going to enter our lives next week.

Oh boy . . . . . .