Thursday, November 17, 2005

Lunch breaks should be longer...

Last night we had a cold snap move in. We switched the air conditioning units over to heaters and switched our hot carpet on for the first time. My wife says she's going in to hibernation...I love it! I grew up in the cold. Winters were spent sledding, skiing, snow mobiling, and trudging through the snow looking for whatever animal had left it's tracks. I love being able to see my breath in the air and hear the crunch beneath my feet. I suppose most hunters do. It does however mean that I worry more about Spark.
When I flew red-tails in Utah cold was no problem. You could see them fluffed up on telephone poles no matter what the weather so I figured my birds could handle what ever came. Of course they weighed five times as much as Spark though. Spark flies best between 200 and 205 grams, a relatively small sparrowhawk from what I've heard. The tough thing about flying smaller birds is that you have to be that much more precise with their weight. Last year when our first cold snap came in Spark shed an extra 20 grams and dropped to 185 over night. She was rather lethargic the next day and I knew she'd been on the brink of dropping too low. So when I felt a little chilly last night I decided to give her an extra 20 grams before bed just to be sure there was no chance of dropping too low during the night. Either it wasn't as cold as last year or I fed her more than I thought but either way she was a bit high this morning so I decided to try and squeeze a flight in during my lunch break this afternoon.
On Thursdays I teach an English class for the city. My lunch break usually ends at 1:00 but since the class starts at 2:00 and I usually go home for lunch work lets me take the extra hour to prepare for the class (even though I'm usually done with preparation long before lunch time). Today "preparation time" would be used to go hawking.
I rushed home as soon as the lunch bell rang (yeah, here in Japan we have lunch bells at work) and must've looked like Superman to anyone who watched my apartment door...In at 12:15 in work clothes, out at 12:25 in hawking gear with Spark on my fist. I wasn't able to get a really good reading on the scale (tends to happen when your trying to weigh at warp speed), but I think she was a bit higher than I would've liked. She was close enough though so snapped on the telemetry and was out the door. We live near a bicycle racing track and it stands between me and the river where I usually fly. The trash from the races tends to attract pigeons, only problem is that when there are races the pigeons are in the statdium and not down by the river. Today there was a race. I saw a flock circle around the stadium and land just on the other side of the fence. They were teasing me, I know it. I weaved around the cars in the parking lot with amazing agility and soon found myself at the rivers edge.
Early this year there were at least a few pigeons every time I walked this stretch of river. I don't know if it's the cold weather or the bike races that has taken them away but they just aren't there recently. The wind picked up as I continued my sweep of the area and I began to doubt whether or not I'd fly her even if we did see a pigeon seeing how she was a little high. A glance at my watch told me that I'd better start heading back so I could grab a bite to eat before the English class. With the wind in my chest I turned back to the apartment and thought to myself, "Nah, with this wind I don't think a flight would be possible." The wood pigeon must've read my thoughts and thought he was safe because right at that moment I looked to my right and there among some shin high grass was a lone woodie feeling mighty cozy thinking I wouldn't fly Spark. It was all part of my plan though to coax him out! My true intentions were revealed as I turned toward him and began closing the 20 yards. I would've like to be just a bit closer to give Spark a better chance but she had already seen the pigeon and launched after only a couple steps. Wood pigeons seem to know the exact moment to flush so that Spark thinks she'll be able to take them on the ground and right as she shoots out a foot to snag takes to the air. Spark followed for about 3 wing flaps but had lost her momentum thinking she'd catch it on the ground. She veered off and landed on a dug out not too far from where the flight began. I walked over and called her down, glanced at my watch, shook my head, and thought, "Lunch breaks should be longer."

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