Sunday, December 18, 2005

Getting closer

Friday (12/16): As always the hands on the clock seemed to crawl particularly slow on my half day at work. There was hawking to be done! Where's the fast forward button! Luckily in this wonderful world called cyberspace, you don't have to wait as long as I did to get to the action...
As I hopped down the four flights of stairs and trotted to my scooter when noon finally arrived, I put in a call to Kishigawa to see who was hanging out at the club today. Uchimura answered his phone and told me that they'd be "back" by the time I got there so go ahead and come out. "WHAT!, You already went hawking without me!" I joked, knowing full well that they'd probably gone to Nara to chase ducks early in the morning while I was chained to my office desk. They'd been unsuccessful but had tried to fly Oguni san's Altai Saker at teal off the fist. Both gosses had come up empty as well.
I figured that if they were going to go without me than I was going to return the favor and hawk all the way out to Kishigawa (even though I always do that anyway). I knew that the mega flock that we've gotten a few shots at had to still be somewhere in the area so I crossed the bridge and headed to the rice fields on the opposite of the mighty Kinokawa river. A quick glance at the biggest field told me it wasn't worth stopping at since the mega flock is visible from the road. I scootered down some of the smaller bike paths and saw a flock of about 20 pigeons circle and land in a smaller field behind a small warehouse. I parked on the side of a house that is under construction and tiptoed to the corner to see just how many birds there were. It was the mega flock. About 100 birds were milling around sampling what looked to be freshly cut grain (rice maybe?) that was scattered throughout the small field. I unloaded Spark and snapped on the telemetry but just as I did a small truck with two construction workers pulled up at the site and I saw the majority of the flock spook off the field. My shoulders may have sagged a bit but just to be sure they were all gone I snuck to the corner of the house again and peeked into the field. There were still about a dozen birds munching on a large pile of grain that had been left right up against the back of the warehouse. It was a perfect slip. I could sneak to within 5 yards of the birds by edging my way along the side of the warehouse. I thought for sure that I'd be showing off Spark's first legitimate head of the season when I rolled into Kishigawa. I could hear the low cooing of the pigeons as I neared the corner of the warehouse, my body began tingling as adrenaline seeped into my veins. I popped around the corner and the pigeons immedately flushed. I tossed Spark at them and she sped into the middle of the flock breaking up the tight formation. One bird looked like it was going to bail back into the field and Spark banked left to intercept it. Feathers flew into the air as the pigeon abrubtly changed course and turned skyward. Spark had gotten a foot on it but these birds seem to know how to deal with predators. Spark chased for about 30 yards but the pigeons were already above her and headed away. She landed on the roof of a nearby house and fluffed up in frustration. IT WAS SO CLOSE! She had pulled feathers! She pouted for a bit on the roof while I pulled out the lure. After about 10 minutes she decided to come down eat a few bites of quail while I leashed her back up and put her back in the scooter box. As I started the scooter up I noticed a flock of pigeons balling up to my left and looked up just in time to see the resident peregrine begin its attack. That's the second time I've seen that peregrine attacking those pigeons and it's so fun to watch! I saw four or five almost vertical stoops as the pigeons wheeled around beneath it and then the mountains obscured my view and I continued on to Kishigawa. I stopped at one other field for a shot at some wood pigeons but it was quite windy and they busted before I could get Spark close enough to give her a chance.
Once I arrived at the club house Uchimura and Oguni were just preparing to try kiting their falcons for the first time. With a stiff wind blowing we thought it was perfect conditions for the kite but the lure attachment kept coming loose as the kite got up and when we finally did get it all set up Oguni's falcon acted scared of the kite and drifted downwind without looking at the lure. Uchimura decided to forego the kite and just lure fly his gyr x peregrine. For someone training their first falcon and never having down any lure flying, I thought he did a pretty good job. After about half a dozen passes the falcon grabbed the lure and the show was over.
The Harris had been screaming at me since I pulled in so I figured he must be pretty close on weight but the scales revealled that he was about 10 grams higher than I wouldn've liked him to be. I doubt that 10 grams really matters all that much with the Harris but I'm so use to dailing Spark to within a couple grams that 10 seemed a bit much. I was going to take him out either way though and wandered down to the irrigation ditch we walked along last week to see if we could find anymore coot. The extra grams proved no problem as he dove into the brush after sparrows with his usual enthusiasm. I was particularly impressed when he took off after snipe that flushed just in front of us twice. Of course those are much too fast for him but at least he's putting forth the effort. It was a brush crashing fiesta with short chases after dickey birds every 15 yards or so. Toward the end he even began taking rather long slips at sparrows he saw feeding out in the fields. Alas, there were no coot and while he's a feathers width away from catching sparrows, we headed back to the club house empty handed.
With the sun dipping closer to the horizon I decided to make Spark work for the rest of her meal. I found a pigeon that wasn't banded in the loft and told Uchimura that I was going to toss it without a line attached for Spark. Most baggies have to have a line attached to them because they're homing pigeons that the breeders are trying to get rid of. If we tossed them without a line the club would get in trouble if the homers went back home! An unbanded pigeon means it was a wild pigeon that somehow got in the mix so I didn't have to attach a line. The last few lines have been a hundred yards or so though and Spark manages to fly them down well before they reach the end of it so I wasn't too worried but Uchimura was doubtful. Spark is still growing almost half of her primaries on her left wing and he thought that there was no way she'd catch a fully flighted baggie with no strings attached (no pun intended). Both Oguni and Uchimura followed me out to the field to watch the chase. I took the leash off of Spark and tossed the pigeon to my right, Spark seemed to hesitate for just the slightest nanosecond because of the new people in the field but after three flaps of the pigeons wings she tore off the fist and bound to it not more than 15 yards out. "She got it!" is all Uchimura san could say and I have to admit, there may have been a slight smirk on my fist as I marched over and leashed her up as she began to pluck. I know she can do it, we've just got to get the right set up and she'll be bringing wild pigeons home anytime. Watch this space, we're getting closer...

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