Saturday (12/24): Christmas Eve and although the Japanese don't necessarily celebrate Christmas the same way Americans do, the 23rd is the Emperor's birthday and marks the beginning of a "holiday season". For the next three weeks or so every week has some sort of holiday giving me plenty of days off to go hawking (if the misses let's me...).
Friday was shot as some of our good friends from Florida who had been teaching English here were returning to America. If it was up to me, it would've been a quick good-bye and out to fly the birds. Fortunately my wife is a bit more compassionate than me and when I told her my plans to fly that day she quickly put a stop to that! :( But it was probably for the best as we spent the entire afternoon with our friends laughing about the year and a half they spent here and their plans for the future. They will be missed...although so was hawking time!
Saturday, after getting two new hawking videos as an early Christmas present I was dying to get out and get my fix. We had some friends coming over for dinner and caroling at 4:30 though so I didn't have much time. Spark was a bit high when I loaded her in the box but I was hoping that the cold and wind would entice a few more grams off before we found a slip. I checked the big field for the mega flock but they weren't there so I tried some of the surrounding rice fields with no luck. There were splinter groups circling the sky so I knew the main flock was somewhere but none of them looked like they were putting in so I continued meandering. I finally saw half a dozen drop into a field next to a main road and pulled over to check the slip out. It was a perfect set up, the pigeons were feeding close to a rather tall embankment, I could climb the embankment and slip Spark directly above the unsuspecting "city grouse". One problem, the embankment was the sidewalk next to a very busy street. I debated the situation for a good 10 minutes while the pigeons waddled toward me, tempting me with such a great set up. In my mind's eye I could see the entire flight and of course, it ended successfully with the first head of the year...but then I thought of how many eyes there would be on me and the cars rushing by and as much as I wanted it, I decided to move on.
I was rewarded by finding a different flock that I've encountered before closer to Kishigawa. As I was beeping Spark up the suddenly lifted and began circling the field. I froze with the telemetry in my hand as they made two big passes directly over me and then...landed not 15 yards from where I was parked. I slowly removed the leash and crept slowly into the middle of the flock along a divider that seperated two fields. There were about 50 birds milling around and I couldn't believe that they had landed and stayed where they were. I know when Spark is ready to go when she crouches down on my fist and gets this intense focused look on the quarry, she didn't have that this time though. She kind of glanced at me and then casually looked at the pigeons. I guess it was the extra weight, maybe she's intimidated but such large flocks, but when they finally flushed about 10 yards out, she left the fist but did not even attempt to chase. She landed in the field and flew off when I approached her. I walked 50 yards to where she stopped, called her to the fist for a tid-bit, loaded her back up and headed out to fly the Harris. Apparently the couple extra grams had still not been shed.
It was windy out at the club house but Oguni was there with his falcon and Uchimura had nothing to do so we headed over to the irrigation ditch and resivoirs with the birds (two Harris' and a Saker) to see what we could see. The sparrows had taken shelter from the wind in deeper cover so there were none in the irrigation ditch. I tossed the Harris a couple times just to let it get some excercise but there were no chases. There were a couple of teal on the larger pond and Oguni attempted to slip his Saker at them off the fist but they easily beat the inexperinced falcon. All in all a rather unsuccessful day but I enjoy being out there nonetheless.
Upon return to the clubhouse, I noticed that the spar that Uchimura had gotten a couple weeks ago was not perched out in it's usual spot. Instead there was a rather ratty looking spar that looked like it had been run through the washing machine. Apparently the other spar had died that very morning of aspergillosis, a nasty fungus that grows in the lungs of birds and basically suffocates them from the inside. Quite the tragedy since it was in perfect feather and it's replacement that had just come was well, not to say the least. And then, a thought came to me, "That bird had been in perfect feather, Spark is not, if the body is still around maybe I could do an imp job!" Much to my delight, Uchimura had saved the body just for that purpose! A full set of perfect primaries and tail feathers, the ultimate Christmas present (other than Spark taking a wild teal...). I have yet to do the imp job (imping is like sewing feathers onto the bird, in the simplest of terms), but I'm hoping to have a feather perfect bird by next weekend! Watch out teal, here Spark comes.