On Friday (12/9) I took Spark out to fly in the vast rice fields that I've been frequenting. A quick pass through the area didn't produce any slips so I loaded Spark back into her box on the back of my scooter and began my search anew. Before the season started I would see pigeons EVERYWHERE but since November 15th they've been rather hard to come by in any decent numbers. I drove around for perhaps an hour and a half looking for a slip with no results! I needed to meet my wife for a doctors appointment so I headed back toward home and wouldn't ya know it, in the next field over from the big field I checked first a flock of perhaps a hundred pigeons had come out of hiding (perhaps thinking that since I'd already been by once that they were safe...).
I maneuvered my scooter as close as I felt comfortable with and got Spark out of her box. I began my stalk and small doses of adrenaline began to drip into my bloodstream as I neared the feeding flock. Out of that many birds at least ONE's number had to be up. I was imagining the first head of the season when they flushed. Spark dropped off the fist as the cloud of wings lifted off the stubble of the cut winter rice...but it wasn't a "pursuing" wing beat. Perhaps it was the size of the flock that threw her off but rather than bursting up through the bottom of the flock and binding to an ill fated Columba livia, Spark set her wings and landed in the dirt as the pigeons fluttered away into the blue. Muttering under my breath I headed out into the field to pick her up. A stiff breeze was blowing and as I approached Spark decided to spread her wings and drift another 50 yards away. More muttering as I changed my course and brought out the lure. About 20 yards away I tossed out the lure and Spark glided over and snatched it up. She dropped down into a dry irrigation ditch to pick at the pigeon leg attached to the lure but I had to head home to meet the wife so I hopped down and picked the lure up with Spark attached. But something wasn't right, Spark just laid on my glove and stared off into space. I rolled my fist back and forth but she just hung her wings limply and her eyes looked blank. I freaked out! All sorts of things were running through my head, was there poison in the mud of the irrigation ditch? Did I miss some symptom of a serious disease earlier? By the time I reached my scooter she had regained her feet but she was still ingnoring the pigeon leg I was waving in front of her face. I offered some quail and she managed to get a few bites down so I loaded her in the box and raced home stopping at every light to make sure she was still standing. When I got her back home although she was much more steady on her perch she just wasn't herself and sat fluffed up on the perch while I gentle coaxed her into eating some more quail all the time whispering, "Stay with me Spark" in a shaking voice. I brought a perch inside and turned the heater on low. Wife trumps bird as far as doctor visits go but I couldn't stop thinking about Spark and running possibilities through my head while driving there and back. It was a short visit for the misses so I raced back home and much to my delight, instead of finding Spark dead by her perch like I was imagining, she seemed to have regained her composure and ate a full crop of quail.
After consulting friends online and other sources it appears that she had a low blood sugar fit, not entirely uncommon in small accipiters. She appears to have made a full recovery though and I'm looking into ways to prevent attacks in the future. Not the type of adrenaline rush I'm looking for!