It's been a little over a week since Spark passed away. Since mourning will not bring her back and the season is already more than half way over, the Harris has gotten my full attention...or as much as I can give it considering I don't bring it home with me on the weekends.
I'm going to get a little side tracked here but if you notice I refer to the Harris as, "the Harris" or "it". I haven't decided on a name for it yet even though Uchimura basically considers it mine and keeps asking me what I'm going to call it. I've thought of various names but none seem to "fit". In all honesty I'm horrible at naming things, Spark got her name by being a Sparrowhawk...take out a few letters and there you have it. Pretty lame huh. I've been calling the Harris "Punk" for the last few outing because he's gotten into the habit of not coming to the fist unless he knows there's food. He'll come from any distance but if I don't put a tidbit on the fist then he'll land at my feet and just look up at me. What a punk! But in Japanese "Punk" means flat tire, and since Japanese is more his language than English I don't think going around calling him "flat tire" fits very well. Names of greek gods come to mind as well, I've considered Hermes, but the name seems a bit over done in the general falconry community. So I'm at a loss, every time I'm with a group of falconers we end up refering to my bird as "the male Harris". Anyone out there with a good name please let me know! Now back to the hawking...
The New Year's holiday lasted until the 3rd of January so on the 3rd Uchimura and I took his Harris and mine to Nara to chase some ducks. As we approached the river where we were going to fly a wild spar flew over us. I imagined it was Spark and made my peace. The wind was absolutely howling though and the birds were blown all over the place. After one failed attempt at a small group of mallards my Harris was trying to make his way back and was suddenly blown about two hundred yards away by a sudden strong gust! He fought his way back to the glove though and got rewarded for his efforts. It made for rather difficult hawking but my Harris made several good attempts and I think he would've put a coot in the bag had I been able to get him fast enough. He had shot down after a small group of them on the bank of the river and plowed into the brush. He had his wings spread out and seemed to be footing the heck out of the brush so I rushed over to help him but there was a retaining wall along the side of the river over grown with brush that tangled me up and I rushed over. Just as I arrived on the scene the coot squirted out one side of the brush while my Harris remained on the other. I don't know if he had actually gotten a foot on it or if it had just backed itself into the brush just far enough to be out of reach but the end result was an empty bag. He's getting much smarter about his slips though, toward the end of the day I slipped him at another group of coots and instead of shooting across the river like he usually does after them, he dropped down the river bank and hovered for half a second before trying to pounce on a teal that had ducked under water when it saw his initial attack! I guess he's noticed that once they go under they have to come back up and was just waiting for the right moment. I know that one of these days it'll all come together.
On Friday my wife decided to come with me to fly the Harris out in Kishigawa. Having only seen and been around Spark, she was amazed at how easy going the Harris was. She wouldn't even hold Spark but seemed to enjoy having the Harris follow us around and chase sparrows as we walked. She even put the glove on and had him fly to her a couple times! I doubt she enjoyed herself as much as I did but it was great to see my wife out with a bird on her fist. A dream come true for me!
The 9th was also a national holiday so I took the Harris out again. A family from New Zealand that lives here in Japan had contacted me about wanting to see some falconry so they accompanied me as we walked the usual irrigation ditch. The Harris flew to each of their children and took an exceptionally long slip (100+ yards!) at some teal while on the father's fist. Of course, the teal were long gone by the time the Harris arrived but he slammed into the bank of the pond like there was something there so I ran over to see what he was after. As soon as I approached he returned to the fist empty footed. As we returned to the clubhouse he was sitting on the son's fist and suddenly took off into the irrigation ditch. I thought he was after sparrows again but quacking errupted as water shot in all directions! There are some resident "pet" ducks in the area that live in the ditch but I didn't think they'd come up the ditch that far! The bird wasn't able to hold on to one though thank goodness, and I called him back to the fist and fed him the rest of his quail.
After the family had left Uchimura took his gyr/peregrine over to a nearby pond where we'd seen some teal milling around. The falcon took about a hundred foot pitch but when we flushed the ducks it didn't even dip a wingtip. Still a little fat so he's going to drop her a few more grams and see if we can get her chasing them. there were a couple ducks left on the pond though so I decided to get the Harris back out and see if he had any gas left...He had plenty! He took numerous shots at teal and coot hiding in the reeds but came up short each time. We all had plenty of fun watching him crash into all the reeds though, so even though we came home empty handed, it sure was fun.
I know we're just inches away from catching game. If I could bring him home and work with him EVERY DAY then I'm sure the headcount would rise but I don't have the room. :( I'll just have to do what I can with the situation I'm in...and have fun doing it! So far, it's been a blast, it'll be all the better if we can put some game in the bag. Happy hawking everyone.
James Lee Mansell, RIP
4 days ago