Wednesday, December 30, 2009

One More Before the Streak Ended

Tuesday took even longer than Monday. I wasn't able to get out until around 11:30 and there never seems to be as many starlings on the ground in the afternoon.

It started out looking like it was going to be a short day, or possibly a day to try for multiples. I found a couple starlings milling around a PetSmart and a single was in a perfect position to slip. I think it actually flushed without knowing that Hayduke was on his way but regardless, Hayduke spanked him with an audible *thunk* about 3 feet off the ground and just wasn't able to hang on. It wasn't more than two minutes later where Hayduke put feet on another one underneath an evergreen tree but it scraped him off on the lower branches.

Then things got tough. We found a few slips and he had some close calls but things just weren't falling into place. I had been out my standard two hours so I checked in with the boss (wife) and asked if we had any pressing plans or if it would be alright if I stayed out a little longer to try and beat the skunk monkey. I got the okay and continued on.

I ventured in to new territory where I'd hawked a bit last year but hadn't checked out this year. There were a few starlings about but none of them slippable. I was about to call it a day and conceed that our streak was broken when I noticed a whole pile of starlings with their landing gear out headed to a restaurant around the corner from where I was. I made my way over and found a good group fighting over some leftovers and a couple more playing around in the snow. Hayduke skipped the ones fighting and plowed into this one keeping our streak alive!

Alas, our streak came to an end today (Wednesday). I got out even later than yesterday and while I did get a few slips, as mentioned above, there seems to be less the later I'm out. The slips we did get were some pretty difficult ones, and to be honest, I'm impressed he even tried for them. He was going for anything and everything, even taking "blind" slips where the starlings were over a rise and therefore not visible from where he left the fist. He even tried to take one perched in an evergreen tree! It just wasn't in the cards today though, we'll just have to make up for it tomorrow!

Monday, December 28, 2009

And another!

It took a little longer today but we bagged another. The first few slips were from a rather scattered flock picking through a dumpster behind a shopping center. There was a big gully just beyond the dumpster with good cover and there were even more starlings in the bushes and trees down there. Most slips were standard misses but on one slip Hayduke missed the starlings by the dumpter and as they retreated to the bushes in the gully he followed! It was maybe a 50 yard flight and he went straight in the bushes after the one he was pursuing. The rest of the flock erupted out of the bushes and I saw Hayduke disappear into the cover after one but shortly after he popped back up empty footed and returned to my fist. Fun little flight though! A couple of crows moved in and were looking to bully Hayduke so even though there were still starlings around, we headed to another spot.

We found another good flock at the second spot. There were two slips that were as close as you could come without putting one in the bag. He had a foot on one of them but it twisted out of his grasp at the last second. Despite probably a dozen slips Hayduke was still game but time was running down. I decided to check the museum where I caught the one between two cars as a last ditch effort to beat the skunk monkey.

As I pulled in to the parking lot it didn't look promising. I didn't see any starlings on the light poles and the hedges appeared empty. Just then 3 starlings popped up from some hedges about 20 yards away. I made the slip and Hayduke tackled this one. It was quite the battle on the ground as Hayduke didn't have the best grip. It appeared he had it by the butt and was being dragged around quite a bit. He actually lost the grip on one foot just as I arrived and the starling almost got away but Hayduke readjusted and had it's neck just as I put a hand on the starling and finished it off. We headed to a nearby snowbank for our victory shots. No time to try for multiples today.



Sunday, December 27, 2009

On a Roll...

Not much to this one. First slip of the day again. 8-10 starlings picking at some frozen garbage in a Walmart parking lot accompanied by a couple of crows. The crows made me hesitate since a buddy of mine had his kestrel driven off and injured by crows. As long as they were hanging around I wasn't sure if I wanted to take the slip but the starlings were giving the crows first go at the goods anyway and were hanging out in the trees waiting their turn. The moment the crows left though the starlings swarmed and I made the slip. With the early morning sun at our back they never saw him coming:

It was a mugging for sure, but we'll take it! The crows returned quickly at the sound of the alarmed starlings but I got to Hayduke before they even knew what was going on. They looked rather omnious following me around while I tried to find a good spot to take a couple photos so I ended up heading home and snapping the photos outside my apartment.

If you don't count yesterday when it was snowing and we didn't get a single slip, then we've taken starlings each of our last 4 outings. I've got the next week off of work too, this should be fun...

Monday, December 21, 2009

Starling Number 3!

We headed out around 10 a.m. on Saturday, a little later than I would've liked to. There's just too many people out and about after about 9:30, especially this time of year! My usual spots were, as suspected, quite crowded. I did get a couple of sparrow slips in some hedges on the edge of a parking lot but despite my kicking those sparrows did NOT want to leave the cover after they knew Hayduke was in the area so we moved on.

I saw a few starlings drop into a grassy area in a shopping center across from where I was so I headed over that way and much to my astonishment I found that the "grassy area" was a cemetary...in the middle of the shopping center! It was the weirdest spot for a cemetary I've ever seen with a carwash and Wendy's literally right next to it and surrounded by the shopping center parking lot on 3 sides! I wonder if it's just been there forever and just got built around. Anyway, most the starlings were on the inside, or sitting on top of, a tall wrought iron fence surrounding the cemetary but there was a single picking at some trash in the middle of the parking lot. Surprisingly enough, this parking lot was pretty empty but that worked against us as the starling saw Hayduke coming long before he got there. He tail chased for a second or two but quickly saw he was beat. I called him back to the fist and we headed elsewhere.

I actually suspected my hawking was over at that point as I had to run some errands. As I headed to my various appointments however, I noticed a good group of starlings fly over me on the road and they looked to be putting down behind a museum. Worth a shot, right? Sure enough, the ones I'd seen flying had landed and joined at least 50 more milling around the hedges surrounding the parking lot and picking through the grass in the empty lot next to it. As luck would have it though, just as I was getting ready for a slip, a car pulled up right next to the hedges and the "slippable" starlings bumped. They didn't go far, in fact they just went to the shrubs next to the museum, but they landed in between a couple of parked cars that made it a difficult slip. There was a car, an empty slot where the starlings were feeding, and another parked car. Well, never try never know I thought and slipped Hayduke. He threaded the parked cars and slammed his 3rd starling up against the curb. When I got to him he had one foot around it's neck and the other foot around its beak, apparently saying, "Shut your mouth sucka, you're mine!"

I snapped some nicer photo's (like the one above) with my better camera but I love his posture in this pic. He just looks like one bad dude!

On a side note, Hayduke has taken starlings the last three times we've been out. Yeah, if you look at the date on those posts, there are quite a few days in between each of those so I only post that to say even with limited time and not flying everyday (that'll change come spring...), kestrels can still be quite effective. There's no excuse not to kill game with these guys!

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Making It Look Easy

One slip, one bird again for Hayduke's second starling!

It was a great little flight at a group of 5 or 6 starlings feeding on the edge of an island in a Walmart parking lot. They flushed just ahead of us but Hayduke left the fist with a mission and powered into this one about 6 feet off the ground! His first catch out of the air.

He's turning out to be a great little bird. From starting with grasshoppers to catching starlings out of the air, I have to say I'm pretty darn pleased.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Hayduke's Turkey Day

Your mission should you choose to accept it:

Slip out between the morning "turkey bowl" and afternoon feast, only an hour of hawking time, and bag a bird, wait, let's make that Hayduke's first STARLING...

One slip, one bird, MISSION: ACCOMPLISHED

Happy Turkey Day everyone!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Weekend Update

We had a good day on Saturday but came home empty handed.

I made some lighter jesses on Friday night (2.7g total) but the snaps on these ones didn't seem all that solid. The first slip of the day proved my concerns valid. He was slipped at a good group of sparrows near an evergreen tree surrounded by hedges. The sparrows ducked into the evergreen tree and he plowed in after them, chasing them out in to the hedge on foot before he decided he'd missed his chance. I called him back to the fist and realized he no longer had jesses on!! They must've popped off in the foot race! Luckily I'd brought my heavier back up pair so I snapped those on before looking for the wayward jesses under the evergreen. Alas, they had disappeared without a trace so we spent the rest of the morning with the heavier jesses again. (I did swing by Hobby Lobby to pick up more snaps to make lighter jesses again on my way home...)

A quick check at some of my other spots only produced one more slip, another one at sparrows, and again they got back in the hedge before Hayduke could connect. Time was getting short so I decided to head back toward home thinking I'd check the shopping center where Hayduke caught the sparrow last week. There's a restaurant there that always seems to attract a good group of starlings in the morning and sure enough, they were there. Hayduke took a slip at one of them but it was a little too far out and got off the gound before he could get close. He landed on a handicapped parking sign just as I heard a *thunk*. His appearance had caused at least one starling to slam itself into the retaurant windows! But it wasn't the one Hayduke was after and he didn't notice. The dazed starling recovered quickly made good on its retreat. I'm pleased he's going after starlings now though!

The next slip was at a mixed group of sparrows and starlings next to a dumpster. In all honesty I don't think Hayduke liked the slip in the first place but a gentle toss sent him on his way. It was a half hearted flight though and everything got up well before he arrived. The final slip was a fun one. A short slip at four or five sparrows next to some pallets. Hayduke almost slammed one on the initial slip but it just squirted out underneath him and dove into the pallets. I'd read about "pallet hawking" in the Mullenix book but this was my first time experiencing it. Hayduke went on the hunt crawling through the pallets after the fleeing sparrows and I did my best to assist but we were obvious amateurs and the sparrows eventually found one of the many unblocked exits and made a quick escape. Kinda fun to watch Hayduke in the pallets though.

I needed to get home but thought I'd swing through the Walmart parking lot one more time before heading home. Before I'd even pulled into the parking lot though I could see that people had started to wake up, the early morning shoppers were joined by food bank volunteers collecting just outside the entrance. I decided to forego any slips there might have been due to all the people but no sooner had that thought formed when I saw a streamlined shape gliding past me to the left. A passage male coops pumped once or twice and almost snagged a sparrow under a parked car just in front of me and directly in front of the front doors of Walmart! So I got to see one last flight, just not from my bird! Of course none of the shoppers or the volunteers noticed it.

The coops pitched up and landed on a light pole so I whipped out the camera to take a quick shot thinking that all the commotion in front of the building would send the coops on its way quickly but it just sat there. I was able to walk directly underneath it and snap a few photos (these were with a regular point and shoot with not much of a zoom!):

Hayduke was understandably unnerved by the appearance of the Coopers Hawk (a coops would eat Hayduke just as soon as a sparrow) so we called it a day and headed home. All in all, a fun morning.

Monday, November 09, 2009

That's More Like It

I only had an hour or so before I had to get to a meeting so I buzzed over to a nearby shopping center that usually produces at least one slip. (By the way, I've found that first thing in the morning is many times more productive than afternoon or evening. More birds, less people, all in all a good deal.)

I spot a large group of starlings behind a restaurant feeding on a grassy slope that leads down to some sort of irrigation pond or storm drain type watery area. There were probably 50 or so birds with their heads down, butts in the air but Hayduke didn't like what he saw for some reason and wouldn't take the slip. I tried to encourage him by giving a little toss but that just caused him to spread his wings and clamp down on my fist and his little flap scattered the starlings.

One part of the group headed over to another restaurant (this was at like 7 a.m. so everything was closed) so I headed in that direction but a giant crow came down in the middle of starlings so I thought it best to avoid that slip and continued on.

Another splinter group from the original flock was in front of the first restaurant and a single was dawdling by the curb in perfect position. Hayduke took the slip but the starling squirted out just beneath him with a loud squawk. But that's the second starling he's gone after whereas he was flat out refusing them before so I was happy.

I got him back on the fist and headed to another section of the shopping center. A crowd of seagulls was gathering around some trash near a shopping cart return area so I decided to scope the situation out. The seagulls quickly scarfed down the big pieces and left, leaving only crumbs...perfect for my sparrow friends to clean up. The seagulls had just barely left when 4 sparrows flitted over for clean up duty. Hayduke targeted one with its back turned and pounded it in a short 20 ft. flight.

Then the fun began. The tumble took him underneath a parked car so I jogged over and "stood guard" while he finished the sparrow off. But an early morning shopper rattled by with a cart which freaked him out and he carried the sparrow about 20 feet underneath another parked car. I walked over and glanced under the other car to confirm he was there just as the owner of the car rattled up with her shopping cart probably wondering why I was looking under her car. That caused Hayduke to really carry this time and I saw him glide about 50 yards under an isolated truck parked next to an island out in a far corner of the parking lot. I shrugged to the owner of the second car and said, "My bird was hiding under your car..." which garnered a quizzical look, and then jogged off to follow my wayward kestrel.

Luckily Hayduke is small enough that I don't think he can get much height carrying a sparrow. A 20 gram bird equals a quarter of his body weight, but maybe I was just lucky this time that he ended up somewhere accessible.

This time, out of range of the early shoppers he settled in and started plucking. I laid next to the island watching and taking pictures (wondering what would happen if the owner of this vehicle showed up...) and then finally was able to reach under and grab the sparrow, gently lifting Hayduke and his prize back on to my fist for one more victory photo before returning to my car and heading home just in time to make my meeting.

#2 in the bag.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Encouraged

Today was our best day yet! Only thing that could've made it better was actually catching something!

I suppose you could count that first kill as our "best day yet" but it was a fairly short, one slip one catch day whereas today we had lots of great flights and just couldn't seal the deal.

One of best things about today was that Hayduke chased (and just barely missed) a starling. So far he's been reluctant to take them on so to watch him go after one with gusto was an encouraging sign. It was the first slip of the day too! A large-ish group of 20-30 birds picking at the leftover goodies in front of a closed restaurant. He shot off the fist and headed straight for a bird with its back turned. The rest of the birds got up as soon as he left the fist but his target was oblivious. It jinked right at the last second but it was so close I think he may have hit it or at least grazed it's back with a foot!

The remainder of the 4 or 5 slips were at sparrows and all of them were awfully close. Not sure why he wasn't able to nab at least one of them. He may have been a tad high. After his last slip he dinked around buzzing the glove a few times and was buzzed by a wild female before I tossed out the lure with a starling wing attached. He even buzzed the lure once before binding to it and trying to drag it away. So he was definitely high at that point and it wasn't the best ending to the morning but before that the flights were great and he returned promptly after each slip. Definitely an encouraging morning and I'm looking forward to getting out again asap.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Hunting with Cheetahs

I don't know how I never knew about a site called Falconry-Videos.com before but I found it today! I haven't been able to look around too much yet but I like what I see so far (how could I NOT!). Here's a video I did watch, not exactly falconry but...cheetah-ry? FANTASTIC!!



I'm excited to see what else this site has to offer!

Monday, November 02, 2009

Update

Well, not much to report since that first kill. This past week we got dumped on by a killer snow storm that dumped around 2 feet on us so we spent a lot of time indoors. We did get out this weekend but only got two rather weak slips on sparrows. He chased both of them under parked SUV's and I saw him throw his foot out just missing on one of them but as they say "Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades." It'll take more than two slips a week to build this guy into a proficient birder so I've definitely got to step it up a notch. Hopefully the snow didn't send ALL the birds South...

But others are having more luck than I am, my good buddy Rick caught his first two rabbits this weekend with his passage goshawk. Since I don't have any pics of my own I'll go ahead and post this one of his first (caught just after I left him, of course!):

Congrats Rick! Hopefully I'll add to the headcount with my bird soon...

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Switch Has Been Flipped

Saturday I was out early since my wife and kids were going to be coming home after being away for 3 weeks and I needed to clean the house! I knew I was going to need most the day to clean but I really wanted to get out hawking...

I actually wasn't all that keen on the prospects. I had shown Hayduke what should have been a fairly simple slip at starlings on Friday evening and he didn't even flinch. He was a bit higher than I would've liked him but only by a gram or so (79g vs. 77.8g). So I had my noose carpet along and was more out for baggies than actually hunting.

First stop at a Wal-mart parking lot where I caught my baggie starling last week. Last week was a lot colder though so I think it helped bring the starlings down. There were a few hanging around on light posts but none were interested in coming down to my noose carpet. I thought I saw some sparrows fly into a hedge so I got Hayduke out and kicked around but nothing came out. No sense wasting my limited time there so I hopped back in the car and headed over to a larger shopping center where there's always tons of starlings.

As I pulled into the shopping center I thought I saw a couple starlings cruising low with their landing gear down on a far edge. I headed in that direction and sure enough, someone had spilled something the night before and there was maybe half a dozen starlings munching on the leftovers. Noose carpet or bird? I figured I'd get the bird out, if he went for them great, if not and they bumped I'd put the noose carpet over what they'd been eating. Well being pre-occupied getting the bird out, I missed all the starlings leaving! So it was a no-go on either option but then I noticed Hayduke bobbing his head toward some ivy against the wall of a building...a closer look revealed a lesser spill on the ground in front of the ivy with 4 or 5 sparrows staking a claim. So I headed in that direction.

Hayduke knew they were there but wasn't showing quite the "intensity" that Dulci showed. The sparrows were completely oblivious so I wasn't going to pass the opportunity up waiting for Hayduke to make up his mind. I gave a gentle toss in their direction and I guess that's all the encouragment he needed. He bolted off the fist and plowed into the middle of the group about 15 ft. away, snatching up his first kill!

That was the moment I realized I'd forgotten any kind of camera, even my cell phone, at home! It was a beautiful sight to seem him with his wings spread munching on a freshly caught sparrow. I wasn't sure how he'd be with a sparrow in his feet as I approached but showing him a small tidbit was all it took to get him to sit still. I reached in, scooped up him and the sparrow and headed back to the car.

I snapped this crappy picture with my cell phone when I got home. I guess its better than nothing:




It was nothing too spectacular but I'm pretty pleased to have that first kill under my belt. It may take some more work to get him on starlings but we'll get there. We're on the board now and he's got the idea. I was out this afternoon and he wanted every sparrow we passed. Unfortunately none of them were in any position to actually get a slip. He did get one chance at a group in front of a restaurant but they saw him long before he actually got there. We'll try again tomorrow.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Home Delivery

I've been needing to get Hayduke some baggie starlings but haven't had much luck lately until today, and talk about LUCK!!

After my morning shopping I noticed a bunch of starlings hanging out outside Walmart so I tossed out a noose carpet with some bread on it and caught one in short order. Wahoo! Popped it in a box and headed home. I thought that was good enough but here comes the amazing part:

I'm sitting at home with the starling in the bathroom making all sorts of noise banging around in its box. I think I'm getting stereo sound cause I swear I hear more noise coming from behind me in the laundry room. The starling in the box stops for a second and sure enough, the noise continues! I thought it might be a mouse for a second but the noise was very "birdy". I pull out a flashlight and shine it behind the dryer and notice that the dryer hose is bouncing around, I tap on it and hear something darts back in to the dryer vent. Long story short, I pop off the dryer hose and wait for whatever is stuck in the vent to come back and out pops a starling!! I had to chase it around the house for a bit but now I have two baggies for him! How lucky is that?? A starling trap that leads right into my house! Too funny.

As far as his foot goes, there is still some swelling but he's not acting like it's bothering him at all so I figure I'll offer him a baggie today and see how it goes.

*Update*

Hayduke on baggie starling #1

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Chasing Bunnies

I went out with some friends this past weekend to chase some bunnies with their birds and well, I guess I got caught up in the moment. They just sent me this sequence with the caption, "Who needs a red-tail when you've got Isaac?"


Can you spot the bunny in this first picture??
(Click to enlarge...look closely)

It flushes and I'm off...



I was trying to flush the bunny toward my friends but it ran the wrong way. And no, I didn't catch it. If only I had wings... :-)

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Foot Update

I've been keeping Hayduke in his box during the day hoping that some calm and quiet time will let the foot heal. I've just been tossing the lure out for him in the evening and he doesn't seem to have issues hitting it with both feet.

The foot is still swollen but when I opened the box this morning he had the opposite leg tucked up, therefore putting all his weight on the swollen foot, so it must not hurt that bad (if at all?). It was an encouraging sign but the swelling still has me concerned. I'll continue to keep an eye on it but hopefully we'll be able to hunt again this weekend...

Monday, October 05, 2009

One Month Anniversary

Today marks the completion of 4 weeks since I took Hayduke off the trap.

This past weekend we had our first free flight and first hunt. Unfortunately, nothing spectacular to report. He wasn't interested in the numerous starling slips that presented themselves (I'll have to work on that) but would've gone after some sparrows had I not been stupid and held him back. It was a silly mistake on my part. I'd pulled into a parking space to kick some bushes at Walmart and a sparrow happen to be hopping underneath a parked car a few feet away. Hayduke slicked down and looked ready to go but the sparrow hopped behind a tire and out of sight. Just then Hayduke bated toward it but I held on to the jesses wanting to save the effort for the sparrows in the bushes. Of course, when I kicked the bushes and dozens of sparrows bolted out, he didn't go after them. Shoulda just let him go at the first one even if it was behind a tire...Oh well.

We ended our hunt by going after grasshoppers again. We caught three in short order. It's much easier to hunt grasshoppers when there's no creance attached! I think 2 of the 3 were caught after they initially dodged his attack and he flew them down several feet away.

There is some bad news to report however. I noticed on Sunday that he was favoring his left leg and upon closer examination his foot is a bit swollen. I've checked it over and can't find any visible damage. The bottom of the foot looks fine, the anklets aren't too tight, and he will put pressure on it if compelled to do so but something definitely happened. I'm leaving him in his giant hood today and hoping that its nothing more serious than a sprain. I can't think of a time when he might have injured it but it may have been something as simple as slamming one of those grasshoppers the wrong way. He was standing on it this morning when I fed him but it was still swollen so we'll see how he looks this evening.

Here's hoping for the best.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

First Kills

Today we got our first kills!!

Yup, we took multiples our first time out. 6 or 7 in fact (I kinda lost count). Admittedly some were blatant muggings but he did take a couple right out of the air!

...Okay, okay, they were grasshoppers but I had fun!

Saturday was his first time outside and after a less than stellar session I decided he needed more exposure to the outdoors so I decided to take him on a little walk today. Knowing that the grasshoppers are still out in full force I popped the creance (30lb. fishing line attached to a light sandbag) in my pocket thinking that if he showed any interest I might as well let him go as long as he would be attached to something. He was a bit higher than I had him Saturday so I wasn't sure what would happen but sure enough before we'd even hit the main field I was headed to he started head bobbing at a grasshopper. I attached the creance and took a couple steps and he plopped down on our first kill of the season! Wahoo! :-)

He didn't even try to carry. He bit off it's head, chowed down on it's body and I lifted him back on the fist. I un-wound about 15 feet of the creance, held it in loops around my free hand and headed out into the main field where the grasshoppers are thick.

A big one with yellow wings (he doesn't like the ones with red wings apparently...) got up in front of us and he zipped off the fist and caught the sucker in midair about 10 feet in front of me! Alas (or thank goodness?), the creance brought him up short just after he caught it and he must've let it go when he hit the ground. I don't know how far he would've gone had the creance not been attached...

He didn't seem to happy about the unexpected drop to the ground but hopped back to my fist easy enough when I approached. I wandered over by the bike bath where two big grasshoppers were flirting and he dashed off to nail one of 'em with plenty of creance to spare. He kind of flared when I approached so I just stood back and he downed the bug right there on the bike path. A short whistle when he finished and he hopped back to the fist! Cool!

That did it for the morning session as I had to head off to church. I hadn't planned on him actually catching anything but it worked out perfect since he needed a little tidbit before I left. Both grasshoppers only equaled 2 grams!

After church he weighed in still slightly above where I would've liked him to be but lower than he was in the morning so with the creance attached again we headed back to the grasshopper field. I had a little more line out this time but didn't really need it. He was definitely more keyed in to the grasshoppers at the lower weight. He smacked one right off the bat and then jumped to the fist for a tidbit of starling breast when he finished. I had my cell phone camera with me this time:


That pattern repeated itself 2 or 3 more times. He'd grab a grasshopper, eat it quickly right where he was and then jump to the fist for a 'real meat' tidbit. He showed real tenacity when one grasshopper dodged his first attacked by hopping about six feet away. He hit the ground where it had been and immediately hopped back up to fly it down where it landed. Just like a goshawk!! :-)

He had one more flight where he took the bug right out of the air. It was a good 20 foot flight! I ran toward him to give him as much slack in the creance as I could but it eventually brought him down again. Again, who knows how far he would've gone, but this time he kept the grasshopper in his foot. As I approached he lifted off the ground and actually brought the grasshopper to my fist!

I forget how many we ended up catching in the afternoon session, I think it was 4 or 5 though.

For the most part I think I would've been okay without the creance but there were a couple times like the one he caught flying, and one where he missed toward the end after he'd filled up on a few, where I don't know if I would've gotten him back. I need to have him a gram or so lower and work on some instant response at longer distances before I'm comfortable free flying...but today was fun! I think it was a good opportunity for him to "hunt" with me and get used to that whole procedure. I need to get some baggie sparrows to toss for him in the field and then we'll really start having some fun.

Good times await!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Progress Report

We're doing well. At 78g he still doesn't have "instant" response but we're getting close. (But we haven't gotten outside yet either...) He did come to the glove without a tidbit yesterday so that's a good sign.

I gave him a couple of baggie sparrows over the weekend and it's clear that sparrows are a new thing for him. I think he was a bug bird before I got him (his first casting was grasshopper parts...). I almost had to set him on top of the first baggie. He killed it quickly though and then spent the next hour plucking it! If I hadn't broken into it for him he may still be there today! The second baggie he was a little more enthusiastic about but the sparrow managed to evade him twice before he finally got a foot on it. Again, he killed it quickly and then plucked, and plucked, and plucked. He got the entire sparrow both times though so hopefully he'll have connected a good meal to killing his own food. There were a couple of really positive things though: he didn't try and go anywhere with the sparrow despite my two year old running around and even jumping on my back while I was laying next to the bird. (Dulcinea tried to hide everytime she caught a sparrow.) and when he finished the sparrow he jumped to my fist for a final tidbit both times. So that's encouraging. I think it will take some work to get him on starlings.

His one vice is screaming. He yells at me almost constantly when I get close and sometimes food won't even muffle the noise. *KYAK KYAK KYAK kyhmp kyhmp hymp (as the food goes down) and then back to KYAK KYAK KYAK* It's quite annoying. I wonder if he's just a really young bird? I know imprint kestrels scream all the time, and luckily Hayduke is quiet if I keep my distance, but he can really get loud. I almost have to go outside if I want to work with him when the kids are going to sleep. Hopefully once he's in the groove and hunting his own food he'll lay off on the siren. Loud, repeatative noises are one of my worst pet peeves!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Week One Update

Between 82 and 85 grams he'll make a few jumps to the fist. About 3 feet has been his longest. I occasionally have to "prime" him by giving him a tidbit on the perch and he'll still think about it for a few second before coming but we're on the right track. This evening he should be around 80 grams and be a little more motivated to make longer leaps. I have this hang up with not wanting to let birds loose weight, I think if I had dropped him lower a little earlier we would be farther along by now but for being just a week in to it I think we're doing fine.

He's still got quite a bit of "taming" to do. He still gapes (opens his mouth) at me when I approach him on his perch and will try and bate away but he calms down fairly quickly once on my glove. He rarely bates from there and when he does, he's quick to regain the fist. I spent a whole lot of time this weekend with him on my fist and even caught him napping there at one point. Any movement still freaks him out but that will pass with more exposure. Dulcinea was so rock solid that she wouldn't bat an eyelid when I wandered around the NAFA meet (falconer's convention of sorts...) with her on the fist and people everywhere. I remember one time when she had missed a sparrow and landed on a parked car, a lady walked right up to her expecting her to fly off and she just sat there. Man, she was a good bird!

We'll get there with Hayduke, I'll let him dictate the pace but I think we're moving along well. If things go according to plan hopefully he'll be hunting by the end of the month. There are starlings that need killing:

The Most Hated Bird in the U.S.

Starling flocks take toll on economy, environment

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Day Two -- Success!!

Sunday I wasn't able to get out trapping, but Monday being a holiday, I loaded up the traps, picked up Rick and headed out at first light. We started seeing kestrels immediately.
Our first bird came down to a mouse:

A male with another one of those funky mid-moult tails:

Definitely an older bird so a quick photo and release:

The second bird we found on a lonely, dusty back road eating a grasshopper. He was way up at the top of a tall telephone pole but we made the drop anyway. He buzzed the trap once but landed right above the trap on the telephone wire. It wasn't more than a minute before he dropped straight down and we had him:

Another one with a funky tail! I guess it's just so early in the year that kestrels are usually still moulting at this time? We saw another male that we weren't able to trap whose tail was literally just a stub. I had my doubts as to whether or not he was even a kestrel when we first saw. I kept telling Rick, "It's tail just doesn't look right to be a kestrel." I thought maybe we'd mistaken a meadowlark or starling for a kestrel but as we drove up to get a better look he bumped and sure enough it was just a tail-less kestrel! Crazy.

This boy was TINY!! Another quick photo and a release:

We hit a slow patch for an hour or so but finally hit the jackpot. 3 birds all hanging out together, so we figured it must be a group of young siblings still palling around after fledging. They were pretty jumpy and we had to chase them around for awhile before we finally got a good set. The male came right down to our mouse:

We looked him over and sure enough, he appeared to be a passage (first year) bird. A full tail, streaked breast, barring all the way up between his shoulders, exactly what I wanted! We rushed back to Rick's house and put equipment on him, 111g with jesses and a hood. He cast later in the day and after several mutes ended up right around 98g. He's a tiny little guy but I think he'll do well.
Introducing Hayduke:


Looking forward to a great season with him!

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Day One

Neither were passage birds but we did catch two. A good way to start trapping season, especially since its still so warm and the kestrels are keeping pretty full on grasshoppers.

This first one came down to a sparrow. It was tempting to keep her, look at those monster starling killing feet! (Click to englarge picture)

The second bird was an interesting catch for a couple reasons. We had thrown the BC with the sparrow in it in between two kestrels and backed off a hundred yards. We then noticed a third kestrel sitting right above us! I had brought some mice and was keeping them in an additional BC that I hadn't finished covering with nooses the night before, only one side of it was covered. We figured we couldn't pass up the opportunity though and decided to toss the mice out under this third kestrel. She hopped around on the trap for awhile but eventually got caught! As we were looking her over we noticed that she was till growing in her tail and it was the most interesting moulting pattern I've ever seen!

You can see the central tail feathers are fully grown in but the rest of the feathers are at varying stages the further out you go with the outter most feathers being the shortest. I was amazed at the uniformity of such a late moult!

Anyway, here was a victory shot we took shortly before both birds were released:

Friday, September 04, 2009

IT'S HERE!!!

From the Colorado Division of Wildlife falconry regulations:

ARTICLE III - CAPTURING, ACQUISITION, REPORTING AND MARKING RAPTORS
#609 - CAPTURING RAPTORS - The following restrictions shall apply to the capturing of raptors and
reporting:...

4. First year (passage) raptors capable of flight, may be captured and removed from the wild only from September 4 through October 16 and November 1 through January 15.

I'll be spending the weekend looking for my new hunting partner. I'm like a little kid at Christmas!!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Trapping Sparrowhawks in Turkey

Trapping season is just over a week away! We do it a little differently here but this is an interesting video nontheless! I flew a little sparrowhawk in Japan as my "re-introduction" to the sport after a 6 year hiatus. She was a blast but I didn't do her justice.


I'm gonna train my kestrel for that dart method right from the beginning this time. Looks like a blast! Can't wait.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Unexpected Visitor

I made a few fancy sparrow traps this past week in anticipation of the season beginning (in just a few short weeks!!) and set them out to see how they work.

Well, I caught something...just not what I expected!! I found this little guy chillin with a full belly when I checked last night:




That's only half inch hardware cloth he's on so he wasn't a big one (we've seen some 5~6 footers on, or next to, the trail by our house), in fact I think he just slithered his way right through one of the squares to gain entry, but he must've eaten something in there as his middle is quite a bit thicker than the rest of him. I suspect a mouse more than a sparrow, but it must've made his day.

I wanted to take him back to the house to show my son but I would've been sleeping on the couch as per my wife's explicit instructions on ever bringing snakes home. He wasn't real keen on me sticking my hand in there to let him go, and I didn't fancy being bitten, so I just opened the top of the trap and dumped him out. He slithered his way merrily into the undergrowth.

I need a better place to put my trap!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Apologia

I'm reading "A Merlin for Me" by John Loft right now, a book chronicling Mr. Loft's training of a young merlin in the UK and interspersed with some wonderful poetry. This particular poem stood out as I read it this morning:

APOLOGIA

Hawking is useless,
Brings no advancement,
Is economically negligible, ecologically neutral,
Ethically irrelevant, and thoroughly anti-social.

That's what makes it so attractive.

Accomplishing the death of a lark is
Too insignificant to register on the Richter Scale
Of human endeavour

Yet is the Enterprise that transports me to the platform
Where I become myself.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Falconry News Site

A new website focusing on falconry and raptor related news in the U.S. and U.K.:

http://www.falconrytoday.net/

I'll have to add it to my links list!

(Oh, and the "less than a month til trapping season" countdown has begun. I'm getting my sparrow traps ready and my BC's covered in new nooses. Sept. 4th ~ 7th is going to be a trapping bonanza! My falconry buddies and I will probably trap what we want on day one and then spend the rest of the weekend trapping for fun and pictures. Can't wait!!!)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Shelf Perch

The screen perch I used last year was a bit "intrusive" given the already tight space offered by an apartment so I took some inspiration from other shelf perches I've seen and made this up this weekend:

Attached directly to the wall, should be out of the way for my wife and out of reach for my son. It's made from a 17" x 23" whiteboard (Good for tallying season totals as we go! See upper right hand corner...) with a thin plywood backing for strength and composite board rounds cut in half with astroturf on top. I may make one more adjustment before it actually goes up on the wall but I'm pleased with it so far. I'm really looking forward to it being occupied...

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Milestone

I know this is a falconry blog, but things have been slow of late (although I've been making all sorts of equipment, gearing up for the fall...) so I thought I'd share a recent milestone:

My two year old son caught his first fish ever last Wednesday!


And today? By George, I think he's got it!!

I'm one proud Papa! I guess life does include more than falconry... :-)

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Falconer on the Edge

Slow day at work today so I was scrolling through some of the blogs I've got linked on the right. Falconer on the Edge is a blog by a woman who, after discovering her husband was a falconer, decided she wanted to know more about the sport and jumped in with two feet by writing a book about one of the sport's living legends, Steve Chindgren. The blog is titled after the book which came out not too long ago and the author had a link to a radio interview she did about the book recently. At the end of the interview she read the following excerpt (I was jotting it down while I was listening so if punctuation etc., is off, forgive me...):





I don't know if a person can really understand falconry without being a falconer. Until someone has flown a bird and had a kill, he probably can't really know the sport. Until he's felt the adrenaline rush and seen the life and death moments, the knowledge of falconry is academic. For the hard core falconers this kind of knowing is in every fiber of their being.

Falconry is a lonely pursuit but I don't think falconers are lonely. They're too focused to be lonely. They're doing something that gives them enourmous pleasure and enjoyment and for those of us left on the outside watching and waiting there's nothing we can do but accept it and be happy because they're happy.



I gave up on trying to explain falconry to non-falconers long ago so this passage resonated with me. I know my falconry is taxing on my family and so I can appreciate the times when they're happy because I'm happy.

Looks like a book I'll have to read!

Monday, June 29, 2009

The End of The Project

I was out of town all last week at a conference for work and returned The Project to her owner while I was away. On Friday morning I recieved a text message saying that the kestrel wouldn't eat on her own Thursday night, that he'd force fed her in the morning but it didn't look good. A few hours later I got the text that she'd died.

He's not sure what happened so I don't have details but it's an unfortunate turn of events. I feel like I'd been doing well with her and she'd improved many times over from what I'd initially seen of her. I'd like to think she would've started taking game in the near future but that is, of course, pure speculation.

She was a good learning experience and we had some good flights. Since she wasn't "my" bird, I don't feel the same sense of loss that I did with Dulci, but losing any bird is tough. My eyes are set on the fall now though. I'll get a fresh passage bird and start with a clean slate. I'm starting to feel more comfortable with kestrels in general and look forward to getting the next one going as quickly as possible. The starling population could use a good kestrel to keep them in check and I will be doing my best to oblige! Blogging may be a bit slow for the next while but I'll check in if anything pops up.

I wonder what my next kestrel is doing right now...?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Bully

There's a robin that lives outside our apartment building that absolutely HATES the kestrel. Seems like all birds do these days, but this robin is exceptional in his distaste. Every morning when I leave with the kestrel on my fist he comes zooming in to buzz my bird no more than a foot from my face! I'm not exaggerating its proximity either, literally 12 inches, occasionally closer! I can't tell you how many times I've instinctively ducked when out of the corner of my eye this red-breasted ball of fury comes hurtling towards my head!

This morning he was in particularly good form, making perhaps a dozen passes at us before we made it into the car. You'd think a bright red enclosure of metal and glass would stifle the attack but this robin knows we're in there and will keep dive bombing the car until I'm moving out of the parking lot. And the scary thing is, it apparently remembers we're in there an hour later!

When I returned from hawking this morning (not bad, but nothing to blog about) the robin resumed its attack before I'd even left the car! I had scarcely I pulled into a parking spot when I heard the tell tale war cry sound from the roof of the garages behind us and the rufous defender was after us again! Confident in the car's stolidity, I proceeded to let the kestrel finish a tidbit when I hear a loud *thwack* on my window. The robin actually hit the car! There were wing prints on the window!

Head bowed in deference (not submission!!) to the bold little Turdis Migratorius I quickly bolted for the safety of my apartment. I'm not scared of The Bully, I swear I'm not, but that sucker might just put out my eye if I'm not careful!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Perfect Slip

The wind was howling pretty good today, 24 mph just before I headed out, but it's awfully hard to keep me from hawking if I have even a bit of time. And between a conference at school and a dutch oven cook off this evening, a bit of time was all I had.

We headed over to our usual business park but after a few times around it appeared that the wind had blown all the starlings into another state. I'm like a fisherman always wanting that one last cast before I head home though so I cruised through the park one last time.
As we passed a vacant lot overgrown with weeds the bird suddenly slicked down and bated. Hmmmm....I didn't see anything but I've learned to trust the birds eyes more than my own. As I turned around I saw a group of probably a dozen starlings lift briefly from the field and then settle back down.

Bingo.

This was an absolutely beautiful set up. The starlings were about 30 yards out and the weeds were so tall that you couldn't see them...but that also meant they couldn't see us! As I pulled to a stop in the adjacent parking lot a gift from heaven, one more starling, dropped in to the foraging group marking exactly where they were. With the wind at our backs The Project was off, wings clipping the tall grasses as she covered the 30 yards in a second. A quick wingover and starlings erupted all around where she'd gone down! Booyah!!!

But then she "hopped". And hopped again. And suddenly she was on the wing again with the dang grackles converging like locusts on a grain field. In a matter of seconds the starlings joined in and she was chased back to the car with a massive ball of birds slamming her from every direction. She was driven to the ground just behind me but even on the ground there was no respite from her attackers. She lifted into the air again and the strong wind instantly took her and the black demons 100 yards away. I was worried that she'd be driven away again but I made my way over to the tree she'd been driven in to and she quickly came to my fist and scolded me for exposing her to such evil.

None the worse for wear, we had one more marginal slip just before leaving the business park and heading home.

So another day with nothing in the bag but man, that was a beautiful slip today. I'm not sure exactly what happened to make her miss since the grass obstructed my view. It could be that she just wasn't quite on target since they were down in the weeds but she had to have been awfully close. I hope it's not that she hit one and just wasn't able to hang on but that's a possibility too. The front inside talons on both feet are extremely dull and I wonder how much of a difference that makes. I'm spraying her feet twice a day with water but it will be awhile before they're where they need to be. Then again, she's been able to handle baggies well enough so who knows. I just need to see her actually hit one in the open so I can see clearly how she does.

We're so close I can taste it. We hawk every day though so I'm optomistic. I hope to have her kill something before next Friday since I'm going out of town for a week and a half and will be returning her to her owner during that time. I hope he hawks her while I'm gone but he's a busy man. So before next Friday...send me good vibes and more of those perfect slips!

Monday, June 08, 2009

AWOL

Well, I lost her on Saturday.

It was a bit windy but nothing that would keep me from flying, and yeah, she was probably a gram over where she should be but I'd flown her higher and she'd done okay. It was the grackles that did it though.

It was a perfect slip, a couple adult starlings being pestered by probably half a dozen juveniles, and off she went. I don't know if it was the wind or her weight but she overshot them and landed on the corner of a building. And then they came. Blacker than the evil they are spawned from, first one, then the rest of the gang (probably 10 or so) began their assult.

"I was after starlings you b@stards, not you!!" I yelled but they were relentless and aggressive!! They were actually smacking the kestrel around rather than just buzzing her. The kestrel made attempts to come to my fist but every time she took to the air they were on her like black on asphalt, from one building to the next they chased while I did my best to keep up.

And then she'd had enough. She disappeared behind a building where I couldn't go. She was headed east over a wooded area, the nearest road in that direction a half mile away. I quickly jumped in the car and headed that way but even the most direct route was roundabout. No telemetry since her owner was probably going to release her and I am planning on trapping a passage bird in the fall. I'd always thought, "If she goes, she goes" but that isn't the way I wanted it to happen!

I figured the grackles would force her to take some shelter somewhere in the trees but there were some soccer fields on the edge of the woods in the direction I'd last seen her headed in. A soccer game was just finishing so I pulled into the farthest parking spot, got out, and hopelessly swung my lure.

Nothing.

I drove to the shopping center on the other side of the street. Swung the lure.

Nothing.

Crossed a busy intersection and slowly cruised the parking lot of another shopping area and movie theater hoping to see her on a pole...

Nothing. The sun was setting, literally as well as figuratively.

Back to the industrial park where I'd lost her. More swinging of the lure and whistling. *Sigh* I slumped back in the drivers seat and texted her owner, "Bird AWOL. Looking now. Call me when you get a chance." It had been about 45 minutes since she'd disappeared. There was a stiff wind blowing to the east, and about 20 minutes of light left. She was gone.

I drove back to the shopping center across the street from the soccer fields. I looked back over the woods and soccer fields toward the back of the industrial park a half mile away trying vainly one last time to determine her trajectory, figuring that maybe I could come back at first light. If nothing else, it was a good area, she would be fine.

A heavy sigh as I started the car and cruised slowly out of the parking lot...







...but wait.

What's that on the light pole over there? Is that a kestrel or a grackle or robin? There wasn't much light left, it was hard to see. Wouldn't that be hilarious if it was actually her? I stopped the car and pulled out the lure.

One swing and a whistle and she was inbound!!! YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!! With my hope fading faster than the light, literally dejected and on my way home, I'd found her! She skirted my fist a few times, causing more than a bit of anxiousness as the darkness grew, but eventually landed gingerly on my fist and tore in to a starling breast. I didn't let out a breath until I'd clipped her in, sat back in the car and locked the doors!

The Project continues!!!


Falconry sure can be a rollercoaster!!

(You'd think that I'd want a break after that adventure but Sunday I was out again in just about the same area, this time with her owner along. We had loads of fun, with some fantastically close calls on starlings. She's sooooo close! We had a bunch of slips that really gave some insight to her flight style. She likes to stay above them until the last second and then try and wingover on top of them instead of attacking directly. It will take a good setup for it to work but I think we're close. And even though she was mobbed just about every flight, she handled herself well.)

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Foolishness

I suppose I got a little excited after last weekend. I'll even quote myself as saying (in my last post two days ago nonetheless!!):
...the importance of weight control with kestrels. At 97.7 she was still buzzing the glove and took 20-30 minutes to get down. At 97.1 she's all business.
This morning the storm broke. It wasn't raining and since I'd been kept up most of the night by my poor, sick two year old, when the alarm went off at 5:15 I was ready to get up anyway. I got the bird's food out, gathered my hawking bag, and weighed the bird. Full disclosure: When I put her to bed last night I suspected I'd given her too much. I was right. At 99.7 she was a full 2 grams higher than the weight I posted about above. Again:
At 97.7 she was still buzzing the glove and took 20-30 minutes to get down.
So what do I do? Yup, go hunting. *Sigh* Now for those of you fearful to read on, expecting some tragedy, rest at ease. The bird is safe in her mews at home. And honestly, what happened wasn't even that nerve wracking. It was just what you'd expect from an overweight bird.

I found some sparrows in between some shops at a local shopping center. The bird bobs her head at them but it was more of a cursory glance than any real interest. Nevertheless, I decide to try the dart method with the silly thought, "Well, maybe if she's already inbound she'll decide to chase." A starling lands next to the sparrow and I approach with the bird tucked in my hand...Perfect! I look down at the kestrel to gauge her interest. She's looking up at me with a quizzical look like, "What are we doing now?" I toss and...she shoots over the top of both sparrow and starling and flies up to the top of the building.

What did I expect?!? For the next 15-20 minutes she made lazy passes at my glove but eventually came down. This time I was smart enough to clip her in and head home. I'll be more accurate with her weight tomorrow...OR I WON'T GO OUT!!

And then, as I opened the car door to get in and leave, as if the universe was mocking me, an adult starling with three juveniles in tow landed not more than 15 feet from me and began fighting over a piece of bread.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Weekend Hunts

Looking back, I picked up this bird on the 3rd of this month with low expectations. Today is the last day of the month and I couldn't be more excited for her prospects.

The last two days have been absolutely fantastic. 3 good starling chases on Saturday morning and a half dozen or so today where she chased amazingly well, only very narrowly missing on a couple of occasions. There's no more "buzzing" the glove, she comes right down for a tidbit now. She seems like a completely different bird!

One flight that I'll share: An adult starling was feeding with a juvenile near a hedge with some small trees over head. Less than ideal conditions what with the cover so near by but I figured what the heck. It was about a 15 yard slip and the adult squawked a warning and jumped up in the tree when the kestrel was about 10 yards away. The juvenile headed for the hedge another five yards away but obviously wasn't a strong flier yet. Lucky little bugger barely made it and the kestrel pitched up into the tree setting off a chorus of starling cackles from the upset family. I thought for sure she was going to get that one!

Another interesting occurance happened when the kestrel was sitting in a tree after another missed slip. Out of nowhere, a grackle comes diving in and actually knocks her off the branch! They usually just buzz her but there was an audible *thwack* as this one must've been particularly perturbed by her presence. Grackles are aggresive little buggers!!

Anyway, I'm as pleased as punch with her weekend performance and now it's only a matter of time before we start putting them in the bag. I'm seriously amazed at her turn around but it just highlights the importance of weight control with kestrels. At 97.7 she was still buzzing the glove and took 20-30 minutes to get down. At 97.1 she's all business.

It's gonna be a fun summer!!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

First Hunt

Wow, I'm a posting maniac this month! ;-)

We went on our first hunt last night. We weren't successful but there were a few good things that happened:

1) She did attempt to chase some sparrows. A bungle on my part ruined the slip but the effort was noted.

2) I tried out the dart throwing method as seen in the video from my previous post. She didn't seem to mind being held that way but didn't chase the sparrows I tossed her out. She overshot the sparrows so maybe I was too close, maybe she didn't see them before I tossed, I don't know but it's something I intend to work on. I have one baggie sparrow left and I'll set it up so that I can toss her at it and see how she reacts.

3) We ended the night with a baggie sparrow and not only did she not try and carry, she sat calmly eating while my 2 year old ran all around her kicking a ball. At one point he even ran up and petted her! While she flinched, she didn't freak out. I was absolutely amazed at her wonderful behavior. Her owner was reluctant to fly her on sparrows for fear of carrying. If she'll sit still through all of that, I'm not going to be worried about it!!

The only negative to the evening was her reluctance to come to the glove after her miss. Her owner had a problem where she would only buzz his glove until he brought out a huge chunk of meat and she displayed that behavior for me last night. She needs to learn to come to the glove with or without a tidbit. I'll have to work on that, but otherwise I'm very pleased with the progress we've made. Here's hoping my next post is about a kill!

A few pics from the baggie:



Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Fantastic Kestrel Video

From way down South in Mexico: (Watch the way he throws the kestrel like a dart at the sparrows, I may have to try that!)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Magic Number

101.5*

By George, I think she's got it. I don't know if it has been the repeated baggies or what but things have started to click. The past three days when I've opened her mews, instead of trying to get away from me she jumps right to the fist. That's a very good sign.

Sunday we had another interesting baggie hunt. I figured I'd do the same as I did the day before, only tossing a starling instead of a sparrow from my hand and letting her catch it off the fist. There were quite a few mistakes in the set-up on my part and the starling made it to the nearest cover after the initial chase. I managed to flush it again but had to run through lots of stinging nettle...in shorts...and flip flops...to get it to break. My legs are still itching today!! But the kestrel was finally able to get a good shot at it and caught it as it tried to sneak through another patch of cover. Not really pretty, but we got the job done.

Yesterday it was back to sparrows and things couldn't have gone better. Since it was a sparrow I attached a light line to it to prevent possible carrying but gave it plenty of slack so that it could really fly. I walked out in to the field, tossed the sparrow, and she shot of the fist and slammed it into the ground 15 yards away. I moved to within 5 yards (since this was the same area the Cooper's visited us in a couple days ago) but let her finish off the sparrow and begin plucking. She looked around a couple times but did not attempt to carry!! After she'd taken a few bites I was able to move in and she jumped to the fist for a starling breast. PERFECT!!

So things are looking good. I had actually planned on hunting this morning before work but a slight miscalculation in weight and bad weather suggested I wait until the evening. I've got a few more sparrows but I think I'll go ahead and start hunting just to see how she reacts to the different set up. I'll use the baggies to end the hunt if we're not successful.

Hopefully I'll have hunting stories from here on out.

*I switched from the braided dacron jesses I was using to traditional leather which added about 3 grams to her weight. So if I was still using those jesses her flying weight would actually be around 98.5 grams.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Utter Chaos!!

Haven't updated for awhile but we've been making slow but steady progress.

On Thursday I acquired a bunch of sparrows and starlings for baggies (cleared out a friend's pigeon coop!) so today I took her to a field by my apartment complex and hand tossed one a short distance away. She shot of the fist and pounded it. Wahoo!

Then things went downhill. She tried to carry the sparrow, which is understandable given the openness of where we were, but this wasn't the kind of "carrying" that Dulci did just trying to get to the nearest cover, this was full blown 'I'm taking this sparrow to a tree way over yonder and you're not invited' kinda carrying. Not good. But I still have her on a light creance so she didn't go far.

I made my way over to her and about 5 yards away I noticed a large shape cruising in on my left. COOPERS! It was a big beautiful first year bird, just starting to moult out and missing a few tail feathers. It made a big circle around us not more than 15 yards out so I got a good look! Then it went and landed in a tree 50 yards away.

Of course my bird didn't like that so much so I set about gathering her up glancing back at the coops as I did so. So I'm looking at the coops and I see a big ol RT all tucked up in a shallow stoop headed right for it! The RT crashed through the tree making all sorts of racket and the coops didn't even move! After the initial pass the RT continued on its way figuring, I guess that it had at least let the coops know he was there.

After the RT left the coops decided it wanted one more look at my bird (now on my fist screaming at me) and came in one more time landing in a small tree maybe 15 yards away and looking at me trying to figure out how it could snatch a meal off my fist. It stayed a minute or two and then went back to the first tree 50 yards away and then finally heading off to the East.
I decided I should probably feed my bird up elsewhere regardless!

An exciting session to say the least.

She'll be killing baggies all this week and will hopefully be on to wild game next weekend.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Photo

Just a quick photo I snapped with my cellphone this morning. Big hunk of starling in her feet and she's not even looking at it. Let the "re-training"begin!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Kestrel Nest

This morning as I got off the train headed to work, I glanced up on the corner of the Pepsi Center to see if the pair of kestrels I've seen there before were there again today. As luck would have it, there they were taking in the morning light. It's always a nice way to start off the day seeing them sitting there and I figured they had a nest somewhere nearby but then as I watched the female set off on a shallow glide and landed on the side of this structure on top of the restaurant across the street. She poked her head in the hole in the top left hand corner and then wriggled the rest of the way in! Could it be that I just found their nest?! I snapped this pic with my phone:

This is literally across the street from where I work in downtown Denver. I went back at lunch to see if there was any sign of activity and just after I'd sat down on the grass to watch, the male wriggled his way out, presumably on his way to get "groceries". Wahoo! He didn't return while I was watching but I did see him cruise overhead once more before I left. I know what I'll be doing on my lunch breaks for the next few months! I could trap my next bird on my lunch break in the fall!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Are we there yet?

At 122.3g this morning she wouldn't fly to the lure. I did manage to coax a few jumps to the fist from about a foot away though so she got about 8g of tidbits. I don't think she'd cast yet though and if she's anything like my last bird that may have affected her morning appetite. She should be back around 120 this evening so we'll see how she does then. If there's still no response to the lure then I may have found her top end. If that's the case I'll start to lower her back down and "training" can begin.

One thing I'm going to have to work out is her talons. She must've bounced around the mews alot this past week dulling her talons faster than I thought possible. She was free lofted at her owners house and her talons were fine so I'm a little surprised but the new surroundings may have freaked her out a bit. I've heard a good solution to dull talons is soaking them in water (submerge a perch in an inch or so of water and let her stand on it for 15-20 minutes). So I'll give that a try but if anyone out there has any other ideas I'm open to suggestions.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Patience

I've had several requests for "updates"...not much to say though, I've only had the bird for 4 days!!

I'm as anxious to get out there and slay some starlings as anyone but this is going to be a slow process. I'm bringing the bird's weight up for awhile so that I can properly gauge response on the way back down. It's sort of like tuning a violin when you can't quite tell if the note you're hearing is sharp or flat so you purposely loosen the string so far you know it's flat and work your way back up. My "training" sessions at the moment consist of feeding the bird on the lure and then having it jump to my fist for one more tidbit. Not all that exciting.

I'll keep doing this until she pretty much stops responding, meaning when I show her the lure with a big ol' chunk of starling breast on it and she doesn't want it I'll know I'm there. That could be a few days yet. Then the process of re-training begins. Since she's already familiar with the basics I imagine things will go fairly quickly. For example, I won't have to worry about convincing her to jump to my fist like I would a bird fresh off the trap. Instead what I'll be watching for is how fast she responds as I gradually lower her weight. What I want to see is an instant reaction to the lure or my glove and once I figure out at what weight I get that response then we'll head out hunting. How long will that take? I have no idea.

Until then (whenever "then" is) however, I'm afraid any updates would just consist of: I fed the bird again today.

Patience my friends, patience.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

New Project

A buddy of mine trapped this female the last day of trapping season a couple months ago and hasn't been able to get her to do much.

She's taken 4 or 5 baggie starlings but no wild game yet and he said he hasn't been able to figure out her weight. She was a monster when trapped, weighing in around 160, the first time I saw her fly she was about 105 and just dinked around in the wind. The last couple times I've seen her fly she's been around 98ish but I've never seen her chase anything. Yesterday when we went out with her we showed her a pretty easy sparrow slip and she didn't go so he kinda tossed her off the fist and she went and dinked around again. When he tried to call her down she'd buzz the glove and take off again but finally came down to half a quail. My buddy said he didn't feel like he was giving her the time she needed so he was going to put her up for the moult unless I wanted to see if I could get her going for awhile, in my birdless state of depression I said I'd give it a go. There are starlings on the grass in front of my apartment just about every morning and its been killing me not having a bird!

Honestly though, from what I've seen of her so far I'm not real confident and I'm not even really sure where to begin. She wasn't real excited coming out of the box this morning and it took quite a bit of coaxing to get her to jump to my fist at 103.2. I got a few jumps out of her though and fed her up to 108.2. We'll see how she acts tonight. I'm guessing she'll be around 97. I guess I'll just treat her like she's a newly trapped bird and take things as they come.

My boy has confidence in me though. Here he is giving me two thumbs up:

Wish me luck!!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Couple of Fantastic Videos

Excuse some of the language in this one. Falconers tend to get a bit excited when they see good flights!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Post-season Torture

Last night I took my son for a short walk on the nature trail near our apartment complex. I had seen some starlings hanging out in a particular clump of bushes and thought I'd set a trap there to see if I could catch some for my friend's kestrel that we've been trying to get going. Things looked good when probably half a dozen starlings jumped up from the bushes when I approached. *Sigh* And me without a bird.

The rabbits have reached plague-like proportions in the area as well. In the evenings when my son has a little too much energy I like to take him out to chase bunnies. The other night there were twelve on a patch of grass about 30 yards wide! On Sunday, driving around an industrial park looking for starlings with my friends bird we saw two or three rabbits on just about every patch of open ground. And me without a bird.

After I'd set the starling trap last night my son and I wandered around tossing a ball back and forth while the sun dipped below the horizon. A drainage area just outside of our complex is rather marshy looking due to the heavy snow we recieved over the weekend and two mallards circled over us before landing in shallow water. A perfect slip for a gos...and me without a bird.

Now admittedly, rabbits and ducks are out of season so even if I had a bird I wouldn't be chasing them (not to mention with my current state of affairs I wouldn't have a bird that could take rabbits or ducks...) but seeing so much game around really makes the off season hard!

Is it September yet??

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Nests

It's that time of the year.

I see birds paired up just about everywhere I go these days. There's a red-tail nest that I pass on my way to and from work and I can always see Momma's head just over the edge of the nest. About a hundred yards away from that nest I saw a pair of kestrels. As I was watching, the male flew down and nabbed something off the ground and then hopped his way back along the telephone line to pass it off to the female. No doubt they've got a nest somewhere nearby too.

I have yet to go back to waste station where Dulci was killed to find the nest of that pair but it's on my "to-do" list.

Whenever I'm fishing I like to think, "What is the next fish I'm going to catch doing right now?" Naturally, I wonder the same thing about the next bird I'm going to fly. Of course, the next bird I'm going to fly probably hasn't hatched yet so I suppose I should be wondering what it's parent's are doing. Everytime I see a pair of kestrels I wonder, "Is that the pair that is going to produce my next bird?"

While I don't have any kestrels nests locked down (kestrels nest in cavities, hollow trees, nest boxes, etc.) I'm keeping my eye out so that I can be sure to get a young bird on the first day of trapping season.

In the meantime, there's always nestcams. Mark over at Flyover Country posted these:

Kestrel nestbox in Nebraska

Peregrine Falcon nestbox on the Nebraska state capitol

and this Bald Eagle nest from British Columbia.

Should keep me entertained for awhile anyway! Enjoy!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Follow up on HR669

Good video about how to get involved regarding the bill in my previous post.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Action Alert

I'm posting this alert I saw on a forum I am a member of:

ACTION ALERT - FROM AFA, ASA, and NAIA, with additional information from PIJACWE

NEED YOUR HELP - WHETHER YOU OWN AN "EXOTIC" ANIMAL OR ANY OTHER ANIMAL.
HR 669 IS SET FOR HEARING ON 4/23/09.WE ALL NEED TO WORK TOGETHER TO KILL HR 669
NOW.

THE ISSUE - WHAT IS HR 669? - WHAT WILL IT DO?
"ONE GENERATION
AND OUT" is not just limited to purebred dogs and cats. Now our "non-native
species" are targets of the animal prohibitionist agenda. Under HR 669,
"non-native" basically means if a species ofanimal didn't live in the US before
the arrival of Columbus it is"non-native", and if HR 669 passes, most non-native
species of animal (i.e., exotic animals) won't remain in the US much longer.
That means your exotic pet bird, reptile, fish, or mammal. HR 669 is a very
serious and harmful animal prohibition proposal. HR669 is not needed to protect
our environment. HR 699 is the legislative equivalent of a nuclear bomb that is
aimed at the entire US exotic pet industry, all US exotic pet owners, and all
exotic animals in the US. HR 669 is an "anti-animal bill". There is no
amendment that can fix this bill.
HR 669 will hurt everyone who owns an
animal, and it will hurt our animals. Breeder, pet owner, rescuer,
rehabilitator, zoo,service or product provider - it doesn't matter - we will all
be hurt by this bill.

HR 669 needs to be killed at the April
23rd hearing - not amended, not "made better" - HR 669 NEEDS TO BE
KILLED.
Please contact the Representatives hearing this bill NOW and
ask them to KILL HR 669 (see below for contact information). All import, export,
transport across State lines, selling, buying, bartering, or offering to sell,
buy or barter, and all breeding, and release, of all non-native species not on
the "approved list" will be prohibited - even by zoos, sanctuaries, and licensed
breeders. Permits authorizing only "importation" may be issued to "zoos,
scientific research, medical, accredited zoological or aquarium display
purposes, or for educational purposes that are specifically reviewed, approved,
and verified by the Secretary". There is no requirement that any permits be
granted. Even if these institutions are able to obtain the required permits,
where will they obtain their imported animals? Habitat for many species is
declining worldwide, many species are endangered or threatened in the wild, and
many species cannot be imported to the US under the CITES treaty. The result of
this bill will be to put a stop domestic breeding of most endangered or
threatened species in the US for zoos, conservation, or reintroduction programs.
Zoos are not immune from the animal prohibitionist agenda. If you "possess" a
non-approved species "legally" prior to enactment of the law, you will be
allowed to keep it, but all of the other restrictions of HR 669 will still apply
to your species - you will not be allowed to sell, transfer, transport across
State lines, export, barter,trade, breed, or give that animal to anyone else. Pet owners will not be allowed to take their non-approved pets with them
if they move to another state, and they will not be allowed to transfer them to
anyone else who can care for them. Those pets will be euthanized when their
owners move, die, or can no longer keep their pets for whatever reason.

Pet owners and their pets are not immune from the animal prohibitionist
agenda."Rescue" and "sanctuary" will not be available for any non-approved
species unless the rescue or sanctuary keeps only species found within their
respective States. That result has been contemplated for years. Rescues and
Sanctuaries are not immune from the animal prohibitionist agenda. Any person or
company manufacturing or selling food or products for non-native (exotic)
species will be affected by this act. If non-native(exotic) species cannot be
legally possessed, bought, sold, or transferred, there will be no incentive for
manufacturers of food, caging, and supplies for these animals to remain in
business. Where will non-native (exotic) animal owners obtain the food and
materials needed to keep their animals?

Free flight of exotic birds will
be prohibited. [This is the part falconers should be particularly worried
about!]


THE LEGAL DETAILS OF THIS BILL
Under existing federal
law, it must be shown that a species is harmful before it is prohibited. That
approach is reasonable, and has worked reasonably well for many years. In
essence, HR 669 turns that reasonable approach on its head, and substitutes the
unreasonable and unjustified approach of "bomb first, ask questions later". HR
669 requires the government to create an "approved" list of"non-native" species
that will be allowed in the US. Any species not on the "approved" list will be
prohibited. Under HR 668 the "approved"list shall include "nonnative wildlife
species that the Secretary finds... based on scientific and commercial
information .... (A) are not harmful to the United States' economy, the
environment, or other animal species' or human health; or (B) may be harmful to
the United States' economy, the environment, or other animal species' or human
health, but already are so widespread in the United States that it is clear to
the Secretary that any import prohibitions or restrictions would have no
practical utility for the United States." It takes time and money for the
government to study any species and make a "finding". Time and money are always
in short supply, and are especially in short supply in this economy. If your
species is not included on the original "approved list", then under HR 669 you
can try to get your species "approved" by paying a fee and submitting a proposal
to our government to include it on the "approved list". Your "proposal" must
include sufficient scientific and commercial information to allow the Secretary
to evaluate whether the proposed nonnative wildlife species is likely to cause
economic or environmental harm or harm to other animal species' or human
health." While your proposal is being "evaluated" by our government, you and
your animals are still subject to the restrictions of HR 669. Whether your
proposal will ever be granted is pure speculation. There are more than 9000 bird
species, and thousands of species of birds are kept in the US. There are many
other non-native (exotic) species owned by animal lovers across the US. How many
bird or other non-native(exotic) species do you think our government can afford
to study and determine that they can be added to this newly created "approved
list"? If the required study can't be made of a species, and the required
finding isn't made about a species, the animal won't make it to the approved
list. That applies to every species of non-native (exotic) animal.

WHAT
YOU CAN DO TO HELP KILL HR 669
Contact your Representatives NOW. You can use
NAIA's Capwiz tool to send an automatic email or fax to each of the
Representatives who will hear this bill to ask them to KILL HR 669. Here's the
link to send your email using Capwiz: www.capwiz.com/naiatrust/

Please contact your own Representatives NOW, and tell them to KILL HR
669. Be polite and respectful, but be clear and firm in your opposition to this
bill. Be brief, and tell them a few reasons why you think it is a bad bill.
Short and to the point works best. If you have time, you can also contact all of
the other Representatives in your State.Write to your Representative using their
contact pages on their websites.

Be sure to contact the local office of
your own Representative by phone, and if you can, make a personal visit. Our
congressional representatives are now on recess, and will return to their work
at the Capitol next week. Let your Representatives' local offices know NOWthat
you want them to KILL HR 669. If the local staff hear from enough constituents
that they want a bill killed, they will let their Representatives know that
their constituents hate this bill.

Distribute this email, widely to
everyone you know who loves animals and wants to keep them in our lives. In
particular, send it to any pet lists you are on. This bill will impact almost
all non-native animals. Ask them to contact the representatives and ask them to
KILL HR 669.

You can see the full text of the bill here.

If you have a website or belong to a discussion list, post this Alert.
Ask your friends to do the same.

We need every one of you to help again,
and we need the help ofeveryone you know. It doesn't matter if they own a bird,
a dog, a cat, a turtle, a hamster, a fish, a snake, a tiger, a monkey, or any
other animal. We are all affected by this bill. Don't let the animal
prohibitionists force their agenda on the rest of us.


For falconers, that would mean no more saker, barbary, or tiata falcons, no European goshawks. Want to fly an aplomado but don't live in Texas? Sorry! I imagine Harris Hawks restricted to their native habitat would upset more than a few...