First of all, thank you all for your kind words. I am not good at mourning and have been in somewhat of a state of shock since it happened but support from family and friends is always appreciated.
As you might imagine, I've been thinking a lot about what happened on Saturday. What, if anything, could I have done to prevent it and, in a never ending effort to improve, what can I learn from this experience?
The slip was near a road but just about all the slips I've taken were near roads, it's just part of urban hawking. There were no cars coming when I took the slip, I made sure of that. Regardless, I expected her to land in a tree if she missed as she always does instead of heading out in to the road. She would have too, if the wild kestrel hadn't appeared.
Having said that, the area I was flying in was known to have wild kestrels in it. In fact, I've seen as many as three at the same time within a hundred yards, and I'd seen a male shortly before the accident. But everywhere I've flown I've seen kestrels. I can't think of a slip I've had where I haven't seen kestrels at one point or another. Dulci had dealt with wild kestrels before and usually managed to ignore them or evade them when they harassed her.
The bird that attacked her was a female, and a particularly aggressive female at that and there's a good chance that at this time of the year it was the mate of the male I'd seen earlier. That would explain the aggressiveness. I guess you could say that the wild bird effectively defended her territory...I may have to go back and find out where that pair is nesting. Perhaps they can supply me with one of their young as a replacement come September (trapping season in Colorado). Seems only fitting, right??
All that is to say that I don't know that I would have done things differently. Crap happens. Yeah, I could say I won't fly near roads again but that's just not practical given my current circumstances. I can't say I'll scout for wild birds before every single flight because, well, they're birds and they tend to show up where ever and whenever they want. The only truely safe bird is one at home on a perch but that's not what falconry is about. Every time our birds leave our fists we release them into that harsh world known as the wild where things happen beyond our control. I knew the risks when I signed up and have to take bad with the good.
Dulci provided lots of the good and rather than a long drawn out bad, it was over in an instant. She died while doing what she was born to do and that's all anyone can ask for.
A good friend of mine is still flying his kestrel so there will still be adventures to post but I'm already looking forward to the fall and having another bird of my own. Thanks again for all the kind words, stay tuned, next year will be even better.