Started off at the local Walmart and had a nice flight on a group of starlings on a grassy slope in the back of the store. The targeted starling did a panicked shuffle right at the last minute, barely escaping the net of talons headed its way.
A short time later a sparrow slip was missed either because she didn't see it or the strong wind blew her off course, I'm not sure. She ended up kiting up into the wind and may have chased another sparrow in the outdoor garden section in the parking lot of the adjacent Home Depot. I thought I saw her stoop in that direction but lost sight of her for a bit. I pulled out the lure as I always do when I can't see where she is and she came pumping over and absolutely slammed the lure. She really wanted to kill something today!
We headed over to a business park and found a large group of starlings feeding in a vacant lot across the street. Unfortunately the closest we could get to them was probably 150 yards away! The lot used to have a gas station that was recently torn down so the area is fenced off awaiting further construction. Bummer!
The McDonald's in the business park delievered the goods however. Dulci picked one off right up against the curb.
For those of you who may not be as familiar with falconry as others, falcons have a "tooth" on their beak that is placed between the neck vertabrae of prey. A quick bite with this tooth seperates the vertabrae killing the prey instantly. Here you can see Dulci administering the coup de grace (click for larger version):
So the sparrow should be dead, right? And in this next picture, it looks pretty lifeless, right?
Well, here's the embarassing rest of the story. Given the surroundings (parking lot with cars driving around) I wanted to retrieve Dulci as quickly as possible and perhaps moved in too fast. The fear that many people have in flying sparrows with kestrels is that because they are so small they are carried easily, and a spooked kestrel will definitely carry. While I am extremely fortunate in that Dulci does not fly with her sparrows, she will drag them to places she feels more comfortable if she doesn't like the situation. My quick approach caused her to hop the curb with the sparrow. The other side of the curb happen to be about a 10 foot drop into some rather thick evergreen bushes!
I knew she wasn't going anywhere in there but still felt it important to retrieve her as quickly as possible. I made my way down to where she was and tried to get her to come to my fist garnished with the back half of a mouse. Having a rather large creature push through the evergreen bushes toward her did not help the situation however and everytime I almost got to her she would drag the sparrow further along the wall she was up against.
After going back and forth several times I finally got her to see my fist. Bless her heart, she came right to me...releasing the apparently still living sparrow!! It flew right past my astonished face on its way out of the bush. I'm sure it had quite the tale to tell when it returned to its flock!
In hindsight, I shouldn't have rushed things. First, at the curb I should have just stood in front of her, blocking cars from pulling in to that particular parking spot, until she had broken in to the sparrow. Once she had jumped the curb I really should have calmed down. Those bushes provided her plenty of protection, she wasn't going anywhere so I should again, have let her break in to the sparrow before trying to retrieve her. I was just too excited and it cost her the sparrow.
But I got pics, and the fumble was my fault so I'll probably count that one in her season total.
I won't make the same mistake twice.