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.
I drove to the shopping center on the other side of the street. Swung the lure.
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...
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.)
James Lee Mansell, RIP
4 days ago