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


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 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


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...