Saturday, January 31, 2009

New Eyas

Hatched at 10:14 on Jan. 30th. 5 lbs 10 oz. but I think she'll fly a little higher than that. I'm planning on tame hacking her for 18+ years and we'll decide what to do after that. ;-)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Hunting in a suit

Saturday was a little disappointing. I didn't have much time so I zipped over to the sparrow bush thinking that after last weeks success she'd dive right in. Didn't quite work out though. She was maybe .5g higher than last week and I suppose that made the difference. She chased them off the top of the bush like she usually does but was reluctant to go in after them. I tried feeding her into the bush through one of the openings but she'd just hop right back out looking for a tidbit.

There was only one time when I thought she might go in. She was sitting on a nearby building and I guess a sparrow flushed out of the bush I was working and put in in a smaller bush ten yards away. She took off from the building tucked up in a super shallow stoop heading for the bush but flared right at the last second landing on top of the bush. She looked down into the bush pretty intently and I could hear the sparrow moving around but it flushed out the opposite side as I approached.

The closest we came to a "kill" was at some small bushes in a Walmart parking lot. The bird took a slip at some sparrows WAY too farout (like 30 yards with the sparrows right next to cover...). I got my bird back on the fist and started kicking bushes and bunny popped out and ran across the street right in front of a car. The bunny saw the car at the last second and kind of folded in to a ball as the front tire took off some fur. It got spun for a loop and spun perfectly in time with the rear tire just barely, and I mean barely getting out of the way!

Sunday was super cold with snow flurries. It seems like I find more starlings on the ground on days like this then the warmer days we've been having. The first group I saw bumming around a dumpster next to a bank. I was actually on my way home from a church meeting so I was dressed in a suit and tie but I didn't want to let the opportunity pass me by so I rushed home, got the bird, and headed back for the slip still wearing my suit! The starlings weren't on the gound any more when I got back but I quickly located them on the roof of the bank. I pulled in to a parking spot and watched for a few minutes and before long they headed back to the dumpster. Unfortunately this dumpster had one of those concrete walls around it with a locked fence as the only access and most of the birds were on the inside. Patience paid off though and before long two birds were arguing over a piece of bread just outside the dumpster. I rolled down my window and began my approach. As I got about 15 feet away I was thinking that this was going to be good since both birds had their backs to us. Out the window she went...just as the bird she was going for disappeared behind some low shrubbery. It was only a few inches high but I guess it threw her off just enough since she overshot the bird. The rest flushed and that was that.

I headed back out after church, this time in proper hawking attire. A quick stop at the sparrow bush yeilded a pretty good flight as probably 30 sparrows were away from the bush feeding at the feeder. The main group got up probably 5 feet in front of her but she plowed into some long grass under the feeder and for a second there I thought she had one. She hopped back up and followed one over to the bush but didn't go in after them. With a bit of daylight left I figured rather than trying to get her to go in the bush after them I would go look for starlings and come back if I couldn't find any. I headed over to a nearby industrial park and did my usual route. On the very last leg I found about 6 starlings feeding in a grassy strip behind a building. It was an absolutely beautiful slip! I was sure wewere going to get one as I rounded the building, unhooked the kbird and prepared for the kill I was sure was coming...But I swear I am the unluckiest falconer on the planet. Just as I got lined up all but one bird flushed for no apparent reason. W.T.F!! The last bird was jumpy and flushed shortly after. Dulci was out the window but the starling had agood 10 yard head start. It was a good 75 yard chase but she was beat before it started.

I called her back and we headed home.

Monday, January 19, 2009


The starlings have been rather uncooperative as of late. I see lots of them on the power lines and in trees but haven't been able to find them on the ground for the life of me. After driving around for a couple hours and having the only starlings I saw on the ground head to the trees as I turned around I decided to head to the ol' reliable sparrow bush.

This is a bush in a small shopping center parking lot that is always LOADED withsparrows (there's a feeder nearby). We've had lots of flights out ofthis bush but hadn't connected for one reason or another. What usually happens is I slip her from the car on the first go around when the sparrows are out near the curb, over at the feeder, or sitting on top of the bush. She would pitch up into the tree above the bush or fly to one of the nearby buildings if she missed and I would flush the birds toward her resulting in more chases. The buildings were just a bit too far away for her to have a good chance from there and there's another bush that the sparrows dodge into before she can get a good shot at them from the tree. I noticed last time however, that the sparrows hold really well in the bush after the initial slip. It's a thick evergreen bush and I can imagine they feel pretty safe in there. I figured that if there was some way I could get my bird actually in to the bush though we'd probably catch one.

Well it happened just about like I thought it would. On the initial slip she chased a sparrow under a parked car but the sparrow hit the ground and bounced out going the opposite way back to the bush. Not to give up so easily my bird came out from under the car hot on it's tail and hit the bush just behind it. She was peering intently down into the bush as I pulled the car into a parking spot. Usually this is where she flies up to the tree or one of the buildings and I thought I would have to call her to the fist and kind of insert her in to the bush. As I exited the car though she suddenly ducked in tothe bush on her own!

I would say the bush is about 6' wide by 10' long and holds well over a hundred sparrows on a good day. This was a good day and I could hear the sparrows going nuts. Due to the thickness of the bush I couldn't see much but kind of tapped on the bushes to herd the sparrows to where I thought my bird was. I ducked down to see if I could see anything from a lower angle just in time to see my bird snag one as it tried to dash past her. Wahoo!

I've always been nervous flying sparrows because of the possibility of carrying. Catching them in the bush prevents that but fishing her out took a bit of work. When she could see me she tried to snag the tidbits off my glove and drag the sparrow toward me but it was so thick in there that the sparrow got snagged in the branches. I got her out though and she finished the sparrow on my glove.

Hopefully she's realized that she can be successful in the bush now. If the starlings won't cooperate then the bush is almost a guaranteed meal if she'll regularly go in after them.

Here's hoping #3 doesn't take as long!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

"Religious" Falconry

This is an article I recently wrote for the local falconry club here in Colorado. I've gotten some positive feedback from it so I thought I'd post it here:
“Religious" Falconry

Bear with me for a moment as often times talk of religion becomes awkward within the first few sentences. I do not intend to expound on the spiritual inclinations of mankind, rather I only mention religion here to highlight the similarities that this beautiful sport of ours has with the metaphysical beliefs scattered across the globe.

I consider myself a religious man, in the Bible sense of the word, and every Sunday you’ll find me at church worshipping. However, you’ll rarely hear me talk about my beliefs unless asked to do so. I find that most people will believe whatever they want and preaching to them does little but annoy. That’s fine by me. While I do believe strongly in the church I belong to one particular belief of my church states, “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.” While our beliefs about the afterlife, or lack thereof, may cross the spectrum, individuals reading this article most likely all share the religion of falconry and it is this “religious falconry” to which I would like to speak. It is my intention with this article to encourage all falconers to adopt the above mentioned tenet of my faith as it applies to falconers. Claim the privilege of practicing falconry according to the dictates of your own conscience, and allow all falconers the same privilege, let them practice how, where, or what they may.

There are many definitions of religion. One says religion is, “a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects.” Another says similarly, “[a] body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices.” Certainly falconry falls under these definitions! The fundamentals of falconry are nearly identical across the globe and the practices inherit in falconry unite cultures that in other circumstances may even be considered enemies. Indeed, in this respect, falconry is an amazing practice.

Yet another definition suggests that religion is, “something one believes in and follows devotedly…”, no problem there, but the definition continues, “…a point or matter of ethics or conscience.” And when ethics and conscious come into play things get enormously sticky. What constitutes “good ethics” and “bad conscious” differ as greatly as a gyrfalcon differs from a sharp-shinned hawk depending on who you ask. Therein lies the problem that falconers often face. What constitutes good falconry versus bad falconry? Put a group of devoted longwingers in a room with devoted shortwingers and ask them to debate the merits of their chosen practice and you might as well throw up an octagonal cage and charge outrageous pay-per-view fees for the slugfest that is likely to follow! (On a side note, if anyone takes that idea and runs with it, please donate all proceeds to the club…) And in the end who will be right? No one, of course, as the beauty of the sport is in the eye of the beholder. One may find the orchestra of falcon, dog, and pointed quarry absolutely musical whereas another may find the flash of an accipiter off the fist in a flight lasting no more than thirty yards poetry in motion. Fair enough, I can accept the fact that different flight styles are appreciated by different people.

Unfortunately, I have seen these spirited debates escalate to involve more trivial matters. Suddenly whether or not one hawks on open ground or in an industrial park is a matter of ethical concern! Youtube has certainly been an accomplice in escalating this silly debate. Being as passionate as we all are about this sport there are those among us concerned that showing hawking in an industrial park will not be putting our best foot forward when the general public is likely to stumble upon the video. Fear of what “the anti’s” (ever lurking in the shadows) might say or do should they see such a video are certainly valid concerns and yet I hardly think that our passion for the sport should be wasted on defaming other falconers if they chose to practice that type of falconry.

We live in a modern world where space and time are luxuries afforded to few. Yet falconry has adapted to these conditions remarkably well. It would wonderful if we could all devote all our time and energy into orchestrating a beautiful longwing flights or spend hours afield pursuing the most difficult flights for our shortwings but the fact of the matter is most of us aren’t so lucky. Yet giving up falconry is no more an option than giving up ones religion for those who are truly dedicated. So we make due. A few quick flights at industrial park bunnies becomes our hurried prayer to the falconry gods each day. Not ideal, but at least we’re praying! And if we’re lucky enough to capture those quick flights on film it’s understandable that we would want to share the excitement.

I have chosen here to highlight just one, and perhaps the most minor, of the arguments that I hear among falconers and I imagine that many of you who are reading this can think of dozens of more “hot-button” topics which are likely to cause a heated debate in falconry circles. I do not mean to advocate complacency. Debate, even “spirited” debate, is healthy and this is not to say that there is no such thing as bad falconry. There is. What I hope to encourage is a different approach, a more respectable dialogue, in discussing these matters.

There is not a falconer out there who does not love the sport. There are too many hoops to jump through in becoming a falconer for someone to undertake this sport without that love. Unfortunately, that passion often clouds our unity and interferes with potential friendships. In the coming months and years we have the chance to change the way our sport is regulated and I fear that our petty bickering amongst ourselves will hamper our ability to move forward in positive ways. I would ask that all falconers approach these exciting times with open minds and strive for regulations that indeed let all falconers practice their beloved sport in the manner that they see fit. You cannot regulate good falconry and you cannot force another to practice only what you feel to be “good”. If we accept that fact and strive only to practice our own best falconry then we can all appreciate this wonderful sport for whatever we may feel it to be.

Happy hawking to all…whatever form you practice.