Sunday, May 31, 2009

Weekend Hunts

Looking back, I picked up this bird on the 3rd of this month with low expectations. Today is the last day of the month and I couldn't be more excited for her prospects.

The last two days have been absolutely fantastic. 3 good starling chases on Saturday morning and a half dozen or so today where she chased amazingly well, only very narrowly missing on a couple of occasions. There's no more "buzzing" the glove, she comes right down for a tidbit now. She seems like a completely different bird!

One flight that I'll share: An adult starling was feeding with a juvenile near a hedge with some small trees over head. Less than ideal conditions what with the cover so near by but I figured what the heck. It was about a 15 yard slip and the adult squawked a warning and jumped up in the tree when the kestrel was about 10 yards away. The juvenile headed for the hedge another five yards away but obviously wasn't a strong flier yet. Lucky little bugger barely made it and the kestrel pitched up into the tree setting off a chorus of starling cackles from the upset family. I thought for sure she was going to get that one!

Another interesting occurance happened when the kestrel was sitting in a tree after another missed slip. Out of nowhere, a grackle comes diving in and actually knocks her off the branch! They usually just buzz her but there was an audible *thwack* as this one must've been particularly perturbed by her presence. Grackles are aggresive little buggers!!

Anyway, I'm as pleased as punch with her weekend performance and now it's only a matter of time before we start putting them in the bag. I'm seriously amazed at her turn around but it just highlights the importance of weight control with kestrels. At 97.7 she was still buzzing the glove and took 20-30 minutes to get down. At 97.1 she's all business.

It's gonna be a fun summer!!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

First Hunt

Wow, I'm a posting maniac this month! ;-)

We went on our first hunt last night. We weren't successful but there were a few good things that happened:

1) She did attempt to chase some sparrows. A bungle on my part ruined the slip but the effort was noted.

2) I tried out the dart throwing method as seen in the video from my previous post. She didn't seem to mind being held that way but didn't chase the sparrows I tossed her out. She overshot the sparrows so maybe I was too close, maybe she didn't see them before I tossed, I don't know but it's something I intend to work on. I have one baggie sparrow left and I'll set it up so that I can toss her at it and see how she reacts.

3) We ended the night with a baggie sparrow and not only did she not try and carry, she sat calmly eating while my 2 year old ran all around her kicking a ball. At one point he even ran up and petted her! While she flinched, she didn't freak out. I was absolutely amazed at her wonderful behavior. Her owner was reluctant to fly her on sparrows for fear of carrying. If she'll sit still through all of that, I'm not going to be worried about it!!

The only negative to the evening was her reluctance to come to the glove after her miss. Her owner had a problem where she would only buzz his glove until he brought out a huge chunk of meat and she displayed that behavior for me last night. She needs to learn to come to the glove with or without a tidbit. I'll have to work on that, but otherwise I'm very pleased with the progress we've made. Here's hoping my next post is about a kill!

A few pics from the baggie:

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Fantastic Kestrel Video

From way down South in Mexico: (Watch the way he throws the kestrel like a dart at the sparrows, I may have to try that!)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Magic Number


By George, I think she's got it. I don't know if it has been the repeated baggies or what but things have started to click. The past three days when I've opened her mews, instead of trying to get away from me she jumps right to the fist. That's a very good sign.

Sunday we had another interesting baggie hunt. I figured I'd do the same as I did the day before, only tossing a starling instead of a sparrow from my hand and letting her catch it off the fist. There were quite a few mistakes in the set-up on my part and the starling made it to the nearest cover after the initial chase. I managed to flush it again but had to run through lots of stinging shorts...and flip get it to break. My legs are still itching today!! But the kestrel was finally able to get a good shot at it and caught it as it tried to sneak through another patch of cover. Not really pretty, but we got the job done.

Yesterday it was back to sparrows and things couldn't have gone better. Since it was a sparrow I attached a light line to it to prevent possible carrying but gave it plenty of slack so that it could really fly. I walked out in to the field, tossed the sparrow, and she shot of the fist and slammed it into the ground 15 yards away. I moved to within 5 yards (since this was the same area the Cooper's visited us in a couple days ago) but let her finish off the sparrow and begin plucking. She looked around a couple times but did not attempt to carry!! After she'd taken a few bites I was able to move in and she jumped to the fist for a starling breast. PERFECT!!

So things are looking good. I had actually planned on hunting this morning before work but a slight miscalculation in weight and bad weather suggested I wait until the evening. I've got a few more sparrows but I think I'll go ahead and start hunting just to see how she reacts to the different set up. I'll use the baggies to end the hunt if we're not successful.

Hopefully I'll have hunting stories from here on out.

*I switched from the braided dacron jesses I was using to traditional leather which added about 3 grams to her weight. So if I was still using those jesses her flying weight would actually be around 98.5 grams.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Utter Chaos!!

Haven't updated for awhile but we've been making slow but steady progress.

On Thursday I acquired a bunch of sparrows and starlings for baggies (cleared out a friend's pigeon coop!) so today I took her to a field by my apartment complex and hand tossed one a short distance away. She shot of the fist and pounded it. Wahoo!

Then things went downhill. She tried to carry the sparrow, which is understandable given the openness of where we were, but this wasn't the kind of "carrying" that Dulci did just trying to get to the nearest cover, this was full blown 'I'm taking this sparrow to a tree way over yonder and you're not invited' kinda carrying. Not good. But I still have her on a light creance so she didn't go far.

I made my way over to her and about 5 yards away I noticed a large shape cruising in on my left. COOPERS! It was a big beautiful first year bird, just starting to moult out and missing a few tail feathers. It made a big circle around us not more than 15 yards out so I got a good look! Then it went and landed in a tree 50 yards away.

Of course my bird didn't like that so much so I set about gathering her up glancing back at the coops as I did so. So I'm looking at the coops and I see a big ol RT all tucked up in a shallow stoop headed right for it! The RT crashed through the tree making all sorts of racket and the coops didn't even move! After the initial pass the RT continued on its way figuring, I guess that it had at least let the coops know he was there.

After the RT left the coops decided it wanted one more look at my bird (now on my fist screaming at me) and came in one more time landing in a small tree maybe 15 yards away and looking at me trying to figure out how it could snatch a meal off my fist. It stayed a minute or two and then went back to the first tree 50 yards away and then finally heading off to the East.
I decided I should probably feed my bird up elsewhere regardless!

An exciting session to say the least.

She'll be killing baggies all this week and will hopefully be on to wild game next weekend.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


Just a quick photo I snapped with my cellphone this morning. Big hunk of starling in her feet and she's not even looking at it. Let the "re-training"begin!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Kestrel Nest

This morning as I got off the train headed to work, I glanced up on the corner of the Pepsi Center to see if the pair of kestrels I've seen there before were there again today. As luck would have it, there they were taking in the morning light. It's always a nice way to start off the day seeing them sitting there and I figured they had a nest somewhere nearby but then as I watched the female set off on a shallow glide and landed on the side of this structure on top of the restaurant across the street. She poked her head in the hole in the top left hand corner and then wriggled the rest of the way in! Could it be that I just found their nest?! I snapped this pic with my phone:

This is literally across the street from where I work in downtown Denver. I went back at lunch to see if there was any sign of activity and just after I'd sat down on the grass to watch, the male wriggled his way out, presumably on his way to get "groceries". Wahoo! He didn't return while I was watching but I did see him cruise overhead once more before I left. I know what I'll be doing on my lunch breaks for the next few months! I could trap my next bird on my lunch break in the fall!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Are we there yet?

At 122.3g this morning she wouldn't fly to the lure. I did manage to coax a few jumps to the fist from about a foot away though so she got about 8g of tidbits. I don't think she'd cast yet though and if she's anything like my last bird that may have affected her morning appetite. She should be back around 120 this evening so we'll see how she does then. If there's still no response to the lure then I may have found her top end. If that's the case I'll start to lower her back down and "training" can begin.

One thing I'm going to have to work out is her talons. She must've bounced around the mews alot this past week dulling her talons faster than I thought possible. She was free lofted at her owners house and her talons were fine so I'm a little surprised but the new surroundings may have freaked her out a bit. I've heard a good solution to dull talons is soaking them in water (submerge a perch in an inch or so of water and let her stand on it for 15-20 minutes). So I'll give that a try but if anyone out there has any other ideas I'm open to suggestions.

Thursday, May 07, 2009


I've had several requests for "updates"...not much to say though, I've only had the bird for 4 days!!

I'm as anxious to get out there and slay some starlings as anyone but this is going to be a slow process. I'm bringing the bird's weight up for awhile so that I can properly gauge response on the way back down. It's sort of like tuning a violin when you can't quite tell if the note you're hearing is sharp or flat so you purposely loosen the string so far you know it's flat and work your way back up. My "training" sessions at the moment consist of feeding the bird on the lure and then having it jump to my fist for one more tidbit. Not all that exciting.

I'll keep doing this until she pretty much stops responding, meaning when I show her the lure with a big ol' chunk of starling breast on it and she doesn't want it I'll know I'm there. That could be a few days yet. Then the process of re-training begins. Since she's already familiar with the basics I imagine things will go fairly quickly. For example, I won't have to worry about convincing her to jump to my fist like I would a bird fresh off the trap. Instead what I'll be watching for is how fast she responds as I gradually lower her weight. What I want to see is an instant reaction to the lure or my glove and once I figure out at what weight I get that response then we'll head out hunting. How long will that take? I have no idea.

Until then (whenever "then" is) however, I'm afraid any updates would just consist of: I fed the bird again today.

Patience my friends, patience.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

New Project

A buddy of mine trapped this female the last day of trapping season a couple months ago and hasn't been able to get her to do much.

She's taken 4 or 5 baggie starlings but no wild game yet and he said he hasn't been able to figure out her weight. She was a monster when trapped, weighing in around 160, the first time I saw her fly she was about 105 and just dinked around in the wind. The last couple times I've seen her fly she's been around 98ish but I've never seen her chase anything. Yesterday when we went out with her we showed her a pretty easy sparrow slip and she didn't go so he kinda tossed her off the fist and she went and dinked around again. When he tried to call her down she'd buzz the glove and take off again but finally came down to half a quail. My buddy said he didn't feel like he was giving her the time she needed so he was going to put her up for the moult unless I wanted to see if I could get her going for awhile, in my birdless state of depression I said I'd give it a go. There are starlings on the grass in front of my apartment just about every morning and its been killing me not having a bird!

Honestly though, from what I've seen of her so far I'm not real confident and I'm not even really sure where to begin. She wasn't real excited coming out of the box this morning and it took quite a bit of coaxing to get her to jump to my fist at 103.2. I got a few jumps out of her though and fed her up to 108.2. We'll see how she acts tonight. I'm guessing she'll be around 97. I guess I'll just treat her like she's a newly trapped bird and take things as they come.

My boy has confidence in me though. Here he is giving me two thumbs up:

Wish me luck!!