Wednesday, December 30, 2009

One More Before the Streak Ended

Tuesday took even longer than Monday. I wasn't able to get out until around 11:30 and there never seems to be as many starlings on the ground in the afternoon.

It started out looking like it was going to be a short day, or possibly a day to try for multiples. I found a couple starlings milling around a PetSmart and a single was in a perfect position to slip. I think it actually flushed without knowing that Hayduke was on his way but regardless, Hayduke spanked him with an audible *thunk* about 3 feet off the ground and just wasn't able to hang on. It wasn't more than two minutes later where Hayduke put feet on another one underneath an evergreen tree but it scraped him off on the lower branches.

Then things got tough. We found a few slips and he had some close calls but things just weren't falling into place. I had been out my standard two hours so I checked in with the boss (wife) and asked if we had any pressing plans or if it would be alright if I stayed out a little longer to try and beat the skunk monkey. I got the okay and continued on.

I ventured in to new territory where I'd hawked a bit last year but hadn't checked out this year. There were a few starlings about but none of them slippable. I was about to call it a day and conceed that our streak was broken when I noticed a whole pile of starlings with their landing gear out headed to a restaurant around the corner from where I was. I made my way over and found a good group fighting over some leftovers and a couple more playing around in the snow. Hayduke skipped the ones fighting and plowed into this one keeping our streak alive!

Alas, our streak came to an end today (Wednesday). I got out even later than yesterday and while I did get a few slips, as mentioned above, there seems to be less the later I'm out. The slips we did get were some pretty difficult ones, and to be honest, I'm impressed he even tried for them. He was going for anything and everything, even taking "blind" slips where the starlings were over a rise and therefore not visible from where he left the fist. He even tried to take one perched in an evergreen tree! It just wasn't in the cards today though, we'll just have to make up for it tomorrow!

Monday, December 28, 2009

And another!

It took a little longer today but we bagged another. The first few slips were from a rather scattered flock picking through a dumpster behind a shopping center. There was a big gully just beyond the dumpster with good cover and there were even more starlings in the bushes and trees down there. Most slips were standard misses but on one slip Hayduke missed the starlings by the dumpter and as they retreated to the bushes in the gully he followed! It was maybe a 50 yard flight and he went straight in the bushes after the one he was pursuing. The rest of the flock erupted out of the bushes and I saw Hayduke disappear into the cover after one but shortly after he popped back up empty footed and returned to my fist. Fun little flight though! A couple of crows moved in and were looking to bully Hayduke so even though there were still starlings around, we headed to another spot.

We found another good flock at the second spot. There were two slips that were as close as you could come without putting one in the bag. He had a foot on one of them but it twisted out of his grasp at the last second. Despite probably a dozen slips Hayduke was still game but time was running down. I decided to check the museum where I caught the one between two cars as a last ditch effort to beat the skunk monkey.

As I pulled in to the parking lot it didn't look promising. I didn't see any starlings on the light poles and the hedges appeared empty. Just then 3 starlings popped up from some hedges about 20 yards away. I made the slip and Hayduke tackled this one. It was quite the battle on the ground as Hayduke didn't have the best grip. It appeared he had it by the butt and was being dragged around quite a bit. He actually lost the grip on one foot just as I arrived and the starling almost got away but Hayduke readjusted and had it's neck just as I put a hand on the starling and finished it off. We headed to a nearby snowbank for our victory shots. No time to try for multiples today.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

On a Roll...

Not much to this one. First slip of the day again. 8-10 starlings picking at some frozen garbage in a Walmart parking lot accompanied by a couple of crows. The crows made me hesitate since a buddy of mine had his kestrel driven off and injured by crows. As long as they were hanging around I wasn't sure if I wanted to take the slip but the starlings were giving the crows first go at the goods anyway and were hanging out in the trees waiting their turn. The moment the crows left though the starlings swarmed and I made the slip. With the early morning sun at our back they never saw him coming:

It was a mugging for sure, but we'll take it! The crows returned quickly at the sound of the alarmed starlings but I got to Hayduke before they even knew what was going on. They looked rather omnious following me around while I tried to find a good spot to take a couple photos so I ended up heading home and snapping the photos outside my apartment.

If you don't count yesterday when it was snowing and we didn't get a single slip, then we've taken starlings each of our last 4 outings. I've got the next week off of work too, this should be fun...

Monday, December 21, 2009

Starling Number 3!

We headed out around 10 a.m. on Saturday, a little later than I would've liked to. There's just too many people out and about after about 9:30, especially this time of year! My usual spots were, as suspected, quite crowded. I did get a couple of sparrow slips in some hedges on the edge of a parking lot but despite my kicking those sparrows did NOT want to leave the cover after they knew Hayduke was in the area so we moved on.

I saw a few starlings drop into a grassy area in a shopping center across from where I was so I headed over that way and much to my astonishment I found that the "grassy area" was a the middle of the shopping center! It was the weirdest spot for a cemetary I've ever seen with a carwash and Wendy's literally right next to it and surrounded by the shopping center parking lot on 3 sides! I wonder if it's just been there forever and just got built around. Anyway, most the starlings were on the inside, or sitting on top of, a tall wrought iron fence surrounding the cemetary but there was a single picking at some trash in the middle of the parking lot. Surprisingly enough, this parking lot was pretty empty but that worked against us as the starling saw Hayduke coming long before he got there. He tail chased for a second or two but quickly saw he was beat. I called him back to the fist and we headed elsewhere.

I actually suspected my hawking was over at that point as I had to run some errands. As I headed to my various appointments however, I noticed a good group of starlings fly over me on the road and they looked to be putting down behind a museum. Worth a shot, right? Sure enough, the ones I'd seen flying had landed and joined at least 50 more milling around the hedges surrounding the parking lot and picking through the grass in the empty lot next to it. As luck would have it though, just as I was getting ready for a slip, a car pulled up right next to the hedges and the "slippable" starlings bumped. They didn't go far, in fact they just went to the shrubs next to the museum, but they landed in between a couple of parked cars that made it a difficult slip. There was a car, an empty slot where the starlings were feeding, and another parked car. Well, never try never know I thought and slipped Hayduke. He threaded the parked cars and slammed his 3rd starling up against the curb. When I got to him he had one foot around it's neck and the other foot around its beak, apparently saying, "Shut your mouth sucka, you're mine!"

I snapped some nicer photo's (like the one above) with my better camera but I love his posture in this pic. He just looks like one bad dude!

On a side note, Hayduke has taken starlings the last three times we've been out. Yeah, if you look at the date on those posts, there are quite a few days in between each of those so I only post that to say even with limited time and not flying everyday (that'll change come spring...), kestrels can still be quite effective. There's no excuse not to kill game with these guys!

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Making It Look Easy

One slip, one bird again for Hayduke's second starling!

It was a great little flight at a group of 5 or 6 starlings feeding on the edge of an island in a Walmart parking lot. They flushed just ahead of us but Hayduke left the fist with a mission and powered into this one about 6 feet off the ground! His first catch out of the air.

He's turning out to be a great little bird. From starting with grasshoppers to catching starlings out of the air, I have to say I'm pretty darn pleased.