My last post on Wednesday was about our streak ending but fortunately that was the only blip in an otherwise fantastic week (and even Wednesday he flew great). Hayduke went on to catch birds Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Here's a brief recap:
Thursday I headed out with a friend that is thinking of becoming a falconer and another falconer buddy of mine. The wannabe saw Hayduke catch Monday's starling, but the other falconer hadn't seen him fly yet this year. I'll admit I felt a bit of pressure but I really had nothing to worry about. The slips seemed to be far and in between for some reason but after a few missed slips we found a few feeding underneath an evergreen tree just on the otherside of a snowbank. Hayduke used the snowbank for cover and then popped up and over snagging one in a nice little flight. Unfortunately I'd forgotten the good camera so I had to snap this shot with my cell phone:
The next day I was out by myself again but with the charge from my wife to pick up our son's friend at 10:00 and bring him back to the house. Since I left the house at 7:30 I wasn't too worried and things started off great. I was finding starlings EVERYWHERE. I found one spot with a couple hundred birds hanging out. I snapped this pic after probably half of the starlings on the line flushed!
Despite birds everywhere and probably close to 20 slips (a couple where Hayduke even rolled the starlings), he just couldn't hang on to any of them. 10:00 was fast approaching and I needed to head toward my son's friend's house. A last ditch swing through a small shopping center turned up a good group of starlings but none of them were in an ideal position to get a slip. I debated moving on or waiting them out and decided that it was now or never. At about 9:55 one finally hopped a curb to a spot where Hayduke had a chance. In the clinch, Hayduke delivered making a nice little one footed snag. I showed up at my friend's son's house with Hayduke munching on a starling head! Luckily that friend's father is the wannabe falconer so I don't think it was too traumatic!
On Saturday I hooked up with the wannabe and the other falconer again. The wannabe and myself had to be back home at 10:00 which gave us only about 2 hours of hawking time. The plan this time was to fly the other falconer's goshawk first to give the wannabe a taste of bunny flights. Hayduke was a couple grams overweight anyway so flying him a little later seemed like a good plan. As luck would have it though, the gos was overweight too and the other falconer was hoping we could fly Hayduke first! After a bit of discussion we decided to look for an easy industrial park bunny for the gos and see how it reacted. Well, that didn't work out so well. The bunny we found didn't interest the gos at all and it decided to explore the industrial park for a bit. It wasn't that big of a deal but it ate up some precious hawking time. By the time we had the gos safely back in the truck it was 9:30 and we were 10 minutes away from the closest spot to fly Hayduke.
We arrived at the chosen shopping center and a quick once over revealed only one group of starlings which subsequently flushed before we could get the slip. Time was running down and prospects did not look good. Just then probably a dozen sparrows fluttered down in some hedges on the edge of the parking lot...followed by a dozen more. Now Hayduke was still heavier than I'd ever flown him but I wasn't worried about catching starlings because he can't carry them anywhere anyway. Sparrows would be a concern. He carried the last one and with time being a factor I didn't want to have to worry about chasing him around...but if we were going to get a slip, this was it. Hayduke left the fist and absolutely crushed one of the sparrows that had ventured too far from the hedge! After watching him battle starlings the last little while the sparrow seemed a piece of cake. The wannabe was amazed at how fast Hayduke had it dispatched.
Now for the pick-up...He dragged his kill under one car, then another when a car decided to park in the empty spot next to where he was. We garnered some quizzical looks from the driver who wondered why I was looking under cars. Someone with a shopping cart rattled by and Hayduke decided to move to the next parked car again but luckily this one was a fairly jacked up truck that allowed easy access for me. I laid on my belly, flashed a starling wing and Hayduke hopped right up. I pocketed the sparrows and backed out from underneath the truck just as the owner of the vehicle wheeled around the back. A quick explaination and she was fine with the whole thing. Hard not to be enamored with little Hayduke! We hopped in our car and were all back just in time. I snapped this pic just outside my apartment:
So all in all, a fantastic week of hawking with 5 starlings and a sparrow brought to the bag. If only I didn't have to work...