Sunday was rather warm (50-ish*F?) and slightly windy (around 10-15mph). I headed out a little after one and ended up being surprised by the number of starlings I found on the ground that late. Our first slip was at a couple starlings feeding in a field next to an embankment. There was about a 6 foot drop from where I was to where they were feeding and Hayduke used the height to his advantage folding into a tight little (albeit short) stoop as he crested the edge of the embankment and dropped onto the starlings. Unfortunately they just managed to squirt out underneath him so we continued on.
A couple missed slips later and we found ourselves at a small shopping center where there always seems to be starlings but where I've never caught one. There was a good group feeding on the ground but it was an awkward slip. While I was contemplating the best approach a single touched down about 20 yards off offering a much better opportunity and Hayduke capitalized. It was one of those odd split seconds where things seem to slow down but from my angle it appeared that the starling was looking straight at Hayduke as he trucked in. I even had time to think, "It sees him, it's gonna bust and he's gonna miss..." but it just stared into the face of death as he plowed right into it! Wahoo!
At this point I didn't react as quickly as I should have. Hayduke has a bad foot with a messed up toe and dull talons (both of which I've been trying to fix for quite awhile) but generally he hangs on to starlings. As I jogged over I could see him trying to get a hold of the struggling bird with his bad foot but it kept slipping off. Just as I reached down to pick him up with his prize the starling made one last twist and popped out of his grasp hightailing it safety. Danggit! Hayduke was none too happy about the loss and gave me an earful about it. I had to make it up to him!
5 minutes later we hit the jackpot. Another shopping center with a couple restaurants and a movie theatre and there seemed to be starlings on the ground everywhere I looked! I found a group that looked more promising than the rest and Hayduke delivered. A couple of birds were sunning themselves up against a curb and he dropped low to the ground and hammered his second starling of the day. When I got to them even his bad foot was wrapped around the starlings neck. He wasn't letting this one go!
My "good" camera is on the fritz so I snapped a quick one with my cell phone:
There had been so many starlings on the ground that I traded him off thinking we might get another for a "true" double but the others must have witnessed their companions demise. I looked for slips on the way home but nothing materialized.
So we caught two, came home with one. One of these days the falconry gods will smile on us and we'll produce a pocketful of starlings, until then, I'm just happy that we're still putting them in the bag on a consitent basis. Kestrels rock.