Thursday, September 16, 2010

Dove Hunt

No, Goliath isn't catching dove...(yet!)

A falconry friend of mine was gracious enough to take me to a property he leases yesterday and allow me to do a bit of dove hunting with shotguns. It was a first-time experience for me. I've hunted pheasants quite a few times but dove are a LOT smaller. Luckily we had ample opportunity to figure them out and we got a fair number of birds. (Don't ask how many shells we had to go through to get that many though...)

We took them home, breasted them out, and had them for dinner that night. Some were pan fried in butter, others were wrapped in bacon and slapped on the grill, and we even did a few on a cedar plank on the BBQ as well. Fresh dove = Good stuff! For those wondering, 17 dove breasts ended up being just about a pound of meat...needless to say we had delicious side dishes as well!

It's always a treat for me to be able to eat something that I harvested (regardless of whether it's meat or vegetables), and fall is the time for harvesting. I love this time of the year!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Introducing Goliath

Well, I suppose I'll go ahead an introduce everyone to Goliath, my new charge for the season. He is the passage male that we pulled off the trap about a week ago. I didn't have any pictures of him then and was just waiting until I got some good ones of him settled at home before I posted about him, I just kept forgetting to take them!

Not a whole lot to report, he's doing great. He weighed in at 109g off the trap and was around 93g 24 hours later. He's pretty much held that weight and is responding well inside. When weight reduction does happen he's gonna be a killer!

I had to choose between him and a passage female and was kind of agonizing over the choice but seeing how all I'm after is sparrows and starlings and Hayduke more than proved that males can take both I wasn't too concerned about size. He showed quite a bit of attitude off the trap whereas the female just kind of laid there so despite the outside talon on his right foot that looks like it either didn't fully develop or was damaged at one point, I decided that I'd go with the attitude. Plus, I think males make for better pictures! :-)

I think he's one of the prettiest kestrels I've had:

Here he is snagging a grasshopper in our bathroom last night:

I like my birds to know that they still have to kill their own food even if, at this point, it's just a grasshopper. He's figured out that if he comes back to me after the hopper he gets to fill up on starling breast afterwards. Like I said, progressing nicely. If all goes as planned we could be hunting by the end of the month!

It's gonna be a fun season! (It always is...)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

More Trapping!

It's really not supposed to be this easy. Especially this early in the season when it's warm and birds are fat. But for whatever reason the falconry gods are smiling on us this year and things have just worked out.

After the typically long and drawn out process of obtaining a falconry license, my friend finally got what he needed on Thursday and we headed out bright and early on Saturday morning (well, maybe not "bright" was 5:30 a.m.). We were headed to an area quite a bit north of us and wanted to be there before the sun came up so we could find birds before they'd had breakfast. As the sun peaked over the horizon we decided to pull off the highway and start cruising the back roads to see what we could find. It wasn't long before I spotted a bird sitting low on some farm equipment overlooking a field.

It was about 50 yards out and just starting to get light so we couldn't be positive but it looked to be a first year red-tail so we dropped the trap. We backed up about a hundred yards and trained the binoculars on the bird. We were debating on whether or not it could see the trap when it launched...It headed toward the trap but just kept flying...and flying, and flying. Into a large tree another 200 yards away!

We took a right at the next intersection and headed the direction of the tree but there was no road next to the tree and another set for that bird was improbable so we just kept driving. It wasn't more than a hundred more yards over a slight rise when I spotted another bird sitting on a pole on the left side of the road. Again, it looked like a passage bird so we dropped the trap and turned around a hundred yards away.

I focused the binoculars on the bird on the pole again when my buddy suddenly says, "There's another bird! And I think it just came from the trap!" I glanced away from the binoculars in time to see a bird pitch up to a telephone pole directly above the trap. It had come from the same direction we'd just come from but we're not sure where exactly it had been. Was it the first bird we'd seen coming from the tree quite a ways away or was it another bird that we'd just not seen? Either way, we were counting our lucky stars that we now had a bird that was clearly interested in our trap sitting right above it. It seemed like a while but I'm sure it wasn't more than a couple minutes before the bird dropped right on to the trap!

We slowly crept up toward the trap since we couldn't quite tell if he was caught. He hopped around for a minute or so before we saw the tell tale flop and we knew we had him! As we drove up we could see we only had him by a toe so rather than take pictures of him on the trap we hurriedly gathered him up and got him back to the car. Passage male red-tail, exactly what we were after.

It was only 7:30.

We both kinda looked at each other and I said, "You wanna keep trapping?" He said, "No reason really..." So we headed home to jess up his new bird:

Two days after he gets his license he's got his first bird. He must be doing something right! 1078g with the sock and the hood. Started regaining the fist on its own the first night. It's gonna be a fun season!

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Banding Report

I mentioned how I called the banding office after trapping that bird with a band last Saturday and was told I had an incomplete band number. Well I spoke with the individual in charge of making those reports and after a bit of discussion and some pure luck (the picture I took of the band on the leg is at the perfect angle to see the second to last number, and apparently if you know what the bands look like you can kinda guess what the last number is), we got the complete number and some info on the bird.

Got this via email today, kinda cool:

5 years for a kestrel ain't too shabby! Fun to have a bit of history on a bird you randomly pluck from the sky.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Let The Games Begin!

Trapping season is officially underway in Colorado. I was up at first light on Saturday with BC's ready to go and I was on the lookout for kestrels. It turned out to be one of the best days of trapping I've ever had!

Right off the bat, two kestrels sitting near each other, we toss the trap and:

Passage female! And it wasn't even 8:00 yet!

We forged on and made a somewhat long distance set on another bird. A fly by at first and then a bit more commitment and we had our second bird of the day! This one turned out to be a male hag. The cool thing was, it was banded!

I recorded the band number and made the call later in the day but they said the number was incomplete...Doh! I was referred to an authority on "partial" band numbers and left her a message but with the long weekend ahead I probably won't hear back for awhile. Bummer, it would be cool to get some history on a bird I trapped! The band actually had Laurel, MD written on it but I suspect that's where the band was manufactured rather than where the bird came from. A kestrel flying cross country east to west just doesn't make much sense to me but who knows. I hope the lady calls me back.

Moving along, we came upon a family group. 4 kestrels within 100 yards of each other, 3 of them sitting on the same pole at one point! We got a drop on them but as we passed the two we were after bumped to a telephone pole over a small rise near a railroad track (that's where they were joined by the 3rd from somewhere). The new location didn't offer a very good opportunity to set as there wasn't a road on the side of the tracks nearest them. We figured our original drop was a decent place though so we had one of the members of our team get out of the car and walk toward them. Sure enough, all 3 bumped BACK TOWARD THE TRAP and less than a minute later we had a passage male on the trap!! I was so amazed I forgot to take pictures! We couldn't miss today!

Onward, ever onward, we spotted a bird high on a telephone pole and made the drop on the corner of a dirt road intersection. It wasn't long before the bird dropped off to say hi to our BC mouse (we used the same mouse all day, he was used to this by now...). #4 was another male hag:

Shortly after that we were cruising down yet another dirt road and I happen to spot a bird on a wire right as we passed. The trap was tossed almost as an after thought as it seemed I barely had time to tap on the brake. She was on the trap before we turned around. We debated on whether or not she was a passage or a hag. I was arguing for the latter due to a wider last band on the tail and closer inspection revealed a still moulting tail feather and confirmed my suspicions. #5, a female hag:

A wrong turn took us pretty far out of kestrel country and we hit a slump after that. Mind you we'd been at it only a few hours at that point but with afternoon appointments looming we decided we'd had enough fun for the morning and headed home. 5 kestrels in about 4 hours ain't too shabby!

Soooo, did I keep one? Keep an eye on this space for more adventures to follow...

Friday, September 03, 2010

Warning: Nature Ahead

Chad over at Southern Rockies Nature Blog posted this sign he saw on a trip to Vermont:

Not sure what to make of it...A part of me understands the "keep an eye on your kids, there are dangers about" part of it, but the wording irks me a bit. "Nature" down this path? Hmmm...thoughts?

In other news, the countdown widget at the top of my blog has served it's purpose and been removed. Trapping starts bright and early tomorrow morning. Kestrel for me, red-tail for my buddy, and possibly a cooper's hawk for another friend. Should be fun. Watch this space, should be much more active in the coming weeks!