Friday, December 31, 2010

Holiday Adventures

I had a bit of time off of work for the holidays so I spent a good deal of time letting Goliath do his thing.

On Christmas Eve we had the best flight of the year. I decided to swing through a high school parking lot where I'd chased some starlings last year. I hadn't hit the spot this year so I wasn't sure what I'd find but to my delight there were quite a few starling around. Unfortunately, none offered ideal slips but I was figuring a slip was a slip and I'd take whatever I saw.

There was an embankment on the far edge of the school about 20 yards back from the edge of the parking lot. The embankment itself was probably 10 feet high and there was a chain link fence at the top. There were probably a dozen starlings feeding on the far side of the fence and that perked Goliath's interest. They were barely visible from our vantage point. Then two popped through the bottom of the fence and I figured, "what the heck, we'll give it a go" not expecting much.

Goliath left the fist about 40 yards from the birds. I thought he was way too far away and the fact that he had to go up a hill to get to them meant he didn't stand a chance. As expected the starlings spotted him coming in from below when he was still a good 15 yards out and took to the air. The two that had been on our side of the fence popped straight up and Goliath poured on the speed snagging one right out of the air at the top of the fence!! I could hardly believe my eyes! What a flight! He had to gain at least 15 feet of elevation to catch that thing! I know that's not much for the bigger birds but pretty impressive for a kestrel!

On Christmas day we had another fantastic outing. We went 2/3 on slips and it was actually the one that he missed that was the best flight!

It was the first slip of the day, a group of starlings was hanging around a restaurant parking lot but they were about 30 yards out and down a small hill. Goliath could see them dropping off the wire but after they landed they couldn't be seen from where we were. I was trying to figure out how we could get a slip on them but a few flushed when I started toward them ready to throw Goliath so I retreated a little and put him back on the fist like normal. He bobbed a couple times and then took off towards the starlings even though we couldn't see them! He swerved down the hill and around a tree and a bunch of starlings busted where he went down. He'd missed, but what a cool flight!

The next flight was about 20 yards at some starling feeding on the edge of a dumpster. He plowed in to one right on the edge and tumbled into the dumpster with it! Luckily (unluckily?) it was a pretty full dumpster and all I had to do was reach over and pull him off the top. Starling one in the bag.

Now I'd never been successful at doubles until today but my buddy was supposed to come out with me earlier and had gotten caught up on the phone with relatives. Since he'd never seen Goliath take a starling and I kept catching them when he wasn't around I figured I owed it to him to try for another! We found a group near the same restaurant where I'd gotten the first missed slip and this time they were in a much better position. Goliath smacked one near the top of a small hill and they went tumbling down into some landscaping. I pulled them out and claimed my first double!

It had actually been a rough week as far as slips go. I was planning on putting buckets full in the freezer during my time off but on most days I only got one slip, if that. I did catch another starling in there somewhere but it was nothing incredible.

New Year's Day made up for it though! We had a big storm come through and things got cold. I got up and even though Goliath was a tad on the high side (92.5) I suspected that the cold would keep the starlings on the ground and we could get a few more slips then we'd been getting. Boy was I right!

I left the house at 9:03 and the first starling was in the bag by 9:09. It was a nifty little flight at some birds hanging out near a dumpster. They flushed before he got there but he snagged one out of the air at about the height of the dumpster. I love air catches!

I had a few more slips before we connected again. One miss was pretty cool in that he took a 40 yard flight at some birds we couldn't see behind a wall. We watched them drop from on top of a building and he just took off. It would've been even more cool had he caught one but he was awful close.

The next catch came near a doughnut shop. There were starlings EVERYWHERE. I don't think I've ever had that many starlings just hanging around. He had a couple misses there too but the starlings would literally land right beneath him after a miss. They were tempting fate and #2 collided with it as Goliath pounded him while he was snacking on some bread pilfered from a nearby dumpster.

I thought about calling it a day and fed Goliath quite a bit after that but as I was feeding him more starlings landed right in front of us! Can't argue with that! So I pulled the starling wing away and we went again.

It took a little bit of convincing to snag #3. Since he was already high when we left the house and he'd gotten some good tidbits after the first two, he balked on several that he usually would've hammered. #3 was just too good an opportunity though as it landed right in front of us and was busy gobbling up some dumpster goodies. Goliath smacked him so hard they rolled about 4 feet.

3 was as many as I could ask for though and better than I've ever done. I fed him up and we headed home. A fantastic way to start the new year!

Alas, my time with Goliath looks to be short lived. I got news over the break that I will be starting a new job out of state in the middle of February. Its really too bad since Goliath is turning out to be a phenomenal bird but this change is for the better. I have a few more weeks and then I'll fatten him up and turn him loose. He'll do just fine on his own and he'll always be a bird to remember.


Ryan said...

awesome! I caught six the day after I got my first triple so you have plenty to time to push the envelope until your change. Best of luck rounding things out!

Doug said...

Sounds like a great break! Good luck on the new gig coming up.