He climbed above the pond well and stooped almost completely vertical down on the flushing flock of Gadwall. Then I heard the "thud," like hitting a wet blanket with a baseball bat, the not uncommon sound of falcon meeting prey full speed in the air, but this time there wasn't the usual pitch up and wing over to finish the duck on the ground. This time there was "thud," splash, splash. The falcon had hit the duck over the water so hard he had killed the duck and had also knocked himself silly causing him to fall into the pond as well. So I quickly waded into the pond and pick up a DOA duck and my falcon, who was floating on top of the water with his wings out and head up looking around as if saying "where the hell am I?" I put both on the shore and the falcon quickly jumped on the duck but promptly fell over to the side. That made me feel sick, I figured that this bird had just killed himself hitting the duck so hard. Luckily though after a minute or two he seemed to snap out if it and ate to a full crop. Once the bird seemed to be doing alright I suddenly realized that my pant legs and boots were freezing up not to mention about half of my bird's feathers. A little heat in the truck and we were back in business. Today my Hybrid still seems fine and is definitely getting a couple of days off. Which gives me a little more time for the Gyrkin that is now flying free and doing a couple of lure passes and the Prairie that has had more than her share of setbacks in her training.
I should also mention that Kent (a fellow falconer) and I, had our apprentice falconer friend, Jonathan, come up from Tulsa with his sponsor, Larry. Jonathan brought along his first hawk, a little male Redtail, the smallest I've seen at a flying weight of 760 gr (26.5 oz), to give him his first real shot at wild rabbits. This hawk chased the very first Cottontail he saw with as much heart as I've seen from a male that small with no wild rabbit experience. The first narrow miss came when the rabbit ran out into the open where there was very little cover. It was looking pretty good for the hawk until the bunny made a turn and literally ran across Larry's feet effectively blocking the pursuing hawk. Several flights later the hawk got a "feel" of wild Cottontail but ended up with talons full of fur.
Next up was Kent and his female Redtail. This bird was trapped this past fall and has been out hunting just a handful of times with plenty of narrow misses but nothing caught. That is until today. We were all flushing in heavy cover when we saw her take off and do a strong wing over, but we heard nothing. Usually, when a rabbit is caught they let you know it. So we moseyed on over to where we all thought she dove in, but the hawk was no where to be found. We listened for her bells for a minute or two and nothing. Finally the telemetry came out and after pointing us 180 degrees the other way, there she was right out in the open with a cottontail balled up in her feet and soon afterward a happy falconer close beside.
I'm sure this is the start of what will be two great game hawks. It was a very memorable day and congratulations to Jonathan and Kent for their great flights and well trained birds.