Friday, September 18, 2009

Peregrine Falcon

The first legal Peregrine Falcon take for falconry in 30+ years opens this Sunday in Oklahoma. The Peregrine had been the poster child of successful reintroduction efforts through the years and much of this was spearheaded by falconers. Peregrine numbers in much of the U.S. had dropped severely low due to the use of DDT, but recovered enough through the reintroduction process to be taken off the endangered species list in 1999.

Last night I got to thinking about the role that I played in the effort. It was a very small role; as a teenager I volunteered with the Peregrine Fund's project monitoring captive
raised juvenile Peregrine Falcons that were released in the downtown area of my home town, Fort Wayne, In.

For most of the summer I could be found, along with my brother, binoculars in hand watching these newbies take their first flights, make their first kills, and keep an eye on them for their own general well being. Peregrines traditionally nest on the sides of cliffs and coincidentally buildings are very much like a rock face to a falcon, coupled with the convenient food source, pigeons, cities make a good home for the birds. But cities are also more dangerous. A bird in the wild that goes to the ground has to be wary of predators but city falcons also have the added danger of traffic. Also several of the birds crashed into reflective windows where the falcons only saw the sky in until they were to close to stop. With the exception of a few birds, the majority had little problems living in the city and became very good at being wild.

We used this sheet identify the birds .
The wings were painted in a certain way that
allowed us to identify them from a distance.

Overall, the project was a huge success in the United States and elsewhere. It only took three years after their release for Peregrine Falcons to nest in Fort Wayne for the first time and they continue to nest there today, 13years later. That summer was one of the most memorable I have had. After that summer, falconry had me hooked.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Oklahoma Peregrine Take

Peregrine take regulations should be posted on the Wildlife Department's website. It can be found under Hunting, then Seasons and other Information, then Peregrine. The procedure for trapping should work as OFA had hoped. That is general and master falconers may trap. There will be a number to call to be certain the season is open. The season is open from September 20 until October 20th or until the first 2 birds are trapped. Rod Smith (ODWC Falconry Coordinator) has the bands and I am not sure how that part will be handled. Rod wants to take a wait and see approach as far as how to handle the season in subsequent years. Nonresident trapping in Oklahoma is under statute. The statute reads "Nonresident general and master falconers will be allowed to take legal raptors in Oklahoma provided that their state of residence reciprocates such approval for Oklahoma residents." Rod interprets this to mean that if an Oklahoma falconer may trap a Peregrine in another state (i.e. Texas), than a Texas falconer may trap a Peregrine in Oklahoma. Theoretically, both of the available birds may be trapped by nonresidents, unless we seek a legislative change.

The regulation changes are progressing along. The department has made their official request to
USFWS for the changes. USFWS now needs to accept ODWC regulations. Once that is done the USFWS will publish a comment in the public register. If all goes as planned we will have new regs Jan. 1.

The Peregrine take issue hit a major roadblock a few weeks ago. Rod Smith, Alan Peoples, Steve
Sherrod, and David Riggs (Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commissioner for NE Oklahoma) all deserve a big thank you for making this happen. Without the work of these folks this take would not have happened in 2009. As all of you know this process started over 20 years ago, and many people worked hard to make this happen. Hopefully, we will see a passage Peregrine on an Okie Falconers fist this season!

*Note- this and all other posted regulation information in blue text is from Dave Eslicker who has worked hard on our Oklahoma falconry regulations, Peregrine take, and on the NAFA TAC committee* -Ryan

Trapapolooza '09

Trapping season 2009 opened on September 15th here in Oklahoma. On September 16th, Myself, my apprentice Daniel, and friend Jonathan made the trip out to western Oklahoma to do some trapping with Chris Kimble and others from that area. After a slow start, Things really began to pick up. Not 2 minutes off the Highway we trapped the first bird. The vehicle in front of us threw the trap and the hawk came down so fast she slipped in between the cars to hit the trap and get hooked. We proceeded to trap 5 more birds, for 6 in total, 4 females and 2 males, with one female in particular being 49 ozs and having very interesting markings on her tail. Among the group where 4 apprentices, three of which went home happy with their choice of birds and the other decided to hold off as he was looking for a bird that was a bit smaller. By far the best second day of trapping season that I have ever had! Thanks to Chris for orchestrating such a great time trapping.


Chris and myself inspecting a newly trapped bird.

My apprentice Daniel with his first falconry bird and Jonathan Coleman with his newest.

The trapping party.
Lower left to right: Jonathan Coleman, Daniel Murray, Scott White
Upper left to right: Myself, John Dominguez (Chris' pre-apprentice holding a bird we released), Chris Kimble, Walt Ginn

Monday, September 14, 2009

Oklahoma weather is being its usual self this year. We had temperatures in the low 50's for a week, prime early season falcon training weather, then back to the upper 70's in the morning, then rain every other day, etc. I've got both falcons flying now, although I am not pushing the Gyr to hard, as it is still far to hot to fly him seriously yet. Teal season opened here a couple of days ago and I did have one flight on them with my young Hybrid that resulted in a Teal with a couple of secondaries missing but survived to fly off another day. Good experience for a young falcon and at least I know he will try for ducks, small ones anyway. But, again it is still to warm to seriously be hunting, so most of their time in the air revolves around flying to the kite.

The dot in the upper middle of the screen is the kite at about 1200 feet. My Hybrid is in that picture as well but it is a little hard to see up that high.

Here the falcon has grabbed the bait which is connected to a quick release near the kite. The release pops loose when the falcon grabs hold of the bait and both slide down the line to the ground.

Hybrid Gyr/Peregrine back to earth with bait in hand, although still breathing pretty hard. And that is how the majority of my mornings will go until the temperature decides to finally drop and stay down.