Monday, October 19, 2009

Weekend Trapping

This past weekend was my wife's fall break, and with grandma in town to watch the kids, Katie and I decided to go camping with the intent of trying to trap a passage Peregrine in Oklahoma.  We headed down to a wetland area in southwestern Oklahoma where we had heard of several sightings over the past couple of weeks and set up camp.  The campsite had an interesting old barn on the edge of the property complete with its own Great Horned Owl who would have happily eaten my Hybrid right off his block if given half a chance.

After getting settled in we took a drive around to get feel for the area.  There were mainly flooded fields around that held many shorebirds and waterfowl.  The amount of ducks was unbelivable.  There were so many that the bass from the beating of the birds wings after they were flushed made my bones vibrate.

We ended up having pretty warm weather during the day and it looked like the Peregrines that had been there the week before had moved on to Texas.  We did, however, see many morphs of Red-tailed Hawks, Coopers Hawks, Kestrels, Harriers, Merlins, and Prairie Falcons, one of which we trapped.  It was a really nice looking bird but upon further consideration I decided that I did not have the time to start another bird this year.  It just so happened that a boyscout group was visiting this area at the time and after talking to them about falconry for a few minutes, I let them have a real close look at her before I turned her loose.  Even without seeing any Peregrines and getting a flat tire the last morning we were there, we had a great time seeing another part of Oklahoma.  You can bet I'll be back there next year, but maybe a couple of weeks earlier.

For some reason RC Cola is everywhere in southwestern Oklahoma.  *aside* not too bad

Me scoping power poles for Peregrines from a lookout tower.  This tower had raptor pellets on it and there was a coot head on the deck.

Mainly Pintail and Blue Winged Teal flushing off the water.

Coots and about every duck species found in Oklahoma.

Picking up trapped Prairie Falcon

My wife bravely holding a mean little bird.

She got the pointer's approval...

Looking good on a block approval...

But not mine in the end. So back to the wild with her.

The fun finale.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Disappearing Pigeons

It's easy to tell when a Cooper's Hawk is visiting my pigeon loft, the pigeons disappear for a while. Sunday afternoon I let out my pigs, secretly hoping my flock might get thinned a little by natural means. It is not uncommon for Coops to show up around my house in the winter and feast on my weaker birds but I'm surprised it took this long considering there is a nest in very close proximity to my home. I went back out to feed the pigeons later in the afternoon and noticed that they were nowhere in sight. This almost always means Cooper's Hawk. Sure enough I look over in my neighbor's yard and there he is munching on a YND (young and dumb: what I call inexperienced birds). He hadn't even broken in yet so I bumped him off and put the pigeon in my hawking bag to use for food for my bird. I did pay for the pigeon's food so should at least get my money's worth.

Forty-five minutes later I see some of the birds start coming back so I go near my loft to watch them fly for a bit. I must have made them feel safe because they came dropping in like rocks onto the loft roof and scrambled back through the trap just as fast as they could. Then WHAP! Another one gets nailed on the roof of my shed not 10 feet from me! The hawk sees me standing there and quickly lets go of his catch allowing this pigeon to fly away. I'm thinking "man this is one brave hawk." So I set up a trap that had been lent to me by a falconer friend to try my luck with. It is kind of a hybrid Swedish Gos trap crossed with a bow net and it triggers itself (I'm not gonna put picks of hawk traps on a public forum, sorry). Not ten minutes later I see my dog looking up at the top of the shed and sure enough there was a Cooper's Hawk securely caught inside!

I temporarily brought the hawk inside to get a few pictures.

A look at his front.

A look at his back.

From the coloring on can tell that this bird is a "tweener." He is molting from his juvenile plumage into his adult plumage. Quite a bit of brown feathers mixed with gray and about 1/2 of his tail and primary feathers were moulted into his mature feathers. Also his eyes were an orange color, about 1/2 way transformed from yellow to red. After a few pictures, I hooded and socked the bird and transferred him to a nice riparian area about 20 miles south of town. I figure that this is a migrating Cooper's Hawk so hopefully he'll continue on his merry way down through Tulsa; terrorizing pigeons as he goes. And I'll be ready for the next Coop that comes my way.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Beginners Luck?

Not much has changed in my falconry yet. I'm still just kiting and training until the ducks come in and the season opens. My apprentice, Daniel, however just got his first head of game and became a falconer today instead of just a falconeer. The best part of this is that it was only his bird's third day off the creance and the first time we really hawked her. I'm sure he'll tell it best on his blog. Check it out: Dan's Blog

Here are a couple of pictures until he gets his account of the events up.

"Delicious" and her first rabbit

Perfect trade-off

Happy Falconer

Beautiful evening....

Congratulations Daniel!