Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Oklahoma Weather

Today was a potpourri of Oklahoma weather.  I awoke today to thunderstorms, which turned to overcast, then sunny for a few minutes, then drizzle, then hail, then heavy rain, then fog, and tonight we are suppose to get 3-8 inches of snow.  So we shall see it all today.  Sometime between thunderstorms and fog I decided to get my birds out for a flight despite the temperatures hovering in the mid 50's, steamy weather to arctic falcons.

I quickly spot two Ringbills on the pond next to my training field and beep up my hybrid.  Text book flight; climbed up really high directly over the pond and hammered the first duck off the water.  That is three ducks in the last three flights, so things are really starting to click for this young bird.  Then the morning got interesting.  

As the hybrid was eating his catch, nearly 50 gadwalls come flying in and land on the pond that I am sitting not 20 feet from.  As soon as they landed they saw me and took off heading north were they put into another pond about 500 yards from where I caught the first duck.  After Tulsa finished eating I hurried him back to the truck to get the Gyrfalcon ready to fly.

No sooner do I have him ready to go, the rain starts.  I sit in my truck for 20 minutes happily listening to NPR (I'm a bit of a talk radio junkie) all the while my adreniline is pumping with the promise of flying my Jerkin over a small pond full of gadwalls and scoring his first wild duck kill.  Finally the rain stops and for seemingly no reason the ducks leave the water!  Luckily, not all of the ducks decide to leave.  Upon glassing the pond I found that 5 of them were not as wise as the rest.  

My Jerkin has been back and forth with taking a pitch and realizing that I'm flushing game in front of him.  Today it clicked.  He climbed up to a decent pitch and over the pond awaiting my flush.  All five ducks flushed off the pond clean and down came the falcon.  Apparently the large size of the Gyrfalcon is pretty intimidating because all of the ducks bailed out onto the ground.  When the falcon pitched up they all scrambled back to the water.  The falcon then remounted several hundred feet and chased two ducks off the water on the reflush.  He quickly was out distanced by them and came back over the water another several hundred feet higher.  On the final reflush, the Jerkin singled out one of the ducks and clipped its wing on the stoop sending it cartwheeling through the air to the ground.  The falcon wasn't letting this duck get away and quickly got a final grip on his prey, securing his first wild kill!

On probably the worst day to fly weather-wise of the year, I had one of my best days flying of the year!  The first duck for my Gyr, now named Mongo, and a double with both birds on top of that!  My goal for this bird was catch his first duck before Christmas and I just squeaked it in today.  The culmination of a lot of work over the past year.

To top it all off, I also talked to the Oklahoma falconry coordinator this afternoon learned that the new falconry regulations will take effect on January 7th, 2010 in our state!  All around a great day, despite the weather.  Hopefully the snow will fall tonight.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

New Falconry Regulations!

We were just informed today the the new Falconry Regulations will be in effect in Oklahoma and 5 other states this coming January!  We had been told that it probably wouldn't happen until March but it looks like they got it done!  It's amazing that in just 20 odd days the leash of falconry regulation will be loosened considerably.

Another thanks to all that put in the time and hard work to make this happen as soon as humanly possible, especially Dave Eslicker in Oklahoma who spearheaded the changes in our state.

Oklahoma's New Regs can be viewed by clicking here

Monday, December 7, 2009

Frustrations of Baby Birds

The nice thing about the frustrations from baby birds is that it is usually a temporary thing.  It seems this past week we have had every kind of frustration.  Missed stoops leading to tail chases, ducks hammered to the ground only to have a lazy wing-over and they escape, whacking a Mallard that hugged the edge of a pond while his two buddies flush clean over the prairie (the Mallard that was hit was knocked through the ice and popped up in the middle of pond a minute later, kinda funny looking back on it), hitting ducks in the rear end rather than the head giving the duck a sudden boost of speed; all of which have happened over the past week.  These are the things that often leave me head scratching.  Is his weight to low, or to high, did the last duck he hit beat on him and now he's scared of ducks, did I flush to far out of position?  The list goes on and on when things don't end up with the desired outcome.  

But more times than not it all just comes back together and I have to realized that this is just a baby bird and baby birds to baby bird things.  Catching game is new to them and it takes years for them to have seen all the moves that each duck species has in their "I wanna live mode".  I got spoiled with the hybrid that died last year.  In his third season he had seen it all from ducks and it was surprising to not come home with a duck in the bag.  This year we are back to square one and I have to jump into action when *surprise!* he gets one. 

Today it all came together again.  I had not changed anything despite my rethinking of every flight.  Pretty text book flight.  He quickly mounted up to a respectable pitch and came down in a nearly vertical stoop cutting through the drake Gadwall.  No wing-over, no power-bind, just straight through the duck at top speed.  Both duck and falcon fell behind the wall of the cattle pond dam out of view, but I knew there was no way this duck was gonna get up again.  Hell I could hear the collision from over 100 yards away.  After making my jog over there I found falcon munching away on duck vertebrae.  An excellent flight and a good reminder that he is still learning and seems to be getting it.

On a less exciting note I served my Gyrkin for the first time today and he handled it well.  Soon there should be hawking stories from him.  *Knock on Wood*

Speaking of wood, Tiger Woods, did everyone hear that he thinks his name is too famous now and he is thinking of getting it legally changed to Cheetah?