Thursday, February 18, 2010

:) :)

I had a little time between work and a meeting that I had to be at, so I met up with my apprentice, Daniel, and we put it to 'em.  

"But Petey Didn't Have a Head, Lloyd!"

Caught 4 more Starlings yesterday bringing our total up to 40.  Just to brag on her a little bit, she caught her first one on January 26th. On the final catch of the day today, she slipped about 40 feet before the small murmuration of starlings that were milling about near the street.  They saw her coming and took off to the right.  One however decided he wouldn't be a follower and flushed to the left where there was a wall.  The starling swerved to miss he wall and was snatched out of he air about 3' off the ground with a swoop to the left by Gizmo.  Awesome flight which of course was not caught on video.  

This little bird on starlings is like Ash Williams on Deadites (we'll see who gets that reference,  hmm maybe a good name for the next bird I fly on Starlings)!    On the way home from work yesterday she must have been feeling pretty comfortable, because her head fell off, I mean she fell asleep and had her head tucked under her wing while riding home on my fist.  She must have been feeling pretty comfortable.

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Big Hit

My falconry took a big hit this week.  My 5 year old Weimaraner, Bep, abruptly passed away from Bloat.  I had heard of Bloat in the past but never really found out that much about it until now.  Below is a description from,

"The technical name for bloat is "Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus" ("GDV").  Bloating of the stomach is often related to swallowed air (although food and fluid can also be present).  It usually happens when there's an abnormal accumulation of air, fluid, and/or foam in the stomach ("gastric dilatation").    Stress can be a significant contributing factor also.  Bloat can occur with or without "volvulus" (twisting).  As the stomach swells, it may rotate 90° to 360°, twisting between its fixed attachments at the esophagus (food tube) and at the duodenum (the upper intestine).  The twisting stomach traps air, food, and water in the stomach.  The bloated stomach obstructs veins in the abdomen, leading to low blood pressure, shock, and damage to internal organs.  The combined effect can quickly kill a dog."

I started out my day on Saturday like any other, loaded up my dogs, then birds, and was on my way to the field.  We did our morning hunt and everything was fine.  I then went on with my day and the dogs hung out in their kennels like the often do, while I went on with the day's errands and such.  That evening Daniel and Jonathan were over showing off their hard days work of another bunny in the bag.  After BSing for a few minutes, I opened up my dog's crates and Lulu, my pointer, shot past me but no Bep.  So I ran for the flashlight and confirmed that something horrible had happen, she had died.  After a chat with my friend and Veterinarian, Dr. Kim Huckaby (a fantastic young vet in Tulsa), we figured that it was mostly likely Bloat due to the suddenness of her death and her swollen abdomen.  She informed me that Bloat was almost always the case of sudden death in young healthy dogs, especially breeds at are deep chested like Weimaraners (and GSP's), and today's necropsy confirmed it.  

I got Bep (Bep stands for Bleomycin Etoposide Platinol in case you are wondering) just over five years ago while living in Florida several weeks after finishing up my final round of Chemotherapy.  I figured that I had just beaten cancer, dammit, I'm getting myself a hunting dog.  I did some searching around found a great family who bred Weimaraners that had hunting experience in their recent genealogy.  Where I lived at the time I mostly hunted old orange groves for rabbits and quail.  The cover was thick and Bep was just the dog I needed to stay close and find game.  As luck would have it though, I took a job in Oklahoma just 6 months later and the need for a close working dog wasn't so important.  Bep however loved water and found a new role as full time duck flusher, part-time bird pointer, and was still an essential part of my falconry team.  Especially with my previous Hybrid, Rhythm.  I don't know how many times the dog got ducks to flush that I couldn't get to budge not to mention there were more than a few severely injured ducks that were lost in the grass or knocked into the water that Bep quickly found and brought to bag.  She had perfect manners around the birds and aside from being able to scale any, and I mean any, fence and barking a little to much here and there, she was an absolute pleasure of a dog, which I now know that I did not value as much as I should have.  But we often don't realize what we have until it is gone and it's really tough looking at that empty crate in the back of the truck today.

We did catch the final duck of the year for me and my birds even though there is another two weeks to the season.  Money is tight for the rest of this month, the weather has been mostly unaccommodating at best, and with the passing of Bep I just decided that I am done with the big birds for the rest of the this season.  The final duck was prize though, a nice drake Canvasback.  The flight wasn't really anything to write home about only about 600', but Tulsa was working hard for it in the 25 mph wind.  I normally wouldn't have even flown but I only see Canvasbacks maybe twice a year.  So I did and he made the catch with a powerbind that sent them toppling across the ground about 30' in front of me.

I will still be flying the Kestrel until I get bored with her and I'm still having a blast.  I'm now into the 30's with her starling catch count and we only hunted 16 times.

Such is life with falconry:  Often death is celebrated and other times its mourned....

Bep 11/2004 - 2/2010
Rest in Peace "Beppers"

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Craptacular Weather: Thank God for Kestrels

Yesterday afternoon I had a great flight with my hybrid.  He was waaaay up.  I with the naked eye I could only see him off and on and it was still hard with the binos.  This is good cuz he's flown pretty poorly the past couple weeks.  Looks like I had him way to high in weight.  Anyway that's another conversation.  I flushed when he was directly over the pond and he hammered a hen mallard.  By the time he hit her they were a good fifty yards from the pond.  He did what he has been doing, hit her like a prairie, cut right through her, with no pitch up and wingover, into the ground.  As I'm making my way over there the mallard gets up about 20 feet from where I saw my bird go down and flys back to the pond.  I find him sitting on the ground and I jump him to the fist.  I noticed the end of one of his toes was a little purple.  I fed him and went home.  Today the whole toe is purple.  I havent had this happen before.  Dislocated toe yes, but not bruised like this.  

Woke up this morning hoping to beat the rain and get flights with the big birds but it was not meant to be.  Slushy rain and drizzle, but that won't stop my new super falcon.  So I headed downtown to look for Gremlins and was not disappointed.  I see the first single at the end of the block near the stop sign.  Giz seems to see it too as she starts rowing her wings on my fist.  As we make the approach the starling has got its beak in the ground searching for food not a care in the world, the perfect setup.  I drive along side and slip the Kestrel.  Only she doesn't launch of my fist like normal....  She actually loses balance and sorta falls out the window.  I thinking what the hell just happened?  She was excited, showing all the body language of ready to kill and then that?  Except she didn't fall she started pumping hard right away, never even looked at the Starling I intended for her to catch, and shot on down the street where she slammed into a starling feeding in a group.  This must have been 70 or 80 yards in front of me!  So she did see Starlings just not the one I saw.  She probably was wondering what the hell I was thinking putting her out the window so early but she made it count.  This all happened pretty quick so, channeling Jonathan,  I thought, "maybe we'll do another."  Once she had had a couple of bites I traded her off and we went searching for #2.  I made one right hand turn and up ahead there was another group of 6 or so.  We made our approach, out she went, and nabbed #2 about 2 feet of the ground.  Of course I'm thinking its time for #3, but when she came down with #2 they landed in a puddle.  Since Giz was soaking wet and I had to get to work before she would be dry, I decided to call it a day with Starlings 9 & 10 in the bag.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Looks Like a Good Day for Two

The ponds are all still frozen at least for one more day, so when Jeff emailed and said wanna hawk with the Kestrels when I come up to the center to buy quail, I was definitely in.

After meeting up with Scott and his friend Nori at my house we hit the road looking for the little gremlins.  First stop the mall.  We saw some there but mixed with sparrows and we decided to pass on those.  We then swung through Food Pyramid and down through Lowe's without much luck and we continued on to downtown where there were birds.  Jeff was driving with EP on his fist and Gizmo and I were ready in the passenger's seat.   Surprising to me was that the K-birds paid basically no attention to each other even though they were only a couple of feet apart and hunting the same quarry, Jeff informed me though that it is common for the wild caught birds and it adds a lot of fun to the hunt just taking turns from slip to slip.  He was right! It was a lot of fun!  After a couple of near misses for both birds, Giz was first to score.  There was a small group of starlings poking around in the snow and before they knew what was coming, the little falcon slammed into the back of one's head.  The force of the blow slammed the Starling's head forward into the ground and when I got over there its mouth was crammed full of snow.

Using his expert eye, Jeff informed me that she was ready for another.  So I gave her a couple of bites and tucked it way ready for another.  About this time the Starling numbers began to thin out some and we worked our way back to the mall without seeing anything hawkable.  At the mall there was another small group feeding along side a chain link fence.  EP shot out the window and was closing in when she was seen but still darn near bagged the fleeing starling as it passed through the fence.  Back in the window she flew and off we went.  It's getting close to time for me to head back to work when Jeff notices a dozen or so feeding on the median at the entrance to Food Pyramid.  Gizmo saw them too and was bateing frantically at the window that I hadn't even rolled down yet.  When it was about 3/4 of the way down I let her go.  The starlings saw her and took to the wing but not fast enough and she mauled one out of air for #2.  Unfortunately at this point I had to head back to work so I thanked Jeff for the good times and he dropped me off at my truck.

In case your wondering...the Kestrel master didn't strike out.  He graciously gave me most of the good slips when we were out together and after I went back to work he caught several before coming to get his quail.

This Kestrel has been just the ticket for "filling in falconry" when the big birds have been grounded by the weather.