Friday, February 25, 2011

Human Planet

Below I've embedded a couple of video clips from the upcoming BBC series Human Plant that feature falconry. Looks to pretty interesting even without the birds of prey.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Duck Hawking Season Ending.

Good things must come to an end.  I've been feeling the pressures from lack of time and an increase in other commitments lately and decided that I would finish up my season with duck number 30.  Tulsa has been nearly lights out on ducks since mid December and I didn't think it would take more than a day to hit the final goal but the crafty late season ducks had other ideas.

Tulsa closing on ducks.  He's left of center in the picture.

Saturday, we found a small pond full of Ringnecks, a fairly easy catch.  Tulsa rang up and knocked a drake to the ground next to a bush.  The duck quickly scrambled up under that bush and the falcon landed on the ground confused as to what happened to his prey.  The little duck ended up scooting out the other side and flew away to live another day.  Tulsa then took to the air again, rapidly ascending to a nice pitch and I made my way across the field to another pond that was holding ducks.  This time a large mixed group of ducks got up off the water and again Tulsa smashed one to the ground 50 yards out in the pasture.  I see him wingover and go to the ground, and I figured we had not gotten our 30th duck.  As luck would have it though, I see a duck hightailing it out of there when I was around 20 yards away from where I saw the falcon go down.  The hybrid must have lost this duck in the tall grass, something that hasn't happen since the beginning of the season.  So number 30 would have to come another day.  

Sunday Daniel came up and we took another go at the season ender.  High winds made conditions less than ideal but we went anyway.  Flight one wasn't the best setup and the couple of Gadwalls on the pond flushed into the wind with the falcon out of position.  I called him down and we went to look for another flight.  Flight two wasn't much better.  The falcon appeared to be gassed from first flight and life hardened late season ducks definitely were using the wind to their advantage.  Eventually one did make a mistake and got blasted down into the water.  The impact also brought the falcon into the pond, empty footed.  I picked up the soaking wet Tulsa and watched the duck slip under the water with his head just barely sticking out.  After getting the falcon secure I went to look for the injured duck and found him laying in the shallows.  As I went to pick him up, the duck came to his senses and flew across the pond.  I guess he just had his bell rung and needed a minute to get his senses back.  

And thus day 2 of attempting to end the season came to a close empty handed.

Day 3 the windy conditions finally subsided and I met up with Scott and some of his family members for what would hopefully be the last fight of the season.  With about a 1/2 hour of daylight left, Tulsa left the fist and mounted over a small pond filled with about a dozen Gadwalls,  possibly the perfect falconry duck quarry.  Beautifully back lit in the evening sky, the falcon folded up on the flushed ducks, singled out one, and clipped it, sending it toppling end over end into the prairie grass.  A quick wingover and it was done.  After a slow and frustrating start, this bird really turned the corner about halfway through the season.  

I didn't get out to hawk Prairie Chickens as I had hoped this year, but I did get this falcon well on his way to being a consistent gamehawk, something that I wasn't sure would ever happen at the end of last season.  This afternoon I'll finish getting the mews cleaned out and he'll be able to settle into his summer digs.  Let the molting begin......

Scott's sister, brother, myself, and Tulsa w/duck


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Things are Heating Up

The weather is heating up.  Nearly 60 degrees at 8:00 am.  Almost 100 degrees difference from one week ago when the thermometer read -28 degrees.  The water had deiced enough over the past couple of days to allow the ducks to make it back to the cattle ponds just as the season reopened yesterday.   

It took some work but I did manage to find a slip on a pond that I had never flown before.  It was filled with hungry Mallards and a few other mixed bag.  Between the heat and the bird's weight being lower than I would have liked, pitch suffered but he still had some altitude over the pond.  I flushed and instantly knew what duck was going to get it.

One drake left the flock to blaze his own path and was instantly signaled out by my human eye, which means the falcon saw it long before.  Tulsa crashed into the duck and held on as the power bind sent them tumbling head heals. They both hit the ground hard and there was no fight in the duck.  

It didnt take long for the curious cows to make their way over to see what was going on.  So I got the quintessential Oklahoma duck hawking hero shot.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Pics from Gyrfalcon/Ptarmigan Conference

......Duck season reopens tomorrow and I hope to finish the final two weeks with a bang.