Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Light bulb moments

We had a pretty stinkin nice car hawking day yesterday! I took Scooter out in the morning, and though we had six or seven REALLY nice slips, we ended up empty handed. He was a little bit heavier than we have been flying at though, so I fed him to have him back to his “proper” weight by the evening, with the hopes of turning the “just barely missed it,” into a “just barely snagged it!” The difference was pretty significant when we jumped in the car for the evening session, and he immediately sleeked down and turned around to face the wind shield (that’s always one of those “bench marks” that I look for, because it lets me know he knows EXACTLY what it is we are doing in that car….). Got a nice slip pretty much instantly, and I thought he was going to chase that bird into the next county! He was so intense, and was instant when I called him back through the window. We continued on, and got a really nice slip on a pigeon walking around on a side road. Though he made contact and feathers flew everywhere, he didn’t connect fully, and the pigeon made a hasty retreat. Continued on, and we got a REALLY long slip at a group of maybe 100 or so starlings feeding out in a pasture. When he slipped out of the car though, he didn’t do his typical cruise in really low tactic, but instead started angling up pretty quickly, and my initial thought was that he just didn’t see them out that far (and was heading up to a tree). He was kicking it pretty hard though, and as the flock busted from the ground, he did a little mini wing over, and tried to crush one out of the middle of the rising flock. He shot his foot out to secure his prize, but his aim just wasn’t quite there, and he ended up missing (he needs some work in the footing department for sure…..).
We ended up with a few slips after that that weren’t too exciting, and that’s about the time we ended up finding the grackles. They were caught depredating on property, which Scooter seems to have a pretty big ethical issue with, because as soon as he saw them, he started bobbing his head like a mad man! He stood up so tall on his tippy toes that I thought he was going to stretch out into a coopers hawk, and as soon as the window got part way down, he was out like a rocket! The slip was pretty much perfect, in that the area that they were in was a good 7 or 8 feet below the level of the car (and not that large), and the only way to escape was up and out. The slip started maybe 15 or 20 yards from the birds, and Scooter shot out heading straight (as opposed to angling down toward the birds…). They saw him as soon as he left the window, and were climbing for all they were worth by the time he met up with them. He singled out an immature bird from the group, and just smashed it out of the air. They went to the ground, and the grackle was not going to give up without a fight!!! Scooter was holding him out at arm’s length (or, legs length I guess!), and that grackle was doing all that it could to peck Scooter’s eyes out. I’m running toward him when I see the grackle make one last go at him, and that’s when Scooter shot his other foot out, and grabbed it by the face. His back talon went straight through, and the bird was dead when I arrived . He caught it right next to a little concrete water run-off deal (I guess that’s what it was????), and he ended up getting all wet. The water was stagnant and nasty, and I could smell him the whole ride home! He got a really nice crop for his efforts, and was 20 or so grams higher than normal this afternoon. He acted ready to roll though, so we jumped in the car, and went looking for birds. We got a couple of nice flights right off the bat, and then I found a group of 50 or so starlings down in front of the school. The slip was nice and long, and he snagged one about five feet off the ground :-)......it was pretty sick! Good times! -D-

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Slow and Steady

Wins the race.......or so they say :-). So that's exactly what I'm doing! So what's new with the red shoulder right? Not too much really.....a couple days after that last post, I decided that with this consistent 100+ degree weather, we weren't really getting anywhere weight wise. Scooter sort of plateaued at a weight, and in order to get him to drop anything past that, I was having to short feed him pretty good. I decided that I didn't really want to do too much of that at this early stage, so I thought he may as well be out building up some more muscle. Stuck him back out on hack for a few days, and when I called him back in, he was at the exact same weight.......but WAY more muscled up! I was pleased with that, and since his metabolism was kicking pretty nicely at that point (from flying around during the days, instead of just chilling on a perch), I was able to pull a little bit more weight off of him, without having to short feed him as much. That little bit off of him pulled his focus in quite a bit, and we have been having some pretty good mornings out in the field. I know what you are thinking...."what happened to getting him entered through car hawking?" The simple answer is this....I'm still going to. Scooter has just changed up the order of things, for the time being. Going into this, I assumed that he was going to follow a similar course as a lot of other birds, and start out car hawking at a weight that was higher than what I would have him at when out field hawking. In reality though, the opposite was true with him. It seems like I am going to have to bring him down quite a bit more, in order to get him motivated for car hawking. On the other hand, at the weight we are at right now, we are starting to get pretty decent responses out in the field, and are slowly getting down to a more realistic hunting weight that way. He is still too heavy to put in the balls to the wall chases on birds yet, but we have had some pretty darn good ones, and I'm making sure that his confidence stays high, with the use of various different baggers (set up in multiple different fashions, so that he doesn't have the opportunity to key in on any cues). The best flight so far was on a sparrow that went about 50 or so yards. He put it into cover, but didn't end up sealing the deal. All the while, I have been sticking with my routine of "train while you hawk" vs the more common "get your bird trained before you go hawking" route. There are bugs everywhere right now, and being that he is a red shoulder, he likes to catch and eat them from time to time. Typically, we are talking about the large grass hoppers (the ones that are 4 to 6 inches long), dragon flies, and cicadas, and though this would normally piss me off, I decided why fight nature...lets just use them as a training tool. Using this morning as an example, we kicked off the session with a really nice sparrow flight that he ALMOST closed the deal on, and as a reward, I followed it up with a pigeon slip that I had set up prior to starting the day. He put the hardest flight I have seen so far from him on that pigeon, but simply got juked out of his pants. I called him back to the fist, and since I wanted to get some type of food reward into him after that pigeon flight, I went to a group of bushes that ALWAYS contain cicadas, and kicked one out for him. He chased it down, snatched it out of the air, and then flew up to the top of a tree with it (I know what your thinking....that was stupid! You just showed him catching birds was hard, and to just wait, because I will eventually provide an easier slip....just wait :-)). He promptly started getting bombarded by other birds, and he ended up dropping half of it below the tree. Called him down, and I went and kicked the bush again....another cicada popped out, snatched it out of the air, but this time he landed near my feet. He didn't drop this one since he was on the ground, and then I hopped him back to the fist for his first tid bit of the day (presented with a completely open fist).
We continued on, and after another really nice sparrow flight, I decided to make my way over to one of the ponds....on our way, I kicked up a dragon fly, and after a really nice flight on that (well....as nice as a flight on a bug can be :-)), he snatched it out of the air, and this time I whistled to him. He turned around in mid air, and carried it back to the fist, where he commenced to munch it down. Another couple of sparrow flights, a big grass hopper that he carried back to the fist, and an unintentional flight at a meadow lark (which was half @$$ed), I decided to end the day with a planted sparrow I had (It had been trapped a little bit ago, and though still in good condition, hadn't flown much in about 4 days....so it was slow). Popped it when we were about fifteen yards away, and after a 30 or so yard flight, he snatched it out of the air. Just like the dragon fly, I did his whistle, he turned around in mid air, and flew back to the fist with it :-). I let him start plucking on it, and once he started to break in and had gotten a few bites, I tossed his lure with a quail leg to the side. He left the fist for his lure of course, and after he had finished eating, I hopped him back to the fist for a tid bit. So, he now carries stuff to the fist...the behavior will have to be enforced a few more times of course, but I'm pleased with it! Ended the session there, and he is now in the back yard preening on his perch I don't have him tied down though.....huh???? Yep, that's the other part of what I'm doing right now. He goes out on hack after we fly in the morning. Over the last week, when I pulled an extra 10 grams off of him, he started talking a little bit. Not a lot....just right before we go hawking. He has figured out the routine, so I'm switching it up a little bit. Is it going to work? I have no idea....but I have a couple goals. The obvious, of course, is to put some more muscle on him, and to pull the focus back away from me some. Also though, he has hit a plateau weight again, and I want to kick his metabolism back up. Last time I was able to pull ten grams or so off of him by doing this, so I'm hoping it will work out again. We get home from hawking, I spray him down with the hose, and he will chill in the back yard for a few hours preening and what not. Around noon or so, he gets hot, and heads out into the fields. He flies around the rest of the afternoon, sleeps in a tree somewhere, and then in the morning, I go call him down to go fly. So far, we have had nothing but positive results, and I plan on sticking with this routine off and on, until I we get enough weight off of him to put forth 110% in the field. The picture is of him soaking wet, after a really nice session in the field. So that's what we have been doing.....the Prairie STILL, has only lost five feathers... -D-

Monday, July 16, 2012

Falcons in a Box

It's that time of year.  105 degrees out and not so much as a little bit interested in training falcons.  But the time is here and so is my new bird.....

I decided to start anew this year and picked up a female GyrxPeregrine the other day (the black one in the picture above, the other is a Gyr that I imprinted this year for a buddy).  I've never hunted with a female hybrid, although, I have trained a few to the kite before they were sold.  I really don't pay much attention to size in falcons, they all seem to be able to get the job done with the right set up in life and good training, but this bird is an absolute monster to me.  I've never had a bird this big, aside from eagles.  Even the biggest Red-tail I've ever flown was an ounce lighter than this bird at it's heaviest weight.  This girl weighed in a 1413g (49.8oz) out of the chamber!  I'll be honest though, a lot of that was food in her crop and she has slimmed down a fit and trim 1250g (44oz) today.  If this one doesn't fly high then the ducks are gonna be glued to the surface of the water.


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Just like Dad...

Might just get one of my kids into falconry.  We were BBQing at Daniel's new house the other day and while the adults where hanging out inside, the kids where playing outside.  I turned my head check on them and I see my 2 year old son pick up Daniel's glove, put it on (albeit upside down), walk into the weathering yard (not quite finished as it was just moved to this property), and reach out to pick up the hawk.  The little hawk wanted nothing to do with him, but it was pretty dang cute that he tired.  I wasn't too worried about him as this hawk is used to little kids running around.  I wish I had my real camera but the wife's phone had to do.

Trying to be like Dad....


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Good Times, In The Summer Heat

Hey Hey Hey!!!! Hope the moult is going well for everyone! Life, as always, has been crazy around these parts. It's getting hot as heck outside, and the prairie is taking her sweet time about molting. She dropped her fist tail feather yesterday, so that brings us up to a grand total of 5 so far. Pretty lame, but hopefully she will start hurrying things up a bit :-).
To hold me over through the long summer months, I ended up snagging this little guy. He is a male red shoulder, and is coming along really nicely if I do say so myself! I pulled him from the nest when he was around 30 or so days old, and he promptly became my 2 year old's new buddy. The name Scooter was given to him, and once his feathers had come down enough, he was put out on tame hack. He got his little butt kicked all around the neighborhood by the Cooper's hawks and Mississippi Kites, and as a result, picked up the whole flying deal pretty darn quickly. It was pretty amazing to watch how much he would improve day by day, and I must say that the results have been really pleasing. He started catching stuff pretty much from the start (caught a mouse on day two), and it was fun watching him sneak on through the yards, to go mob the neighbors bird feeders and such.
I have had the pleasure of seeing some pretty neat flights, and though I have yet to see him actually score a bird, he has been catching mice and what not pretty consistently. After a week or so out on tame hack, my family and I moved to a new home, so he just chilled out in the weathering area while we did the whole moving deal. That took a couple weeks, but once we wrapped that up, he went back out on hack. This time though, we went with a full on hack. We did this for two weeks, and though I kept tabs on him of course, I only called him down one time to replace the transmitter battery (and to give him a nice crop....). The fields surrounding my new home are LOADED with game, and he was out catching stuff daily. He pretty much didn't leave the area, and tops, maybe flew five or six blocks away. I ended up finishing up the hack about a week or so ago, and I have just been bringing his weight down since then. I have had him down to 545 grams so far, and he is still pretty darn fat.
Yesterday was our second day of creance training out in the field (i.e. away from our normal training areas), and we got a half length flight out of him (but we had a little bit of hesitation.....). This morning though, he was keyed in, and we had instant response both to the lure, and back to the fist when we were finished. I plan on dropping him until I have decent enough response to start hunting, and then will finish out his training while doing that.
I'm of the opinion that car hawking is a GREAT way to drop weight with a baby bird, because it gets the bird out killing quickly, pulls the focus away from you, and allows them to get some of that excess energy out while they are in that "in between" stage (hungry enough to be a dork, but not hungry enough to get after it 100%). I'm guessing he will fly some where around 400, but I really have no idea.
I won't get him down to his "true" hunting weight very quickly though, because I'm going to be careful about how much weight I pull off per day during that time period (don't want to make him start talking or anything!) By the time that's all said and done though, he should be riding on a really nice confidence high from all of that car hawking, and then we will transition to the field.
The only bummer so far, is that he had a feather broken off in the blood, while out on tame hack. Like I said, he was getting the run around pretty much the whole time while out on tame hack, and I saw him get taken darn near to the ground on a couple of occasions. What I found to be interesting, is that though the coops would stoop and hassle him pretty much all day long, it was the Mississippi Kites that would actually knock him out of trees, and bind to him while flying. If anything, I was expecting the opposite from that, but I guess you learn something new every day! Anyways, it was the third from the outer most primary, and I'm pretty worried about him snapping those outer two feathers, since they are missing part of their support system. We shall see how it goes though, and in the scheme of things, it's only made him a LITTLE bit ugly :-).
Anyways, he is going to be my "little bird" hawk, and I'm going to fly him off the fist like a coop. I'm pretty excited to get through the next week or so, and am definitely ready to get out for some hawking.I'm not a very patient person, and after flying passage birds that are out killing stuff in a couple weeks, this baby bird raising is trying on the patience!!! It's been a blast though, and I'm thinking there are going to be a lot of hacking experiences in my future. Anyways, that's what's been up in a nutshell. I continue to wish you all a speedy moult, and look forward to talking at you all again soon.
All the best, -D-