The day after Festavis, all our grievances have been aired and it was time for fun. Scott Dillon invited Daniel and I out to his family's ranch for a couple of flights on Christmas Eve. I was a nice cold morning with temperatures in the low 20's coupled with a fairly stiff north breeze.
The Mighty Falconer
Scott's 6 year old hybrid was first up. We had a pond full of Gadwalls and a falcon ready to hunt. No one was overly serious this morning except for the birds. After Scott cast his bird off, coupled with some minor theatrics, we were treated to an excellent flight. Bullseye mounted over the pond then proceeded to climb to well over 1000' feet while holding the same position in the sky. Flap, flap, flap, flap, glide, flap, flap, flap, flap, glide and so on and so forth. Making his way higher and higher in the strong breeze blowing up top. Once Bullseye was just a dot we were treated to a nearly 90 degree vertical stoop. The chosen Gadwall didn't stand a chance as the tiercel cut it down in a flash, just 40 yards from the pond.
Bullseye with his Gadwall
Next up was Osprey. She was wound up from the second I took her out of the truck. Immediately upon striking the hood she was off and flying .
She started out well, making a run out to the west and climbing in the crosswind. I should have controlled myself a little better and stayed near the truck giving her more time to mindlessly eat up some sky before giving her the hint of where where we were heading.
The second we started the 70 yard trek to the pond she quickly made her way over the water and happened upon the single drake Ringneck nervously paddling around the tiny pond. This was almost too much to bear for her. She couldn't seem to decide whether to fly or drop down and attempt to grab it on the water.
Ringnecks have been her nemesis for much of this year. Osprey will commit fully to them when they are flying away from the water, only to have them turn back when she is coming full speed causing her to overfly them. After a few minutes of indecisiveness she finally started to fly upwind of the pond and was pumping her wings again so I decided to flush.
Instead of making a direct stoop this time, she effortlessly dropped in behind the fleeing duck and easily overtook the drake; plucking him right out of the air. Seems like this time she realized what was going to happen and altered her plan of attack. Unfortunately in all the excitement of getting three birds flown we forgot to get a picture of her on the duck. The Hybrids were two for two and now the pressure was on for the Dan and his wonder Prairie to finish the triple...
After some recent injury related set backs lately, Daniel's Prairie Falcon is back in business and has been cleaning up on ducks. But a triple doesn't happen all that often. We found a group of several Gadwalls and a couple of Ringnecks on the south side of the ranch. Daniel made his way through the crowd of cattle gawkers and lifted the Prairie in preparation for her flight. She took off in a downwind direction, quickly turning upwind and gaining altitude.
As she came over the pond at a decent pitch she showed us that a Prairie can hang with the Hybrids. Not a second after the ducks took to the air she was hot on their tails. The Prairie closed in on the ducks a little too quickly though, causing then to dump in the water up in the neck of the teardrop shaped pond.
She quickly remounted and with Scott and myself in a prime position to flush downwind, things where looking promising for the reflush. Only the ducks outsmarted us. They flushed on there own into the wind when the falcon was slightly downwind and climbing. She did make a solid attempt at them but the Ringnecks used the wind to their advantage and beat her to a pond a 1/4 mile away.
The Gadwalls were not quite as smart as the crafty Ringnecks, however, and they put in to a much smaller pond just 20 yards to the west of the initial pond. We patiently waited for the Prairie Falcon to make her way back to us and as she was just upwind of the little pond, Scott got the Gadwalls up into the air.
This time it was game over and the Prairie Falcon laid on a hit like only a Prairie Falcon can. The duck was dead on arrival and the triple was complete.
Daniel with his slightly defiant Falcon.
We finished off the morning by bagging the Merlin on a starling, which also went off without a hitch. So the Merlin stories should be on the near horizon as well. Great morning with a great couple of guys. Looks like we are gonna get blown out with high winds over Christmas and the following day or two. I'm definitely chomping at the bit to keep things going though. Osprey has caught two in her past two flights now and things in general seem to be coming together.