lis890 asked: You have a beautiful harris! :D And what a great name! I have to say it's lovely to see a young woman into falconry proudly blogging about it and sharing photos. My male, Steve, started moulting a bit early this year and in the past I've never really made blogs or taken photos of his progress, but I must say you have inspired me to start for the next season. Do you want to fly any other BoP? and what are you studying in college?
I kept an online journal religiously over the course of the 2012-13 season with my young male but this year I’ve just not had the time! I love to take lots of photos and document my hawk’s progress, and blogging is a great way to present my own experiences. I love that your hawk’s name is Steve :D Mine’s named after Arnold Schwarzenegger (not by me! the little fellow is a hand-me-down) and my young male last season was called “Solo”. I’ve been lucky to have experience with a variety of birds but Harris’ hawks hold a special spot in my heart and always will. I will always fly one! However I would love to fly a sparrowhawk or goshawk in a few seasons and would love to fly a Common Buzzard or American Kestrel for the pleasure in it. I live by the rule that a bird that comes to me is with me for as long as I can do it justice and I wouldn’t take on more than one serious hunting bird so the gos and spar may be a few years coming, but I don’t mind. I’m only young I suppose! I’m studying Animal Management at college and am in my first of two years. It’s particularly stressful and the workload is fairly gigantic but I wouldn’t change it for the world. What do you fly? I love meeting other falconers :)
Arnie, this evening, out on the lawn. Having finished up our season a couple of weeks ago Grumbles has now been fed up and is about two and a half ounces over flying weight. He’s an absolute bugger when fat so I won’t be pushing him up much higher and certainly not before he starts dropping feathers.
I am currently writing up my reflections on the season and I’ll be sharing that report as and when it’s completed - college work isn’t half getting in the way!
Anonymous asked: How old were you when you first got into falconry??
I can’t remember a time I wasn’t :)
My Dad was a falconer 15 years or so before I was born and I think I picked up on it when I was 7 or 8. I found his old equipment in the shed, I found his old falconry library and set about filling my mind with every piece of information I could get my mucky little paws on. I devoured everything from fictional and autobiographical to non-fiction works, everything from “My Side of the Mountain” to “Falconry and Hawking” to “Veterinary Aspects of Captive Birds of Prey” all whilst I was still very young (that last one took some dedication to finally get though at 11). I’d also quiz my Dad endlessly and cajole him into retelling his own stories and experiences time and time again. I vividly remember being a small child and working at my falconry knot for hours then, having mastered it, trotting around the place with a grown man’s glove on my hand, a hood on my thumb and an empty set of furniture tied to the fist… Sad child. My obsession started there and has only ever grown.
An afternoon out with our boys as our season draws to a close. Both behaved beautifully!
Arnie, 10yo male Harris hawk
Spencer Reid, 10mo hob
Me and my young male Harris hawk, Solo in 2012. Well-loved and missed immensely…
Arnie’s had a mad five minutes sprinting around his bow playing with the paper and now hes alternating between attacking his anklets, preening and dozing.
Harris hawks are toddlers.
ilikehimhesaysokeydokey asked: I have a really hard time understanding falconry. How does a person get any enjoyment out of using one animal to kill another? At least with hunting, the excuse is there's some skill involved.
I respect your opinion and I’m really glad you asked. I actually feel the opposite way. With traditional hunting, you just walk around with a gun and shoot animals - they don’t have a chance. It seems unfair to me and I don’t think I could ever hunt that way. But with falconry, you’re not going out to kill animals for fun, you’re going out to observe nature and watch a beautiful animal do what it was born to do - fly and hunt. Hawks hunt and kill for food every day. In falconry, you become partners with the hawk. It is not your pet or your tool, it is your partner, and it chooses willingly to be your partner. All you do as a falconer is help to flush game for it. The bird does all the work instinctively. You don’t teach it to kill like you would dogs on a fox. You don’t train it to take unnatural prey. All you do is increase its chance of success by flushing game for it, protecting it, and assisting in it quickly dispatching the game that it catches. I get no thrill from the death of any animal, but there are few things more breathtaking to me than the predator-prey relationship. Watching the crafty maneuvers that rabbits, duck, etc use to escape capture, and watching the hawk tuck and dive and exert itself to provide itself the food it needs to sustain life. Its beautiful. Its as close to raw nature as you can get.
Another reason I prefer falconry to hunting with guns, as I briefly touched on at the beginning, is fairness and natural order. Animals can’t escape a gun. Its not a fair fight. But with falconry, the prey wins the majority of the time. Deer have not evolved to escape gunfire. Ducks have not evolved to escape shot. Wolves have not evolved to outrun gunned helicopters. Foxes have not evolved to evade or escape snares. All those methods of take aren’t natural or fair, in my opinion. But the jack rabbit is perfectly evolved to escape the hawk. Their speed always amazes me. And if they can’t simply outrun the hawk, they can perform crazy zigzags and vertical leaps to evade the hawk right as it tries to grab them. Ducks have evolved perfectly to escape falcons. They wait till just the right moment to leave the pond, but if they can’t get into a high flight and the falcon is on their tail, they can turn in mid-air and dive back into the water in the blink of an eye, causing a massive splash and rendering the falcon helpless to grab them. Have you ever seen the way ducks hug the water when a bird is in the air? They know exactly what they’re doing. And pigeons! Man can those birds fly! They can perform some of the craziest mid-air maneuvers to throw off a coopers hawk. 90% of the time or even more, the prey will win. I go out with Maya almost every day and after a year, we’ve only caught 3 rabbits. Just three. Imagine how many rabbits would be killed if I went out that often with a gun! The odds are completely in their favor.
The last point you brought up was skill level. Oh man, if I had a gun I could have so many rabbits and ducks right now. I’d just walk up to the ponds or the fields, point, and shoot. Sure, I’d have to have some accuracy. It takes practice and some skill, I know that. But the amount of skill and time and dedication it takes to train a bird of prey makes shooting practice look like a breeze! First off, you have to study all about bird behavior. You have to know the proper diet for each bird, how to make safe equipment, health problems, behavior, etc. A lot of knowledge is required! Then to train a bird to follow you in the field - to trust you - isn’t an easy task. It requires a lot of skill to get a well-mannered, well-trained, cooperative bird. One mistake could cause serious injury to you or harm to the bird. You also need to know how to build. Most falconry equipment is homemade, so you must learn craftsmanship - how to work with leather and wood and even metal welding. And finally, getting it all to come together perfectly in the field… its incredibly difficult and takes immense skill. Its also an every day commitment. We don’t get days off. We must go out there every day with our birds if we want them to be at their best. No breaks.
So, to summarize, falconry is not “using one animal to kill another.” It is becoming part of nature and forming a bond with a wild raptor. Its about watching a bird of prey at its prime. Its about the thrill of the flight. It requires immense skill to have success and the odds are almost always in the prey’s favor. Its truly amazing. So thank you for asking this question and giving me a chance to explain the sport to you. Hopefully, I cleared up some of the bad taste you have towards it. If you’re not convinced or you still have questions or rebuttals to the points I brought up, please don’t hesitate to ask. I’m an animal lover and I grew up completely against all forms of hunting, so I completely understand where you’re coming from on this topic.
Behold, a ferret at bathtime. Our darling Spencer. Working ferret. Not pampered a bit.
Difficult to believe this was almost a year ago. Miss this hawk and the bond we had every day and with every fiber of my being.