Sunday, April 17, 2005

Pete II

Pete spent three nights inside, and four days being shooed around my backyard wearing little pigeon jesses. It took surprisingly little time for him to gain some reflexes and some strength, though he's still a bit klutzy on the feet, and he's still dumb as a rock about maintaining his personal space. Until yesterday, the places he would fly to were amazingly limited: the porch, two spots on the fence, and on top of an old cage. Now he flies to unusual places – the avocado tree, and the steps. Since I took his jesses off yesterday, he's been increasingly hard to catch, though it's still pretty easy. But he is starting to resemble a pigeon more than a butterfly now.

Last night was his first night out – he spent it on the porch, where I worried about him getting surprised by raccoons. Years ago, they invaded my coop two or three times, causing horrible messes of blood and dying pigeons. Shooting at them helped a little, but they would come back in another season or so. However, raccoons have never come up to the porch despite the appeals of the garbage can, so Pete seems to have some measure of safety. Hopefully it will stay that way until Pete decides he's a free pigeon.

Though they seem to have mostly forgotten about it, the hawks still grumble occasionally about their takeout not coming. Fortunately, they can be appeased with a quail leg quarter and a little pleasant company (though I suspect the quail leg is considered pleasant company enough.)

I've just finished fitting their new hawkmobile (a Honda CRV) with perch space, and drawers for all the hardware that comes with falconry: extra jesses, leashes, and swivels; transmitters and batteries, electrical tape, zip-ties; spare bunny lure. The back is now divided in two with a thin plywood sheet, so I can now carry human passengers comfortably (or as comfortably as one can be with a Harris hawk behind one.) In the Ranger, passengers got a jump seat that was cramped for anyone over 5'5" or over 180 pounds. Its old hawk setup (attractively stained and finished, with two perch bins and three drawers) was a mere two inches too wide and too tall for the CRV. Retrofitting would be a significant chunk of work and it would probably end up looking trashy, so I decided to start fresh. Maybe I can sell the old setup to someone with a truck or a wider SUV.

The purchase was, in my eye, just in time. With the Ranger, each trip to the gas station was accompanied by a low moaning, which was all I could muster, given the anemia caused by a hemorrhaging wallet. A meal with lots of protein assuaged the pain a little, but did nothing for the fundamental cause of the problem. The CRV, with its alleged 29 MPG, is a pretty significant cure.

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