Sunday, September 18, 2005

and so it begins

That first catch of the season always reminds me how much I love falconry. It's late (for me), I've been lazy, and the wind has been at a seemingly constant 15mph with gusts to 25. Ten to twelve the birds can handle, but higher makes accuracy harder. Wind teaches hawks control, so it's good, but physics is hard to overcome.

Yesterday, the wind was about 18 or so. Both birds went up to poles but came down for various reasons. There were also two Englishmen walking their dogs in the field, and the mate chatted them up while I wooed Polya away from them. Squeaky flew for pleasure and landed in a space separated from me by a levee.

So Polya was right with me on the fist. The English guys were now heading back the way they came, passing about 40 yards behind me. That was far enough for Polya to ignore them. I quartered through knee-high brush, knowing that in wind like this the jackrabbits tuck themselves into the thicker stuff.

Then one rabbit blasted out only 2 yards away. The foot-flush is always a joy when your bird is ready to react, as Polya was. We were coming from upwind, so the rabbit had to run downwind, and by darting left I cut off the option of turning upwind. Polya had it within 4 yards, locked up nicely.

I like to give a good feed at the start of the season, so I killed the rabbit. Squeaky came trotting up hesitantly. Harris hawks don't blush, but he knew quite well he didn't deserve any credit. When he tried to put a foot on the rabbit I pushed him away, tossed him a quail wing to keep him busy.

Polya glanced at Squeaky eating with automatic interest and jealousy at the ready, then looked down at the bleeding jack at his feet, and ignored Squeaks from then on. His thoughts were completely transparent. I dismembered a leg for each. Polya transferred from the body to the leg with complete grace, for once. We were all completely graceful, for once: everything went with ease. Squeaky eventually got his jack leg and we all went home happy.

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