Sunday, October 01, 2006

hawk giveaway

I'd been feeling a little bummed out about falconry because I'm not doing it often or well. Silly as it is, I like my hawks to express their like of me, and P doesn't do that. His ingrained habits (defense posture around his perch every morning, never calmly coming in and out of cars but always in a half-bate, random grumpiness, refusal to hood) are disconcerting and makes me not want to deal with him. S showed his love by trust: being willing to try anything I might offer. Like an old lover, I compare all hawks to him.

The mate used to love to come out hawking; we learned together and she knows everything I know about it. But the health situation complicates and awkwardizes, and these days it's all she can do to come with me and sit in the car while I hawk. Which makes me not want to go fly.

If a lung transplant is going to happen, I need to be very available. We're talking time off from work kind of available.

So I've been wanting to give P away and take a season off. Over the winter or spring the mate will have the transplant, and the lack of bird dander in the house can only be good. In the spring, start with a new eyas that I can shape, that is really my bird, not a transfer.

But days like today make falconry all fresh and new. P was 628 grams, a titch higher than I like, but he was hungry. I saw him sharpen up 10 miles before we got to our field: as we came into the flat land he's so familiar with, he was looking hard all around. It was 2:30 in the afternoon, but foggy, so the crows were still walking the lawns, which got a lot of attention. This was much earlier than we usually go, so his sharpness was remarkable, all over his posture. When we got into the field, he flew in ahead of me for once, and stopped on a fence post to case the joint. When I was ahead of him, he came to the glove. Three minutes into the field, a bunny got up and P was burning after it. And had it: the first flush was the first catch.

I slipped him off onto a quail leg, and tried to stuff the bunny in my pocket, but dropped it. P lunged, but was still holding tight to the glove and leg, so a little confusion resulted. When we got straightened up and the snack swallowed, he flew over to the bush where the bunny had gone. But he only looked for a few seconds before coming to the glove. Just perfect, perfect behavior.

We trotted along, got a few more flushes. One was impossible, just a butt disappearing under a bush, a couple others good and clear, but he got dusted. His flying was sharp, energetic, determined, a pleasure to see. Then we spotted one sneaking. P watched it a moment and it began moving away, but it was hampered slightly by the grass. That's opportunity, in the hawk book. A quick snap of the wings and he went straight for the target, and got it.

I gave him the other quail chunk and one front leg off the bunny, and kept aside the other front leg as reserve. Let him feed up there in the field, on the ground: they like that. Snapped his flying jesses to the glove, and when he was finished, showed him the other leg on the glove. Hop up, and back to the car. Like clockwork. This is the kind of hawking I like: you get to see the energy, the effort, and the hawk's satisfaction when he's rewarded. This is the way (my old lover) S used to behave all the time: full confidence and expertise with the bunnies.

If I can get him to be this way all the time, I won't feel so bad giving him away.

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