Sunday, September 30, 2007

trapping season tomorrow

Here in CA, trapping season starts 1 October. I haven't trapped in ages since I don't need a new bird, but it's fun to go along with people. For me, trapping flip flops between comedy and psychosis, interspersed with minutes of enormous tension. It's really early in the morning, the ground is slippery, your consciousness is entirely due to caffeine, you have a trap that proves better at catching you than any hawk, you have a bait animal to keep lively. You want a bird real bad, you make a lot of U-turns, and suddenly all your activity must grind to a halt while you're waiting and waiting and waiting for the hawk to decide to check out your trap. You repeat the flurry and the waiting multiple times until you finally have your bird, you hood and secure her for the drive home. And then the real excitement starts.

Far better to watch someone go through this and be the calm advisor.

I have a tattoo now, so to speak. I went hawking this afternoon, caught something, and while I was getting my hands around to dispatch it, P grabbed me in the thumb by accident. You can't wriggle your fingers out of a hawk's grip, because to them wriggle means struggle, which means grip tighter. You can only hold still and rotate everything so the hawk is forced to move his feet. Well, in the process of rotating, I moved my thumb, causing him to dig in nice and deep. Fortunately, this only lasted about 15 seconds.

When I recovered my thumb I saw a bit of feather hanging out of it. Apparently a feather of the quarry was between me and the talon, and a single vane got driven into my thumb. It's too delicate to remove with tweezers -- all the exposed part just breaks off -- so for the moment I am part bird.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

better picture of new feathers

It also helps that they've grown a bit. This is probably the sole situation where mantling over food is a good thing < VBG >. It took like 10 shots to get this with the camera phone; shutter speed isn't fast enough to freeze a moving wing.

Friday, September 21, 2007

a double and a rumble

Last week I'd had two days not finding any slips* at all. I'd been starting after 6:00 to avoid traffic in the industrial parks. Sunset was about 7:20. So I paid some attention and discovered I'd been going out too late. 4:00 - 4:30 is much better and I'm sure this time will creep up as the sun sets earlier and earlier. We caught two and there were just a few cars more than usual, but there's always the problem of being seen by someone who thinks hunting is illegal and/or immoral.

* slips are opportunities for your bird to chase something. It could be a single animal like a rabbit, or a group of let's say English sparrows.

We had a few good minutes of thunder and lightning just now. No rain, just flashes and rumbles. We hardly ever get anything that qualifies as real weather, not like it is back east.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

the whole hawk

Over a year ago, P bashed his wing against something, and broke two growing feathers. A little while later, after the blood had sealed up, he pulled off the broken ends, leaving the shafts in. In the winter he had a partial molt because I wasn't flying him, but no new feathers appeared. I was worried that they would never grow back. We restarted hunting, flew for a few months, and he began his proper molting cycle. During this second molt I found the shafts but still no new feathers.

I was delighted to see the stubs of two new primaries emerging today. The short one is hard to see but it's under the longer one.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

cause of peel

We figured out why there was so much moisture in the house. The dryer vent (the tube that runs to a hole in the wall) is missing. We're guessing that she must have run her dryer without it, again without opening the windows. Hell, it probably made the house smell better for an hour.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

how can people live like this?

The walls had been freshly painted and linoleum tiles newly laid when the tenant moved in. Five years later, she was evicted for nonpayment of several months' rent. After she took all her stuff out I had a look at the place. It looks like she never cleaned the place even once, never opened the windows, and burned a lot of candles in addition to smoking heavily.

There must have been a lot of condensation cos the walls had brown drips from nicotine. All over the ceiling were brown and black smoke blotches. I usually like the smell of cigarettes, but here it was atrocious, stale. She had started to clean the ceiling and gave up after ten square feet. Millions of flyspecks on every high edge, on the ceiling fixtures. One 12" linoleum tile was missing and where it had been, the subfloor looked gouged, eroded -- if it had been plywood once, the surface was gone, exposing the core. This means a chunk of subfloor is going to have to be replaced. Several other tiles were cracked. The bottom of the oven was filthy. I removed pounds of rotting things from the refrigerator. Grapes looked like tiny kidneys. In the bathroom you could not find a single spot bigger than your palm where the paint had not peeled due to moisture. There was mildew in most rooms and, in about five places, the drywall was bubbling under the paint. The roof is less than 7 years old, so it could not have been caused by rain.

At some point she painted a few walls, but didn't bother with such niceties as newspaper, tape, or a tarp on the floor, much less an edge brush. It's like she just rolled everywhere without regard for switchplates or windowframes. Several places on the hardwood floor were paint-stained. The hardwood is going to need a complete resurfacing from stains and gouges. The basement stinks of cat pee.

She took most of the lightbulbs, but left her curtains behind. She seemed to favor sheer curtains with complex designs and tassels, and those shiny twisted rope ties, sort of like a pasha's den. Grandiose. I met her once; she was wearing a Gaultier scent, a lot of it.

God give me strength. Cleaning this place would probably be best done with a fire hose. This level of destruction makes me think of dystopian industrial photos, all rusting pipes and broken railings.
And she managed to do this in five years.

Friday, September 07, 2007

it's all you need

Two pics of R's sharpie (aka sharpshin, sharp-shinned hawk, musket (=male sharpie)), freshly molted. A little jewel. Probably weighs 80 grams but all hawk.

K flying the saker. This is a first year bird and flew surprisingly slowly the first time I saw him. Now, 2-3 weeks later, he's quick, turns on a dime.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

unhealthy but pretty

A couple years ago I was driving past a 5-acre brush fire right next to the highway. The sun was reduced to a small amber disk and everything was brownish-yellow, like the walls in a houseful of heavy smokers.

Right now there's a 15,000 acre fire going on Plumas County, north of Lake Tahoe. Usually winds here push eastward, but they shifted, so since yesterday we've been covered in a thin layer of haze. This would have been horrible for the mate -- we probably would have had to get out of town, go to the ocean. Even I can feel not just the heat from the localized greenhouse effect, but a heaviness in my lungs.

But the haze gives everything a slightly peachy tint. You can look at the sun a pinch longer than you normally can, and it has a pinkish aura. Right now, 10:30 in the morning, the color of light is like late dawn.

While hawking yesterday, I took a few pictures with the camera phone, but they were pretty much crap. This is least lousy one. If you take that bright ring around the sun and apply it to the whole thing, that's what it looked like.

And now for something completely different: the check came in for my program. Got an extra thou or so as mad cash. Digital camcorder or a leather sofa? Decisions, decisions.

Saturday, September 01, 2007


Certain prey animals are pretty darned smart. One route we take covers about 15 miles and takes us through 3 industrial areas. I have another route that covers about 4 miles and 1 industrial area. In a matter of weeks I'm starting to be recognized and avoided. So I've been exploring some other areas to spread things out a bit.

We just tried a new place for the second time (the first time was last season) and though it's not large, it has worked out. This afternoon, in a parking lot, I tossed P. Even though he wasn't that hungry (620 gm; I usually fly him between 05 and and 15), excitement was the order of the day and he flew hard at it. It ducked and I think P grabbed just feathers, and went skidding along the asphalt a couple feet. I could see his feet dragging down against the surface, trying to stop, a cloud of dust flying up.

That has got to hurt! But he was up the next instant, unfortunately too late to have a second chance. He came back to me, I checked him all over, and he seemed just fine. After more driving he did catch something else, but I kept looking at him amazed at how tough those scaly feet and legs are.

as long as you're facing up

Ridiculously good run-n-jump game from Mindistortion here