Monday, December 29, 2008

a decent meet

Got to see a goshawk chase a jack, and the pigeon derby ("pigeon derby" NOT "sky trials," meaning a pigeon might die) was fun. (As it was, Hanford has added 10 new healthy pigeons to its population, one for each entrant in the contest.)

I didn't catch as many as I expected, but it was a new place for me and I didn't know where to find slips. Country crows are much more car-shy than suburbia/industrial crows -- they get on the wing much earlier, too early for the HH.

I had a chance to see how old friends were doing and got to know some faces better. I'm total crap when it comes to faces/names and hawks flown when given in a 3-minute conversation, but when you kick back and hang out for a while I absorb much more. Old faces became friends.

Yes, she did come to me, not as completely I would have wished, but the possibility of a future with her looks a bit more real. And at the same time I'm less saddened by the idea of a future without her.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

off to the CGA meet

I'll be here tomorrow until Sunday. Thrills, spills, and in between, plenty of boredom. That's the way all falconry meets are. But it's a chance to see friends you only see at a meet, see other birds fly, and talk about hawks, falcons, and killing furry and feathery items. The weather outlooks seems promisingly warm for the central valley in winter -- highs of 45-50 for the next few days.

It'll probably be a great place to ditch the 45 pounds of Christmas candy currently in my possession... ;)

I'll probably bring the computer. It's always a handy item these days, especially for finding restaurants in a place you have no clue about.

And I hope she'll come to me...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

not sure if i believe it

blog readability test

seeing seven pounds

I went into this movie not knowing anything about the plot. About 60 minutes later, I still didn't know anything about the plot. I was somewhere between still curious, weary from trying to figure out why, and bored because I was just waiting for the answer. It only pulls it all together in the last half hour.

But when it pulled together it hit me harder than expected. Will Smith's character is bestowing gifts to seven people he decides are deserving of a better life. (This is to make up for seven people whose lives he took through cavalier use of a Blackberry while driving.) He deeds his remote beach house to a woman who's getting stalked and beaten up by her boyfriend, bone marrow to a cancer-stricken boy. His final donation, by way of his own suicide, is his heart, to a woman with heart disease, with whom he has cautiously fallen in love.

The donation bit was what made this movie hard for me to watch. The mate needed a pair of lungs and didn't get them in time. We didn't need a guilt-stricken suicidal engineer, it could have been anyone. If only, though, if only.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Unlike the last sparrow to get lost in the garage, this one had the smarts to escape.

Monday, December 15, 2008

feeling stupid

Some friends and I are going trapping after Christmas, so I put out a trap for some bait birds. I don't want to catch one now, so I left the door open. Blaine's traps have a rubber flap as a safety seal in addition to the door, but I didn't prop that open.

I set it out this morning and didn't bother checking the trap until well after dark. Frankly, I'm not even sure why I did -- having assumed a sparrow could get out easily enough by pushing the flap -- but some microgram of responsibility sent me outside.

Inside was one damp, miserable whitecrowned. Poor guy. I took him to the garage and started looking for a box so he'd be a bit warmer and definitely drier overnight. I'd let him loose in the morning.

Naturally, while I was distracted with poking around the shelves with a bird in my hand, he got loose. Flew around the garage confusedly. Sigh. Well, he will be a bit warmer and definitely drier. I'll leave the back door open tomorrow.

Friday, December 05, 2008

bye bye RT

Well, she still wasn't eating by this morning. I don't know if I've just forgotten how long it takes for a redtail to tame down, or if I'm just a lot less patient about it than I used to be. I just wasn't happy with the amount of progress we had made. She didn't eat until I left her alone with a chunk of meat. She was pretty hungry and eventually I was able to pick her up and she continued eating there, but after less than 3 oz she got wary and starey again.

All RTs are good birds, but some just aren't worth the time. I'm pretty sure all of my RTs ate on the glove within 4 days, and stopped doing the full flare-up within that time as well.

So... I hooded her, drove back to where I trapped her, and let her go.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

redtail slow (like snail slow, but faster)

She's coming along as well as can be expected. She's down to 1152 grams and hasn't eaten yet. This is normal; I'm guessing she will probably eat by Friday. Redtails are durable hawks and have very good metabolisms. The manning hasn't progressed as rapidly as it should. I used to take a few days off after trapping a new bird; this time I haven't, so she still flares up and stares at me, open-mouthed. I've probably been slowing down the process by giving her water. She would probably eat sooner if I didn't -- redtails get most of their water from prey, and rarely drink.

Still, she's been calming more quickly as time goes on. Like my favorite tiercel RT she also seems to like being scritched on the breast.

I made a new hood for her -- I had just one female hood, and it was so squashed, stretched, and floppy it was hard to put on. The new one is the same size, just a pinch taller, but half a pinch too tall. It will do, though. RTs are durable.

And I think she's probably a small-medium female. There's a lot of size variation and I won't really know more until she eats, but even if it was 1000 that would still be considerably bigger than your average tiercel.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

redtail whimsy

Tis the season to be trapping. Actually, that started in October, but we see most of our passage birds in early November. There seemed to be quite a few immie redtails and Swainson's hawks coming through. Just for the hell of it, I put together a new balchatri a few days ago, bought a hooded rat (a little more expensive but so much more cooperative than feeders) last night, and went trapping this morning.

It got some interest from a mature female RT but she wasn't interested enough, which was just as well. I moved on and set it for an unusal bird I couldn't quite identify until it flushed, and I realized I was looking at a very contrasty peregrine, perhaps a tundrius but more likely a Peale's. It moved to another power tower, where another peregrine, which had the look of an anatum, was munching on a pigeon.
(The light one is at the bottom of the photo.)

The third time I set the trap was for an obvious immature RT perched on a road sign. S/he was hungry and went for the trap as soon as I drove away. S/he overflew it, though, a little nervous, and perched on another road sign directly across from the trap. S/he was there just long enough for me to get turned around and park the car. Within 20 seconds s/he hit it.So now I have a redtail without any plan whatsoever. She weighed in at 1220 gm but he has a calmness I associate with tiercels, as well as some of the delicate look. Of course, I'll do all the usual things, hooding, walking him/her around, training to come, but there's limited joy in chasing jackrabbits. I think I may just train a little for the fun of it, then let him/her go.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

raising the stakes

I used to max out at 3, now it's 4. We've done it twice now, but it's largely a matter of finding enough quarry. I'm going to have to trim his take-off pieces a bit smaller...

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

We WIN!!!

I first saw Obama on Charlie Rose's show in October 06, a few months before he announced his candidacy, and was (and remain) impressed by his intelligence.

As always, a certain amount of healthy skepticism about politicians is simply wise. Campaign promises do get broken by both parties. But to have someone who at least can pronounce "nuclear" correctly is gonna be refreshing.

293 to 152, and it's not even 9pm PST here yet.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

i'm so psychic

I'm glad to see us finally getting drenched. Two days of rain, on and off, pretty solid at times.

This morning was clouded dark but strangely warm. I drove out to Livermore late-ish morning, went at it for an hour or so, and headed home with two in the bag. Just as I was driving back the rain began in earnest and hasn't stopped since.

It's hard to know if we can fly tomorrow but we'll be ready to go again, hopefully the weather cooperates as nicely as it did today. But if not, there's food to tide the hawk over until Wednesday.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

finally the rain

We have been dry, and I mean seriously dry, since May. We had one serious rain in late summer and that was it. Today was marked by sprinkles on and off, enough to feed the lawn for a day or two, but not likely to raise our reservoirs. In the East Bay we've been in conservation mode for months now. It being just me, a hawk, and a lawn that I don't mind killing, I'm well under the allotment.

We went hawking, caught one pretty quickly, and drove dozens of miles for a pair of slips, neither of which were caught. Mr P kept trying to catch the one on the other side of a cyclone fence. I don't understand why, since he usually knows his fences. By the end of the route the rain was just enough to keep quarry up on the poles. But at least we got one.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

what is a "real" American, anyway?

America includes all of us.

"Real" America does not mean just the Republican party. This country was founded as a place where people could find refuge from the oppressiveness of other countries. Freedom of opinion and expression is its most important tenet.

I lean towards Democratic. My friends include electricians, house painters, teachers, janitors -- people who the McCain campaign would consider the salt of the earth -- and we are all voting for Obama. We were all born and raised here. We work our asses off to keep paying the mortgage and send our kids to school. We're all Joe the Plumber, except we actually have our own licenses, and we can't afford $250K to buy a business.

But because we're not Republicans we must be fake Americans.

I want to see T-shirts that read "Joe the Plumbers for Obama."

Edit: and here it is!!!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

poetry corner commercial break

The trail winds up, sometimes steep
The trail winds me, and I stop, lungs a slow bellows
Amid the cool cushions of redwood scent or snappy bay
Lately on these harder trails I have come to believe
That right here, under my sternum, I have a third lung.
It is exactly where my heart would be, if I still had one.
As I hike up, pushing my pulse, sometimes I suck the air
In and in and in and in, and in a little more:
And I feel the third lung open up a slight creak.
I think if I push hard and far enough, that lung will one day fully fill
Take the heart’s place so I won’t have to feel emptied of love

Thursday, October 09, 2008

the bulldog's out

I cannot believe this Palin. She's coming within a hairbreadth of saying, "The niggah wants our white wimmen." I mean, come on! Obama a terrorist plotting the overthrow of America? Does anyone believe that crap? A more salient question is why she hasn't been thrown in jail for hate speech.

She's being Rove in drag, but unlike him, she's a vice presidential candidate. More seemly behavior should be in order. But then again, the Republican party has been the party of serious mud for the last 12 years.

Keep up the good work, lady. The undecideds and the moderates don't like white supremacists. If anything's going to make Obama win, it's Palin.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


There are hazards to car hawking, as I've noted here and there. So far these have all been vehicular.

First stop on the Nearby Route is the local golf course. I was lucky today and saw a likely pair under a cypress. Everything went fine, beautifully even (in-flight catch) until P actually got hold of his quarry.

Cue women golfers, stage left.

They stared a moment at the struggle, then the boldest of them came forward, yelling at my bird. I was striding rapidly already, then stepped up my pace and -- the golf club coming up! -- started yelling at her. She was too focused to see or hear me. Fortunately, she only prodded my bird and by then I was there. I told her I was hunting and she said she didn't know, I said it was okay, and everything was hunkydory.

Whew. I think I got away lucky. People have different reactions to hawks. Someone else might have taken my bird's head off with a 9 iron.

Just one more thing to watch out for.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

the month flies by

with crows, crows, and more crows, and one jackrabbit. I'd gotten a late start and drove the entire 19 miles of The Route without seeing even a possible slip. The hawk was craning his neck so hard, you'd think he could yank crows down from the trees by willpower alone.

As it was getting dark we came to the end of the Route to see a pair of ravens on a light pole, calling with their soft alto warble, a sound sad yet hopeful. I turned north again and took a final pass through some of the streets I'd skipped in my rush.

Where I spotted a lone jackrabbit on a strip of lawn in front of an office, just starting its evening feeding. A sitter always attracts P, and he had caught one from the car earlier this summer. I whipped into the parking lot, P hopped to my outstretched fist, not even knowing what I'd seen but eager for a slip.

He raked it -- it dodged just in time -- and it ran, but shockingly slowly. P bounced up to snag it in the karate hold, and it wriggled into some dirt near the office door. I grabbed both feet then and shoved them down so P could transfer his locked foot.

At that point I saw it was a fairly gravid female, and felt tremendously guilty. I'd only brought tidbits and one small takeoff piece, far too small a reward for catching something of this magnitude. I hate it when this happens, having to make a choice like this.

The rabbit lost. One of these days I'll start breeding jackrabbits to make up for it.

Monday, September 01, 2008

partial albino crow

It was a smallish one.

and the last day I hunted the sharpy, he caught a deer mushroom:

Friday, August 29, 2008

tomorrow is

her birthday. The mate, the one I lost to cystic fibrosis last May.

Tomorrow: one year 4 months without her. It seems like much longer; so many things have happened. A new house, the first and possibly last I will own, a new girlfriend come and gone already, people entering and exiting my life: other CF patients, nursing staff, doctors (temporary friends, I suppose), new neighbors. Different places to hike and hawk, old furniture and clothes replaced. Twenty pounds I hope to never see again. New bird, come and gone too. A psychotherapist -- never felt I needed one before, but my friends told me I was a wreck after the breakup with the girlfriend, and I had to agree.

Yesterday, I happened across Querencia in the used bookstore (looking for Borges, found Bodio) and read it today. It begins at the end, with a restless loneliness and oppressive weather. I knew very little about Betsy, Bodio's partner, but within 25 pages I knew the book was about her. I skipped to the end, spotted the word 'pine,' and knew tragedy lay ahead.

This has been a year of suffocation, it seems. The mate, the sharpy, and now reading about Betsy. I'm not normally superstitious, but every one of her cigarettes Bodio mentioned got laid on the pile of warnings that I'm destined for the same fate if I don't stop bullshitting around with "trying" to quit and not actually quitting.

Maybe tomorrow is the day.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

another 3 crow day

It's always fun to go someplace where the crows don't know your car and do not expect Harris hawks to come barrelling at them. Their reaction speed was incredibly slow compared to the "trained" crows: they would see the hawk, freeze, maybe attempt to hunker down, look for an exit direction, and squawk their last. Four flushes, three catches, and the one he missed was at starlings.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

this was good.

a fat piece of ginger, about 2.5" x 1.25", sliced coarsely
2 stalks lemon grass, chopped into 1/2" pieces
4-5 cloves garlic
leaves from 5 stalks basil
about 1.5 oz light soy sauce
about 1/4 cup olive oil
4-5 T Thai curry paste (pick your favorite)
1 T salt

Whirl it all up in the food processor (as fine as possible unless you don't mind chewing lemongrass fibers) and marinate your chicken in a bag overnight. Barbecue.

If you can't find curry paste, that's okay. There's a lot of ways this can be varied with good results -- the essentials are the ginger, lemon grass, garlic, soy sauce and oil. Balsamic vinegar adds a different zip and lime juice would probably be good too.

Monday, August 18, 2008

rules for wait staff

I don't usually encounter bad service in good restaurants, but I got some today. I waited tables for about a year. I'm generally forgiving of mistakes and allow for when the restaurant is busy. I normally give the standard 15% or a little more. However, when too many mistakes happen or I get disrespect as a paying customer, that tip starts trickling away at an exponential rate.

So listen up:

Even if I've ordered another drink, if I'm drinking the water, tend to my water glass.

Do not give me tons of singles in change. If I need them, I will tell you. If I tell you specifically I want a larger bill for change, give it to me without question. (I was actually asked, "You don't want to leave a tip?" -- a question that made me want to nix the tip entirely.)

Do not ask me if I want change when the change amounts to a significant percent of the bill. You took my order and handed me the bill; of course you know the total. As much as you'd like a 30% tip, it simply will not happen unless you've given outstanding service, great entertainment, and have offered me your daughter's virginity.

Sunday, August 17, 2008


Over the weekend I did all sorts of crap I'd been neglecting since my life was hijacked by flying a small accipiter. Along with cleaning his box for the last time and putting away the sparrow traps, I mowed the lawn, mopped floors, vaccuumed, all that nonsense. Cleaning is just something you do after someone dies. Part of it is getting yourself to a pre-hijack state, part of it is cleaning your memories along with the mess.

I should probably leave the sparrow traps out anyway, just as supplemental food for the Harris. Dessert, more or less; something different and always fresh.

I gave Mr P some vertical jumps yesterday (he didn't pant until 80, which told me he was still in surprisingly good shape after 2+ months of sitting and molting). Today we caught 2 crows. He was a little stubborn coming out of trees (glove hawking him occasionally would probably fix this), but otherwise he made it look insanely easy. As usual. I wouldn't say car hawking has lost its thrill, but sometimes you want to see the hawk having to work for the quarry.

Friday, August 15, 2008


under a bay laurel a few trees over from the nest tree. The grave is neither large nor deep, but he lies facing the east. It's quite possible some carrion eater will dig him up, but that doesn't bother me much: the body is only the vessel, it is the body that fails. The self, spirit or soul if you will, is unending.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

it was asper

This morning he was visibly worse, eyes sunken, gaping widely for breath, wanting to sleep at every opportunity. He was completely unfussy about anything. Even though I'd brought his weight up, his breast felt thinner. The vet found a small aspergilloma ball at the bottom of the trachea, too far down to remove with forceps, which would have helped his breathing for the time being. But asper being a fungus, it would just be a matter of time before it started growing again.

In order to live, he'd need to get tracheal injections twice a day for two weeks. He would have to stay at the hospital for the duration, which would basically ruin his training, both as an imprint and as a hunter. I'd go through a lot of expense only to have to release him. Not much of an option.

I chose euthanasia. The five sparrows and one towhee in my traps are now free.

Tomorrow I'll take him back to the nest site and bury him there.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

not dead

Since he's not dead, maybe it's not asper but just a cold. I kept his box slightly warm last night and, though he's still wheezing this morning, things might be a tiny bit better.

Eyes are still clear and alert, urates look good and copious, fecal also good but quite small. Overnight weight loss predictably more than usual.

More later.

8:30 pm.
Okay, I think he may have either aspirated something or have something stuck in his esophagus. He's been shaking his head a lot, and making motions similar to (but not exactly like) casting. He still looks energetic and alert. He took a bath, which is always a good thing. Even though he's up 5 grams, his behavior on the glove is calmer, which to me indicates he's under some stress.

I gave him a small chip of Spartrix as a prophylactic, and will be feeding him boneless meat until we see the vet tomorrow morning. Hopefully an Xray will show exactly what's going on, and if it's a bone, hopefully they can take it out.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

now I'm worried

He started wheezing today. I don't want to think he has asper but he's an accipiter -- he easily might.

On the weekend I'd joked to K1 that the bird had suddenly turned into the Godfather (Godfeather?): his scream was a tiny rasp about a quarter of the normal volume. After I took off his neck mount he sounded normal again, and I assumed that was the problem. And that may have been the problem -- I don't know what the early stages of asper look like.

Yesterday I noticed he was breathing a little harder than usual. There was also some spiky feathers under his mandible like they were wet. His behavior was normal as was his scream.

Today he was definitely breathing hard after chasing towhees. To my amusement he caught and killed a deer mushroom, and was very possessive about it. After I called him back we drove around a little more and I started noticing a different squeak -- the wheeze. I thought it was something else, but after we took another chase I definitely heard it was coming from him. I fed him his daily portion on the lure, took him home, weighed him, and fed him up on some fresh sparrow.

He's in his box for the night. I can hear his breathing even though he's at rest. I don't know if I'll find a dead bird in the morning. If not, I'll take him to a vet I know in Oakley.

It's possible he's got a bone stuck in his throat... could be something easy like that ... he flew pretty vigorously, ate with energy, his eyes look good, mutes too. We'll just have to wait it out and see. We'll take it easy for a day or three and either he'll make it or he won't.

Monday, August 11, 2008

towhee two

Slowly but surely Curly seems to be getting more consistent. At this point, if I lost him, I'm sure he'd be fine taking care of himself. We hunted this one off the glove, and he was at 83.5 gm. The towee simply wouldn't leave the area -- wise, because the shrubbery had nothing but airspace around it. We chased that guy through three sets of bushes, getting four short but intense flights. Finally, getting to the end of the line, the towee tried to dive over and back in, but the sharpy nailed it.

I think this brings us to catch #10, not counting an unknown possible kill he may have done the time I lost him overnight. His first catch was 23 days ago. Two towhees, a robin, a killdeer, and the rest English sparrows. I'm not usually a counter -- I have no clue how many crows, and have forgotten how many CTs and jacks I've taken over the years -- but the sharpy is all my own creation, and thus a little bit special.

K1 calls this month the trial by fire, and so far I've gotten hot but not burnt. I'm trying to find other birds in hawkable situations. There are marshy areas where one can find blackbirds, but they've been directed into lengthy canals. As I'm sure I've said many times before, SF Bay mud is like quicksand, only a little slower -- you cross only in places that are clearly passable, or risk getting sucked down to your waist. But these crossings might be a mile apart or more, so if the sharpy catches a sparrow on the opposite bank, I'm going to lose him for sure, hopefully temporarily. The starlings seem scattered, though I think this time of year they should be flocking for ripening fruit. Maybe it's a little later on.

But I have no complaints if he's getting towhees and robins.

Illegalities aside, that is. Only the English sparrow/house sparrow is legal. This is the mire the microhawker faces constantly: small raptors don't consult the Audubon Guide to know what they're allowed to go after. If I heedlessly kept going after sparrows, permanent loss is just a matter of time because of his carrying. I need to go after a slightly larger bird. Doves, though they're ethereally beautiful and damn tasty, are just too big for him. Starlings are legal if depredating crops, but here we only grow industrial parks and shopping malls. So I'm stuck having to take songbirds.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

naming conventions

I've finally decided to name this bird. Sometimes he drives me crazy, and hawking between 8 and 11 times a week is wearing out me, my tires, and my wallet, but I think I like him enough to bother. It doesn't rule out the possibility of release or giving him to someone else. Nor does it rule out the use of other names, like "Dummy," "Slice Factory," and "My Finger is Not a Sparrow, So Please Stop Pumping Your Talons Into It."

While he was still a young thing I occasionally called him Gleep in honor of Bodio's description of the eyas screaming while eating ("Scream! Scream! Scream! Gleep! Scream! Scream! Gleep! Scream!"), which he did do on mercifully rare occasions. But that's just humor to dispel the extremes of ambivalence. You can't help but love watching him grow and learn his job, but at the meta level the process is nerve racking.

He has one odd feather on his back that curls a bit more than usual, so for the moment it's Curly. Which makes me either Moe or Larry.

It's boiling hot out here today, and the little guy was nearly at weight at 3pm. I gave him 1.5 gm, boneless, well seasoned with water, and hope he'll be ready again at 6:30 or so.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

84 and snap

It's looking like 84 is a good one for now. He's been a titch quieter and, though I still make mistakes with slips, he seems more forgiving. K1 says once we come to an understanding (lol) I'll be able to bring his weight up a little, but for now we need to create the pattern.

We did a mix of carhawking and foot today. I'm starting to see how the towhee operates: it heads for the nearest shrubbery, and doesn't usually sneak out the other side, so I can kick it out. Industrial parks have these long lines of boxwoods or whatever up against the side of the buildings, and you can walk down the line kicking until the quarry pops out the end. However, the next set of shrubbery is usually pretty close, and the sharpy wasn't able to catch up.

In the midst of hauling through some stuff I entered a cloud of skunk odor and backed out fast. There was no skunk, but one had recently sprayed the bushes I was walking through, so my pants ended up smelling like burning rubber, and not the fun kind of burning rubber...good thing hawks don't have a sense of smell.

We kept cruising (and stinking) and got a few more slips. I hold his jesses a bit more loosely now; I'm in the learning stage in terms of seeing quarry, and I've muffed slips because of it. I don't want him to feel discouraged, so I hold him tight only when we're between likely areas.

I've loosed him at robins before, and they're pretty nasty little guys. They're aggressive, and yesterday they stooped him hard in tag-team fashion even when he'd landed on the roof with his human just a foot or two away.

Today, he got revenge, and beautifully.

The robin was freezing on the grass about 40 feet away. He studied the situation a moment, and flew out rising to about 25 feet -- then did a vertical stoop worthy of any peregrine. Totally faked out the robin -- it didn't know what hit him. They fought, I plunged in there, broke its neck, pinned it down, and immediately stopped all motion.

The musket started plucking within 10 seconds, and I knew he must be getting to a good weight. As with Tuesday's towhee he was much more forgiving of my right hand and showed no glove aggression. We had a brief, displeased spin when I did something (forget what, but I know it was my fault), but he recovered quickly and resumed eating.

He got a very good gorge and right now he's looking highly content, eyes half closed and occasionally pushing stuff into his pannel.

And I'm hoping all that skunk spray will wash out. I think my runners are destined for the trash, though.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

the fun just might be starting

My microhawker friends have kept telling me the fun is just around the corner. They've been telling me this for weeks. So far it's been a lot of gasoline, a lot of bags, a hawk that alternates between fussy and staring, and pretty annoying amount of carrying. In exchange, I've seen gorgeous flights and gotten at least some game out of it, but the work/fun balance was definitely on the work side. And I'm completely sick of sparrows.

But today was (hopefully) the hint of good things to come.

Somehow this bird has managed to avoid ever being around 85.5. 86 yes, 84 yes, never 85.5. The 10-hour weight loss was 4 grams yesterday, today 9, and he was at 84.8 when I got home. Close enough. I tidbitted him more than usual, just in case.

He understands the carhawking thing much better now, which is great. And I'm learning to distinguish between all these little birds with a glance.This was the result of a good flight after a towhee. He chased it into a bush, popped out and headed it off at the pass as it was trying to get out the other side. And it was too big to carry, muahahahaha. When I got there I could see the carrying impulse battling with the control/kill impulse, until I eliminated all confusion by pinning it down long enough for him to get his balance, and picking up everyone. He was hungry enough to not go into hysterics over that untrustworthy right hand as it stripped the skin off the towhee's head and squished out some yummy, yummy brains.

He settled fairly quickly after that, so we're really close to the right weight. If we can do this a bunch more times, then he should get his head on straight and work with me. The towhee should grow his ego too. So I'm doing the happy dance now.

Monday, August 04, 2008

almost a kill a day

The weekend has been (relatively) good. He's still carrying, but he's been catching and he caught one a day from Friday to Sunday -- that puts him up to 7 now. I'm nixing the sparrows for now -- I need to go after things that are too big for him to carry, and hopefully he'll need me to help him handle it. He snatched some feathers off a robin today, at 85.9 gm. It was pretty sweet: there were about 5 robins; 2 hunkered down, allowing him a second chance.

I was hoping to have him at 85.5 or 85-nought, but his weight loss patterns seem unstable. Usually when a hawk is fat, he'll lose more grams per hour than when he's lean, so it's a bit of a moving target, but it should be calculable. Weather is a minor factor because I keep him indoors at a steady temperature. So it seems to me his weight loss should be more predictable. Some days he'll lose 3 grams in the course of 10 hours, some days 8 gm. When half a gram matters, it seems hard to feed him the right amout in the morning so he'll be at a certain weight 10 hours later.

As for the very steady and stable Mr P, I flew him last weekend after 3 weeks of sitting around and eating. No muscle right now, but I guess I took the edge off his boredom. We had 3 slips and 3 catches, the last one in flight. The difficulties with the sharpy make me appreciate Mr P a lot.

Friday, August 01, 2008

up to #4 now

He caught his 4th sparrow this morning, weighing 86 g exactly, but he also has a carrying problem. He flew away from me and I had a hard time finding him the first round, and in that time he ate about half the sparrow. So he'd taken the edge off his appetite and wanted to hide the rest from me.

He kept flying away a short distance, but the shrubs were tall enough to make me haul out the receiver each time. We did this about 15 times while I did various things to try to get close enough to snap him to the glove. None of it worked. Sadly, I don't have the patience to sit back and simply wait, motionless, for the hour or three it would take for him to settle down and start eating. I can wait 10 or 15 minutes at best. Then I would do something that caused him to take umbrage and fly off. Then I'd have to find him again. Repeat.

After talking with my sharpy expert friend K1, I simply went home. That's just a few miles away. Instead of getting frustrated under a noonday sun, I spent the next five hours leisurely trying out a Filipino lunch buffet (not bad), reading the paper, cleaning the sharpy's giant hood, hanging out with Mr P, transplanting a tomato, answering some emails and playing a couple Flash games.

At 5 pm I took my lure and telemetry and went out there. Found him within minutes less than a hundred yards from where I left him. He came straight to the lure like nothing exceptional had happened. Perhaps foolishly, I got the sense he missed me. Even though I'm his sibling out to steal his food (which is why he carries to begin with), I am also the constant in his life.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


This house came with a pile of fruit trees: apricot, apple, cherry, peach, lemon, orange. These past few months I was just too busy fixing and furnishing to pay much attention to them apart from making sure the sprinklers were set. (I think I hate lawns. They drink more than I want to give them, so I can't say they're lushes.)

The apricot grew a few that were good, but most of them dropped before they got ripe. Around here, lemons are no big deal: they grow, you make lemonade. The apple has a fungus. The cherry and the orange are still babies and poorly pruned, so nothing there. So to my surprise, I noticed that despite my neglect those little walnut-sized green things I noted when I moved in had become huge, lush peaches, coming into their colors.

There are about a dozen, and by their colors it looks like I can have a peach every 2-3 days for a couple weeks. I've had two already. The honeyish flavor and juiciness of a tree-ripened, never-sprayed peach is amazing. It spoils me. I'm not sure I would buy a peach from a grocery store again.

A note to Stephen Bodio: thanks for your comment. I've long admired your writing; A Rage for Falcons is in my top 5 favorites.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

first kill - yay

He's done some incredible flying, talking WWII dogfight style with the loops and shit. The sparrow flight wasn't nearly as exciting but it did end in a kill, which is the main goal. There's a balance to be found between stylish flight (oooh loverly) and getting game (the gut-level yeah). Falconers should appreciate both.

And yeah, I'm not following McDermott on the eating on the ground thing. He bent a feather taking this one and I want to minimize the amount of sawing and stubbing that beautiful tail gets. If he gets glove possessive, that's just life.

Before this was comedy. A friend had told me carhawking isn't a bad way to get that first kill under your belt. So I was doing a bit of that this morning and afternoon. The flight before this one, he was on the glove and I started cruising slowly past a field full of blackbirds. He got so excited he kept trying to go out the windshield, wouldn't get back on the glove, so I just grabbed him bodily and tossed him out the driver's side window (Mavro would have approved.) That resulted in some intense aerobatics until he tuckered out. He landed on a clod of dirt and, in typical hawk wishful thinking, started footing it like crazy trying to kill it. "Yes, you've killed it," I said, and offered my glove with a tidbit.

I had nearly forgotten about a spot about a mile down the road, and decided to check it out. And that's where we got the sparrow.

Friday, July 18, 2008

blast blast blast

Back when I had a gos, having her come to the fist was like catching a meteor. The sharpy is no different.

What amazes me is that he automatically comes right back to the glove for no tidbit (we call it free return). I guess this is an eyas imprint thing. He sits like a rock on the fist, then when he sees quarry, goes from rock to rocket. Comes back like a dream. Passage birds and chamber raised is constant bribery.

He's still a screaming pain in the ear, but he's pretty neat. His flights are simply amazing. After just a day or two of free flight, that there's just a pinch less screaming. It'll continue for another month, certainly, but he should know pretty soon that the screaming warns the quarry.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

first real free flight - yay

Tuesday night I lost him in my neighborhood. I thought I had a sensible setup: sparrow on a 15 foot string in my pocket, I let the hawk free-fly, toss out the sparrow, and he's on the easy kill. I didn't think I'd need the transmitter for a shoe-in like that.

It just didn't work that way.

The sparrow, once out of my pocket, flew across the street. I have no idea how she got untied, but she was loose and my musket blasting off after her. He followed her down a space between two houses, she went under the gate, a dog on the other side went crazy, he did a 180 and blasted (do muskets do anything besides blast?) up and over the front of the house, and skimmed back into another yard.

The people there were super cool and let me into their backyard. There were 5 backyards in easy view, but no sign or sound from the musket. For hours. I swung the lure and whistled three hours, till dark, and went home to sleep badly. At 5 am I was up to do it again (though no whistling until 6 something a.m.)

At 6:15 it was pretty bright out and I was across the street from the houses, on the lawn in front of the school where I'd had my Waterloo. Swinging the lure, I heard some crows calling, looked up and saw a bird with jesses fly into the redwood right over me. He was spooky as all hell. After considerable flirting with the lure, I was finally able to grab him and take him home.

That was Wednesday morning.

This morning he was back down to approximately the same weight (94.9) and I knew where I wanted to fly him. I was nervous as hell -- it's late morning, what if he finds a thermal, what if he freaks out at the semi-trucks, what if, what if. I almost did a U-turn to go home. Naturally, the transmitter went on this time.

It was beautiful. He went after a dove, was easily outflown and landed. I swung the lure, instant response. Except instead of coming to the lure, he hit me in the face. No big deal, and I picked him up and kept walking. He held steady on the glove, didn't flirt around at all like he'd done in our neighborhood walks, flying off just for the hecka. He was very focused, relatively speaking; he's certainly still too high, but I'm learning to sense him. He chased some blackbirds and landed on a fence. I put up the glove this time, and again, instant response and landed on the glove like he's supposed to. We walked around some more then approached the bag, which didn't do as directed, but just lay there like meat. The musket landed on it and I let him feed.

Surprisingly, he wanted to be on my glove to eat it. We slowly rose and walked slowly back to the car. Semi trucks drove by and the musket stopped briefly, then continued to feed. The more trucks went by, the less time he bothered to be jumpy about them. He was quiet. We got to the car, where I had stupidly left the water bottle. He got itchy about my right hand occasionally, but seemed very cooperative when I squirted his food (sharpies are prone to dehydration). I had changed from a pink squirt bottle to a clear plastic one, and I think that helped because it looks less like a human finger (appearing to be the invading right hand).

I let him eat pretty much what he wanted. At some point he seemed to lose interest in it and wanted to look around. He seemed quite calm, so I picked off a leg and swapped it for the bottom half. He finished it, picked at his toes, sneezed, picked his toes again, feaked, picked, sneezed, feaked again, then roused. Hawks, especially accipiters, have to do this end-of-meal routine, and they're not happy if you don't let them have the chance to go through it. It's like taking a crap without wiping.

He looked calm and happy on the drive home. His owner looks calm and happy, too.

somewhat unwelcome visitor

The sparrows started going crazy this morning and I went outside to have a look. Perched on one of the phone poles about half a block away, a mature female Coopers barely glanced at me but she seemed too uninterested and distant to make the sparrows yammer. Then I took a look at the traps and saw the real cause of panic.

Mom was taking the kid to McD's Playplace. Baby buzzed the traps several times.

She was too young to be very afraid, and let me get within 15 feet of her.

She looked enormous and terribly slow in comparison to the sharpy. I took the traps inside and eventually she left. Part of me would have loved to give her a snack, but that will only make her come back. I want a safe place to trap my sparrows and leave the sharpy out for sun.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

difficult again

He's getting hungrier but also hasn't gotten less nervous. He just can't settle down and eat, instead clutching and screaming. Argh.

Good news is that the ants are mostly defeated for now. The stakes actually seem to have worked. I still see some on a trail next to the door, but they're relatively few. I get a few in the house, but I've gotten much more careful about a) immediately putting the game shears in a glass of water and b) making sure the glove and perch are completely free of tidbits. Also, I'm mopping the floor every couple days to get rid of their scent trail.

Friday, July 11, 2008


I think I'm getting to the end of the bad part. He responded reasonably well around 101 gm today. We did about 10 flights to the glove, a couple to the lure, and had 2 decent bags today. That weight will step down as he gets used to being lower, until he becomes a good hunter. I may be able to take him off the creance in a day or three.

I just did a quick cope job on the Harris's meat hooks, and he did have meat hooks. All this quail makes not just rapid feather growth but talon growth as well. An awkward business, coping. He won't let me do it when he's standing on the perch, so I do it one-handed with him on the glove, using a carpet knife. I pare the sides thinner, and his moving around on the perch will take care of the length. I haven't done it in a while and it's unsafe to do too much at once: there's blood inside them. Once the talons are shorter, it recedes, and in a week or two I will do it again and get them back to a decent length.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

hawkicide hour

He's been there the last few days. Spooked by all sorts of things he wasn't before. Acts like he wants to kill something, but once it's in his fist he gets all nervous and doesn't want to eat. Doesn't want to come to the glove. Hates the right hand. Screams at me because I haven't been able to strongly reinforce that the prey is out there, not with me.

It's actually gotten a little bit better today. Tomorrow he should be right around 99 and should be hungry enough to kill and eat without fuss. My friend R says at theis time, their heads just aren't on straight, but they'll get there and take it easy.

When I was an apprentice and worried that my passage RT would starve itself rather than take food from me, my friend R would say, "Don't worry, she'll come around." And he was right. And R is right too.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

in related news

I have a mild ant problem. I don't mind ants poking around the periphery -- if an insect has to invade your house, ants aren't a bad choice. But when they get deeper into my house and make it impossible to leave hawk food on the counter for more than an hour, I get annoyed. The sharpy's perch was by the front window, and it would get covered in ants going for a few microparticles of meat (about 3 ants worth, say). Needless to say, the sharpy didn't really like standing there. I'm sure some bit him, and he bit a few himself.

Okay, back to my original question. Ant stakes come in unsealed packages. And the stakes themselves are not sealed up either. The thing I don't understand is, if the bait is as attractive to ants as the package claims, why aren't ants trying to get into the packages on the store shelf? Huh?

Can you tell I haven't had good success with ant stakes?

Friday, July 04, 2008

better, much better

After those initial awkward days (I need to be absolutely sure he can find the food I leave for him) things have gotten a lot better. He's still occasionally bitey and defensive, but it's more like one out of four to five times now. Carrying is similar.

He's getting close to the end of his tail growth -- one more band to go. At some point soon he will get very difficult, while he's hard penning. This is when the blood is getting absorbed out of the growing feather and back into the body. It's like a transfusion when you don't need one: you have tons more energy, you don't feel hunger. In the hawk there is no interest in doing what the falconer wants.

Fortunately, this only goes on a few days. Hawkicide will be wanted, but hopefully I'll avoid that.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

and we have the third one

He bounced off my face this afternoon. But I think it was mostly accidental as well as a good bit of temper. He'd been alone in my office all day and, although I left half a sparrow for him on the rug, apparently he didn't find it. Consequently he was very low when I came home and very agitated. We went outside and he chased a sparrow standing on the fence, but between creance and low flight skill, he didn't get it. He turned around and came back and smacked me. I'm not sure what his motivation was.

He got the half sparrow to cool him down. I waited a couple hours, set up a live bag, and took him for a neighborhood walk which ended in the bag. That one went beautifully.

Friday, June 27, 2008

backward, forward, something

Let me start with the fact that I have no experience with imprints. Every falconer knows the worst habits of them: screaming, carrying prey, bouncing off (in Bodio's priceless phrasing) the highest annoying object, which happens to be your face.

I've always said that asking 3 falconers a question is like asking 6 rabbis. You'll get twenty different answers. And when you don't know what you're doing, choosing the right advice is impossible, to put it mildly.

So my 3 falconer friends have given me quite a lot of advice, some of which was to not listen to one of the others.

I was in a good deal of frustration because out of the three worst habits the sharpie was starting to develop two of them: screaming and carrying. Both resulted from a botched live bag yesterday. It would have been fine if I'd killed it as soon as he caught it, but instead the sparrow fought back and basically kicked my sharpy's ass. He ended up pancaked at the end of his string with the screaming sparrow in his foot. This morning he seemed very shy of even going for a dead sparrow, and almost tried to carry it.

Apparently this needs to be done at 111 grams, not 113. The next two tries today were complete magic. Everything went perfectly. He was still screaming a bit at the last one, but I just put him on the fist and kicked back on the lawn chair until he a) settled down and b) shut up. Then we got up and walked over to the sparrow and, though he took a few moments, jumped down onto it. He ate like the thing was nailed to the floor. When he was just about done I slipped a sparrow leg underneath him and he stepped onto the fist like perfection.

The cause of screaming is that the bird looks to you as the provider: you are mommy. The cure is to take that focus away from you and onto the prey. This is done by not letting the bird see you handling the food in any way before it "catches" and eats. And it needs to do the catching itself. However simplistic and lame dropping from the glove onto a dead sparrow may sound, that will eventually translate into flying from your glove onto quarry. That aggression gets directed toward the real food.

If I can get him to do this every time tomorrow, I'm golden.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

first not-kill

Well, she's gotten the live sparrow that my friend K was bugging me to give her (actually I have two hawking buddies who start with a K, so this is K0). We'd all gone out crow hawking and begging for a starling slip, and ended up with just one crow in the bag. When we got back s/he seemed hungry and anxious, so I checked the trap and it had 1 new sparrow in it. Perfect. I tied up the sparrow and put it on the kitchen table, brought the sharpie in.

The sparrow had vanished.

Okay, so I was never a boy scout. I know I tied it with a proper square knot, but in the wrong place. I took the opportunity to weigh her (113 gm), searched for the sparrow, but not too hard. It would keep, and there were 2 more sparrows in the trap.

I pulled one of them, tied it up properly, and put it on the kitchen floor out of the sharpy's line of sight. Picked up the little hawk and walked over to the sparrow. It took her a few moments of staring at the crazily fluttering thing, but she went right off the glove and snagged it. It was by no means beautiful. She simply started plucking it. However horrible, this is normal in the hawk world.

Once in a while it would struggle and her footwork sucked. It was half plucked and bitten several times, and I felt so sorry for it I took a sparrow defrosted earlier today, cut off the top half, and slipped her onto that. It was pretty much in a coma when I broke its neck. She was quite happy with the half-a-sparrow and ate most of the easier meat, leaving the head, spine, and the bony part of the wings. Picked her up onto the lure and a sparrow leg, which she wasn't that interested in.

I was in a quandry here. McDermott says to a) never pick up an imprint on a kill, since it encourages carrying, and b) never let the bird eat a kill on your glove. I have exactly the opposite pattern with the Harris, and I knew I had to eventually get the bird on the glove, so I kind of did a little of both and held her, the lure, and the half-a-sparrow, and stayed right in the same spot. Hopefully that won't screw her up.

I grabbed the flashlight and walked around the living room and eventually found sparrow #1. He goes back in the trap. Unfortunately, the sparrow supply is enough of a trickle that no one gets freedom whether or not they earn it.

After the meal she was 117 grams. Five grams constitues a decent meal for a sharpy.

Monday, June 23, 2008

looking like a falconry bird now

separated at birth?

Around midafternoon she'll sack out for a few hours, especially at work where things are boring, and sleeps in the nest. Other than that, she stands the rest of the time. Today she's been learning to ride on the glove. It took absolutely nothing to get her to jump to the glove for a tidbit. With passage birds and even chamber raised eyases, this takes some doing. You have to admit, imprints simply love you.

Friday, June 20, 2008

hot day today.

Yes, I almost look like a hawk.

A couple of days ago she started footing things, just playfully. She was biting at a stick and then this long foot shot out and grabbed, and snapped back.

The last couple days have been a bit more relaxed. The weather's been horrendous and it's hard to take her out to see things. Everyone wants to just flop flat and lie as still as possible. Up till now every day has brought something new. Overall she was standing a lot more, running and jumping on things, but that has just held steady.

Right now she needs to finish growing her feathers and get more leg strength. She still has trouble standing on one foot while scratching her head with the other.

The other day I found a great field that I will probably be making good use of when she's ready.

Monday, June 16, 2008

feathers feathers everywhere

Everywhere we go, we leave a trail of fine downy bits. They're not really noticeable until you take the nest box outside and all the stuff blows out. And there's tons of feather sheath particles that fall to the bottom of the box.

I love her to death but eyas raising is an incredibly messy business. Hunting involves a certain amount of blech, but what I'm doing goes way beyond. Mincing starlings and sparrows (the cuisinart doesn't work that great, it's better with a cleaver), scissoring small bones into particle-sized bits, and plopping that goop 6 times a day onto a lure or a dead bird means permanent meat stains under your fingernails. The kitchen floor is permanently littered with sparrow feathers.

On a more positive note, I took a visit to the nest site yesterday. I counted 3 eyases for sure, and possibly four. It's also possible that the egg never hatched. They looked fine, active and healthy, and at the same stage of development as my girl. The nest is pretty crowded now, mom mostly on the side. Must be weird to lie down on top of all these bumpy, shifting baby birds.

Friday, June 13, 2008

a bit of fun

For a fraction of a second she stood without wing support, and did it several times today. She doesn't really need the heating pad during the day anymore. She eats readily from the lure and has been able to pull some meat from a heavily-scored bird. Sometimes she uses her feet to hold food, and I can see she's gripping things more. So far she's seen horses, trucks, and dogs. I still need to expose her to trains and cows.

This evening I had a little fun at her expense. I know, the camera work is poor, and I'm sure the sound quality is terrible, but it's overall cute and the lyrics are quite suitable.

This works because hawks naturally track moving objects. All I had to do was move my hand up and down in time with the music. (Doing this while recording on a slight buzz explains the shaky camera.) It works for most hawks, both young and old.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

something new every day

It's amazing how fast this happens. Every day things are a little bit different, a little bit of progress has been made. She needs less heating to be comfortable. She almost-stands and flaps more. She is more alert and curious about the outside, rather than sleeping all the time.

Here is today's picture. We spent an hour hanging out on my porch looking at stuff.
Afterwards, we went to the park to find some new clean sticks for her nest (it was getting a bit crappy and starting to smell like the bits of dead meat that occasionally fall in.) At the entrance to the park was this king snake. From the looks of it, unfortunately it seems a human was responsible for its demise. Any honest predator would have taken it home for dinner.

Monday, June 09, 2008

that uncomfortable time

She's getting to that stage where the feathers are starting to sprout and her limbs are getting stronger but are not under full control. It was hot today and she was restless. There are only so many things you can do when you're a chick in a nest. Apart from sleeping, there's the leg stretch, the sitting up, the wobbly almost-stand, the vague flapping of spiky wings. When sleeping, she would often twitch or startle awake. She scrubbed at her down a lot today. I can't imagine what it feels like growing down, growing more down, then having feathers sprout out of your skin within the course of ten days.

On the manning front, it was a little odd twice when we got into the car: she was spooked by my hand. The hand is constantly on or near her with no reaction, so why should that change when I've set her box in the car? Otherwise, we've been on the freeway, in a park with a dog, been to Home Depot twice, over the bridge four times, and she snoozed through nearly all of it.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

sneaky sparrows

in the house. I had 3 in my two hands, and one escaped, flew straight down the hallway past a Harris hawk and into the office, where there was a snoozing sharpy. Quickly I beaned the two left, put them on the kitchen counter, then went into hot pursuit down the hall past a very, very curious Harris hawk and into the office, where the sharpy was still snoozing. After five hectic minutes I had it and returned to the kitchen to bean it.

The two sparrows were gone.

Apparently sparrows are pretty durable. They probably survive flying into windows often. I beaned the one in my hand (thoroughly, just to be sure), set it on the counter, and went in search of the other two.

I found one fairly quickly (and beaned it again) but not the other. Not behind the stove. Not under the recycle bins or the freestanding cabinet. I just hoped it hadn't gone behind the refrigerator. Finally I heard something -- it had gotten into the next room, behind the china cabinet.

I come back to the kitchen and one of the sparrows I'd beaned had moved. Fortunately not far this time, just a few feet.

Next time they're going into a bucket.

top of the morning

We all got some sun on a beautiful Sunday morning. The sharpie is just barely visible in the box.

Friday, June 06, 2008

age determined

She's been looking more buff colored starting late yesterday, and today I see tiny pins growing on the edges of her wings. I talked with an old hand with microhawks, K, who says this marks her as 10 days old. I know diddley about birds this age, but apparently the buff color is a second coat of down. She looks more wooly now.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

the deed has been done

R, who is taller than me but weighs 20 pounds less, scampered up the tree like some deathly homesick monkey or squirrel, picked a bird and lowered it down to me in a small backpack. The whole up and down took less than 10 minutes. We got it set up in the box with a warm pad and it ate right away. We're guessing 5 days old, and a female. I have no clue, personally. Pictures:

Just for the record, the nest had 4 babies and an egg.

Monday, June 02, 2008

T minus 37

We're going to pull an eyas sharpy come Wednesday. It'll be an adventure. I'm nervous as a cat.

I've got a box containing a basket containing a heating pad containing a paper towel containing a bunch of sticks. I have 3 starlings and 1 other small bird, and am hoping a buddy will be able to shoot some blackbirds for me tonight.

P, bless his heart, was on the fat side but gamely went with me yesterday. He'd caught the first starling earlier this season, and it seemed to have been a fluke, but now I need small birds to feed a small hawk. We went out yesterday and fairly quickly caught a crow, but then I buckled down and passed up about 6 painfully good crow slips in favor of starlings. Passing up all those crows in hawkable position got P so amped up he was ready to put his feet into anything. We ended up getting 4 starling slips and catching two.

I really need sparrows and blackbirds, though. They're better food for a sharpy. I have a sparrow trap out but no luck with it yet except for the one OSB.

The past four days R and I have gone to the nest site at feeding time. Sunday we saw one chick for sure, today we're pretty sure there are two. We're guessing as of today they are between 3 and 4 days old. Optimum age to pull a sharpy is, according to McDermott, 4 days, but neither one of us can do any earlier than Wednesday. It should be fine, though.

Friday, May 30, 2008

sight of a lifetime

A buddy of mine located a sharpshin nest and we've been watching it for a couple weeks. I haven't seen much action, myself: mostly the male ("musket") preening, and the female once.

The babies are due to hatch fairly soon, so we've stepped up the observation.

There's a spot where they transfer food a short distance from this hiking trail. I got there about 5:40, sat down and barely 5 minutes later the musket showed up -- he cruised around me and up towards the nest site, but continued past. I lost him for a little while, though I saw him circle around high up once. About 10 minutes later he came back and chirped once. This time he had a little bird that he was plucking in the tree right next to the trail. I could see feathers dripping down. Then he moved and started chirping a lot, and the female came and they did a transfer. It was so fast it was like a mugging.

They were both gone for a few minutes, then he showed up and preened a short while, then flew deeper into the woods.

I didn't see the female come in, but just briefly they were both back at the transfer spot. Then she turned around and flew straight toward me, heading back to the nest. She flew *2 feet* over my head. The air rushing through her wings was loud as a stage whisper. I could have put my hand up and caught her, or more likely ended up with a sharpy-shaped hole in my hand. I was completely amazed and thinking I would never see something like this again.

I waited another 15 minutes to make sure they were away, then moved to a spot on the trail where we can best see the nest. This time I saw her tail tip, right against the tree. I saw her move twice, like she stood up and sat down again.

Jelly knees!

Monday, May 26, 2008

lawn education

As I posted earlier, I have no familiarity with lawns at all, and now I'm getting some. The house has one of those sprinkler timers, which is a good thing to have if you want to water at night. What was driving me spare was the box can control 9 groups of sprinklers, but after running all 9 I couldn't get the front and side yard. None of the 9 switches controlled those areas.

I resigned myself to having to water the thing by hand. Which I've been doing.

Until today, when I sat down and studied a pair of pipes in front of the house. They were obviously water. I figured they were cutoff valves and had been turned off, so once they were on, the Rainbird would work. Each had a small black slider set to the off position, so I turned one on. Water started gurgling.

Those were the sprinkler switches. They weren't hooked to the control box at all. One covered the front, the other the side yard. It's manual in a way -- it won't automatically turn on and off at 2 a.m. like the other set -- but at least I don't have to stand around and walk around with a hose anymore.

Sunday, May 25, 2008


For some reason, every house in this neighborhood has a shed in the backyard. I guess it was the style then. At my place, someone built a playhouse attached to the shed. I repainted the interior last week (from lurid orange to the greenish-white I picked for one of the bedrooms), and this week turned it into a mews. I built a door, hung it, screwed PVC bars on the windows, and threw in one of my ubiquitous green outdoor carpets.

Not that I'll actually use it for keeping hawks. It's nice to know that I could, though. No, it's mostly for legal reasons that I want to have it. USFWS and F&G can legally come onto your property to inspect your mews: that is one privacy that you give up when you become a licensed falconer. If you have an outdoor mews, they cannot enter your home without a warrant. Ergo, if they're having a crackdown, this mews will keep them out of my house. Not that I have anything in particular to hide, but when they're on the crackdown agenda, they consider you guilty already, and seize whatever they think may prove your illegal activity: in short, the computer.

Now, they can have just about anything they want except my computer. I need it. It's work, it's about half my social life, it's shopping, it's research, it's my preferred medium for creativity these days. I back it up regularly but not frequently enough to keep up with everything I do. I cannot afford to have it taken away.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

well, maybe not just one

Those were the minimum essentials for living. There are a whole bunch of optional things that I could do/get. This is why Home Depot makes a lot of money.

- a small TV stand with a cabinet, for my baby stereo
- replace an incredibly noisy fluorescent fixture in the kitchen with something cool looking
- get some decent lighting in the living room. There really isn't any.
- replace or repair the bathroom faucet which isn't quite properly seated
- replace some wobbly pipes behind the bathtub

Saturday, May 17, 2008

just one thing left to go

The new sofa and chair are here, as are several secondhand items from Craigslist rounding out the complement of furniture. Still to come is a coffee table (new), and that will do it.

A few days ago I bought a coffee table on CL for $35 but it just didn't work with the carpet. So I turned it around and put it right back on CL for the same $35. I am Asian and I hate to say this but Asians from the old country can be jerks. This lady knows it's a steal at $35, and she certainly can afford $35, but she still offers $25. I stand firm, she offers $30, then when I note that I've fixed up the lame foot and added some clear pads under the glass and I'm not asking for more than what I paid for it -- finally she meets my price. Haggling between Americans always seems much more straightforward, and it's generally not done for something as cheap as $35. We save our haggling powers for the big-ticket items, and we don't fuss over nickels.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

exactly one

It's one year that she's been gone and so much has changed. I don't think about her every day now (housebuying and moving chaos logistics have been distracting) and there is a new woman who might become an important part of my life. But the mate is with me and in me; conscious thought isn't necessary for her to influence my choices.

I think I'm relatively happy, which she wanted me to be. I think that's all a person can ask for.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

good bye old house

I finished the last bits of cleaning in the old house and turned in my keys today. A few days previous I had walked around the emptied place, thinking of all the life I had spent here. Moving in here with the mate. All the hawks who lived in the living room. The garden we planted. I will miss the beauty of the house, the fireplace tiles and all the curves, I will miss the avocados, but I will not miss the drafty aluminum windows and the summer heat that built up under the uninsulated roof.

In January I had planned to take this week off, meaning to take a trip to Yosemite. At that time I had no idea I'd be going not to the hills but would stay in the flatlands by the Bay unpacking in my new house.

A dear friend from university has given me a lawnmower on semi-permanent loan. My parents never had a lawn. So to my great shame against all that America stands for, I have never mowed a lawn in my life. I know how to iron a shirt better than I know how to mow a lawn. Fortunately my friend also provided the user manual. Gassed and oiled it, plugged in the spark, primed it a few times, and yanked the starter about 10 times. Primed it a few more times and yanked, and a small cloud of white smoke rose to the sky to join the other greenhouse gases and, by god, Houston, we had contact.

In about a half hour or so I was sweating like a pig but had a nice flat lawn that would keep my neighbors' property values up. The thing I don't understand is why the front wheels are locked in position. Why doesn't it drive like a car?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

so far so good

I've been scrubbing and wiping and finding out this old house is a mess. I think I'll try to cut a deal with the landlady. She's going to want to paint anyway, I'm pretty sure, so I'll try to get away with cleaning the kitchen and bathroom fully, and doing the floors in the rest. I'll give her a few hundred out of my deposit for painting. Let's see if she's okay with that.

Monday, April 21, 2008

boxes are moved

but not yet the soul -- meaning the boxes need to be opened. The movers did a great job.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


Wednesday afternoon the RE agent called saying I might close that day. I called the title company and my escrow officer confirmed that it was definite, then she called him. I got my keys that afternoon after work.

I packed up a sleeping bag and some minimal necessaries for being in a completely empty place, grabbed the bird and necessaries for perching & feeding him, and we spent the night in the new place. Along the way we took a few minutes out and picked off a crow feeding on some crushed crackers in a parking lot.

As I bedded down for the night, the house echoed and made occasional creaking noises, raccoons trotted overhead, and sleeping on a floor was something I haven't done in 20 years. But I had this slightly stunned sense that this was mine, in (obviously) the good kind of way.

There was still a lot of trash left behind and not enough good stuff. I was given one key that opened the front door only. There were no remotes for the garage door. And they took the shower head (a really good one, drat.) A remote for a ceiling fan I knew was missing already.

The next morning I was getting used to the paths around the place. I bought and installed new locks for the doors, put in a new shower head, installed towel racks (where the hell did they put their wet towels, I wonder), a TP holder, and a shower curtain rod. Cleaned the filthy bit between the stove and the countertop (shocking considering the spotlessness of the rest of the house, but perhaps less so considering the paint, rotting cardboard boxes and wood, and other trash left behind). Measured two windows for new blinds and helped the painter out with some minor stuff.

I'm wiped out but happy. I'm back at home (soon to be former) and hitting the sack in seconds.

Friday, April 11, 2008

hung up

I ordered some bubble wrap online, and I should have done it sooner. The dishes & glassware and myself are just hanging loose waiting for the stuff to arrive.

P & I got out today and had a few crow slips. Passing through an intersection, I spotted something out of the corner of my eye but passed it up in favor of a more likely spot. That turned into a bust so I came back to check it out. It was an awkward location so I had P on the glove all ready to go.

It turned out to be a jackrabbit, which P has turned his nose up at quite a few times. He generally likes sitters -- if they're moving, he just doesn't want to commit to the inevitable rolling that happens. Even for bunnies he won't commit. We haven't gone after jacks since I gave away S.

P launched, sailed up high, did a pretty little tiercel wingover and hit dirt. I expected that: the wingover works in very thick cover (where the rabbit is limited where it can go, and how fast) but not in landscaping. I pulled into the parking lot and walked a little ways away, then walked back through the landscaping, hoping to flush it.

Which it did, later than I expected. It must have been freezing almost right below P. It ran into the side street (fortunately no traffic at all) with P coming down from the tree he'd stopped in. Slammed it in the shoulder, struggled, and landed it in the street. He'd made a terrific tear in the skin, it was bleeding badly, and there were bits of rabbit fluff on the ground. I ran down and of course the jack, already terrified and screaming, sprang to life and ran around under my feet, me trying to get a hand on it.

After a few seconds the situation stabilized to a falconer kneeling on the lawn over a panting, wired hawk and a dying rabbit. Driving away from the scene of the crime I spotted a crow overhead, and as I got onto the street I saw another crow picking up the rabbit fluff to add to its nest.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

into the homestretch

Into the scary place where small squimy things have lurked, where the air, laden with slimy particles, glues itself to all surfaces. Where foods from backwards lands and undesirable gifts have settled for years, their decomposition arrested by chemistry.

The kitchen.

< cue "Jaws" theme >

Sunday, April 06, 2008

damn i love


and kissing, and the bed sounds, and the scent of sex mixed with her perfume, and seeing clothes strewn all over the floor, and holding her silently listening to the songs of birds I haven't heard before

while the sky washes away into dusk

Thursday, April 03, 2008

starting to come together

The house is starting to have a semblance of being packed. There's still stuff all over, but it's better. It was pretty nightmarish when it was not just packing but reorganizing. The mate's parents always stuck a pair of nail clippers in the Christmas stocking, and now I've collected about a dozen of these damn things that you can never find when you need one. Tools get moved from garage to upstairs as needed, and don't get put back in one place; now they are, more or less.

It's almost as if you need to clear some space and start making piles before you start on boxing up. Computer stuff. Decorative stuff (SO much decorative stuff). Wall art. Tools. Small photos. Videos. My drawing/drafting equipment. Framing and matting stuff. And the big pile is things to give to Goodwill -- that one is a mess.

Furniture has been shifted to make room for boxes, and things are looking clearer. Bookshelves are empty and now I can clean them (hawk=dander and feathers, living a block from the freeway=lots of dust.) I want to have everything clean when it gets moved to the new place. Except for the toaster oven. No one ever cleans a toaster oven.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

for some reason I just want to say

Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck

Mysteriously, I'm not upset or mad about anything. It's just a momentary Tourettian lapse, perhaps a low level reaction to the many things happening. Individually speaking, none of these things is worth even half a line, but it's all the minor little fucks that build up.

Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck

That's better now. Time for a beer.

My RE agent is lame. My loan officer is lazy and, as far as I can tell, has very little experience. My loan processor doesn't call me back. However, I do have a good escrow officer and the people in another part of loan processing are very good too. The inspectors have been great. And I am going to get this house, so there must be some good coming out of it despite the less than helpful people I'm dealing with.

Monday, March 31, 2008

doing what makes sense

I decided to dump most (though not all) items having to do with the mate's illness and death, and keep the happymaking stuff -- souvenirs from our travels, and the little notes she would write me. I'm keeping a bit of her ashes and any especially important legal papers. I'm keeping her favorite clothes, but looking in the dresser drawer I had to say, a la Charlie Crews: I am not attached to these socks. The illness did have a big influence on our lives and not all of it was negative; it brought better communication, greater committment to each other, and a few new friends. But it's hardly the defining piece of our relationship.

Nor is a person defined by their trappings. She lives in my heart. Her socks don't, and not even her other clothes, and not even the ceramic box. But her love notes do -- things that she created. That is perhaps where the division should be drawn.

I don't know how my new g/f feels about me keeping these things. She certainly understands that the mate meant very much to me. She has no reason to feel insecure, but you never know. When I unpack I will ask.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

I sign it all off tomorrow

Tomorrow I meet with my RE agent to sign off the contingencies. This means I've checked out the house and I accept all its warts. In a normal sale, I could ask for certain things to be fixed up, or get money knocked off the sale price for fixup, and the seller might or might not agree. In short sale I'm dealing with the seller's lender, which is already losing considerable money on the deal and thus is highly unlikely to give up more.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

almost there

The insurance has been obtained, some paperwork signed, the loan is on its way. The termite inspection will be tomorrow, but I don't expect them to find much but a small amount of dry rot in the expected places, like the crawlspace vents.

Sold a bunch of stuff on craigslist and continuing to pack. Things are starting to look more manageable now.

Sunday, March 23, 2008


It's becoming obvious I'm also terribly sentimental about my previous g/f's things. Our tickets to the now-demolished Toreo de Tijuana, a plastic dragon she got in Chinatown on a whim to play tourist in the city where she was born, a funky ceramic box. My own things I have much less trouble trashing, but hers are difficult. These things however briefly brought amusement or a light in her eye.

It's coming up on 11 months and even though I'm at the beginning of a new love, the past has undeniably shaped my life significantly.

I can certainly remember our lives together without these trinkets, but without them would I take the time to remember? Without them, would the good times be overshadowed by the bad ones?

Sunday, March 16, 2008


The most time consuming bit of this is packing, so I'm starting right away. I have way too many books. I'm also too sentimental about them: if it's a classic or good reading, I want to hang onto it even though I haven't read it in a decade and if I do, I can pick up a copy for a few dollars or find it in the library. I have an incredibly hard time applying the "if you haven't used it in 5 years, toss" rule. Books simply have a value that somehow transcends practicality.

I ditched four boxes of them from the garage last week and still have three down there. Upstairs, I have what will probably be six or seven more boxes, and these are larger boxes (apple boxes rather than paper-ream boxes).

And this is well before getting to my other household stuff: furniture, treasures, wall art, appliances and dishware, and too many computers.

Friday, March 14, 2008

i've got the house

I just got a letter -- not the contract, a letter -- that says they've accepted the offer.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

house and hawk

Well, not much word on the house yet. I got the previous inspection papers, and everything seems very minor. Still, I'll be doing a general house inspection and a termite inspection as well. The termite report looks completely lame, like they hardly inspected at all even though they came out twice. The inspection company didn't do the work recommended, so either it was someone else, or it wasn't done.

And my RE agent tells me (for the third or fourth time), "We should hear by Friday."

Shrug. As long as I eventually get it, I'll be happy.

On the hawk front, last weekend was great. We flew 3 out of 4 days and got 5 crows. Four of them were unspectacular, one was good. Several good flights without catches as well. My fridge was stuffed with birds; two went into the freezer and the rest got eaten. There's surprisingly little meat on a crow: one crow makes 3 maintenance-sized hawk meals, generally speaking.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

house to home

Here I am, age 43, and I’m finally gonna be a homeowner.

I work in the SF Bay Area, one of the more desirable and thus more expensive regions in California. The late 90s crash in technology startups had very little effect on regional house prices. Here, the house priced at a half-million makes people wonder what’s wrong with it.

Speculation and flipping and the economy's failure finally did stun the insanity. This house is one of many that are in the first stages of foreclosure. A foreclosure is bad news for both the owner’s credit record and the lender, something to avoid. There’s a half-state between a regular sale and foreclosure called a “short sale.” For those who unfamiliar with this, this is a situation where the current homeowner has not been able to make their mortgage payments, and the value of the loan is greater than the value of the house. In a short sale, the house gets sold and the homeowner’s lender will forgive a portion of the loan. The owner’s credit record just shows a few missed payments, and the lender gets their money.

The term short sale is a misnomer. Instead of being negotiated by the owner and the buyer, the lender has much of the say. And lenders are institutions, meaning they make decisions at a speed that a wooly mammoth would consider leisurely. A three-way train wreck. Short sale is actually a very long sale.

But I’ve managed to weather through the waiting and the confusion. The house was offered at $349K and I offered $345 in mid-January. Finally, hopefully Monday, almost two months later, the lender will accept. Or at least my real estate agent seems to think so.

It’s a nice house, no piece of crap. Admittedly, it's a tract home built in the fifties, ordinary looking and identical to all the other houses in the neighborhood. But it’s got hardwood floors, granite countertops, oak cabinets, garage door opener, and vinyl windows: all the good upgrades. I wish it had was a fireplace, but given my record of fireplace usage where I live now, this is no big deal. It's not on a corner and has a small front yard (both mean less work to stay acceptable-looking) and a big backyard. The neighborhood is decent blue collar, neat lawns, no gang types, no security doors, and just one house down the street looks trashy. It’s an easy drive to the freeway but far enough away that I don’t hear the noise or get the dirt. The street it's on won't have the entire neighborhood driving by during commute time. And finally, for my good feng shui fix, it faces east.

There are short sale and foreclosed houses going for less, but none of the ones I’ve seen so far have all the above factors.

I liked the layout immediately, and interestingly, it is nearly identical to the layout of the house I grew up in: living room on the left, kitchen/dining on the right; down the hall are two bedrooms on the left, and a bedroom and bathroom on the right. The only thing my parents have in addition is a formal living room in front.

Happiness awaits.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

mccain, obama

McCain deserves points for apologizing for his "supporter" who repeatedly referred to Obama as Barack Hussein Obama. Admittedly, if McCain hadn't distanced himself he would have been accused of approving of this immature tactic. But I'd rather think he chose the high road. It returns a level of class to the Republican party that it lost in the decade-plus of dirty tactics led by Limpbowel, Rover, and the New Republicans. Attempting to scaremonger by connecting Obama's name with the that of Iraq's former dictator -- anyone can see right through that. McCain's apology announces that it's time to put away these childish things and behave like intelligent adults.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

a post about nothing

The weather's been all rain and lots of wind. I woke up around four this morning and listened to slapping, banging, whipping, creaking, and whistling for a little while. I felt the windward side of the house tremble a little when the gusts got bad, though this morning I see the tiles seem to have stayed on. NOAA said there would be showers today, which I hoped meant there was a chance of hawking, but with 25 mph wind and 40 mph gusts there's no way. I was lucky to fly three days this week and have two crows to show for it.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

all's well

And in fact he made a terrific flight yesterday. We had about 3 slips and no catches, then spotted a trio on a greenbelt on a street to the right. I had to drive in a several block circle to get down this narrow, curving backstreet, but when we finally got to the end he had a good chance to size up the situation.

Three crows in a loose flat triangle and he took the one furthest away. It got up and started flying away and up, meaning to clear a brick wall. It was almost twice as long as the usual crow flight, and I was sure he wouldn't catch it. But he pumped on and caught it beautifully. A quick U-turn and he was chowing down a full meal a few minutes later.

Friday, February 15, 2008

hopefully okay

I'm hawking by Lake Larry and spot some crows, so I go into a parking lot to circle back. Drop the window, get the hawk on the glove, wait for an Explorer to pass, and pull out. Right as we get to the crows, the Explorer decides to bust a move and does a U-turn. WTF?! I don't have enough reaction to yank my glove back. P launches early and I can only watch helplessly as the Explorer accellerates and my bird accellerates toward the crow in the gutter. I can see these two vectors are on collision course. While I'm whipping the car around, I hear a thump, but I'm not sure if it's hawk into crow or SUV into hawk.

The next thing I see is my hawk in a tree and the crows having fits. P looks stunned as he did when he tried to take the goose. He doesn't want to come down to a tidbit. When I show him a better chunk, a whole crow leg, he eyes it but still hesitates for half a minute before coming to the glove.

While he's eating, I feel him all over. Nothing seems broken, although his right eye looks slightly less open than the left. As we drive home I keep checking him. For a moment I worry his left wing isn't folding up correctly, but then it does.

I'll keep watching him.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

[idea] video based on telemetry

Oh, the ideas that come out of carhawking...

If I was an engineer, here's what I'd like to design: a video camera mount that would use a transmitter signal to keep the camera pointed at the transmitter.

The transmitter would be mounted on the hawk's leg or tail as usual. You'd need at least two receivers to triangulate the signal to determine the angle to move the camera. Two would give you pan; another two would give pitch. Even with something as relatively level as carhawking (i.e. window height to ground), there's enough up and down to require pitch -- quarry usually flies up, and the hawk after it.

The transmitter signal would have to be constant rather than the normal bip every two seconds -- in car hawking time, two seconds is the time between release from the window and catch. The receivers and motors would have to be fast enough to keep up with the action.

And of course we'd also need a remote start/stop for the camera itself.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

michael moore has a point

Got my bill for the emergency room visit. It’s only a laugh because I only have to pay my ER copay of $50:

Pharma - $566. I had 1 shot of synthetic morphine and a bag of saline
Lab - $1218. They took blood and pee and checked it
CT scan - $7176. a gallon of barium, 20 minutes and a technician
ER - $1045. I was there 8 hours, mostly sleeping
Other diagnostic services - $344. I have no idea what that could be

Totaling $10339. Interestingly, because I went to the hospital listed on my HMO card, they gave the insurance company a tidy little discount of $2585. Quantity discount, I suppose. So what is the actual cost of these services, I'd like to know.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

some fun

I got my buddy R to shoot some video from the backseat and he caught some good stuff.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

no time

If this month is any indication, this is going to be a year to remember.

The new lady in my life is wonderful. Everything is good. 'Nuff said.

Bay area house prices have taken a dive, and it's the perfect time for a goofball like me to waltz in and snap one up. I've saved all my life, and now at age almost-43 I can afford my first house. In the past month I've driven by about 15-20 places and looked inside two. One of them is totally move-in-ready, hits me in all the right places, and has all the upgrades I'd be too cheap to put in myself should I decide to sell later. I just put in an offer on Monday and I'm waiting to hear back.

Friday, January 04, 2008

could it be?

I didn't think she was looking. In fact, I know she wasn't looking, because she's been a friend for quite a few years and she hung out at various get-togethers over the summer. But after Christmas she said something to me that made this lightbulb go on over my head.

For a few days I was uncomfortable because I thought I was ready for dating, but found that practice is different from theory. The reality of a real live person forced me to do some mental housecleaning -- was I really ready to move on?

Decisions brought me to a tentative yes.

We're pretty different, but for the moment it clicks and it's good.