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.

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