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.