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.

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