Saturday, February 25, 2012

Have Coopers, Will Travel

Its been a roller coaster week.

Monday was a holiday so I set out to look for some fly-able fields close to home. Where I've been going most of the time is a 40 minute drive and just not conducive to weekday flying. Unfortunately there's just not a lot of open space where I am! But after some hard scouting via Google maps and driving around I found two fields that looked quite promising.

The first field looked like it may have been the victim of the recession. There's a huge depression that looks like where they planned to put a foundation but now it's just a large empty lot with knee high weeds. It had a fence around it but there were no signs and a gate was wide open so I went a head a flew Gomer. We had one good sparrow chase and then I wanted to move on with my scouting for the day so I tossed him the lure:

It was a field I'd be sure to hit again. The next field was even more promising. It was a bit of a walk to get to it right next to a busy road but once I got past another oil field fence it opened up big time. I walked around for just a bit just to get a feel for the place and bumped plenty of sparrows and even a few bunnies! The field was 5 minutes from my house. Gomer had already been fed on the lure so I resolved to try that spot out the next day.

I'd accidentally fed him too much on Monday so Tuesday was a wash but we headed out to the big field on Wednesday. He was still a little high so we didn't even get any chases but I tossed a pigeon for him which he tackled almost half heartedly. No biggie, we could try again on Thursday. I even ran into an oil field worker who was checking some rigs out in the field and he had no problem with me being out there. Everything was shaping up.

On Thursday, I had just set foot into the big field when someone driving by on the road yelled for me to "Get outta there!!" Ummm, no fence, no signs, no reason for me not to be here, I thought so I continued on. Out toward the middle of the field however, I came across a sign that had fallen down saying that the area was a wetlands conservation area and to please keep out. Crap. I don't know if that's a definitive DO NOT ENTER but I don't want to piss anyone off. I don't know if I'll go back to that field. My heart sank a little. I saw the oil rig worker again though and he was fine with it. Took pictures of the bird and said some other lady used to come out here and fly her hawk all the time...Maybe there's hope. I don't know.

On Friday I decided to go back to the vacant lot. It wasn't as good of a field but it was decent and it was a place to fly. I thought Gomer's weight was just about right and had high hopes but when I pulled up to the field, the gate was closed and locked! WHAT?? WHY?? I'm not gonna hop a fence though so I headed home.

Two fields found and two fields lost in the same week. Ouch. I don't know that either is definitively out of the picture, I'll check them both again and see what the vibe is like but I was pretty down when I came back on Friday.

There's always the spot 40 minutes away though. That's where I headed today and I think I've finally got Gomer's weight dialed in. We tried some traditional field hawking in a field that I think was just too large first and Gomer took some long flights not really chasing anything, just flying. I didn't put telemetry on him today (there were tons of sparrows hopping around when we got to the field and I wanted to get going so quickly I just forgot!) so there were a couple tense moments when he flew over a fence and disappeared into some bushes but he eventually made his way back out and came right back.

Then we headed over to our best spot. From what I can tell it's a bean sprout processing plant or something. They've got some run off ponds that they're trying to keep ducks off so they've invited falconers to come out and chase whatever we want. Surrounding the pond are circular shrubs packed with sparrows. A few whacks with a stick and they all come diving out. Gomer would hear them in the bushes and drop from my fist, running into the bushes to try and catch one. He did that a few times and then a few flew about 30 yards to a sparse tree right next to the plant managers house. Gomer was on my fist when they left and he didn't exactly chase them while they were on the wing but as soon as they landed in the tree he went after them. I thought there was no way that he'd catch one, they could see him coming from a mile away. Several went right and one went left towards the front steps. Gomer followed to the left and disappeared under a small landscaping plant. I waited a minute for him to pop back out and when he didn't I slowly made my way over. Sure enough, he was mantling over his sparrow!

I waited for him to break in and start eating but he just sat there so I tossed the lure out and he left the sparrow immediately for the lure! Perfect! I picked him up and then retrieved the sparrow. He ate the whole thing once he was on my fist.

It took some work but sparrow #2 in the bag. Seems a bit ridiculous to drive 40 minutes to catch a single sparrow though, I've really got to find some closer places to fly. Perhaps the shrubbery around some of the local shopping centers will provide some sport. Not ideal, as I'd really like to field hawk him but I'll take anything at this point.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Falconry Filled Day

There was a good vibe today. Falconry activity seemed to be in abundance. While I was headed out to fly I got a text from my buddy in Colorado with this picture:

He's a second year apprentice flying a female passage red-tail and doing an awesome job obviously.

Shortly after I got a text from a friend in Utah letting me know that he was headed out to the Utah Skytrials (a falconry "competition" of sorts). It looked like falconry was working its way West!

I met up with the usual gang to fly where we usually fly with less than stellar results. Gomer was too fat. He chased a couple sparrows half-heartedly before a cotton-tail busted and he took go land in a tree and sun for 15 minutes or so. I finally got him down with the lure. We then went to a nearby field to watch the Harris Hawks fly. There were bunnies galore but the birds were slightly off today and didn't connect. There were two more red-tails to fly but I had to get home to take my son to a birthday party. On my way home another friend in Colorado texted me this picture of his prairie falcon on its first wild pheasant:

At least someone had success today!

The birthday party was at a park and toward the end a dozen pigeons dropped in to play clean up crew. Well a few well placed crumbs and I caught myself a few baggies! I realized after I caught them that I didn't have anything to put them in so I put them in my cargo shorts pockets...that garnered some strange looks from the other parents!...but I only lived two minutes away so I was able to dash home and put them in more suitable surroundings fairly quickly. Add 'pigeons in pockets' to list of crazy things falconers do.

I then spent the rest of the afternoon finishing up yet another sparrow trap. I don't necessarily need another one but I like building different designs and testing them out. I'm excited to see how this one does.

The traditional falconry season is winding down so I expect that days with this much falconry related activity will gradually taper out but my plan at the moment is to fly Gomer straight through since we can fly sparrows, starlings, and pigeons year round. Monday is a holiday so I'll be out flying again then, hopefully with better results on this end.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


2011 was a year of rather large changes. A new job moved me to a new state and my falconry universe was thrown out of whack for awhile there but I think things have settled enough now for me to throw up an occasional blog post now and then.

Administrative note: The break in blogging gave the opportunity to update a the blog address as well. I started this blog quite a few years ago when I lived in Japan and I thought it would be mostly for my Japanese falconry friends to follow along with my falconry adventures in the States so the blog address was for them. Since I doubt any of them are following along at this point it makes sense to have my blog address match my blog title. Hopefully not too many readers get lost in the switch (not that I have all that many...). The old blog is here.

First things first, this is Gomer:

He's a passage male Coopers Hawk I trapped mid-January. I've always heard that Coopers are difficult birds and late trapped Coopers are darn near impossible to train...Gomer has thus far proven quite the opposite. He's been one of the fastest birds to train I've ever had. We were hunting 3 weeks off the trap and the picture above is his first sparrow which he caught today. I'm hoping to get out and try for quail at least once before the quail season ends at the end of the month but the plan right now is to go ahead and fly him right through the moult since there's no season for sparrows, starlings, or pigeons, all of which I'm sure he'll take quite handily. We'll see how it goes but the summer adventures should provide plenty of blog fodder. Now whether or not I'm able to keep it up to date is the next challenge! Looking forward to trying though, let the games begin!