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.


  1. glad to see you out there. Keep us posted. I was just working with a rehab coops and Realized that they may not be as bad a bird as I thought. what is your impression so far - compared to other birds you've flown?

  2. Doug! Good to see you out there as well! My impression of Coopers so far as been that they're a great bird. Granted, my sample size is only one but he trained faster than any other bird I've worked with. He does have what I call the "accipiter pause" where he never comes back "instantly" to the fist when I call him. It's like he's considering other options for a minute or so before deciding I'm the best game in town...for the time being. But the only other accipiter I flew, a spar in Japan, did the same thing so that's why I think it's just an accipiter thing as it doesn't seem to be a weight thing. If that's the worst of it though I can live with it. I'm looking forward to being able to fly him more through out the summer and get some more experience with him.

  3. hey my name is Zane and I want to become a falconer.That's a really nice cooper's hawk.

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