As some of you know I am, and have been a licensed falconer for 11 years now. I have been blessed to work with some amazing people in the rehab community and some unforgettable birds.
The last few days I have been thinking about each one of the hawks that I have had the pleasure to connect with. And as I sat on a remote dirt road, anxiously watching a hawk through my camera lens (don’t have a decent pair of binoculars ) I felt that same excitement and anxiety that I felt as I watched my first falconry bird come in for the bait. The only difference is 11 yrs ago~ I had already spent a month searching and trying to convince a legal bird to come to the trap.
Day 1 trapping for a falconry bird. ~ set the live trap out last night hoping to catch a mouse to use for bait. My husband went down to the wood pile to check and see if the peanut butter and bird seed had worked~ while I got ready for the day. No mice in the trap .. But after finding my winter gloves, and a little help from the lab dog~ (ok.. he isn’t much help, but he thinks he is) Hawk was able to capture a small mouse..small is better than nothing. I grabbed my cameras, my capture falcon license, an old towel and various other pieces and parts of equipment I would need and we headed out the door.
The weather is beautiful and right off we were able to locate a couple of bird sitting on the power poles ~ both adult birds~ so I didn’t take the time to set out the bait. Late morning we spotted a tall, thin juvenile red tail sitting on a pole above a road killed pheasant. I put out the bait and we backed off to watch. Cars rushed by on the high way and I worried that her hunger would get the best of her and she would go for the pheasant she was watching and get hit. There was a break in traffic and she finally settled down~ her head bobbed up and down as she focused on the bait in the trap. She nervously looked around, and finally~ her wings spread as she swooped down toward the trap…only to scoop up a garter snake from the highway. She flew to a nearby rise and lid on a sage brush to enjoy her meal.
I gathered up the trap and we ran back to town to pick our son up from school. ~
Later that afternoon, after returning to the area to see if I could spot her again, and setting out the bait for a couple different birds and getting ignored~
We located another young redtail in a tree at the edge of a field. Her bright white chest patch made her easy to observe from a distance. I threw the bait for her 3 different times. At one point she came in and lit on the road next to the trap.. checked it out for a bit and then retreated to a nearby fence post~ before returning to the line of trees. Not sure if she was hoping for a larger meal, or just confused by the trap~ but if you ask me ~ I think the mouse made a deal with her.. or maybe told her what I was up to and she decided it wasn’t worth the effort.
on the way home we spotted a few different hawks close to the house and decided to try to be out at sunrise to try again.
Not a bad day at all for the first day of trapping.
Day #2 of trapping season~
Coffee is poured ~ and bait escaped some time during the night. Since we share our home with a couple of dogs and one is a Jack Russell that loaths mice and rats, I figured I was in trouble. Hawk checked the mouse trap, but it was still empty. As Josiah was getting ready for school, he spotted the mouse hiding under the kitchen island. After a little demolition work~ bait was once again caught and we headed out the door. There were a couple hawks hunting not far from the house, but none were interested in mouse for breakfast.
A trip over town on our way back to the river bottom and Hawk got permission from the local feed lot to “catch all the pigeons you want”
I harnessed up the pigeon and we took the back roads to the spot we had seen the young bird last night.
As we pulled down the old bouncy dirt road, Hawk spotted her sitting on a power pole. ~ I got ready and as we went by I carefully tossed the bait into the grass~ it had barely left my finger tips when I looked up and she was already diving.~ Wham! wings spread in a silent attack. We hurried back, but she wasn’t caught yet, just very hungry. I watched through my camera lens from a distance waiting until I was sure she was caught~ and Hawk watched beside me through his broken monocular. Breath held, it seemed like forever~ but when I reached for her~ she pulled lose and flew a few feet away. I backed off immediately thinking I had just lost this bird, but to my amazement when we got far enough away, she came running out of the brush, sauntered down the road and once again captured her meal (the pigeon) This time she was caught and I was able to get her gathered up and released from the trap~ hooded and on the way home. with a HUGE smile on my face. Hawk released the mouse into a cut oat field ~ where I am sure he will be glad the Jack Russell will never find him.
She ate the first night~ and today lets me enter the mew unhooded and pick her up with no fuss at all, even though she’s still nervous and puffed up to try to scare me.
Looking forward to working with this beautiful girl.. as for a name, I haven’t decided yet.. maybe I will let my readers and “her” fans pick a name..~
70-80% of all raptors die in their first year of life. This girl was very hungry and she came after the bait almost immediately~ I have no doubt that if she hadn’t found food in the next few days.. she would have been in the percentage that didn’t survive~ The bird are usually hungry or in poor health if they come to the bait in the first place.. healthy birds who are successful hunters will most often ignore the trap~ adult birds who are proven hunters cannot be trapped for falconry purposes. I usually fly them for a year or 2 then release them. at this point they are past that first year, and are stronger and confident hunters ~